As we rushed through Mathugama, a far more exotic palm waved us to slowdown. Elaeis guineensis, or the African oil palm, stood short and stout, burgeoning rosy smiles in its midst. These red fruits are pulped and refined into oil used for cooking and making body care products. Clearings of light green stood out from the thick groves as our four-wheel drive Mitsubishi plied on. In symmetrical squares, the lush cultivation spanned like a sea of lime, interrupted by isles of banana or coconut. There’s a sense of calm that set in as the rice fields drifted into view, paddy sauntering in the breeze. It was soothing to watch buff aloes taking a break from their chores by lounging in their mud baths or a farmer out yonder tending to his crop.Amidst the paddy fields here, you’ll suddenly find patches of bright pink… hundreds of lotus blossoming in ponds that have just nudged their way into the fields. As we crossed over the Bentara Ganga, our view was jarred by fortified concrete. Mangroves filled our flanks, bushy and wild with vines creating ripples in the water. The highway boards indicated that we were in the vicinity of Batuwanhena—Elpitiya. My driver was quick to point out a cook’s delight here: a scene of glossy fl at leaves that drape thin, polished green barks. It was cinnamon!