A Hiking Day at Piedritas - Nature’s Hidden Gem

in #piedritas4 years ago (edited)


The tranquil coastal marsh of shorebirds at Piedritas
Photo by Naiana Lunelli (@nai.lunelli - EcoSwell)

Hi, I’m Quinn Johnstadt. I am a past NGO management intern at EcoSwell who stayed for three months until December 2018. I left pretty soon, unfortunately. However, I can definitely say that the past three months there have been some of the best of my life. The combination of the atmosphere, people, activities, and tranquility made Lobitos a paradise. I work in reforestation, financial management, and community greening with families throughout the town. I wasn’t especially interested in these fields until I arrived and got the first-hand experience planting trees, doing maintenance, and sharing our work with the community. As an 18 year old, I came to Lobitos to have a positive impact but also to learn about myself, and I smashed through both of those goals alongside amazing directors and volunteers. It has been an absolute pleasure living in Lobitos, and I know I will be back soon. Following is an anecdote about one of my favorite weekend trips we took in mid-November, where we explored the nearby village of Piedritas and its natural wonder.


Two weeks ago, the EcoHouse decided to take a trip to Piedritas, a neighboring town where EcoSwell has ongoing socio-environmental projects, for a dish of ground roasted pork (local traditional "Copusada") and also to enjoy a hike and quality time at the beach. I remember having driven through Piedritas so many times whenever I left Lobitos and would not have thought there was so much more there besides a few houses. Piedritas is small and quiet, but has a lavish dry forest and is one beautiful walk away from the beach and archeological sites.


The Dry Forest of Piedritas from the lookout point at the start of a 2.5km trek to the beach at Punta Malacas

The group that went consisted of EcoSwell staff Diego (@diego-ecoswell), Naiana (@nai.lunelli) and volunteers Elliot, Frances, Julia, myself, and Rocío, a collaborator of our friends from the Lobitos Cinema Project (https://www.lobitoscinemaproject.com/). The van arrived for lunch around midday, and we were all hungry and excited about the food and adventures ahead. Marlyne Guerrero Huamán cooked the ground pork overnight and buried it a few feet underground (after wrapping it and covering it with protection). The day before, we were told that this meaty craziness also came with rice, fried banana, and sweet potato. When our van pulled in, I could so clearly smell the makings of a barbeque. My mouth watered immediately, and when she served us our meals they were gone in an instant. Marlyne had made some very delicious food.


The next thing I noticed was the number of trees surrounding her house. Specifically, the number of exotic trees, not native to Lobitos’ environment. She had Maracuyá fruit, Pacay, Banana, and even a mango tree, which I tried on a later visit to Piedritas. It was insanely good. Marlyne clearly cared about her plants just as much, if not more than her livestock. They were the tallest trees in town and I was amazed, so I asked Diego if they had worked with her before in any greening projects. He pointed towards tall rows of the native Palo Negro tree, saying that EcoSwell had planted those in the past with the help of Piedritas residents, the Piedritas primary school and the big support of more friends and allies. This was next to the school, and they also have been planting with Piedritas families on their own residences.

After saying goodbye to Marlyne, her family and friendly dogs, we proceeded to enter the hidden Piedritas Dry Forest. Walking down the lane leading to the forest felt like passing through the jet bridge before getting on a plane. I love the anticipation it creates before your flight. The trees arched over us creating what felt like a nature jet bridge, so personally, I got even more excited. We climbed a small hill of "Piedras" (little stones) to reach a pretty lookout point where EcoSwell put up an Ecotourism sign showing the value of the forest and how we can conserve the endangered and endemic Peruvian bird called the "Cortarrama" or plantcutter. And then we saw it. In every direction, there were Algarrobo Trees, the kings of the dry forest, and you could even hear the Cortarrama chirping.


