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Published: June 25th 2017
The Dramatic Cliffs of Varkala Beach
Need I say more? How can this not steal your breath away?
Ah yes, where we left off, and a word about that midnight train from Pondicherry across the country to Trivandrum. We left our hotel at seven in the evening in a hired taxi who provided us with our first experience of travelling the highways of India by night. We were only on the road for an hour and a half, and we found the experience stimulating and exciting, because there was such a diversity of traffic and people on the road and roadside to watch - including solo bikers to families of four on motor scooters; bicycles with no headlights; and numerous tuk-tuks competing for road space on a two lane highway with countless buses and very large trucks. Having said that, there is little question that night road travel in India is not for the faint of heart, and choosing this mode of travel regularly raises questions about one's suicidal tendencies. Which begs me to question why anyone would ever choose this country to motorbike across if you had an option, yet this seems to be a lifestyle choice for a number of young Brits we have met so far.
Anyway, two hours later we find ourselves dropped off
That Wicked Staircase
This is what we had to face in 38 degree heat after seventeen hours in transit, each carrying 40 plus pounds of baggage. Wicked indeed.
at a large train station junction where we attempt to find someone in authority to confirm that we are indeed at the right place. Eventually we do find someone who speaks English, only to be told after he viewed our ticket that the ticket we had been sold was for a waiting list only. After witnessing our slight panic attack, this kind local took it upon himself to investigate on our behalf, and returned moments later with the good news that we did have confirmed berths on this train after all. How boring this adventure would be if it did not have these little exciting hills and valleys to keep us on our toes! But all worked out well, we got on that train, took to our allocated berths, and for the next thirteen hours pretended that we were not sleeping on a rock hard bed as we traversed this massive country in the night.
My first encounter the next morning was with a lovely Indian woman on the train who welcomed me to India and shared a well known expression in Hindi that translates to " In India, tourists are our Gods." Upon returning to our four person
View from the Top
Just in case the staircase shot wasn't convincing enough.
berth, I shared this story with Stan and our two Indian train travel companions. They both acknowledged this well known expression, and for the duration of the trip provided us with food, cultural insights, and travel advice, then phoned to book our guest house room for us, leaving us as well with contact information in case we needed any further assistance during our travels. I don't know about Stan, but they left me feeling a bit like a Goddess.
However, a Goddess with fair amount of tenacity, as the next few hours of travel would prove to be gruelling indeed. Bear in mind that it is about 35 degrees Celcius when we depart our train and make our way across yet another street in search of a bus, from a line up of about twenty of them, that would take us to Varkala Beach. Bear in mind also that English is a little less common on the buses, as they are primarily used by locals, rarely by touristos like us. So we ended up hopping on the wrong bus. Not entirely bad, as our chosen bus was going in the right direction: it just meant having to hop on
Morning Stroll on the Beach
Just another day in paradise.
to another bus an hour later to complete the trip to our restful beach. All we would have to do, thirty minutes after getting on the right bus,was rent a tuk tuk that would take us right to our guest house door. Wrong. What really happened was that the tuk tuk dropped us off at the opposite end of the beach, and on the bottom of the cliff. Our guest house was on the top of the cliff. So, after travelling some nineteen hours straight, on taxis, trains, two buses, and a tuk tuk, we discover that we get to end this journey with a quarter of a mile walk down the beach, followed by a very steep climb of no less than one hundred and five steps to the top of the cliff wall, each of us carrying our full load of baggage, or about forty pounds per person. And all of this in plus 38 degree temps. What fun! But we survived, and one look at the magnificent splendour that is Varkala Beach made it all worthwhile.
We have been here almost a week now, and will be on the road again tomorrow to Allepey, from
Stan Chillin on our Balcony
What about this picture does not surprise you?
where we will be exploring daily riverside life from a hammock on a boat. Varkala Beach is the longest stop we have had in a month. It has been quiet enough to provide us with the time to just chill, walk the beach, swim / fight the waves, and plan the rest of our trip in India, but touristic enough to provide a diverse range of excellent restaurant choices, daily Cafe Lattes, and many, many shopping opportunities along the never ending beach cliff walkway lined with merchant shops ( especially if you are looking for fine jewelry, or Kashmir scarves or rugs - the real deal). Not least importantly, it has provided us with an opportunity to meet and converse at length with a number of the merchants from Kashmir, some of whom who have now become friends whose families will be greeting us a week or so down the road, when we make our way to beautiful Kashmir.
Okay, I lied. I do have one more story I must share. Two years ago, when Stan travelled with Tanner to this very same beach, he befriended one of the local Djembe salesmen and eventually bought a beautiful large Djembe
Our Sweet Little Guest House
Okay, it did not have Air Con, and I bet it was pushing 40 C during our stay here, so we had a lot of cooling off showers. But those big windows let that ocean breeze fly in, and we could not get enough of the ocean view from our balcony deck. And at night, we looked out on to the "sparkling city" of fishing boats. Beauty.
drum from him, a drum which he ultimately carried through five international airports to bring home for me. That, I believe, is true love. When Stan knew he would be returning to Varkala Beach, he was determined to find this same young man. He succeeded the first night we were here, and we have had daily conversations with him since. The day before we left, however, we were invited to his humble home to share a meal and meet his wife and children. We learned while we were there that we were the first Western / white people ever to have been invited to his home. It was an honor for us and a very humbling experience indeed.
I will leave the telling of the rest of the stories from Varkala Beach to the photos. Suffice it to say that Varkala has now replaced Sri Lanka's Mirissa Beach as my new best beach in the world. It's intense dramatic beauty is breathtakingly beautiful, not at all lessened by the fact that every night you look out at the sparkling horizon of what appears to be a small city, maybe about as broad as, say, Regina from a distance on
Stan's Morning Cafe Latte Shop
This is where we started our morning worship of another beautiful day, at the appropriately named the Coffee Temple.
a warm summer night, except you know for a fact that there is no land mass from here to the coast of Africa, so you shake your head in disbelief when you realize that that city of lights is all the local fishing boats at work. Unbelievably beautiful.
Tot: 2.64s; Tpl: 0.055s; cc: 10; qc: 47; dbt: 0.0433s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.4mb