How A Tsunami Evacuation Connected Us With The Locals

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.

We didn’t want to waste any time, and so we simply looked on a map for a village that seemed far away enough in-land and told the driver to take us there.

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 …

18 Responses to How A Tsunami Evacuation Connected Us With The Locals

  1. Kieu - GQ trippin April 29, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    I remember when you guys said you were on your way to Sri Lanka when it happened. We were in Thailand and was quite the experience. So glad everything went well and what a great story with the boy and his family. Sad we didn’t get to make it to Sri Lanka this time around but sounds like a place I’d like to visit one day. :)

    • Sofia - As We Travel Blog April 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      I heard that it was quite a chaos in Thailand too, it’s such a relief for everyone that nothing happened.
      Sri Lanka is wonderful, definitely recommend it!

  2. Andi Perullo April 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    I have goosebumps, what a scary, but absolutely life changing experience! 

    • Sofia - As We Travel Blog April 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

      It was definitely a big wakeup call for us to what is really important in life, and a test to see how we deal with stressful situations – all I can say is that I didn’t deal with it as well as Nathan did.. :P

  3. Ava Apollo April 29, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    That’s so touching, and so terrifying at the same time.  What an insane travel experience! @GlobalButterfly:disqus I have goosebumps, too! 

    • Sofia - As We Travel Blog April 30, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

      Haha yeah it was pretty insane, especially as it was the beginning of our trip!

  4. Kae Lani | A Travel Broad April 30, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    Wow!  Not a way to start a vacation, but it seemed to have led to a very positive adventure!

    • Sofia - As We Travel Blog April 30, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

      Haha no not at all what we expected from our first few days in Sri Lanka, but is was definitely an adventure..!!

  5. Lane & Juliet April 30, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    Scary, isn’t it?  We’ve been through a tornado, flood and earthquake.  Maybe, don’t travel with us.  LOL

    • Sofia - As We Travel Blog April 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

      Haha, sounds like you’ve been quite unlucky..!

  6. Jeremy Branham May 2, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    Events like this aren’t fun at all, quite scary actually.  However, you also get to see the kindness of people in other countries.  So even in the midst of natural disaster, it’s nice to see the kind side of humanity.

    I lived through Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and we had 20 people staying out our house because other people were forced to evacuate.

    • Sofia - As We Travel Blog May 3, 2012 at 5:05 am #

      Yes, that is very true. You could almost say that in the worst of situations, you get to see the best in people.

      Sticking together and helping one another out goes a long way. 

  7. Scott May 3, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    Yep, those of us who were traveling in the region sure won’t forget that day. We actually never left our room in Penang, but I am certain we would have likely been met with the same kindness you guys did!

  8. toushka May 14, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    wow. what an amazing story! This makes me love Sri Lanka even more!
    I was in Chennai during that earthquake and the following tsunami warning, looking out at the ocean from my hotel window and wondering if the 4th floor was “higher ground”. I have never been so relieved when the warning was cancelled.

  9. haileyra May 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    wow..
    u have been through a lot..

  10. The World of Deej May 26, 2012 at 3:45 am #

    I read so many scary stories like yours of that day…so thankful all of my “friends” were safe in the end…

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