Oh Varkala… where have you been all this time?? I cannot believe that you were just over three hours away from me.. for almost thirteen years since I’ve been in Bangalore.. and I had absolutely no idea of your existence! A big big thanks to my friends Karishma and Aman (from All Things Trippy) who enticed me with their pictures on Facebook and Instagram so much that I had no choice but to plan a trip to Varkala. Hubby and I, both, love beach vacations and what better way to celebrate our three years of togetherness than a weekend getaway! With the tickets all booked and hotel reservations made way ahead of time, waiting for the weekend of the trip was the biggest torture ever!
Although we were in Varkala for just about three days, there is so much that I would like to share about the place that I have structured the post in two parts. Do bear with my prolonged jibber-jabber.. I just cannot stop talking about it!
If you are a pressed for time and need the lowdown right away, you can check out the Varkala Cheat Sheet.
Varkala is about 50kms from the capital of Kerala, Trivandrum. You can get there by bus, train or by road. We got our hosts at the resort we were staying at, to organize a cab for us to take us to the beach town. As we started our hour and a half long drive to Varkala, we immediately got a glimpse of the sea and Hubby and I were shocked to see the colour of the water. Never in any of our visits around the coastline of mainland India, have either of us seen blue water. (Although I hear that the Arabian Sea at Diu is blue.. but neither Hubby or I have been there) The glimpse of the sea turned out to be such a tease for as we drove on, I knew we were somewhere close to the coastline, but we never got another glimpse of the sea, and the drive felt so long. In retrospect, perhaps that was all a part of the plan. An hour and a half later, we finally entered the main Varkala town. Now, the roads of Kerala almost always have just two lanes and the bye lanes of Varkala, well, they have just about one. That didn’t seem to deter our driver as he expertly navigated his way through the tiny streets. After what felt like over a hundred twists and turns, the trees thinned out, the buildings cleared out, and the vision before us took our breath away! The beautiful blue water of the Arabian Sea seen from a cliff side lined with beautiful coconut palms… how can you not fall in love at first sight?
We finally reached our resort, Maadathil Cottages, which is a few kilometers away from the main North Cliff, where most of the tourists stay. According to me, anniversary time called for some pampering, and this resort seemed like the perfect place. We were ushered to our cute little cottage constructed in true Kerala architectural style. Hubby, enticed by the sight of the comfortable bed, and the fact that he had woken up in the middle of the night to catch the flight (that’s 6.15 am FYI) jumped into bed for a quick nap before heading out.
Making most of this opportunity, I decided to explore a bit. Maadathil cottages has about eight cottages, all facing an open area lined with coconut palms and the sea thereafter. The hammocks and the sun decks line the open area promise the most relaxed time under the dance of sun and shade. In case that was not enough, lo and behold… they have a private beach! *waaaaat?* Well, the beach was really small and on the Black Beach stretch, but it is at your disposal, along with a few other guests from the resort of course. I, however, found my favourite spot on the comfortable cane chair at the porch. It was time to catch up on some reading. Concentrating on the book was so difficult. I was mesmerized by the beautiful blue sky, the coconut palms, the water and the fact that I was there among it all. The sound of the sea was hypnotizing. I wouldn’t describe the sound of the sea that day as a roar as you normally would. It was more like a lazy growl of a well fed lion that is followed by a giant yawn and a belly scratch, as he tumbles to the other side and continues his snooze.
My lazy wandering thoughts were suddenly brought back to reality when Hubby walked out of the room, nice and rested, also prompted by the grumbling belly, ready to hit the North Cliff. (Reality.. The sea, the laziness… I love relating that to reality!) North Cliff is the main touristy area of Varkala and was almost a 3km walk from where we were staying. The walk was quite like an obstacle course along the coastline. From sandy beaches, to hotel frontages, the landscape making us climb up and down, a government fishery, also a little stream (of disgusting dirty water unfortunately) on which was a tiny bridge made of two bamboo trunks and one trunk on the side to form the railing. It was pretty scary for a person with issues with her center of gravity. However, the sea never left our side and the visuals around us kept getting prettier and prettier and I couldn’t keep myself from stopping every five minutes to take pictures.
