Incredible India: Varkala Beach (Day 5, last one)

My last day in Varkala and in Shiva Garden, and it was fantastic.

Started off with the group yoga session – today there were 10 people in our small but cosy room, the most I have seen so far. After the practice I thanked the teacher and took photos of the inspirational quotes hanging in the practice room.

 

 

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Guys from our dorm waking up 🙂 The other group practice will be inside.

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Group yoga and massage room 

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A few inspirational quotes from Dalai Lama and Buddha.

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When I went down, I discovered that Amy was tuning up a small black guitar that, as it turned out, was in the office. The guitar was really badly tuned, and I tried to change it with little success, as the strings were very old and rusty. The amazing thing was that I thought the other day it’d be nice having a guitar at Shiva Garden – and there you go! It was same with the exercise bar. Somehow here wishes materialized quite fast.

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Our lazy dogs – also residents of the Shiva Garden.

I went out to buy some fruit at a local supermarket called Krishna store. Near the supermarket I also found my favourite tea and sweets street stall, where I sat down for a snack. Later on we returned here for lunch with Neil and Guillaume to have our vegetarian tali.

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Christmas is very near.

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Cool arts along the main road.

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One of the many yoga centers around.

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A local supermarket where you can find anything.

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 Local street stalls offer the best food. 

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Communist political party has a strong influence in Kerala. 

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Approaching the Shiva Garden. I will miss this rustic road.

In the afternoon Amy and played the guitar, and Amy also brought our Indian drums from the office. It’s amazing that our lodge revealed new things every day 🙂 And one more amazing musical thing happened. A flute master came down with a bunch of bamboo flutes to have a talk and play his instruments. He was a famous flute master who made flutes himself and played them for 32 years. I held one flute and it felt so light, and when the master played the sound was so pure and melodic. The man was a wondering master, travelling from place to place, and giving private lessons and concerts once in a while.

After lying lazily in the hammock with a book on Southern India (new thing discovered at Shiva Garden – a mini library), I exercised in the yard and went to the beach where I bought a couple of souvenirs and met Ellanah and Guillaume from the dorm. I had my last swim in Varkala, and we watched the sunset together. It was great. I was sucking in every minute of my last day in this wonderful place.

We had a common dinner after the beach, with Amy and Sofia joining in, and it was great again :). The conversations we had were deep, engaging, and memorable. The last hours of that evening will stand out in my memory vividly for a long time. We were sitting in a group telling the jokes, enjoying the candy dessert organized by Guillaume, and playing the “cop” card game. It was fantastic and a bit sad at the same time, as I knew I’d be missing the place and the people.

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My farewell souvenirs from Varkala Beach – a notebook and a wallet both made with a cool design.

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More and more Christmas decorations can be seen. 

Varkala, Kerala is a very warm place in all respects – warm climate, warm sea, and above all, warm people, both locals and guests.

It’s amazing how one place can combine all types of vacation – resort in its classical sense, retreat for those seeking spiritual growth, and a rural setting of a village.

Whether you are a family man, a hippie, or a pensioneer – Varkala will cater for your needs. I’ve seen all of these and other people here.

A part is always a reflection of the whole. I know that India is as diverse as this town. In less than one week my relationship with the country became clear.

Thank you, Varkala, for the chance to calm down after the hustle-bustle of travelling, to practice sports and yoga, to enjoy the ocean and nature, and to make new wonderful friends. It’s time to move on.

Incredible India: Varkala Beach (Day 4)

The morning started early with writing up impressions from the previous days. Afterwards there was a yoga class from the Nepalese teacher. It was even better than yesterday. And I finally got some advice on how to correct my headstand.

After exploring the northern part off the main Varkala beach, today I headed for the south. I discovered a long beach with white sand, where at this hour puja (worshipping) was taking place. From the outside it resembled some market, but at closer look you realized the Indians were actually doing the ritual.

 

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Looks like people selling stuff on the beach, but it’s actually pooh under umbrellas.

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You would never tell this looks like worshipping.  

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View on the Varkala Beach from the south.

After the beach I went for a stroll along the road towards the temple, where I had a quick lunch with traditional masala dosa and chai. The place is very local, with mainly Indians eating here. On the way back I stopped by a bronze souvenir shop run by a man from Kashmir, and also had my portion of local sweets and chai on the road.

