Published: February 20th 2007February 10th 2007
Feb 10 - 12
We took a train from Kochi down to a small town in the south of Kerala called Varkala. Since it was a day train, it gave us the opportunity to see the beautiful Kerala countryside. We arrived in Varkala and checked into our guest house, Bamboo Village.
Varkala is a small beach town built on a cliff overlooking the sea. The weather was perfect and the water was warm. It was much more relaxed than Goa - like a smaller version of Goa without the trance scene. We did a little shopping, a little swimming and some hanging out at the chill cliffside restaurants. We made a few new friends at one of the shacks (restaurant/bar), Ganesh and Pram. I think all the waitstaff in the entire place were stoned. They were definitely on India time, which is much slower than what we're used to in New York. We're getting used to everything operating on India time, but it's easy to be patient when there's no stress.
We met up briefly with our new Irish friends from Goa (and Hampi briefly) and passed along our room at the guest house to them before we
left. The train ride back to Kochi (Ernakulam) was a bit of an adventure. First, the schedule at the train station was completely different from the one I got from a travel agent. We needed to wait an hour so we had dinner at a cheap local restaurant. Then, we got on the wrong train, which was a regional train. We got off at the end station which was where our correct train was stopping. When we got on the right train, we thought we were in the clear until about an hour into the journey when the conductor told us we were in the wrong coach and sent us to the front of the train. At a certain point, the passage between the cars was locked, so we just sat in that last car. Unfortunately, when the conductor came around again, he made us get off the train at the next stop and get on the next car, which was in what the Indians call 'cattle class.' I suppose we should've thought it odd that the tickets back to Kochi were only 55 rupees ($1.25) when we had paid about $2.50 on the way down. That was a big
mistake. Indian 2nd class unreserved, or cattle class, is first come, first serve, and we were the last ones to show up. The car had wooden benches that seat four across, but somehow had room for 8 across. There were men sleeping in the luggage racks, men sleeping on the floor, men stepping over one another, it was hot and stuffy, it kinda smelled and was rather dirty. There were maybe 2 other women we saw. We pushed our way into the car with our big backpacks and stood in the aisle. As we looked at the time, we saw we still had another 2 hours to go. The men all stared at us. At that point, all we could do was laugh. It was probably a good thing that we had had a few beers before leaving Varkala. India lesson #14 - always reserve a sleeper car on Indian trains...
On top of this unpleasant experience, we arrived about 45 mins late into Ernakulam and got hassled by the rickshaw drivers who always try to cheat tourists. After nearly losing our packs on the top of the rickshaw when the driver sped quickly into the low clearance entrance,
we checked into one of the crappiest hotels for 4 hours of sleep. The next morning we woke up early to catch a flight to Mumbai. The taxi to the airport, which cost more than our accomodations, but that's not saying much, was also an adventure. The cabby didn't even know where the airport was and kept pulling over to ask people directions at 5 in the morning. Luckily we made our flight in time, and it was off to Mumbai...
There are more photos below