A short stop for contemplation approaching Punta Malacas.
Photo by Naiana Lunelli (@nai.lunelli - EcoSwell)


The view from Punta Malacas
Photo by Naiana Lunelli (@nai.lunelli - EcoSwell)

We walked and talked about the different species of trees, animals, and some plagues and other threats to this area. Elliot soon spied his favorite bird, the Flamingo, at the end of "Quebrada Pariñas", the main valley that cuts through this forest and ends up as a bird marsh-paradise on the beachside. Trying our best to sneak up quietly, we got as close as possible to snap pictures with the camera, but they spotted us after a couple of minutes. It was, however, an awesome sight to see them relaxing in the water to suddenly flying away all at once. Their rise to the sky brought my attention to the real beach just beyond, and that was our next destination. All of us were looking forward to catching some rays and swimming.


Flamingos flying over the marsh, where the Quebrada Pariñas waters mix with the seawater from high tides


Phoenicopterus chilensis
Breathtaking Photo by Naiana Lunelli (@nai.lunelli - EcoSwell)

The water brought us new, refreshed life after an hour of exploring in the hot sun. Along the beach we saw bones from various species of animals, pretty shells, and some rotten turtle and sea lion carcasses. I brought out a soccer ball, and the five volunteers all played together. It had been a long time since I just kicked around with friends. We were all a little rusty, but that didn’t matter. In fact, it made our footy session even more fun because we laughed at each other’s fails and were unafraid to try new moves.


Friendly match at a desolate beach
Photo by Naiana Lunelli (@nai.lunelli - EcoSwell)

The best part about it all was the peace. We were the only people there and had an enormous beach to ourselves. Because of that we could take the scenery, water, and wildlife in even more and appreciate it. Soon though, the sun started going down and the group wanted to get back to our lookout spot to see that classic Northern Peru sunset. Just before setting off, we stumbled upon a thick, strong log of driftwood. We figured it would be perfect for holding a new dry forest sign. So, Elliot, Diego, and I shared the heavy load along with our return. We trudged through swampy streams, armies of flies, and up rocky hills. It was tiring, but the sky was beautiful and the hike with so many friends made it a great time. We lugged that stick to the top of the lookout point where our journey started, and crashed to the ground, ready to rest. A peaceful evening watching the sunset was a great way to cap off our Piedritas experience.


Return trip
Photo by Naiana Lunelli (@nai.lunelli - EcoSwell)

There was still some time before the van would come scoop us, so Marlyne, kind as ever, invited us into her home to sit away from the bugs. I remember thinking that all I wanted at that moment was another ground roasted pork and was very tempted to ask, but the van pulled in… It was time to go. We said our goodbyes one last time, thanked Marlyne for the food, and headed back to Lobitos. Halfway home, Diego whipped around with a nervous look, which got me nervous, too. He asked me if I had remembered the stick. Ohhh, man. I hadn’t remembered the stick. My shoulders sagged. “No, I forgot it at the restaurant”, I said. Diego grinned, and so did everyone else. Our sorrow became disbelief and then pure laughter. We had carried that log for more than an hour through an entire forest of obstacles, only to forget it at the very last place we were, leaning on a pole... Marlyne, life-saver as always, kept if for us until next time. What an amazing trip.


Piedritas sunset
Photo by Naiana Lunelli (@nai.lunelli - EcoSwell)

Written By Quinn Johnstadt, EcoSwell intern Sept-Dec 2018
All pictures EcoSwell archive unless otherwise stated.
To do a visit to the dry forest of Piedritas please contact Marlyne Guerreo at (+51) 922-001-759 (call or whatsapp) or at her Facebook Messenger (Spanish-speaking required)

@EcoSwell is a for-impact, sustainable development organization based in Lobitos, Peru. Since 2014, we have been working everyday to help coastal communities thrive in unison with nature. If you would like to learn more, please visit our Facebook, website, and follow us on SteemIt!


Beautiful... eager and excited to be going back there again very soon!!

It will be an awesome year for EcoSwell!!

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