In 2004 I quit my job, sold my house, and most of my belongings to set off on one year adventure. I had a pocketful of money, a one-way ticket to Kathmandu, Nepal, and no firm plans but to travel and wander at will with my partner at the time.
My travels took me to Nepal for two months and then to India for six months. Plans were loose but the Andaman Islands called for Christmas and New Year.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a remote chain of Indian islands, a back to basic paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, even though they are closer to Thailand.
We arrived in the capital, Port Blair from Kolkata (Calcutta) and hopped by boat to Havelock, a small island five hours away. A simple hut and a stunning beach would be our home for the next three weeks.
We hired a motorbike to travel throughout Nepal and India. While the island had only two roads, we picked up a Honda Hero to visit the secluded beaches. Number 7 was our favourite and the second-best beach in Asia.
We spent the evenings watching the sunset followed by a bike ride through the fading light, crisscrossing the snakes in our path. Well-fed and looked after by the manager/chef, we soon settled into a lazy routine. With no internet and sporadic phone services at the local shop, Havelock was far removed from the crazy and hectic world we lived in.
Yet, as Christmas approached, I began to feel agitated and stressed. Travelling with your partner can be testing, at times, but my patience level was zero, and then I realised that my period was late. I’d gladly given up everything for my year of freedom and a baby was definitely not in the plan, not at all.
Christmas Day came and I felt very disjointed. I couldn’t sit still. The agitation built up inside of me and I stomped off to bed early. I felt annoyed with myself, having absolutely no idea what was bothering me.
The next morning, I woke up with a start as the hut was violently shaking from side to side. “Someone’s playing games!” I shouted. My nerves already flayed, I jumped up and out onto the little veranda ready to give them a piece of my mind. I jumped down to the ground, ready to hit the warpath, yet the shaking didn’t stop.
I was knocked to the ground from the earth shook from side to side. I looked up to see other guests trying to keep their balance, like surfers riding a wave, even though they were stood on solid ground.
In the background, I could hear Bengalese settlers, the island’s inhabitants, making the Indian call. This would become a familiar sound over the coming days, just before every aftershock, and there were many. It’s fair to say that my world had gone a little crazy. I was smack bang in the middle of a massive earthquake.
The ground finally settled and everyone calmed down. I clearly remember someone asking if a tsunami happens after an earthquake, yet we sat there, like sitting ducks, our only concern was what we would have for breakfast.
As I sipped on my morning chai while trying to decide between dippy eggs or a fruit salad, I watched crab after crab scuttle up the palm tree in front of me. Did I think that crabs don’t normally go up trees and, therefore, something might be wrong? No. I thought it a little odd, as I decided to have breakfast later, go back into my flimsy little shack, and hit the sack for a couple more hours sleep.
As I settled and started to doze, I heard my name being called, calmly at first, then rather persistently. I finally heard a panicked and quite fearful, “Sam, we need to leave now.”
I jumped out of the hut as a surge of water hit the camp. We ran as fast as we could against a background of the Indian call, as the locals warned others in the area of the approaching wave.
It’s at this point that I’m tempted to tell a tall story because we were very lucky that day. The beach was protected by small mangrove islands out at sea and the water was shallow for a good half-mile out. A tsunami needs a continuous stream of water to keep its momentum. What hit the camp was a water surge rather than a wave. Nevertheless, we really didn’t know whether another wave was coming in, so our fear was genuine.
Our chef came from a family of fishermen. Shell shocked, he sat and counted the tide come in and out 69 times that day, as the ocean rocked back and forth, with each surge less powerful than the one before.
We left the island ten days later. Low and behold, back on the mainland, my monthly friend soon made her appearance. Sam was without child.
Now to lesson learnt from my experience of an 8.7 magnitude earthquake and tsunami. There are many stories where a woman’s time of the month is delayed because of stress. A woman is emotionally vulnerable and, dare I say it, can be a little volatile in her emotions at her time of the month. The body intuitively delays the cycle in times of stress.
Looking back, the tension and stress in my body were akin to the stress and tension in the ground, which was released when the earthquake struck.
I believe my wild and instinctual side unconsciously did the job for me before the quake. I was on a desert island with zero stress.
It’s a lesson in remembering that a woman’s natural rhythm with Mother Earth can be present, even without the woman consciously knowing.
On the other hand, it was also a lesson in how far removed we humans are in terms of our instinctual nature. Life doesn’t come with a guidebook yet the crabs didn’t need telling. They knew that danger was approaching and followed their instincts, as they scuttled up the trees, which must have been a very difficult feat for the wee creatures. We humans? We sat there like sitting ducks and had a very lucky escape because of the location of the camp.
The experience was a lesson to trust my instinctual nature when it starts to scream there is something wrong, as it did in the lead up to the earthquake.
My experience really does raise the question. Are we humans really as smart as we think with our reliance on the mind and logic at the expense of instinct and intuition?
(c) Samantha Wilson 2020. All Rights Reserved.