It has a strange name and quite a few people (including local Indians) haven’t heard of it, but Varkala (pronounced “Var-colour”), is one of India’s hidden gem travel destinations. The fine sandy beach stretches from the warm sea a hundred meters before, reaching the steep cliffs that tower high into the air. On top of “Varkala Cliff” a strip of “rustic” seaside restaurants and guest houses provide food and shelter to travellers here to relax, do Yoga or spend time relaxing on the beach.
Restaurants all offer a similar mix of Indian, Chinese, Tibetan and western type food. The culinary highlight of Varkala though, is seafood. Local fishermen sell their product to the local fish market, which in turn sell to the restaurants. Fish, prawns, calamari and even shark are displayed along the cliff enticing customers into one of the many eateries – along with Kingfisher beers and happy hour discounted cocktails.
It’s easy to find your way into one of these restaurants, take a seat on their roof terrace, sip a coffee and lose yourself for a few hours, reading or simply overlooking the beach from the vantage of the cliff
As I am going to stay here for a few weeks I spent some time looking for a house to rent rather than staying in a guesthouse. The cost per day is slightly cheaper and it also provides more space, a lounge to relax in and kitchen to cook in.
What should have been a simple task of finding a house to rent for six weeks, again proved to be a mix of easy and very frustrating, representative of how things are done in India. I’ve seen some ok places, some hugely overpriced “lets-try-sting-this-tourist” type places and places so dirty even the cockroaches have moved out.
A very friendly and eager elderly man, who is a tax driver, spent almost a full day taking me to see houses that belonged to friends or people that he knew. Three days later he then showed me his own second property with 5 bedrooms on the same stand on which he lived. The place needed a good clean, but was going to be adequate for what myself and friends sharing the house needed.
We agreed on a price and were promised that the cleaning and minor maintenance issues would be resolved in a day and we were to move in the following evening. The following morning, after checking out of the guesthouse we had been staying in, we left out bags at reception and collected them in the afternoon to move into our new house.
When we arrived our new landlord wasn’t there and nothing had been done to our new chateaux. We finally got hold of him and were told he’d not managed to organize a cleaner, but that it would be done the following day. So we moved back to the guesthouse for one more night.
The following morning we checked out again, and that evening once again discovered that cleaning and maintenance was a stretch too far for our new landlord. So despite, a vacant property a willing customer and an agreed price the owner let us walk away from the transaction, despite almost two full days time-investment in trying to help us find a house. Oi Vei!
The process of house hunting started again, and as often happens, something better came along. After finding a listing on TripAdvisor I emailed someone marketing a four-bedroom house in Varkala. Half an hour later I got a phone call and my phone’s screen let me know the call was from Canada. An Indian lady’s voice on the phone told me that she had received my email and that her parents had a suitable house they were looking to rent. As it was around 10pm I thanked her and said I’d make contact with her parents the following day to arrange to view the house.
Fifteen minutes later my phone rang and an elderly local woman explained that she had been given my number by her daughter and that if I wanted to I could view the house there and then at 10:30pm!
The following day we made plans to meet and view the house, and took it immediately. It’s old, a little run down and a bit dusty, but good for what we require for the next few weeks. The couple that own it live in a small detached house on the same property, and have been the most welcoming and warm people we could have asked for. Nothing is too much trouble and my “Indian Mother” – “Leela” said she’d gladly cook for us every night all we need to do is buy the ingredients. Our first night’s amazing Indian dinner she prepared for five people cost $10!
When I leave Varkala for the rest of my trip – I’m considering taking her with me!
Coffee Temple – Best coffee in town (I am also working a few shifts here waiting tables)