Sleep was interrupted at 6:30 A.M. when someone came knocking at my window.  Now, that's never a good sign.  "What is going on here?"  I soon found out.  The guy came to report there was a Pacific Ocean tsunami alert that included the Galapagos Islands.  I was instructed to go into town and get a ride to the highlands.  Catch a ride on a CDF bus with other volunteers?  Not hardly.  This warning was all the help I received from the Charles Darwin Foundation.

The flood was predicted for five in the afternoon so there was no real hurry.  I packed all my essentials : bug repellent, sun screen, hat and all my electronic toys.  Then, I headed into town.

With my severe limitations in Spanish, I really didn't know what to do.  I just assumed it would be best if I went down to the port.  That was where I usually saw taxis.  Most stores were closed, but fortunately a grocery was open.  I thought it wise to get a stash of food.  There was no mad rush inside the grocery and the lines weren't very long either.  So, with food in hand, I looked for a ride.

"Home Sweet Gymnasium"  
with 300 new friends

That, again, wasn't so easy to do since I didn't speak the language and really didn't know where I was supposed to go.  Very fortunately for me, I hitched a ride on a charter bus load of tourists on the final day of their cruise.  They took me inland to the first village, Bellavista, and left me there.  There was no hotel in town.  There were temporary accommodations set up in a school and a covered sports court.  Fortunately, I met up with a couple from Norway, who were just as lost as me, but much better with Spanish.  We thought things might be better in Santa Rosa, so we grabbed a taxi and headed on further into the interior and to a bit of a higher elevation.

There wasn't much in Santa Rosa either.  Again, no hotels.  So, we set up base inside a gym, a gym decorated with a giant mosaic tortoise head on the outside.  It was my safe "Home Sweet Gymnasium" in the time of a storm -- with three hundred new friends.

Gathering any and all information on the day  
a little corner of paradise

The Norwegians and I set our things up in a corner near a Spanish couple.  It was a fortunate thing for us.  Carlos spoke excellent English.  Right away he said, "I'm glad to have an American here.  That means the marines might just come to rescue us."  I liked him immediately. 
It was a long day of waiting.  I never felt any danger.  A television report stated that the waves weren't very high as they hit Hawaii and Mexico.  I knew I was at a high enough elevation.  I just wish I’d thought to put all of my possessions left behind in Puerto Ayoro as high as possible in the room.  There was time for that.  Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

At 6:40 in the evening, the lights of the gym went out.  We took it as a sign that the tsunami finally hit Puerto Ayoro.  We were cast into darkness, broken only by about a dozen candles, a couple of mobile phones, and my laptop. 

Carlos took charge in gathering news alerts.  He stopped police and marines that he saw to glean news they might have gotten over their radios.  But, everything was rumors.  The wave ranged from one and a half meters to three meters (five feet to nine feet).   And then, after an hour, the power came on and one policeman made an official announcement.  We were in Santa Rosa for the night (no surprise there).  The waters had covered most of Puerto Ayora.  And, there were buses of stranded people in Bellavista who were on their way to Santa Rosa, just to be safe.  (As I learned later, none of that was true.)

Around 9:30 a live gospel band showed up.  I was told that their first song thanked Jesus for protecting them from the tsunami.  Did they have a song like that in their repertoire?  Who has songs like that in their repertoire?  Regardless, I also appreciated the protection.  But, I would have also preferred an earlier concert.  Around ten or so, I tried to settle down for the night on the tile floor.  Settle down, yes.  Actually expect any sleep, no.

and then the power went out  
as comfy as possible

Somebody came over to talk to Carlos at 11:00 in the evening.  The police declared it safe to return to Puerto Ayoro.  We quickly abandoned our little tiled haven and searched for a ride.  What we found resembled a garbage truck. but we piled in anyway.  We were around forty people with all their possessions.  Included in those possessions was a portable electric stove.  Now, seriously, if there was a disaster, would you really expect to have electricity to use that?

Rumors claimed that the tsunami flooded all of Puerto Ayoro and went well on the way to Bellavista.  Fortunately, it was just rumors.  Much to everyone's relief, the town looked like it might have had a rainstorm in our absence.  I had expected total devastation and the damage was minimal.  There was no wave.  The ocean swelled and overflowed the immediate areas closest to the shore.  Electricity was up and running and the city returned to life.  Now, in the part of the town where I lived the power was out.  In my walk home, there was no electricity.  There was an upturned boat on the road and a few places had been flooded.  My home was safe and dry.  And, although it was dark, I had no problem settling down for a night's sleep on a bed instead of a tile floor.

Copyright 2011 and 2012 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.