Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff

30th Mar 2018

Sunset at the Varkala Beach

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff by Anurag Sengupta

Lurking through the grind of urban monotony was the long weekend calling for a vacation; we didn’t contemplate much as we all were awaiting a getaway. So, we had to pick our haven for the escape. Appealing description and the allure of Kerala had etched Varkala in our ’to visit destinations’ convincingly and our whimsy drive to get enthralled by a new locale coaxed us to make a quick decision.

Varkala is a coastal town in Kerala by the eastern coast. From Bangalore, it is located at a distance of 679kms. On mapping out the routes and means to reach Varkala, we figured out that it could be reached by train and the urge to explore the picturesque backwaters of Kerela, en route Varkala prompted us to take the train in spite of other having options. Trains run from Bangalore to Trivandrum twice a day and we availed the Bangalore – Kochuveli express. We switched our trains at Kollam as there isn’t any direct train to Varkala from Bangalore. From Trivandrum it’s a long journey, so to cut short our travel span we boarded a different train from Kollam which goes to Varkala almost every hour, it hardly takes half an hour to reach Varkala from Kollam. Well, this route could easily be one of the most picturesque train routes of Kerela. We cherished our journey till we reached Varlaka at 3 pm the subsequent afternoon. The only bitter pill to swallow was a late arrival than our scheduled arrival of 1 pm. But nevertheless, the high spirits to witness the much commended Varkala cliff drew us towards the auto-rickshaws by the station. Our decision to lunch at the cliff left us famished and it was only till we saw the spectacular sea heaving the fresh breeze onto us we could defer our meal. It was quite a view that we cherished for the next 10 minutes. Mentioning the accommodation, you won’t find it difficult to find yourself lodging but during peak seasons here prior bookings are called for unless you have camping plans.

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 1/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic : Varkala Beach or Papanasam beach clicked from the courtyard of our home stay

As we were gazing the sea shore we were approached by a few guys for lodging, we were exhausted with the travel and wanted to freshen up too. So we checked a couple of accommodations in the cliff and resorted for a reasonable cottage which could comfortably accommodate three of us, we knew we were going to be outdoors mostly, so all we needed was a place to freshen up and place our baggage.

From the past narratives of our friends, we knew of a famed eatery named Darjeeling café in Varkala. Our hunger drove us till Darjeeling café which is nested in the northern stretch of the Varkala cliff. We didn’t want to dig deep into the menu as we were famished, sizzler seemed to be a safe bet and to complement that we had chilled beer. The porch of the café had a small garden which had flowering plants such as golden trumpet clinging onto the wooden billboard of the café and a few pots of petunia exhibiting an array of colors. The salient porch of the café with the flowers drooping along the hedgerow with the backdrop of the mighty stretch of sea was an enthralling view to cherish from Darjeeling café, the food was pretty good and it met our expectations. We lunched in a languid manner as we witnessed the sun coming down the horizon. It was one of those soothing sunset which flushes in a rush of exhilaration into one’s mind and soul.

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 2/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 3/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 4/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic : Images from Darjeeling Cafe

With the dwindling twilight, we wanted to hit the beach and the incessant waves could possibly be the best remedy for our fatigue from travel. We relaxed on the beach for the next couple of hours till the daylight was shrouded. We wanted to explore the vibrant markets along the cliff in the evening, so we headed back to our refuge to freshen up. The Varkala cliff is an effervescent gathering in the evenings with an assortment of small shops selling souvenirs, handicrafts and leisure clothing, the cafes along the cliff also offers an incredible variety to one’s taste palettes. We had arrived on a Friday and we were anticipating attending a party that evening. But due to some nuisance instigated the previous night at one of the famous cafes in Varkala, named Rock and Roll café all parties on Friday were scrapped off. But nevertheless we were told that a party might take place the subsequent day near the black sand beach in Varkala if the local bodies approve of it, named as the Summer beach festival, the party appeared to us a hyped affair, but we were looking forward to it. A stroll across the northern part of the cliff, followed by some take away of pizza and seafood starters we headed back to our accommodation. We had changed our plans and we decided to spend the night in the beach, cherishing the swashes and gazing the riveting stretch of beach lit up by the moonlight. As the night went by we witnessed both, the calm and violent facets of the sea. Intriguing conversations complemented with the soothing sound of tides and a zillion stars to gaze, the night was perfectly scripted for us. In the latter half of the night, we had a couple of puppies of stray dogs in that area playing by the beach and lingering near our reveling enclosure, we had a pleasant time playing with them and one of the puppies embraced the sole of my feet, later going into sleep.