In the afternoon I watched Ang-Hariette performing on the balancing rope that James and her brought as a present for Shiva Garden. I tired balancing myself, first standing, then sitting, and it was much harder that it seemed. Then swimming in my favourite recently-discovered Odayam beach followed. I absolutely loved it.

 

 

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Nice green house in palms at the Temple Junction. 

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Masala dosa and a cup of chai (tea) – a great and healthy meal.  

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Great exercise for balancing.

Later on I did some strength exercises in our yard. How wonderful it is to have all those simple but effective facilities nearby! Some new people arrived to our lodge, Kris and Quentin, and we had a chat.

Towards the evening I was bound for the main beach to watch the sunset, as I’ve never seen it here yet. It was great to exercise on the beach, swim after that, and then watch the Kerala sun come down over the sea, with people having fun in the water and on the ground.

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Sunset at Varkala Beach

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The sun is sinking gracefully into the water.

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People are having fun. Great atmosphere around.

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The dog guarding the kids 🙂

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After sunset: view on the sea from the cliff.

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Christmas is coming.

Christmas approaching, in many places there decorations and lamps already, even in small kiosks. In our Shiva Garden there will be a big Christmas party, I’ve heard it’s fantastic from those who already experienced it. However, I decided tomorrow would be my last day in Varkala. It’s been great to stop here, calm down after the hustle-bustle of travelling, enjoy the nature, doing yoga and sports, and especially enjoying all the great people around. Now I feel it’s time to move on, as many things are still lying ahead, and I will have time to relax n Goa too after being on the road and having new adventures and discoveries.

 

Incredible India: Varkala Beach (Day 3)

I woke up at 5.30 again under the sound of call for prayer and birds. The cacophony of birds in the early morning here is amazing, so bright, diverse, and unfamiliar. How can one one oversleep that?

Before 8 am. yoga class I decided to go explore the Black Beach mentioned by James from England the other day So off I went northwards along the cliff. The walking tour was wonderful. I discovered two new beaches and and saw lots of interesting things on the way. All it took is walk away a few minutes from the main Varkala beach.

 

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First fishermen early in the morning

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 A hammock with a view to the sea

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 Fishermen out in the sea

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Odayam beach at sunrise

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Samsara Harmony resort

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Cute garden at Samsara Harmony

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Entrance to the resort

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Abandoned technological miracle

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Fishermen pulling out the net

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Palms, stones, and the sea

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A green mosque hidden in the palms

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 Hey, Mr. Dog

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Bulls grazing lazily under the palms

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Nice elephant on the fence 

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What a fantastic bridge across the canal. It actually leads right to a beac restaurant. The owner is really smart 🙂

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Isn’t this cute?

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Fishermen’s lodge after the Black Beach

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On my way back the sun was already rising.

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Sunrise

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Black Beach – probably called so because of the stones.

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Man practicing tai-chi.

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I have seen many species this morning. This is is Mr. Bird.

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Guardian of the sea.

I returned by 8 to our beach and had a swim. Afterwards took a cup of chai at a nearby cafe and wen for the yoga class.

Since our teacher at the lodge had a day off on Monday, I went for another yoga session nearby. It was different from ours, but just as great. The teacher was a middle-aged man, and from from his firm handshake and straight look in the eyes I made out immediately the class would be good. This was a classic Shivananda yoga. Unlike Ashtanga yoga, where there is a continuous flow, here asanas are combined with periods of relaxation in between. The teacher was also singing mantras. I felt this time had a different effect on me, but also very positive one.

After yoga we had a tea and talk with James, Ang-Hariete and Amy. Soon the time for free massage came again 🙂 This time it was legs, abdominals, and hands. How wonderful was that!

After lunch James, Amy and me went to the Odayam Beach that James talked about recently, the great beach he discovered four years ago. And indeed it was superb. I actually passed it during my morning walk, but now in daylight it was much more impressive – clean sand, literally no garbage, transparent water, nice waves, and deep enough.

So now our main Varkala beach is number 2, while Odayam some 15 minutes away is number 1. There was also a restaurant with a cool owner who looked like a Santa Claus with his white beard. He called himself “Hatman”, apparently because he was wearing a hat 🙂 The others left earlier, while I walked a bit further, and stopped for a tea and chapatti at Hatman’s on the way back. I am definitely coming back to the beach tomorrow.

