We were thankful to get off the train at Varkala in one piece. It had not been the most enjoyable of train journeys but we had been bracing ourselves for this experience for a few days. While it was a second class section there was not much privacy in the 6 bunk bed compartment we found ourselves. There was no curtain to close off the compartment from prying eyes or sheets on the hard benches that transitioned into beds during the night. The rattle of the train coupled with the whirring of the fan and the cold night air that swooshed past seemed to keep me up for hours. I finally fell into a half sleep but it must have been deeper than that because I had been completely oblivious to the comings and goings of my fellow travellers during the night.
The hectic chaos of Madurai has finally given way to the tropical, green rather wealthier village of Varkala. As we drive by private van to our guest house I could almost have been back in Sri Lanka. We freshen up and head for breakfast and our first view of the ocean from Varkala. A steep cliff face falls away to reveal miles of beautiful beach and an inviting ocean. We can’t wait to get down there….but our stomach are demanding we have breakfast first.
The menu has a refreshing mix of Western and Eastern cuisine and we tuck into sausages and eggs and wash that down with coffee and fruit juice. The cool ocean breezes, the crash of the waves and the laid back feel of this slightly hippy village lends itself to a relaxed few days. We are all excited at the prospect of finally unwinding in India.
The time here goes too quickly but we enjoy lazing about in the cafes, long walks on the beach, dips in the Indian Ocean and amazingly fresh sea food. Perhaps the one thing that put a damper on my enjoyment was the groups of Indian men who seemed to walk up and down this beach just window shopping. The strict rules that govern this culture means these men are not exposed to women in swim suits and have absolutely no shame in just staring. I found it a little unsettling but realise that sadly it was the product of a culture that dictated strict rules for the interaction between the sexes and the clothing they wore.
The other little oddity I found were the uniformed life guards that seemed to blow their whistles every few minutes and gesture madly at someone in the water. Most people just seemed to ignore them and I wondered how they would fare in a real emergency given the fact they were fully clothed!
We give all activities a miss and indulge in the luxury of doing very little except to tear ourselves away from the cafe for a 90 minute Ayurvedic massage. The ladies speak little English but keep asking every few minutes if the experience was nice. Yes – I can vouch for that. While there was absolutely no ambience in the place and the towels on the beds could have been fresh, they completely unravelled my knotted, travel worn body. I promise myself to repeat this experience in Goa as well.
This place reminds me of Zanzibar, my favourite spice island and I vow that if we found ourselves in India again, I would certainly make another trip to Varkala!
"There is more to life than increasing its speed." Gandhi