Flying to Colombo, I took the rattling train south to Galle. Here, I walked on the fort ramparts under a bright sun. The sea lapped the fort walls and a strong breeze minimised the heat. Three boys offered to jump in the sea if I paid them. Rail thin, they called themselves the flying angels, and showed me newspaper clippings with photographs of them soaring from the ramparts into the deep blue sea.
Leaving the angels behind, I strolled along, crunching gravel, until I reached an oddity: a bright, white mosque built in the style of a Portuguese cathedral.
The Sri Lankan coast is a hodge-podge of cultures. Arabs settled the coastline; the Portuguese, Dutch and British fortified it, giving the buildings a pretty European touch and funding them with fortunes made from the spice trade.
Spices had brought me to Galle. I was in the city to visit the nearby beach resort of Unawatuna. There, I would search for the famous Karuna, a Sri Lankan lady who offers day-long cooking classes in the local cuisine. One of my friends, a battle-hardened reporter, had taken this near-the-beach class during which she had pounded spices with a log to make Sri Lankan curry powder.
"Be careful you do not throw your back," she warned.