Click here to find out where Varkala is.
Finally…the sea! A place where I can wear something less than full length pants and covered shoulders. A place to escape from the humidity and sweat of southern India. A place to do nothing but swim, sunbathe, and eat.
When Andy and I got into Varkala after one train ride and three sweaty bus rides we walked straight to the beach and sat at the first restaurant we came to. It was already night time and completely dark so we had to use our imaginations to picture the sea in front of us. There were hundreds of fishing boats that floated off shore, each displaying a single light, which made it look like there was a peninsula or some other land mass in front of us that the cartographers had missed.
The next morning we were able to see that the main beach of Varkala lies in between a cliff and the wonderfully warm Arabian Sea. The beach seemed to be unintentionally divided into two different sections. One side of the beach is where the locals tended to congregate while the other side, next to the cliff, was filled only with scantily clad Westerners. On the Westerner’s side there are steep steps that lead up the cliff face to a wide array of restaurants, all offering at least some continental food. The cliff top also housed plenty of stores selling clothing, Kashmiri handicrafts, and ayurvedic treatments.
Andy and I stayed in a cheap out of the way guest house next to the
locals beach. Even though we were a little farther away from the cliff top we didn’t mind the walk to the restaurants since it meant passing our new little motherless puppy friends every time, as well as a nice stair-master workout. (All of the puppies who survived were adopted, by the way.)
Every night all of the local restaurants laid out that day’s catch to entice patrons into eating there. There would be red and white
snapper, barracuda, butter fish, lobsters, prawns, and whole marlins with steaks cut out of the side to order. The restaurants also covertly sold beer. Serving alcohol is against local restaurant regulations so the servers would either fill up a tea pot with beer to serve, or they would pour a glass and stash the bottle under the table. We spent a good many hours sitting at restaurants looking out at the ocean thinking about what restaurant to go to next.
The funniest thing about the locals beach was the funeral like procession of Indian women that were always wobbling so slowly along. These women would be wearing their full on saris and shoes while carrying a huge black umbrella to block the sun from their skin. They would watch the children playing in the water and occasionally yell something at them which was probably along the lines of ‘Be careful’ and ‘Stop rough housing’. When we actually saw a woman in the water she was swimming in her clothes rather than a swim suit or something more revealing. The older women would slowly walk in a line of colorful clothes and large umbrellas up the beach, then down the beach, all the while with looks on their faces that seemed to say, ‘I don’t see what the big deal is’.
We decided to spend Christmas in Varkala and it passed pretty uneventfully. Christmas Eve we watched some local kids put on a Bollywood dance show and on Christmas day we went to see the hideous baby Jesus that had hatched out of a pterodactyl sized egg in the much smaller nativity scene.
The next day we decided that we had better have one last latte at the alleyway coffee shop (it is the best latte in India, you know) and tear ourselves away from the beach and bland safety of a traveler haven to get back to the real, sweaty, people packed India. For all its trouble, we do start to miss it.