We’ve had the most bizarre 24 hours of our lives. Having just arrived on a long bus journey from Chiclayo to the dusty, dirty and hot town of Trujillo on Peru’s Pacific coastline we got a taxi straight for the little desert-backed beach town of Huanchaco. When we woke up this morning we had received a message from family saying that Peru was one of the 50 countries on the warning list for possible Tsunami effects. A tsunami had just devastated parts of Japan and Hawaii and was making its way right across the Pacific Ocean….all the way. We were due to catch a bus from inland to the beach shortly and started debating whether it was so wise. After searching for any real news or warnings for Peru and finding nothing- we took our bus to Huanchaco.
We just cant get used to the landscape here its like something out of the Twighlight Zone. The Pacific coastline is- to put it bluntly- ugly, sorry to any fans out there but it doesn’t come close to Clifton or Camps Bay. The sand is dark and always covered in bits of rubble and washed up logs and debris as well as being stoney. Then the weirdest part is looking beyond the oceanfront to the never-ending desert that hugs Peru’s beaches, sand dunes and bleak scenes of dry earth go on forever, it’s desolate and rather depressing. After a little afternoon snooze (backpackers privilege) we headed down to the beachfront for a cocktail.
It was dead quiet down there, without a soul in sight and every shop and hotel was closed. We saw truckloads of police lining the closed off beach road and guessed there must have been a crime or something and kept well out of their way. We were just complaining about how depressing it all was when we saw a family sandbagging their home up at the front. It was at this point that we stopped dead and started to freak out…..the penny dropped, loud and clear. Upon asking them, they had said that the tsunami was coming at around seven O clock- it was half pas six at the time!!!! We were so shocked, having thought that we would be so far off the radar and that if anything were to happen it would at least take time to reach us. It all sank in as we hurried back to our hostal and noticed that the streets were desolate and the buildings had been secured and evacuated. Our hostal owners were still quite relaxed when we got back but told us that we should pack a small bag and head up the hill to the church. You know…as one does. It’s a weird feeling scrambling for objects of importance that will go into a bag that could be your sole remaining belongings.
Once at the top of the hill on the church ground we were joined by masses of people with their families, dogs and belongings. Tourists and locals, young and old, everyone had decided to come up to the church. It was very difficult knowing just how much we needed to be concerned but seeing everyone up there cemented our fears. It was surreal standing there with the rest and waiting, just waiting for something to happen. In a weird way it was quite cheery too. We stayed a few hours, saw a small wave in the darkness and ended up going back down the hill for post-tsunami dinner and drinks!