Varkala – Love at first sight

  “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”

When I decided to explore the South, I did not have a set destination in my mind nor a set goal. I was only seeking knowledge and bliss. I rode through numerous beautiful places including Munnar, Cochin , Vipin, Allapey and came across many people and these experiences touched my soul but it was Varkala that left an imprint in my heart.
I had made a pit stop at my aunt’s place 160 kms away from Allapey. She packed me lasagne as I got ready to head towards Varkala.

I had no idea what awaited me at Varkala, I had not planned a stay of many days there, but when I reached I had a stunning view of the vast sea across the cliff. It was love at first sight.

First view of the Varkala shore

The view mesmerised me, yes but it was the benevolence of the people I met that made my stay even more delightful.

I walked up to the cliff where all the hotels are situated. I approached a man named Bilal who owns ‘Ashiyana’. Every essence of his inn is warm and welcoming, maybe because it is owned by someone who also holds a good heart. I say this because when I told him I was on my own and informed of my grand plans riding he was more than willing to accommodate my stay within a reasonable budget and made me feel at home.

Big and spacious rooms at Ashiyana

It is true, you do not need magic to disappear, all you need is a destination and Varkala is one such. Over there I was at a constant awe of the exquisite view sprawling beside the cliff and spent most of my first day walking across it. 
And I just sat there on the beach watching the sun set and the rain clouds singing to their tune.

The inns and the cafes are all perched perilously upon the dizzying cliff. They play soothing music and are adorned with fairy lights in the evenings, bringing a smile to my face. 

Varkala is not just about gazing at the sea, it is also about experiencing it, run, jump, float, swim and even surf. I really wanted to surf when I saw the group that offered it however before that I needed to take a 5 day course in surfing. At that point I had not planned to stay that long so I passed that opportunity, my only regret in this trip.

I had to make do with a photograph. Until next time.

During my stay I learnt that there is an elephant camp a few kilometres from there. I decided to explore it and it turned out to be one of my favourite experiences because of the way that day unfolded. While riding towards the elephant camp I realised there was the Kapil beach on one side and a lake on the other. I promised myself that on my return I would stop at the lake.

At the elephant camp Anandan was waiting for me. Anandan is this gentle majestic creature who loves playing with water and would  bathe me through his trunk every time I splash water on him! I had such a merry time.

Anandan enjoying his bath
On my way back from the elephant camp I noticed that some fishermen were fishing on the lake I had noticed earlier. I asked them if I could join them and they took it upon themselves to teach me how to fish. I always thought fishing was a skill but that day I felt it is an art, to be able to wait patiently, knowing where to look for the fish really requires an understanding of the nature. I clearly lack the sense since I only caught a cockle. Brushing aside my defeat with the fish I decided to join them instead and took a plunge into this magnificent lake where the water was clear and blue which is actually quite rare in South India. It was truly a memorable day.

Having heard about my exquisite experience my family decided to join me at Varkala and made my stay even more eventful. 

We went for a boat ride on the sea, ran wild shopping at the local market which catered to amazing goods which are true to India. We walked two whole kilometres getting to a beach where the sand is as  black as the night sky.

Kim kim’s beautiful curles

You have got to go and feel the sand at black beach 

I made sure they try the tasty jaffles while enjoying the eye pleasing beauty of the sea from atop of the restaurants perched on the cliff. We made merry swimming and then singing at the same food joints that turn lively in the night.

I wish I could wake up to this view every morning 🙂

Yummalicious jaffles

A. Julia lighting up the night
And I had to take them back to that magnificent lake!

swimming at the lake

I did not want to leave this serene place

Varkala to me has been a learning experience. I gained a lot, I gained friends, I gained knowledge. I absorbed the little joys of life through some talented and kind people. I had a brief stint at Yoga through Jess and the yoga master that Bilal’s wife arranged for me. I met a very talented musician David whose beats spoke a thousand emotions. Everything and everyone around me just radiated positive energy, which  helped reinforce my belief in my dreams and I’m ever so thankful to my uncle Derrick for taking care of the entire expense at Varkala. 

Yoga class at 6 am definitely rejuvenates you for the rest of the day

To me Varkala is not just about sitting on the beach, to me this place is about appreciating the small packages of joy that life has to offer and having faith that good exists.

My rendezvous with South India

In the end we only regret the chances we did not take and I for one am not living in regret because I took up this opportunity to explore my wanderlust spirit. And I am really glad that my spirit does not just aimlessly meander but is also open to soaking in all the experiences these places have to offer. The past week around the quaint South have been nothing but an array of experiences and then I realized, adventures are the best way to learn.