Well.. No I’m sorry.. I just cannot get enough of this view #varkala #kerala #bitofthisandalotofthat #traveldiaries #travelblogger #travelphotography #keralatourism #keralagram #travelgram #pnvadventures #phonephotography #travelphotography #beachesofindia #beachlove #incredibleindia #indiatravelgram #india #indialove #instakerala #storiesofindia #lonelyplanetindia #godsowncountrykerala #sokerala #keraladiaries #instavarkala #expIndia
What wasn’t on our side was the weather. It was really hot and quite humid. We finally got to the North Cliff and headed for Cafe` del Mar – one of the places Karishma insisted that we go to while in Varkala. Cafe` del Mar was at the other end of the walk along the cliff. I think that turned out well for us as we got to walk along the cliff. The path is lined with hotels, shops and restaurants mostly targeted to the international hippy crowd. It was so surprising to see that there were hardly any Indian tourists and it was so many foreigners. The entire time Hubby and I were discussing that we, too, learnt about Varkala only the year before, and it is so surprising that not many Indians know about this cute little beach-side haven. We assumed that Goa would also have been like this before it got as commercial as it is today. From places offering Yoga classes, Ayurvedic massages, to hippy souvenirs and clothes sold in almost every shop along the North Cliff promenade, everything tales about how much the hippy backpackers seem to love this place.
Finally, after almost fourty minutes of walking in the hot sun, we saw Cafe del Mar. We quickly found a place, under the fan mind you, and were ready for our beer. In Kerala, serving alcohol is not permitted except for in a few places that are approved by the Government. That, however, does not stop anyone from serving beer or any other alcohol. The alcohol is stocked in some hidden place, brought to the table with the bottle wrapped in newspaper, and served in large coffee mugs. Quite amusing for Hubby and me, but who cares. A hot afternoon deserves a chilled beer, and a chilled beer we got!
Hubby insisted that there is no way that we could not have sea food when you’re sure that it will be super fresh. He was absolutely right. Unfortunately, the skeptic that I am, unsure of any sea food that goes in my belly, I ordered the plate of humus and bread.. you know.. just in case. My problem with sea food this the smell and the overbearing taste that drums it into your senses that ‘you are eating sea food mister’! Fortunately for me, Cafe del Mar took this up as a personal challenge and ensured that the first dish of sea food I had in Varkala was astounding. The prawns were so fresh and did not smell at all. I found myself picking up one piece of prawns after another. I could feel my Bengali mother in law getting prouder of me with every bite that I took.
As we sat around in the restaurant, enjoying the beer and getting hypnotized by the view, Hubby and I saw something far into the sea. Initially I thought it was someone swimming and started telling Hubby that it would be so unsafe to swim so far out into the sea. Varkala is known for its strong currents after all. People are so careless sometimes… yada yada yada… when suddenly we saw a few more bobbing heads in the sea. Suddenly it struck us that these were not people swimming, they were dolphins or whales! I wish we had super strong vision or at least a pair of binoculars with us. This is the first time that I have seen whales, even though it was from a great distance. What a stroke of luck!
With ourbellies full, whale sighting done, we were ready to head to the main Varkala Beach.
Varkala Beach is at the base of a 30 foot cliff with the most fine sand I have ever felt. The famous view of the cliff and the beach is from the helipad at the end of the cliff-side walk.
