Varkala was to be our place of rest, a holiday within our travels and we wanted to have a little base here for a while before moving on within Kerala. The train journey from Kochi was pretty good, we got there in about 4 hours, the only down side was that we didn’t have a seat where our ticket said our seats were.
This is because on sleeper class during the day people just sit anywhere regardless of whether they’re ticket says so or not. In our actual seats there were around 12 people crammed onto the lower beds. We opted for the upper deck with the bags and hid away, the plus side of this being that no-one tried to sit next to us. It was a hot and fun journey but we were more than happy to be getting off at Varkala.
We got a rickshaw to the North Cliff, under the impression that we would be staying at Shiva Garden Guesthouse, who had offered a free pick up. The only thing we had to do was make a call from the station area to get them to pick us up, we couldn’t find a phone anywhere and people were not very willing to help. So we just made our own way there and were pleased we didn’t get them to pick us up as we decided not to stay there after all. We wanted something a little nicer, after all we were on our holiday time! So we moved on and had a look at a few places in that area at the top of the North Cliff and settled for a 800rs room at the Clafouti Resort, we thought we’d do one night here and then move on. The room was nice and the location not too bad but the owners are not the most hospitable and we wanted to be on the quieter side of Varkala cliff.
Varkala wasn’t quite what we imagined it to be, it had been over-rated by fellow friends and travellers we’d met along the way. We now realised that we actually had it quite good up in Palolem. It’s a busy cliff resort full of bright signs, craft sellers, hotels and resorts, most of the restaurants cater for the tourist with western menus and the beach, hmmm! Still we thought we’d give Varkala time to grow on us. The first thing we did was grab some food at Clafouti restaurant, with a nice cool breeze coming from the wild ocean below we enjoyed a massive mexican meal, we just wanted a light lunch! We then ventured out to find another place to stay for the rest of our time there. We had read about Varkala Villas on South Cliff and so went for a stroll out along the cliff to the area.
En-route we passed a man demonstrating para-gliding as he was attempting to take off on the section of cliff between north and south. We helped him untangle his kite strings from a car and then he was off with the birds watched by several Indian tourists in amazement. We found Varkala Villas on the South Cliff and negotiated to stay with them for 3 nights at 1500rs/night for their lovely bungalow overlooking their beautiful garden. The owners are very accommodating and friendly with it which helps.
After we moved to the bungalow we spent much of our time relaxing, decided not to take breakfast with the owners (500rs extra) we did our own in the form of curd (yoghurt), fruit and muesli. We’d been carrying the muesli with purpose since buying it in Kathmandu when we first got to Nepal, we HAD to use it! Plus it meant we weren’t spending so much money on food every day plus they had a small kitchen with a fridge we could us too. We enjoyed the hammocks in the garden and would spend time in the middle of the day on the beach. When we were on the beach we were surrounded by other tourists and backpackers taking the time to soak up the rays. We rented an umbrella each time for 150rs and picked our spot where we would read in between dips into the ocean and naps. It’s a hard life!
The sea at Varkala beach is a little wild, you can’t really swim out very far as the currents are strong and the waves fierce. On our first swim Helen got a little scared as she kept having to dive under massive waves and was getting further and further away from Dave. But after time we both over-came wave-scared moments and enjoyed them like they were roller coasters, often washed up and tossed around. The North Cliff end of the beach is where most tourists gather and so this is also a prime spot for local male onlookers having a good ‘perv’ at the girls in bikini’s. It’s quite off-putting and at the same time laughable but they don’t ever see so much flesh on show so who can blame the?!
We took 3 yoga classes whilst we were there, one with the local ayurvedic doctor who’s Hatha style session was a little un-rehearsed, Dave was urging Helen to take over. The main problem really though was the language barrier as the next 2 days we attended an intense Ashtanga Yoga class with a teacher who’s English was much better and his practice was very focused. This second class based with Namaste on the North Cliff in front of Juice Shack was much easier to follow, although we ended up in buckets of sweat each time.
We followed our yoga sessions with a very good omelette and juice at Coffee Temple a few doors down. Although it took over an hour one day to receive the omelette it was very good and they do a fantastic chai-latte too. As Varkala grew on us we ended up staying 6 nights in the end and enjoyed our little routine during the day. One evening we went to the Varkala annual festival along with what felt like thousands of others. The atmosphere was building and building, with dressed elephants, musicians, dancers and folk in tradition costume. The only thing was not much was actually going on. There was a problem with the amount of people on the sides of the road and traffic was making it’s way through at speed, so much so that at one point one of the locals was hit by a passing vehicle which didn’t stop. It was quite a moment, being witness to a hit and run accident and how it was dealt with afterwards. The police went off after the car whilst the injured man was quickly rammed into the back of a van, we assumed he was being taken to hospital. Crazy times!
Other things did come of the festival though in the form of fire crackers and fire-works, they were so loud we could feel the ground shake, and they continued on throughout the night. We found solace at Oceano, an Ayurvedic resort who also offer a great menu of what we found to be delicious Keralan and other Indian food. We ended up eating there 3 times in the end as the food was so good and it was very rarely occupied. Oceano is on the South Cliff next door to KR’s Guesthouse. (Whilst this was our favorite jaunt for food we did also have an award for Cafe Del Mar’s smoothies on South Cliff).
Halfway into our stay in Varkala we met Andy and Lisa who through the power of Facebook were introduced to us via a mutual friend back home. We were staying 30 seconds walk away and so it was easy to meet up with them and we enjoyed beers, food, smoothies, yoga and beach time with them too. Next door to where they were staying at Villa Jacadera is Absolute Ayurveda a clinic that had been highly recommended to us by the family staying in the bungalow next to us. I knew they had to be good as Katrin is an ayurvedic practitioner back in Germany.
Based on her recommendation we chose a day package (it’s actually 2 hours ish). For 2700rs we enjoyed a full body massage, a chidroreah treatment involving 45 minutes worth of buttermilk, honey and other medicinal things being dripped onto our forehead. This was followed by a herbal wash (for Helen) and a facial for the both of us. Bear in mind that you are completely naked during this kind of treatment aside from a very small cloth thing! We both felt really good afterwards though an our skin felt amazing. Any of these treatments back home would cost a fortune so we figured we may as well do it in the home of Ayurveda.
(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0, 18mm f4, 90mm Tele-Elmarit f2.8, Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 processed in Lightroom 3)
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