Varkala Beach offered us a restful environment from which we could reflect on our Indian journey, and prepare for the next part of the trip. Mango Villas was run by a serene Belgium lady called Vinciene, and was the nicest place we stayed in India. For breakfast we would go to ‘The Cliff’, which is basically a cliff. To get along it you need 1. not fall off and 2. get through the gauntlet of shops selling T-shirts, jewellery, dresses, ornaments, and of course baggy pants. Most mornings we would eat at either Abba or Cafe del Mar with the sight and sound of the sea to help us digest our food and coffee.
Further along The Cliff we came across a restaurant called Luna Azul. Tamba was outside promoting an open mic night that he was having in the evening. Nikki put me forward, but I explained that I hadn’t brought my guitar. Undeterred, Tamba brought out the house guitar, which was great, apart from only having three strings and rust everywhere. We continued our walk towards a small but perfectly formed beach, where we got tossed about by the boisterous waves, and did some sun-bathing.
On the way back, Tamba still had the battered guitar out, but had found a new set of strings. Unable to resist, I strung and tuned the guitar, for which we were rewarded with a rum and coke for, and Limenana (a very refreshing iced limed and mint drink) for Nikki. Enthused by the free drinks, we decided to return in the evening, though I was slightly concerned that the generously measured rum and coke might still be affecting my ability to perform.
On our return, it was clear that I was going to be the only person performing. The audience of eleven (including Nikki and staff) was not the smallest I have played to, so I did my turn, and got the free drinks. But Tamba wanted more… he asked me to play the following night, and even offered to put my name on the poster. I asked him to use the words ‘A Momo plays folk, own music, own lyrics‘, which true to his word he did.
There were sporadic power cuts all through the evening, so I decided to play my set unplugged by candlelight during the blackouts. We picked our way back along the cliff by torchlight, and found this toad in the darkness.
The next day we saw a kingfisher using this random piece of ornamental debris as a perch.
There were also spiders which cast these dewy webs in grassy areas near one of the beaches, of which there were many.
Our favourite beach took us just over an hour to walk to – Kappil beach – and we soon settled into a routine of walking along the coast to get there each day. Wherever we go, we need to find a walk that binds us to the area. For Varkala this was it.
There were traditional fishing boats, which consisted of three pieces of wood bound together. To see the local fishermen break beyond the waves to reach their fishing grounds on these things was impressive.
The larger more modern boats did there job well, as there was plentiful fresh seafood along the clifftop restaurants.
The kites would be looking for whatever they could find, riding the thermals along the coastline.
We never found out what this mural signified, but we were captivated each time we walked past.
Nikki came close to wrecking the camera getting this shot, so we had to put it in. She also created some games by drawing lines on the beach and using a washed up ball to play. It felt like being young.
The Cliff doesn’t look like much from a distance, but contains enough baggy pants and T-shirts to cloth and army of traveller types.
We bought most of ours from Sonya and her brother.
Every evening the sunsets were different…
Our favourite place to watch them was Darjeeling Restaurant, where we had some good conversations with Nils and Benadict from Belgium, Eric and Kelen from Colorado, and Chris and Gemma from Yorkshire, along with a few cocktails (and beers).
Varkala had been a wonderful place to unwind, but we had a flight to catch in Chennai, so we packed our stuff up and boarded the sleeper train, and slid out from under the Varkala Beach bubble.
On our final day in India the birthday of Lord Ganesh was being celebrated, which was highly auspicious, as he is my favourite (though I have no sensible explanation as to why).
As we were staying in an ‘unfashionable’ part of Chennai near the airport, the locals were unused to seeing tourists wondering around, and made quite a fuss of us, even inviting Nikki to join in the pulling of the Ganesh float.
The next evening we were in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, and a very different world.