Varkala is for sure in another category of places in India, first because is mainly catering for foreigners. The restaurants and shops, are all built on the cliff and you can have your dinner watching the ships go by in the night at the horizon. My Kerala fish wrapped in banana leaves was a treat and I woke up after sunrise with it in my head.
In the morning I went for a walk to the beach where pujaris were in full swing doing puja for early risers in a serene atmosphere. Varkala has an important temple and is a deeply religious place, a thing that you may miss if you look only at the bikini clad foreigner girls roaming the beach and restaurants.
If you walk 5 minutes from the beach you get to Janardhana Swami Temple where a ceremony with drums and fireworks was going on. I roamed the temple’s compound after I paid 100R for my camera. Only Hindus are allowed to enter the main temple so I looked only from the door. Returning to the hotel the puja on the beach was way more evolved, many bare chested men dressed only with a dotty were receiving the blessing. I followed the ceremony that, like any puja in India, is very involved so I learned something from the pujari but I would not steal their trade.
At the hotel was a big rush because a tourist bus was leaving but through luggage shuffling I was able to get parts of my breakfast. I had to wait a little bit and I decided to go for a walk on the cliff and shoot during day light the stores and restaurants. Latter I said good bye to the guys in Sanctum Spring Beach Resort, a hotel I would highly recommend, a little bit higher in price but really great.
At 9:00 am we left to Kolam on a narrow road and the 30 km took abbot 75 minutes so we arrived in time for the ferry ride that starts at 10:30 am. The plan for the day was to do the famous ferry ride from Kolam to Alappzuha,, nicknamed also Allepy, an 8 hours affair over about 70km (300R) with two stops. The deck was already full, foreigners crammed on top under a canopy whose height may have made a midget crawl, The Indians were all downstairs in conformable chairs but from where you see less perspective. however they were using the ferry as a ferry and not as a tour boat like the foreigner do.
The ride was very pleasant, maybe a touch too long. On board there we French, Spanish, Germans and a group of three Polish girls, two from Warsaw and one from London, Anna, with whom I had a great chat the entire way. Anna is living in London and the moment she makes some money travels, This meaning almost every month; she just came from Jordan, is in India now for a month, will go to Poland and in the summer/fall in China for month. That’s what I mean a real traveler … Have a great time in India, Anna and be safe!
The ferry ride happens on the backwaters, canals and lakes that are occasionally connected to the ocean but most of the parts are completely separated. The landscape and the life on the backwaters is fascinating. First everything is covered by palm trees giving the tropical look of Kerala. The Chinese nets are aligning the canals. they have a large net and a light on top that is turned on to attract the fish to come into the net. The fisherman are all over throwing their nets and bringing them up still empty. Kids were swimming. Women were washing dishes and doing laundry at the lake/canals. Youth were playing cricket or ball. Old men were watching life passing by.
And beside was the boat traffic. Lots of boats were crossing the lakes, moving merchandise, moving passengers or tourists. At one point our ferry that had some poles to be pushed manually, just in case, caught an aerial cable wire and broke it making fall into the water so those villagers will not be able to update their Facebook status tonight. We stopped first around 12:30 when we had a basic Indian lunch of rice and several other unidentified foods and the second time just for a tea break around 4:00 pm in a village where I made a kid happy with a pen. But the joke with Facebook proved not to be so far off, surprisingly, because in that small forgotten village,it was a small temple, insignificant. It had the name written in Tamil but underneath it was spelled out its Facebook page!!! Go figure….
On the way the boat stopped and picked up two Germans who were actually in Amma’s ashram. The place were it stooped was Amritapuri. She told me that her boyfriend met Amma four time before in Switzerland. I told her that I took also darshan in New York from Amma and it felt very good. Amma was not there, again being in one of her big tours around the world and they told me that the people in ashram are neither nice nor warm as she is, so they did not like so much.
When we got close to Allepy the house boats started to show up. These are large boat5s that have built on them a whole apartment on one or even two floors. They are rented by hour or by day for cruises in Kerala and they serve food, you can sleep or sightseeing or just relax. The rental price depends if is rented by the hour or by the day. A sort of limos on the water…. They were slowly floating or moving up and down and we were close to Allepy we saw lots of them -parked fro the night.
Kumar was waiting for me in Allepy and would have liked to stay there overnight but I insisted on going to Kochi for schedule reasons. So we started driving around 6:15 pm and drove about one hour in the night arriving in Kochi around 8:00 pm. This blog was written in the car during this drive. Indian drivers do not want to drive during night time and neither do I. But beside that he told me that he never came to Kochin in the night and he did not know the hotels. We looked on the guidebook but we could not locate neither and driving on we parked ourselves in a beautiful hotel, Fort Kochin with a charming garden lit by lamps hanging from the trees and had dinner by the water.