And so to Varkala, a place that Rani and I couldn’t help associating with Vikings… Laura had a hot tip for a homestay in town from a French couple she met in the Andamans (who turned out to be our French couple from the boat back! Frickin’ tiny world, seriously), so we called them from the bus and snagged a couple of rooms.
The homestay was well out of town along the cliffs, which meant some slightly hairy late night walks by torchlight to get home, but once we’d explored the full on tourist mecca of Varkala and its myriad ayurvedic centres, souvenir shops and regulation German bakeries (why do people of the subcontinent put so much stock in German baking? This merely mystified us, but seriously upset the French people we met), we were very happy to be out of the fray. Our homestay had a wide porch with tables and a daybed where all the guests ended up congregating and lazing. It had wireless and seriously good meals. It had a huge chocolate labrador, and it had a tiny black and white kitten…
This kitten became a source of some heartache for Rani and me, as we soon learned it wasn’t quite right. According to the owners it had received a kick to the head that left it retarded and unable to smell, and subsequently it didn’t show any interest in eating. The poor thing was so scrawny, it tended to sit at the bottom of the kitchen steps, wobbling slightly but not moving around much. To make matters worse, the owners had a little three year old girl, who delighted in picking the kitten up around its middle and carrying it, legs akimbo and mewling pitifully, around the house. As often as we could we’d intercept her game and treat the kitten to an afternoon of being stroked to sleep in our laps. In my wildest dreams I like to imagine that kitten will work it out and grow up happy and strong, but if nothing else I take comfort in having made it very happy for a few days…
Well, that was a depressing little sidetrack eh? sorry to have taken you down that road, let’s get back to the beach.
The other plus point of our out of town location was being away from the tourist beach. We went to visit it one day and it was rather like popping along to Benidorm, or Margate on a really hot August bank holiday, except that all the lobster flesh was inverted in various headstands and asanas… Up north we had a beach pretty much to ourselves, and what fun it was! Unlike the placid waters of Havelock, Varkala treated us to some seriously pounding waves that near enough swept Rani and I out to sea, and sadly stole Ben’s newest pair of sunglasses off his face and out to sea (the third pair to meet a sticky end on this trip, I was torn between buying him a new pair to cheer him up, and telling him that to lose one pair could be considered unfortunate, but three started to look recklessly cavalier…) Once Ben had found a body board to hire though, the waves became less of a menace and more of a playground.
Having been pounded to pieces in the day, we spent our evenings playing cards and drinking beers with our fellow homestayers, Stefan from Hamburg, and Joona from Finland. Laura and Joona hatched a plan to head to an ashram down south, and spent their final day saying farewell to cake and beer and the good life. We had a goodbye breakfast, which stretched into lunch, and then a last trip to the beach… Suddenly the sun was starting to set, the air turning rosy, and a sneaking suspicion that nobody was going anywhere that night came over us, everyone but Laura and Joona, who held on to the idea that they would take a late train to Trivandrum well into the evening. Finally we pointed out that they didn’t stand a chance of arriving before 9 or 10pm, and they confessed that their leaving was looking less and less likely. The six of us went out for a farewell dinner instead, and we assured Laura that we were leaving the next day too, so we’d help them get out the door.
After another fairly leisurely breakfast the next morning, we said goodbye to Stefan and our hosts, and headed to the train station en masse. Ben, Rani and I hopped the train north to Ernakulam, and Laura and Joona took a bus south, with promises to reunite with us in Hampi if the yoga and meditation turned out to be a bust. So guess who we’re meeting in Hampi in three days’ time?