British resident in Majorca Stuart Walker, who last November cycled more than 1,300 miles in 22 days from Majorca to Wolverhampton to raise funds for a blood cancer charity, was due to have been in Colombo collecting his rental tuk tuk when three Christian churches in Sri Lanka and three luxury hotels in Colombo were targeted in a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bombings.
Stuart returned to Majorca, where he will be working the summer season again, on Tuesday night. Yesterday he told the Bulletin that, if he had had the time and extra money, he would have stayed on longer.
"I was lucky to not have got caught up in the Colombo attacks. My trip was delayed by the local tattoo artists near the guesthouse in which I was staying on the east coast. But within hours of the bombings my phone went crazy with messages from friends and family wanting to know if I was ok. Luckily I was, but I have to say that the international media got a little bit carried away. Half of the reports coming in from overseas were news to the people and local press on the ground in Sri Lanka.
"It was kind of surreal to be honest. We were all in lockdown with curfews, with all of us having to be at home or inside by 6pm. The first few nights we ate at the neighbour’s house and the attacks were of course the main topic of conversation. But all the locals I met and got to know weren’t so concerned as to why; they were determined to move on and get over it.
The whole country was obviously in shock and it was extremely sad, but in the run-up to the attacks - I was there for most of the month - I never felt any animosity; I never felt insecure or unsafe. I guess when I did get to Colombo on the Monday, the day after the attacks, it was pretty strange. Armed police and soldiers were everywhere manning checkpoints, but I guess it was the safest place to have been at the time. I got the feeling that the country just wanted to deal with whoever was responsible and get on with life.
"The Sri Lankans are such wonderful people, I’ve done a fair bit of travelling in my life so far and they must be some of the most hospitable and welcoming people I’ve met. I would recommend visiting the country to anyone. I guess nowhere is safe any more, so don’t write Sri Lanka off."