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Odayam beach – simply beautiful.

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The sea is warm and clean.

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View on the beach from the sea.

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Cool swing

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Hi, Mr. Little Crab.

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Another mosque 15 minutes away from the Odayam beach. Nice combination of green colours.

 

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Guys waving to me.

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Boat on the beach: simple and effective.

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Mr. Hatman. Besides making a bridge towards his restaurant, the entrepreneur took out some tables from the restaurant and set them right in front of the water for  customers to enjoy the sunset.

In the afternoon I did some taekwon-do on the terrace, physical exercises in the main yard, followed by a much-wanted shower and spicy fish curry for dinner. At the end of the day I was sitting with others in the main yard and chatting, mainly about India of course.

I was planning to leave the next day, but decided to stay here for one more day. My hear is still in Varkala.

 

Incredible India: Varkala Beach (Day 2)

Varkala is the first place where I feel like staying more. The previous 5 days have been a continuous exploration adventure. Here I felt like coming down and staying for a while.

The morning started at 5.30. I was woken up by the call for praying at some Muslim church. It was a fantastic energizing feeling, something like I experienced in Istanbul. The best alarm clock ever.

I went down to the beach. At this early pre-sun rise hour it was beautiful. I did my morning exercises and swam in the sea. People were steadily coming even in this early hour, swimming, doing yoga, playing football.

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Sunrise at Varkala beach

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Same shot with a different camera effect

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People arriving at the beach from early morning already 

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On my way from the beach found a resort called “Kerala Bamboo House”. The houses here are made from bamboo. The price is exactly 10 times higher than in our lodge (2500 rupees vs. 250 per night).

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Here is how a bamboo house looks like. It’s pretty and pretty expensive too.

Today at 8 am I had a yoga session planned just across our room on the roof. This was one of the best group yoga experiences ever. The young woman-instructor from Nepal was very knowledgeable, helpful, and just great. We did mainly dynamic Ashtanga yoga, with Sun Salutation in the beginning. As we did the final relaxation, the teacher came up and adjusted my body gently; it was amazing how my position became more relaxed immediately.

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A resident of our lodge doing morning yoga on his own

The pleasant surprises were just beginning. It turned out this same teacher was giving a 6-day intensive Thai massage course for some of the girls at our place, and they needed volunteers to solidify their skills on. I volunteered of course :). Who would refuse a free massage? So in just one hour after the yoga session and a quick fruit breakfast, I had about an hour of pleasure with my whole body twisted. What is more, I’d have the same opportunity the following day. What a chance!

After having good curry chicken for lunch, I exercised a bit on the sports facilities (that I discovered) at our place, which was followed by a pleasant swim in the sea.

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Eco mini gym at our residence 🙂

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My favourite piece of equipment – bar – is also available at Shiva Garden 

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And the boxing sack is here too 🙂 

After swimming I walked along the main road on the cliff, where all the shops and restaurants are, and saw a local Indian man India selling chai and sweets on his bicycle. It was a bit unusual, as most of the restaurants here are Westernized. To see someone selling local food here – a usual scene in a town – isn’t common here. So I was delighted. I bought a cup of chai and three biscuits from the guy (which as he said he cooked himself), and had a chat eating having my tea right there at his bicycle.

One lady took a picture of us, saying it was an interesting shot. I understand why it was interesting for her. Having local food next to the seller instead of sitting in a tourist-oriented restaurant. But for me it was a bit bizarre – the idea that having Indian local food in India cold be unusual :).

Towards the evening I was reading a book lying lazily in a hammock, and afterwards headed for dinner with Neil from Israel to the “Big Apple” restaurant. The butter masala chicken and the banana lassi were great; but the main reason I chose the place was because of the Ukrainian guitar and harmonica player that was supposed to perform. It should have started at 7.30, but by the 20.30 we only heard the guy setting up his equipment. So eventually we left, on good mood nevertheless.

The final gift of the day was meeting an English couple from Sheffield, England, both mathematics teachers, who just arrived that day (in fact, returned to the same place after 4 years). We talked a lot about our Indian experiences, although James and Ang-Hariette had much more to share as they had travelled extensively in the Northern India. So my decision to visit the northern part of the country next time was reaffirmed; and I already have an India where I want to go.

