Monday, January 4, 2010

Varkala, oh how I miss you

Varkala. Yeah, did you know I was there? And, uh, left there already? I left Cochin on 2 Jan via a 4 1/2 hour train ride that could have been absolute hell (very crowded and no seats), but which turned out to be pretty fun. After the first stop, two guys who had been standing in the doorway of the train got off, so Amiri and I secured their spots. Maybe it doesn't sound ideal to you, but trust me - these are the best seats in the house. It's not crowded so you have a little bit of space, plus you get the breeze of the moving train, always a plus on hot days. Funniest moment of the train ride was when someone was kind of leaning on me - okay, they were full out leaning on me, no "kind of" about it - and I pushed my elbow out to try to get him to back off. Amiri saw what was happening and started to tell off the guy in Arabic. The combination of the two had the guy moving and I commented to Amiri about not speaking English. He said speaking Arabic makes him sound more aggressive. Eh, whatever, it worked. :-)

I was aiming for beach and yoga time in Varkala. Any guesses as to how that turned out? Varkala is a laid-back, low-key, cliff-side beach town. It's cute and quaint and I dug it immediately. After the long train ride and what seemed like a long walk to the restaurant (I was starving - a 2 minute walk would have felt like forever!), we found a restaurant that had multiple levels so pretty much every table had views of the sea. The food was crap and the service was worse, but the view and the ambiance made me very happy indeed. I can't really explain what it was that I liked so much about Varkala. But let me try. :-) The shops were interesting and had items that I hadn't seen anywhere else before. There were no touts or beggars. It was perfectly cool if you brought cards or a game to the restaurant of your choice and ended up spending hours there, chilling out, after you'd already finished your meal. The one negative is that rickshaw drivers would quote outrageous prices and then just drive off if you didn't agree to it, no negotiating at all. But it wasn't a big deal because another, more reasonable, driver would come along soon enough.

The second day consisted of temples in the morning and a backwater canoe cruise in the afternoon. The temples were kind of interesting, but didn't take that long to see. The cruise was pretty neat, even if we did have a lame-o guide (he wasn't really as "knowledgeable" as described and
for some reason in the middle of the trip he started talking about suicide statistics in India. WTF??). In the canoe was me, Amiri, a British guy, and two German girls, plus the boatman and the guide. We saw how coconuts are harvested and the fibers are used to make coir; different plants and spices were pointed out to us; we were told how and how long it takes to construct a canoe; and we found out about the population of Munroe Island (the area where we were) and what they do for work. We also saw ducks, cormorants, birds that looked like bald eagles, snakes, fish, a rabbit, cows, dogs, and the most elusive of all (for me) - when it came to picture taking time - was the kingfisher bird. Every time I went to snap the shot, the dang thing flew away. Amiri has much better timing (and a much better camera, too!), though, and got a couple of shots, so I may just steal his as my own! As always, see here for the latest picture upload.

Today was our last day in Varkala and we spent it on the beach and checking out the cliff-side shops. If I was currently traveling by myself, I'd have stayed for a week, at least. Because guess what I didn't do while I was there? If you guessed yoga. . .ding ding ding! Gold star for you! I don't know what the deal is, exactly, but Varkala may have been my last chance for yoga in India.


  1. I loved seeing all the pictures of you!
    You said you left Varkala already, where are
    you headed now? Maybe one day you might get
    some yoga in somewhere.

    love ya

  2. Well it's too bad Amiri wasn't up for staying a week. Though it's good he was there to yet at people for you. :) I have heard that yoga in India is much different than yoga in America, with more focus on meditation than asana. I'm still wondering over the guy who told you your practice isn't worth your time. I wonder if he was just into the sale?
    It sounds like you had a great time. I look forward to hearing of Trivandrum. My map can't keep up!