I like the Varkala View #varkala #kerala #keralatourism #bitofthisandalotofthat #traveldiaries #pnvadventures #incredibleindia #indialove #beachesofindia #travelblogger #travelphotography #storiesofindia #indiantravel #lonelyplanetindia #sokerala #godsowncountrykerala #keralagram #theglobalmoment #indiatravelgram #instakerala #instavarkala #expIndia
A photo posted by Pooja Deshpande (@abitofpooja_andalotofthat) on
There are steps along the cliff that take you to the beach. After being to Goa so many times, it is nice to come to a beach which does not feel commercial, although the beach was fairly crowded when we went. The vibe, however, was completely different with people chilling, swimmers swimming, people reading, and the Yoga enthusiasts practicing! (I couldn’t take my eyes off these three women who were practicing headstands.)
The currents in the sea are supposed to be quite strong in Varkala, hence swimming in the sea is restricted to a certain area marked by flags. It was good to see that there were lifeguards our there to make sure that people were following the rules. Hubby has this thing – no matter which beach he goes to, he always has to get into the water there. It was no different here. We found a spot for me to sit while Hubby headed to into the water.
Ten minutes later Hubby was back, all happy and excited. ‘The water is so warm’ he informed me, and got me super excited to go in myself. For some reason, I had not carried my bathing suit and insisted that we go back to our resort so that I could get changed and enjoy the water too. Once Hubby was dried off, we headed back to our private beach (how I like the sound of that!) and watch the sunset from there. Another 40 minute long walk and we were back and this time it was Hubby who waited it out on the beach while I played with the waves.
The sand at the beach that we were at was black. I guess that’s why it is called the Black Beach! The peculiar thing, however, was that it was completely black at certain places while at others, it just formed a coat of black sand while the sand underneath was the usual brown colour. Nature has its own quirks I guess. The beaches at Varkala, for now, are my favourite for I have never been to a beach where there are no pebbles, no sea weed that gets tangled in your legs when you’re in the water and gives you the creepy terrifying feeling, just plain beautiful fine sand, and beautiful clear water.
Once the sun was down, we were showered and cleaned up and ready to paint the town red! Just one little glitch… we had to walk the 40 minute walk all over again! It gets better.. we had to do the walk… in the dark.. *gasp*! Thank God for technology and smart phones and the flashlights they come with. We did the walk and we did it in the dark and we did it with the flashlights. I made it a point not to look here and there for my talents for self-spooking-with-no-reason are legendary! But with the beautiful starry sky and the moonlight shimmering in the sea, there was no reason to get spooked.
We walked up and down the North Cliff promenade deciding where to go. Saturday night at the promenade was really vibrant. The shops still open till late into the night, music streaming out from the restaurants… decisions! decisions! Why are you so tough to make?!? Fortunately, The Big Apple Cafe came to our rescue. We heard live music and the band was playing some nice rock classics. Hubby and I are big time suckers for rock classics and going to this restaurant was a no brainer. After a bit of waiting and a bit of shifting around, we finally found a place at the furthest end of the restaurant with the best view… also read as the place where we were able to get some of the sea breeze. It was so hot and humid! The restaurant has a very hippy-ish culture reinforced with the hippy group performing. The guy who was singing was really really good! The service, however, was a disaster! It took them 20 minutes each time to get us one can of beer and over an hour to get our starters. Let me add here that when the food did come, it was pretty good. Hubby and I, unfortunately, as city dwellers and adapted to quick service, couldn’t take it anymore and finally left.
We headed to Rock n` Roll Cafe thereafter. We had been eyeing the place for quite a while as it started getting busier and busier and the music louder and louder. Unlike the other places which were targeted to foreigners and had the hippy laid back vibe, Rock n Roll Cafe was choc-a-block with Indian college students looking for a party. Hubby and I sat around in one corner, feeling all old and brought our third anniversary in. In true Desh-Mitra fashion, we trekked our way back to the resort once there was no beer left to serve.
Phew! I know the title of this post is ‘Lazy-Pazy Weekend’ and that was a long long post already. For the rest of the Varkala laziness adventure, check out Lazy-Pazy Weekend at Varkala.. Continues…