Tuesday, 8 July 2008

On the edge

The train ride was short and sweet but only because I snuck into a sleeper carriage. The town of Varkala is about 2kms away from the beach and cliffs and I had three places to look at for my accommodation needs. The 1st place was, due to it being the low season, on budget. For R500 a night I have my very own bamboo hut set in an attractive garden, yards from the cliff edge. It’s a little house all of my own and sitting outside underneath the veranda during the heat of the afternoon is just the right side of total relaxation.

Most of the places along the cliff, like shops and restaurant are closed due to it being the depths of the low season. However there are just enough places doing business to keep me in food, drink and fags! I’m thinking of staying here till the weekend before heading south one last time. Also as time is moving along and there are places I want to visit in India on this visa, I have “planned things”. Not sure if it was worth the effort that it involved but a few days reading and relaxing here will be a nice as I have been so busy lately. (This is in fact complete lie but I don’t want to annoy all you little wage slaves too much!)

Wednesday: I love my little house! It’s also nice to have a double mattress that is in fact a double mattress as opposed too two single ones pushed together. The shamefully pink mosquito net did its job well and I woke up early and totally refreshed. However at 6am on the cliffs of Varkala nothing is open and it wasn’t till 8:12 that I had my 1st sip of coffee. That really is too longer a time to wait but it was a big pot! Not sure of exactly which day I would want to leave on, the 1st thing to do was find out when I could leave! The 3km walk to the train station was most agreeable even though it was nearer 4km. Well the road was too pleasant not to walk all the way along it. Fortuitously, there are 2 trains everyday to my next destination. One is at 8am and the other is at 2pm. As it will only be a 4 hour ride can you guess which one I’ll be going on? By the time I got back to my little bamboo cliff hut I was hot and sweaty. A jug of cold water over the head refreshed me and sitting on the veranda wondering what was going to happen next to Prince Andrew, Pierre, Count Rostov and Sophie made the afternoon fly past

After being totally depressed by my pasta dish last night, sprinkling cheese onto the pasta doesn’t make it a cheese sauce; I went to the big 4 storey hotel down by the beach head. It had a great poolside restaurant and as there was a government run bar attached I was able to have alcohol legally. (unless you are a government run enterprise an alcohol license will cost £25000 a year here in the Marxist run state of Kerala, so none of the cliff restaurant are allowed to sell beer as they can‘t afford a license but as with all thing they find a way around it!) The food was great and it was all the same price or cheaper than the cliff top restaurant I ate in the night before.

The next day was another day with not much on the agenda even though it was drizzling slightly a morning stroll was what I felt like doing, so I did… Walking northwards along the cliff path and away from the tourist encampment it soon became calm and peaceful. The crescendo of the breaking waves altering in pitch and with the seventh wave starting once again from the top. To my right, once the hotels had faded from view, were groves of coconut palms and small waterlogged meadows. Every once in a while I passed through the smallest of settlements only 3 0r 4 houses strong. The fishermen and their families live close to the sea! Finally reaching a good vantage point on a small protruding portion of cliff that had yet to yield to the waves I watched the fishermen out on the sea in their tiny wooden canoes.

Operating a few hundred yards off shore, casting their nets whilst balancing on either side of the canoe barely 18 inches wide. Getting out pass the surf was simple, getting back in was another matter! Both of the canoes turned to home. The 1st one started to surf the crest of a wave for a few seconds until the wave broke and ejected the fishermen head first into the foaming maelstrom. The second canoe faired less well and was wiped out within a second. The crashing waves spinning the canoe along both axis of rotation. Finally after what seemed to be the longest time the two men appeared and like bedraggled rats clung onto the upturned hull as it continued its journey to the safety of the sand…I wonder if this happens every time?

Needing a somewhat delayed caffeine fix I went back to where the concentration of restaurants was highest. One pot of tea and a tomato and garlic toastie later I was back where I started, feet up, book open and the music on! Sadly after a few hours even this was too much effort and so with the fan whizzing around I siesta. In the evening, whilst in the soaping cycle of my shower the power failed and I was left in the dark…these things happen! As a wise man once said to me many years ago (I really can’t believe that I am calling Mr Iles wise here) if you’re in a situation where nothing you can do has any affect on the outcome, just relax and enjoy the experience, so I did! Friday In the early evening a finally finished War and Peace! Damn fine read although in places slightly heavy going. For the evening I went to the nearby funky cafĂ© to meet up with an English couple (I had met earlier) and another ex pat who were living here in Varkala. They were all in the process of setting up hotels in the local area. From listening to their stories it seems that bureaucracy is alive and well in India.

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