James told me about two more less known beaches at Varkala – less known but none the less amazing. For today I conclude that India is the first (and probably the only one) country where I definitely would like to come back.

Incredible India: Varkala Beach

I woke up at 5 am and headed for the beach. As the last moment of my stay in Kanyakumari I wanted to witness puja – the ritual of God-worshipping by the local monks.

I was amazed to see so many people at the beach at such an early hour: monks, monks-to-be (students), tourists, locals, on-lookers, lights around. In addition, the two monuments in the sea were also lit up in this still dark hour. All this created a mystic atmosphere. As part of the puja the monks started entering the sea. I am not a religious person, but it was a fantastic feeling to become indirect accomplice of the event.

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Kanyakumari beach early in the morning: people ready to observe puja 

I went of to the bus station to catch the 6 o’clock bus to Varkala, the state of Kerala. At the station the driver told me there was a change, and the bus left at 4.30, but he was could take to me Trivandrum, the state capital, where I could make a transfer. And off we went.

I’ll never forget that bus ride. There were only three people in the whole bus for the first hour or so: the driver, the conductor, and myself. I took a front seat next to the driver for a great view. The driver and the conductor were talking loudly in their super-fast language; the traditional Indian music was turned on to to the maximum volume; the bus produced its usual series of horns defying all decibel levels. All this cacophony of sounds, smells and hilly views passing by made the trip unforgettable.

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Famous green inter-city buses at the bus terminal

I also noticed that direct impressions in India are received simultaneously via three channels: visual, sounds, and smell. Perhaps that’s why the impressions are so vivid. Or at least that’s the scientific point of view.

At Trivandrum’s bus station I had my share of tea with fried banana, and continued my quest for the bus to Varkala. I was advised to take a ride to another town instead, from where there were buses to Varkala every 5 minutes. I followed the recommendation and finally arrived at Varkala around noon. The last bus ride was an adventure too. It was literally a metal box on the wheels, with a cord-system operating the door 🙂

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Passengers waiting at the bus station of Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala state

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The metal box on the wheels

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And this is how the door opens and closes 🙂

Upon arriving it took around 30 minutes by walk to get to the beach. Along the road there were many smiling schoolchildren passing in cute uniforms, but I was already tired and lazy to take out my camera.

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The first colorful bus I encountered on the way to the beach. 

I knew where the beach was as asked several times, but when I saw a non-Indian guy walking in the same direction, I approached him too. Eventually Nil from Israel showed me a fantastic and very cheap place to stay where he stayed too. So again I saw it was easy to “catch the flow” as long as you follow your intuition.

This was the truly first decent beach I’ve seen so far. I’ve seen others before, but they were dirty and not so scenic. Here there is sand, sea, not hight waves, cliffs – all in all, beautiful.

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Varkala beach: view from the cliff

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The cliff

 

 

The dormitory – Shiva Garden – turned out to be a cool eco-style place with cute sports and leisure facilities and laid-back atmosphere. I stayed with 8 other people on the roof, the first place like this so far, and it was enjoyable.

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Welcome to Shiva Garden

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Sport facilities include a volleyball ground, a bar with weights, and a strength bar between the trees

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4 hammocks are available for chilling out.

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Cool swings are there too.

 

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My dormitory lodge on the roof terrace

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View from the roof terrace

After having a late lunch at a restaurant across the road, making some new friends and finding out about yoga classes, my neighbour Vladimir from Russia and I went to the beach.

Swimming in a warm sea in December isn’t compared to anything. The Arabian sea joins the Indian ocean, so my dream to swim in the ocean came true :).

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The warm Arabian sea

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The sunset is coming soon.

In the evening I was attacked aggressively by mosquitos. So I bought a nice long-sleeve shirt and trousers at the market nearby, and went to the famous 200-year-old Janardanaswamy Temple, a Vishnu temple, also known as the Varkala temple. At the end had my vegetarian dinner at a very local place just opposite the temple.

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Heading for the Varkala Temple

I already realized that it’s better not to make firm plans in India. This country knows better what you really need. So was today. I planned to stay at Varkala Beach 1 day max, but the chilling environment of my lodge and the beauty of the beach with the cliffs changed my mind. I feel like spending a few days here.