It started out with an emotional journey to Trivandrum from Varkala, as I was bidding farewell to my friends that I made at Varkala. 
My inspiration for this short trip was the Indian classical dance ‘Kathakali’, I always wanted to tap my feet to their tune. So when I found out that they were offering a class in Trivandrum I made way over there, to the dance organization ‘Margi’ that offers short lessons and full day courses.
After my tête-à-tête with kathakali, I was back on the road towards Kanyakumari, the southern most tip of India. It was a pleasant journey except for the fact that the roads were single lanes and the Kerala State Transport buses were being driven in an erratic manner, the bus drivers were under the illusion that they were all Micheal Schumachers and to top it all it started to rain and that’s when I had a fall. Its in situations such as these that the helmet and the safety gears come in hand.

It was almost after 125 kms of riding that I had my first glimpse of Kanyakumari and before I knew it I was already at the edge of the town facing the ocean and I could see the shops selling shells, pearls, corals and different varieties of stones. I headed straight to the hotel Manickam where I was given a room facing the ocean, along with an amazing view of the ‘Our Lady of Ransom Church’ and the ‘Pooviyoor Theppekulam’.

Our Lady of Ransom Church
Pooviyoor Theppekulam
Garden Restaurant at Hotel Maadhini – The Malai kofta and the Kerala paratha here is a must have!
The next day early morning at 5 o’clock I woke up and walked up to the edge of the beach and as I stood there waiting for the sun to rise through the heavy clouds I had a pretty view of the Indian ocean getting merged with the Arabian sea and the Bay of Bengal.
A bridge of rocks towards the Indian Ocean
Vivekanda rock memorial and Thiruvalluvar statue
All the boats had a photo of a deity
Thiriveni Sangamam

The Hindus consider it holy to take a dip here

Wandering Monk Exibition
I can so relate to the term ‘Wandering’
Kanyakumari was followed by Tirunelveli where more than the destination I was blown away by the ride because the scenic view had a charming appeal with the freshness of the greenery and the windmills which stood along the way.
At Tirunelveli I met up with my friends and they took me out for dinner and insisted that I try the famous halwa of that place (you should try it too, I insist!).

Navaratri preparation at my friend Amritha’s house

The next morning I rode to Tiger falls and the Main falls which lies around 100 kms away.

I made it to the temple city Madurai after a smooth ride of 170 kms just in time for the Navratri festival and I could not have been there at a better time. The entire area was lit up including the Meenakshi temple and I got the opportunity to view some of India’s most talented people performing Bharatnatyam and singing classical music. That feel in those festive moments is something I will never be able to brush away from my soul.
Temple view from the terrace of a local shop – Kashmir Handloom House
Meenakshi Temple
Lighting decorations at the Temple
Owing to the spectacular festival delicious food was being served at the temple for only ten rupees.
Little talents of India
I was told by the guides at Meenakshi temple that the Gandhi Museum is a must visit place at Madurai

Located in a quiet corner, it is a well maintained memorial of Gandhiji. It comprises of photos, paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, quotations as well as the blood stained cloth that was worn by Mahatma Gandhi on the day of his assassination. The museum depicts various phases of Mahatma Gandhi right from his childhood days till the day he was taken to the crematorium. The pictures displayed here are carefully compiled making sure that the spectator feels inspired from the life of this true patriot.

On the way back to the hotel I came across this breathtaking view of horses and cows grazing on the almost dried up river bed.
As I was nearing Rameshwaram while riding from Madurai for almost 190 kms, I came across a small narrow path that runs to the beach. My instinct always tells me to take risks and explore places, so I went for it and that path opened up to a vast expanse of sea, the view was so blue that day and what a clean and private beach that was.

I rode to Rameshwaram to view the famous Pamban bridge. People usually go there to watch the bridge split when the ships go by or to see the train pass by which apparently passes by only twice a day. I got lucky though, as soon as I reached I chanced a view of the train pass by, it was majestic!

My selfie moment with the train against the blue water
While strolling in Rameshwaram I came across ‘Blue Coral Cottage’ who were offering snorkeling. I was lost under the sea for almost 3 hours.

Pardon the dates, its set wrong on my Go Pro
Its a whole different world under the water
Sea cucumber
Sea lotus

**Watch the video till the end to see what the sea Lotus does….

I also had the opportunity to have lunch with the local fishermen who were so kind to share their cuisine with me.

Ate fresh fish curry which was caught while snorkeling
In front of the home of former President of India Abdul Kalam
Riding back to Madurai

Concluding my voyage around the coast I finally made my way up the hills to Kodaikanal. It was such a relief after riding for days in the heat, to find myself in such a misty and cold place.

My first view of Kodai
My favorite spot on the hill
the view at Coakers Walk in Kodai
United 21 Resort at Kodai
As you can see my entire travelogue is overflowing with a mélange of memories and that in itself is such a high, who needs magic mushrooms?!

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