Day 1,017: The Earth Moved

14.10.11: Friday passed slowly but comfortably, given the odd earthquake. Stan had left in the morning to go to an island off the coast with his family, I stayed behind in his swanky apartment cursing myself for resetting Stan’s modem the night before: Stan didn’t have his welcome letter from the internet provider in the flat, his username and password had been wiped.


Which meant no internets and no blog updates for another week. I hope you can forgive all of these blogs coming at you thick and fast from here in The Solomon Islands Australia (spoiler!), but these things happen, especially if you allow a barely competent ginger monkey prat around with your gear.

The earthquake – which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale – struck around midday, and I was as useless as only a none-veteran of earthquakes could be. Cursing the fact that I wasn’t wearing shoes, I stood up and looked around. What should I do? Here I was on the fifth floor of an apartment overlooking the coast, on my own and the whole building was shaking. Images of South Park’s “Duck and Cover” episode flashed into my head.

Somewhere in the back of my brain came the learned notion that I should find a doorway to sit in. I don’t know if this is because doorways are somehow magical or if it’s because if a wall tips on top of you at least you won’t get squished against something, you can always move out of the room a bit. Or maybe it’s bollocks: I don’t think sitting in a doorway helped people trapped the World Trade Centre. But then that was a fire: it was different. But the building still collapsed… what if this building collapses? What if it falls down like the television building in Christchurch? Damn I wish I had shoes on. I always feel more in control of the situation when I have shoes on.

It was at this point that the earthquake stopped. I came back to reality and realised that my awesome plan for surviving a major disaster situation amounted to standing up and deciding not to hide under a doorway. I don’t know if I even deserve my awesome moustache anymore: I’m one of those who believes you have to be pretty damn awesome to deserve an awesome moustache, and as this scenario quite adroitly pointed out to me: I’m no Magnum PI.

I walked over to the balcony and looked down at the waterfront, just beyond the small footy stadium below. I started fretting about whether I would now have to survive a tsunami as well. Well, I thought, if I’m going to be swept away by a force of water the likes of which can scupper a nuclear power station, I might as well get a good shot of it coming across the pitch. I set my camera up on the balcony, just in case.

Happily, the tsunami never came and I was left alive for another day, free to pursue a life of religious fulfilment. Hurrah!

That night I met up with a guy called Ben who was the connection between Stan, my original CouchSurf host (the only CouchSurf host for Lae) and Alex, the guy I had been staying with all week. Ben also worked for Swire Shipping, but for the subsidiary called Consort which runs domestic cargo around the coasts of PNG. Ben picked me up and took me to the Yacht Club where I met a couple of his friends, had something to eat and muttered under my breath about the injustice of the ‘no hat’ rule. Heathens!

After a few too many, I was back at Stan’s flat – Stan was still away on the island, but had given me a key. It seems that despite the fact that I’m a Scouser and I broke his internets, Stan was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. I was very careful not to break anything else.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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