As part of their travelogue series, Friends of the Quesnel Library will be hosting a presentation on Sri Lanka Thursday, Jan. 24.
Joan McNaughton and Lynne Wright, two friends who travelled to Sri Lanka in October, will be giving the free presentation. Sri Lanka was named the top country to travel to in 2019 by Lonely Planet and has vastly improved its infrastructure in the 10 years since the end of its civil war.
Both avid travellers, McNaughton says they were encouraged to go to Sri Lanka while the pair were on a Safari trip in Kenya. McNaughton met a man, Rajeev, from Sri Lanka, who showed them a book of images of the island nation, located just off the tip of India.
McNaughton, who loves wildlife and wildlife photography, says she looked through the book and thought “‘God, that stuff is all in Sri Lanka?’”
From there, McNaughton began organizing the trip.
“There were four of us, intrepid ladies who trusted the fact that we’d never travelled there before and I wouldn’t lose them somewhere in the country.” McNaughton laughs: “because I really knew nothing about Sri Lanka whatsoever.”
The friends spent approximately two weeks in Sri Lanka, where they explored beautiful temples, encountered Asian elephants, leopards, sloth bears and a wide variety of birds, walked through fish markets and explored the mountains. They also took an excursion to a tea plantation and passed tea fields as they crossed the country by train.
“We climbed the Sigiriya and we hiked to the Cloud Forest,” adds Wright.
Sigiriya is an ancient rock city in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. It is named after a massive rock column (which tourists are able to take stairs up) that dominates the landscape.
The Sri Lankan climate has two monsoon seasons, one of which brings rain to the west and southwest coasts from May to September, and the other which brings the rain to the east coast and northern region from October to February. The rest of the year is typically quite dry.
McNaughton and Wright, who have both also travelled to India, say they initially expected Sri Lanka to be similar to India, which, McNaughton says, is generally a very “frantic” place.
But upon looking through Rajeev’s photos, their perspectives began to change. And when they arrived in Sri Lanka, they found it even more different than they initially expected.
“Traffic is so organized; it’s calm on the streets,” says Wright. “I felt totally safe going for a walk in the dark.”
As well as safe, both women think Sri Lanka is a beautiful country.
“It’s wonderful, but it’s very different,” says McNaughton. “It’s very beautiful. I couldn’t believe I was so taken by the trees. I’m big into adrenaline … but these trees, it’s like driving through a mystery forest in a fairy tale.
“I was totally surprised to be so impressed by the trees. And when someone says to me: ‘what do you think is the neatest thing about going back?’ I’m embarrassed to say ‘the trees.’”
McNaughton and Wright will be presenting their trip at the Quesnel Library Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. The event is free, and all are welcome.