Greetings From Huanchaco by Ben Laycock
Ok, so we left Lima on a high note, but our arduous journey was not quite over. We had set off some months ago, you may recall, from the Atlantic coast of Brazil, and our quest would not be complete until we had dipped our toes in the greatest ocean of them, the one that laps at the shores of our native land: The Pacific, to be specific. We must endure just one more overnight bus trip.
Luckily for us, Peru is equipped with the very latest in luxury bus travel, The Sleeping Bus: A soft pillow and comfy bed and we all wake up the next morning as fresh as a daisy in Trujillo, just a stones throw from the seaside resort of Huanchaco, where we throw ourselves into the broiling surf with gay abandon, amid much ululating and haleluleyas and weeping tears of joy, etc, etc. We write messages to our loved ones on the other side of that mighty ocean, stuff them in a bottle and throw them out to sea, knowing that one day it will surely reach the shores of our native land on the other side of the world.
You see, as fate would have it, Peru and Australia are inextricably linked via that most notorious and mysterious weather pattern known colloquially as ‘El Niño’ (pronounced Ninyo) –The Boy Child. This is how it goes: Most of the time the current in the southern Pacific travels in an anti-clockwise direction. This is called La Niña, the girl child. As the current touches the equator it warms up, so by the time it comes down the east coast of Australia it is good and warm, bringing lots of lovely rain and the odd flood or two, maybe the occasional cyclone. As it continues on its merry way, by and by, it touches upon the Southern Ocean and becomes rather cold, so as it makes its way up the west coast of South America it has the exact opposite effect as it does in Oz. It brings seals to the Galapagos Islands and it brings drought to the land, endless drought, creating the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth. Many huts around Trujillo have no roofs to speak of, just bamboo slats for shade. We met 7-year-old children who had never seen rain. We visited elaborate palaces made entirely of mud, that had stood for a thousand years, still decorated with intricate patterns. But every now and then, for some inexplicable reason that no one can explain, the pattern reverses. The current begins to travel in a clockwise direction, bringing warm equatorial water and devastating floods to Peru, and cold water to the east coast of Australia, and with that cold water comes the droughts we have come to know and dread. Through the study of ice core samples in The Peruvian Andes and sedimentary deposits in Australia it has been established that this erratic oscillation has been going on for eons. When we get drought, they get floods. When we get floods, they get drought, and so it goes on ad infinitum.
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