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 5/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 6/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic : (Top) Evening strolls at the vibrant Varkala Cliff, (Bottom) The puppy who accompanied us over the evening by the beach finally asleep

As the night unfolded we cherished the rhythmic sound by the mighty waves crashing into the beach, it was close to 4 am when we decided to head back to our refuge since we wanted to catch some sleep and wake up for the sunset a few hours later.Thanks to my alarm, among the rest of the folks I was the only one to wake up at 6 in the morning. I decided to compromise on my sleep, to my disappointment I realized the sunrise can only be witnessed from the other side of the cliff and the viewpoint was not in the proximity where I could have reached on time. So I decided to take a stroll along the cliff, and break my early morning blues with some strong coffee. As the daylight was engulfing the darkness, it was a wonderful time lapse to witness along the beach. After a long stroll when it was close to 6’30 am, I found a café which was open and I was their first customer of the day. The landscapes change along the entire Varkala cliff as you witness different elements shrouding the mighty sea.

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 7/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 8/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic : Landscpaes that greeted me in the morning stroll across the Varkala Cliff

The coffee turned out to be an elixir at that very moment and helped me curb the mild hangover from last night. As I was sipping that invigorating cup of coffee, the porch of that café had a nice seating to cherish the beach landscapes. After the coffee, I headed back to our cottage where I woke up my friends. As we had a cramped travel itinerary we were supposed to explore other adjoining beaches and locales around Varkala. After a brief counsel with the locals and some googling, we decided to head towards Edava beach. Unlike other beaches, Edava beach has the stretch of backwaters running parallel to the seashore, we were fascinated with the fact and wanted to witness the marvel ourselves, Edava beach is a 6kms hike from Varkala cliff and undoubtedly one of the most enthralling hikes one can witness in God’s own country.

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 9/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic : Landscapes enroute Edava beach from the Varkala Cliff

Throughout the hike, you will have the coastline running parallel to you, on our way to the Edava beach we covered the entire Varkala cliff as we approached the black sand beach where we came across a few bouncers selling passes to the party being organized by Chillout café, the summer beach festival.

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 10/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 11/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 12/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic: Some picture from the hike enroute Edava beach

It was the Easter bash that they were organizing that weekend and we bought ourselves passes to the same as the location for the party was irresistible. It was right adjacent to the black sand where you had two types of shores on either side, one with the sand & other rocky and a pretty backdrop of coconut trees.

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 13/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic : The Black Sand beach

We continued our hike as we had quite a stretch to cover and with high spirits, I continued as the hiking trail to Edava beach also had the black sand beach. I was smitten by the strange beauty of Mother Nature, since childhood I have always been to the conventional beaches but now it was something entirely different. The entire beach had black sand and black rocky shores. We spared a few minutes to gaze at the mighty sea swashing in the beach, as a memoir I carried some black sand and put it in a small pouch. Exhausted by the heat and humid weather we grabbed ourselves some cold beverages in a shack nearby a mosque in the Black sand beach that would be 300 meters from the beach near a mosque.

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 14/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic : Houses of the local fisherman enroute Edava Beach near the balck sand beach

From there we headed towards Edava. While we were at the shack we came across a local inhabitant named Kutti. He co-owned a few shacks in Varkala and had a few other business interests. However, we happened to ask him for directions to Edava at the store and he was very courteous to give us substantial information about Edava beach and he also insisted us on visiting one of his friends shack at Edava beach, the sight of Edava beach at the very first instance is very captivating. Two water bodies running parallel to each other, on one side you have the mighty sea & the other side you have the backwaters running through the columns of coconut trees. As we took a stroll in the Edava beach we spotted the café Kutti had mentioned about, we wanted some shade to relax and enjoy the picturesque backdrops of nature. The path to the café named “Sandy Toes Beach Café” was over the corners of backwaters over a small makeshift wooden bridge.

