It Could Only Happen To Me – Being abandoned during an earthquake in my first week in Peru

Earthquake warning

Earthquake warning

When the table first started to shake at my hostel in Huacachina it took a second for me to process what was going on. At first I thought it was just a lorry going by until I realise we were in the middle of a desert and there was unlikely to be any heavy traffic passing through.

In the time it took me to compute that the ground beneath me was also swaying from side to side I heard the staff at our hostel shouting `earthquake`in Spanish and everyone ran for the door. Unlike you would expect back at home, there was no orders to follow, it was every man for himself, so we followed suit. Outside mothers were screaming, children were crying and tourists stood around looking dazed.

After 30 seconds or so the movement stopped and everyone stood shell-shocked for a minute. It was at that moment that one of the downsides of travelling alone really hit me. All around me people were reassuring each other and all I could think as I felt my heart racing was that I really needed a hug.

Legs shaking, we went back into the building. Although the staff assured us earthquakes were normal in the area, they too seemed shocked by the force of it. One member of staff shook his head and said to me: `We thought it was going to be a big one`.

It turns out the earthquake measure 6.9 Richter scale and a number of buildings in nearby Ica were damaged. Fortunately Huacachina was not affected too badly. However the concern felt by locals is understandable given the devastating earthquakes the country has seen in recent years. In 2007 80 percent of the nearby city of Pisco was destroyed in a huge earthquake, which measured 8.0, and much of it has still not been rebuilt.

Julio, who worked at my hostel, told me the experience had changed his view of life. He had lived with his grandmother but their house was destroyed during the earthquake and now he works in Huacachina and sends money home for his brothers and sisters.

He said: `Nature is more powerful that all of us. It can change your life in a second. Before I was always looking to the past or to the future but now I live for today. As long as life is tranquillo, I am happy.`

Sometimes it take someone else to put things into perspective.