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We had wanted to make the 150 km journey to Varkala by train, but since getting to the station would involve a ferry and taxi/rickshaw, we opted for the bus which left from Fort Cochin. It was a converted European city bus, AC and more expensive than the regular bus. We thought it was a 4 hour ride, but it ended up being a 6 hour ride. It was quite comfortable and the kids were really good considering. In fact, the ticket collector, told Paul they were way better behaved than Indian kids would have been. Not sure if that was true, but nice to hear! We did have to deal with one gigantic puke from Miles that came unexpectedly as he was playing a game on an iphone (this was the point in the trip where we were desperate to keep them entertained). The only other tourist on the bus happened to be a guy from Markham – small world!
Varkala is firmly on the tourist trail due to its beautiful beach and restaurants, hotels and shops dotted along the ocean cliffs. The ocean is quite rough here especially since it is the end of monsoon season. Since the kids wouldn’t be doing much swimming in the sea, I had promised them a hotel with a pool. We showed up at Akhil Beach Resort and negotiated a reasonable price and pretty quickly the kids were in the large pool. The main strip along the cliffs was right around the corner which offered lovely restaurants overlooking the ocean with western food. The kids were in heaven and enjoyed club sandwiches, pasta and even beef burgers (cows are revered here, so you rarely find beef on any menu). The fresh fruit and fresh juices were lovely, knowing that the hotels and restaurants cater to tourists and use filtered water.
Our days here were spent lazily in the pool, eating good food, visiting the beach daily and walking the cliffs. Paul even managed to get some work done. The cliffs are slowly being eroded and the walkway along varies in the maintenance levels by shops/restaurant owner. Some of the pathway is well kept, while others lack any barrier and the kids were constantly reminded to pay attention while walking and stay away from the cliff. Since it is low season, the number of shops greatly outnumbered the tourists. A lot of the shops and workers here come from various parts of India and there was even a large group of Tibetan vendors here. Our negotiating skills are getting a lot better and the kids are learning the tricks of negotiating. In Cochin we paid 400 rupees ($8 CAD) for an anklet for Ella. In Varkala, we got two for 300 rupees ($6). Ella is definitely the shopper in the family and wants to go in all the shops.
The kids enjoyed playing with some other kids at our hotel. Ella took on the task of teaching an Indian boy how to swim. Gavin and a little Japanese girl spent hours together, even though they could not communicate with each other at all. I love seeing the kids playing and interacting, where language and culture do not matter.
The beach in Varkala is surprisingly quite clean. The waves are large and there can be riptides. They do have lifeguards patrolling the beach that whistle mostly locals out of the water. We could never figure out why they would suddenly whistle people out, but we figure they must know something we didn’t. Our kids played in the waves and sand with their new friends and got mauled occasionally by groups of Indian tourists. We had fresh coconut water – so much better than the bottled stuff!
We love finding all of the flower decoration on the floors for Onam – beautiful!
We could easily have let the days slip away in Varkala as it was easy living, but we forced ourselves on. Next stop was the Backwaters and this time we chose the train over a bus.
We stayed at Akhil Beach Resort. I was able to negotiate a cottage with extra beds for us for 2500 rupees ($50 CAD). I forgot to take a photo of the room, which was nothing special. The big draw here was the large and well kept pool and the proximity to the action on the cliffs. We did eat here a few times and the food was always good.
All the cliff restaurants offer similar menus and prices. Our favs were Little Tibet and Clafoutis, although we never had a bad meal. Kids were spoiled here because of the many Western offerings on the menus.