Lobitos is a small town on the northern coast of Peru with a population of around 500. It has a very interesting story which explains the scene when Lucie and I arrived at 6am, witnessing what appeared more like a ghost town on the set of a John Wayne movie than a developing surf destination.
It turns out that around the turn of the century or a bit later, lobitos was an affluent English port where the rich came to gamble and party. Some of the casinos are still standing and you can walk around in the remnants of beautiful colonial style houses held together today only with decaying weatherboard structures and fading paint. Some years later it was taken over by the Peruvian military and used as a base and training area. Then a few years ago it was abandoned by the military and since then it has been inhabited by Peruvian families who make by with the existing fishing industry and the developing surf scene.
The fight is still going on however and the government will probably not win, this time around at least. If you do want to buy Lobitos however it may not be as simple as it may seem because the oil industry has become a part of life here and unfortunately a part of the scenery as well. Lobitos is an experience that is unique due to not only its history but also the scene that has been created as a result.
For Peruvian surfers, being surrounded by oil platforms in and out of the sea is nothing new: anyone who's been to the north of the country knows this. For the foreign surfers, however, the situation is unfamiliar. While walking down the streets and surrounding of the town, one has to avoid oil wells, pipes that leak gases and even pools of toxic waste. It is all part of the experience as is the line-up.
So who do think might own these Oil platforms? Since November of 2010, the Chinese-owned South American Petroleum Exploration Tech (SAPET) Development Perú Inc. has begun digging in search of the precious black gold. Their plan is to dig 115 wells in total in some areas of lots VI and VII (that cover altogether 15,577 hectares) granted by concession in 1993.
It turns out the Chinese oil company (surprisingly enough) is giving something back to the people however but is it enough to compensate for the noise, the danger and the aesthetic mutilation it brings to the town? In 2009, the district of Lobitos alone received S/. 4 million (around 1.5 million US dollars) thanks to oil royalties. So it seems the town needs the oil industry to stay in order to survive, because with the big fishing town of Talara close-by it is unlikely they could get by with just small scale fishing and low budget tourism.
At the end of the day Lobitos is an eerie town in the middle of a Mad-Max style waist land. The first impression is pretty grim to say the least but once you learn the history and get to know the people your impression starts to change and you begin to love it. You also start to venture and bit further and discover that even though the main beach is somewhat unattractive if you walk 10 minutes you are struck by breath-taking rock formations and deserted beaches alive with birds resembling prehistoric dinosaurs and a flourishing crab population that make rocks and beaches appear to move as they dance to their own sideways beat.
Most of the facts come from the following 2 blogs: