There are some places that you get attached to so strongly that your heart never stops to linger over there even after you’ve left the place. Ooty had been one such place in my childhood. Maybe it’s because the first hill-station I’ve ever visited, but those hills and valleys haunted me for months after we’ve returned from that trip. And now, Varkala is doing the same to me. I’m still basking in the afterglow of the whole experience. Even now if I close my eyes, the first image that comes to mind is this:
I dreamed of the cliff last night. That I was just taking a stroll on the deserted pathway, on a full-moon night, with a dog walking alongside me. The sea was illuminated by the moon, and the rumble of waves droned on in a soothing rhythm. What is strange is that I did not really see the cliff under full-moon so I have no idea how my mind conceived that image.
What is even strange is that Varkala is not exactly the best by any standard. You have definitely been to better beaches, have definitely eaten at better restaurants, have definitely seen better sunsets – but what Varkala does ever so successfully is to bring all of these in one spectacular package. With spell-binding views of the sea, a cliff-top that is lined with eclectic restaurants (all have free Wi-Fi) that serve everything from authentic English breakfast to Indian cuisine, friendly locals and waiter staff – it’s hard to not see why this place is such a hit with the tourists. And it brings something unique to the table too, being the only beach in India that is adjoining a cliff. And in case you haven’t notice before, cliffs are awesome! All of this leads to a place that’s almost irresistible to visit.
But you know what is even more strange? Varkala is relatively unknown to the Indian population. When I first told my friends of my visit, everyone – mind you – everyone were like, ‘Wut? Never heard of that.’ And this is of a place that TripAdvisor India rated as the Top 4th beach in the country! But if I’m being honest, I wish Varkala remains unknown. As it stands, it is a sleepy sea-side town with a healthy influx of foreign tourists and much lesser Indians. Which works perfectly because the last thing you want is thronging crowds in a place like this, especially the wonderful irresponsible crowd from my own country who don’t think twice before littering.
So anyway, my trip began Thursday morning with the arrival of the Trivandrum Mail at ‘Varkala Sivagiri‘ railway station. And I have to say that I was a little rattled throughout the train journey as the Weather app on my phone predicted that there would be ‘Light Rain’ throughout the days of my visit. I know of Kerala rains and how unpredictable they could be, and I knew that if there was anything that could spoil my trip, it would be the rains. But thankfully, it wasn’t as worse as I imagined at all. Sure, it had rained intermittently all along my trip, but it would only last for a couple of minutes and then there would be sunshine again. And anyway, I love overcast skies for crying out loud! So everything was just perfect; I got the clouds and the rains, and I got to go out as well!
Of accommodation and meeting fellow travelers:
Now this time, I decided to do something different. Usually when I go on solo trips, I always book a single room as that would give me my space and privacy. But this time I decided to book a backpacker’s hostel, just to see how it’d be. And turns out I did not make a bad decision at all. I never realized the kind of people you could potentially meet when you share a dorm room with them. Ours was a 6-bed dorm and I shared it with two amazing chaps from The Netherlands, one Tamil guy who is also from Chennai and incidentally works in the same company as mine, and then there was a young lady from the USA as well.
I found it surprising how easily the conversations flowed with all of them. I guess it was the mutual eagerness we had to learn about the other culture. Casimir, who is from Amsterdam, has been backpacking across South East Asia for 18 months now and he told me of all the places and experiences he’s had on his trip. I can only dream of pausing my career like that and traveling for years together. We were later joined by Simon from Norway, who’s been doing his Master’s field work in Calicut and was in Varkala for a week’s vacation before returning to Oslo.
All in all, I had to say that I had a pretty good time at the stay and it was delightful to meet new people, for a change. The best experience? Casimir making us (with a helping-hand from me, of course) the perfect scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, which was apparently his dad’s recipe and was simply delicious.
In Part 2 of my post, I will write about the places we saw and the food we ate. Even though there’s not much to see, you will never get bored of seeing the same place again and again. And that is the magic of Varkala. Once you lap up the mysticism of the place, it’s very hard to let go of.
It is a place I wouldn’t mind settling in forever. And calling it home.