We had just arrived in the sleepy beach town of Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka, and crashed on the bed exhausted after a long day of traveling from Colombo & taking one of the many cheap international flights from Germany. “Are you shaking the bed?” Nathan suddenly asked me– I wasn’t, but I could feel the whole ground slightly shaking under me – as I looked around the room I noticed that the mirrors were shaking too. Thousands of miles across the ocean, we could feel the vibrations from the massive earthquake which had just struck the coast of Indonesia.
We didn’t think much more of it at the time, until one of the local travel agents asked Nathan if he had heard anything about a tsunami coming. At first we thought it was some kind of bad joke, but as we checked out Twitter Search, the newsfeed was going crazy. Nobody really knew what to think, believe or do – Hikkaduwa had been badly damaged from the tsunami in 2006, so this warning was not something people there took lightly. We had two options:to risk it and stay, or to evacuate and seek higher ground – ten minutes later we had packed a small bag of the most necessary things, and walked out on the street.
The laid back main street had suddenly turned into a ghost town, the shops were closed and the streets empty from people – most of the locals had already left.
At first the driver laughed when we told him where we wanted to go, but then he suddenly got a serious look on his face and agreed to take us there for almost nothing, perhaps he had realized the danger and wanted to get out of there as well. Shortly after we left, the whole town was forced to evacuate.
Once he had dropped us off we realized why he had laughed – we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere in a tiny country village which probably no tourists ever visited as there was no reason to go there – I’ve never been stared at so much in my life! :p We walked up and down the main road (the only road there), trying to find somewhere we could wait and follow the news – but there were no restaurants or hotels to be found anywhere. We finally found a tiny eatery with a small TV that was hardly working, and sat down to wait, we asked the boy serving us if there was a hotel around, but he shook his head apologetically. Having no idea what to do next, we started walking again …
Five minutes later the boy from the restaurant caught up with us on his bicycle, and with a low and slightly shy voice said that if we wanted to we could stay the night with him and his family.
It was only our second day in Sri Lanka, and already we were experiencing the kind-ness and hospitality that the Sri Lankan people are so famous for.
The boy’s family took us in with open arms, arranged a bed for us to sleep in and made a huge effort to make us feel at home in their house, serving us a wonderful dinner in their lounge.
In the evening, the tsunami warning was cancelled – but with the warm hospitality coming from this family we ended up staying the night and spent the rest of the evening hanging out with them – talking about everything and nothing, watching movies and getting an amazing insight into the lives of the people of the country. There is no doubt that uncertain events like these bring people together, and as we parted the next day we had made some great new friends and exchanged email with a promise to visit again next time we traveled to Sri Lanka …