South India 2019: Varkala

Back on the train again to go from Munroe Island to Varkala, a very short journey south back to the coast.

morning at the Monroe Island Train Station
Monroe Island Train Station

We arrived before noon, left our bags and walked to the beach.  We stayed at a small inn near Janardanaswamy Temple, in a small valley between the highlands that back most of the beach at Varkala.  Walking onto the beach we could look both north and south and see the famous red cliffs backing the beach.

view south on Papanasam Beach, Varkala, India
Looking South
Looking North on Papanasam Beach, Varkala, India
Looking North

The south end was least crowded so that’s where we gravitated.  We walked almost to the end of the cliffs going south and gradually left other people behind.  We returned several times to this part of the beach and enjoyed swimming in the mild surf.  Sunbathing was hot, however, and a couple of times I had to vacate the beach.  The smartest people we saw were those who brought a large beach blanket to create a shelter from the sun.

We were aware that Varkala’s a popular tourist beach and for the most part we avoided the crowds at the north end and on the shop-packed clifftop behind the beach.  However, we did venture that way a couple of times.

north end of beach at Varkala at sunset
North End at Sunset

The funniest thing on the north end was hearing the lifeguards’ whistles as they attempted to control the crowds in the surf; something we didn’t hear on the south end of the beach.  The saddest thing was seeing rude, intrusive tourists take photos of the priests and their flock mid-beach, where people come to complete end-of-life rites for family members. I personally took fewer photos this trip, partly as I found the ubiquitous cameras to be irritating and a distraction. (I also used my phone’s camera far more than my DSLR this trip, as it’s less intrusive.)

Looking Up the Cliff from beach at Varkala, India
Looking Up the Cliff

On our second walk north on the beach we met an expat couple who recommended a restaurant on the cliff top.  Up we went and found ourselves a table with a view, reasonably priced cold beer and  tasty meals.

Looking Back Down to the beach from Sky Lounge, Varkala, India
Looking Back Down

From our seats on the edge of the deck we could see down to the beach and along the clifftop with its plethora of shops.  A string of lights from the fishing fleet extended along the horizon, and some of its catch was displayed in front of restaurants.

Along the Clifftop, Varkala, India
Along the Clifftop
Display of Fresh Fish, Varkala, India
Display of Fresh Fish

Wandering back from the cliff edge was a visual treat in the night; threading through the dozens of small shops with their vibrant lights.

lane of small shops, Varkaka, India
Shops with Night Lights

And so the days passed… swimming, tanning, eating and consuming plenty of fluids.  Sue went off with our host from Ram’s Gratitude Inn to distribute food in the mornings.  She found this both rewarding and an insight into the poverty, even in relatively rich Kerala.

Although the beach and its cliffs were wonderful it was the locals who made us feel welcome, even in such a touristic spot, and made our Varkala visit special.

waiter at restaurant, Varkala, India
Great Waiter, Great T-shirt

Would we go back to Varkala?  Probably not, as it a bit too touristic for us (e.g. too many pushy vendors, too many rude tourists and that ennui from over tourism).  But we’re glad we made the stop and caught a glimpse of the Varkala beach scene.

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