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 15/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 16/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic : (Top to bottom) Images from the Sandy Toes Beach Cafe

All that added to the char of the shack. As we entered the shack we spotted Kutti there too. He and his friend who owned the café greeted us with a warm welcome. I spotted a hammock right at the edge of the café, elated I crashed in my sweet spot to relax. Since the head chef of that café was on leave we couldn’t find many options available in the menu that could be served nevertheless, we ordered for some juice and fruit salad to begin with and boy oh boy! I probably had the best juice of our lives, I might have felt the same because I was dehydrated and I was surely longing for some succulent beverage. Both Kutti and his friend Sunil, owner of the café were very outgoing. We had some interesting conversations where he spoke about the local dwellers, their sources of living, how Varkala has picked up in its tourism and many other things. He was keen on knowing about us, where we come from, our means of living and many other things. It was quite a cultural exposure for us to the God’s own country and their people which we thoroughly cherished. After a couple of hours we decided to make a move and being in the coastal region of Kerala we were very much inclined to try their local cuisine, and again jumped in Kutty in our aid. He took us to a local restaurant named “Lakshmi Hotel”, don’t judge the place by its name or crowd. You will mostly find the locals herding the place and as suggested by kutti we tried their fish fry and beef curry with rice, If one is fond of spicy food I can surely assure him/her a gastronomy delight with the food served here. It didn’t take us long to finish our food as had accommodated quite an appetite over the hectic day. After the gratifying lunch, we thought of heading back to our cottage in Varkala Cliff and get some rest as we also had a party to attend in the evening.

We headed out for the party in the evening which was quite a unique experience in itself. To begin with the location of the party was enthralling with a sea facing grasslands having the backdrop of coconut and palm trees, the party didn’t seem to be promising as we had reached venue a tad early but we were glad that we didn’t the explosive beginning to the party which was pretty unique, a group of local entered the party enclosure with a drumming sequence dressed up in the ethnic clothing of the region, they formed a circular formation and carried on to play spirited beats for close t0 15 minutes which eventually got the entire crowd on their feet, and as soon it concluded we had a Reggae trance artist taking the stage and playing some good tunes. Over the night the party got wild as we had expected with some notable psytrance artists pumping energy in the air with their music. We reveled our heart out and partied till late in the night and we also come across a few interesting people at the party whom we befriended. At the brink of dawn when the party almost over and even our energy level was pacified, we thought of retiring from the party and we headed to our cottage to get some rest. We didn’t indulge ourselves in sleeping for too long as we wanted to spend our last day in Varkala in the best possible way. For breakfast, we headed to Darjeeling café again as we simply found their food to be great and we didn’t want to experiment much with either the food or the view that it offered.

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 17/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 18/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic : Breakfast at Darjeeling Cafe

After the breakfast, we headed to the beach where we took a plunge in the crashing sea waves by the shore. I sunbathed in the beach for the next couple of hours listening to music and soaking in the cool gust of breeze blowing past the beach. For lunch we headed to the Juice Shack in the eastern end of the cliff, it wasn’t very crowded and it offered comfortable seating arrangement where one can experience a different panoramic stretch of the cliff and the beach.

Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 19/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic : Horizontal strech of Varkala beach captured from the Cliff
Photo of Varkala : Not just a captivating shoreline & a salient cliff 20/20 by Anurag Sengupta
Pic : Sunset hues from the cliff

Post lunch, we headed for the last stroll across the cliff as we were leaving that very evening for Trivandrum from where we had to take our bus. We left by 6’30 in the evening from the cliff via a taxi to the Varkala railway station, taxies would charge 100 Rupees, from Varkala station you have trains going to Trivandrum every hour, so we boarded a local train to Trivandrum railway station and ended up reaching the bus on time, followed by safe travel to Bangalore, “WORK & MONDAY BLUES AWAITED ME”!!!.

We were leaving Kerela with low spirits as we fancied an extended vacation at this beautiful beach locale. But deep down I discovered that the longing for vacations as such is always healthy, it rejuvenates you and even leaves you sad upon ending but it also invokes a desire for more such encounters with the beauty of nature and exploring the God’s own country.