A tropical highland on the tip of Kerala.
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Ibn Battuta.
Ever since I heard the word about Varkala, I wanted to be there. Coincidentally, one of my best friends was getting married in her ancestral town Kochi (Cochin), Kerala. It gave me a perfect opportunity to go to Varkala.
It was an unseasonal monsoon in November. I had to criss-cross a network of narrow aisles of mud and slush, all excited to get the first look of the cliff.. And boy it was worth it! 180 degrees of scintillating water and diffusing lights at the blurred horizon. Sparkling blues and greens after the rain had washed down the entire cliff and whatever lies beyond..
Soul & Surf
Down the south cliff, there’s a surf haven resting on the cliff top, overlooking the beach. In 2008 Sofie and Ed from panama, yoga instructor and surfer respectively quit their jobs, sold the business, rented their house out and set off on a round-the-world-on-a-shoestring adventure with an open-mind and no responsibilities… They now own and run this tropical wonderland called Soul & Surf. The place boasts about their healthy food and home baked cakes, offshore surf trips and movie nights.. As the sun sets, there’s lots of music, jamming, socializing, movies and pizzas..
I was taking Djembe and Macrame lessons while I was there. Shaban, my teacher and I were chit chatting about music instruments that he has learnt to make over the years. We were talking about didgeridoos when he mentions a Hang player from India who taught him to make didgeridoos. I know someone who does that! This guy’s name is Abhinav Deodhar. I saw him playing Hang for the very first time in Dharamkot. Then I meet him again in a local park where I was pulled to the sound of the Hang drum. And now, I hear his legend all the way in South India more than 2000 kms from home in a place as remote as this. I was overwhelmed by this. I messaged him telling him about Shaban. They connected through a long chat via me where they discussed petty issues of suitable epoxy (glue for wooden instruments). This made me smile. I was happy 🙂
That wasn’t all, one day, walking down the cliff I hear sound of a harmonium at a distance. I walked towards it into a cafe and saw my friend, Raj who I met volunteering in a farm in Auroville, two years ago. He’s a professional Tabla player and a musician. He had a gig later that night which was astounding and attracted a whole lot of people. And there is Linda who is an amazing musician and one of the coolest person I’ve ever met. While Raj, Nicole, Shaban and a few more musicians would jam, I would contribute a few beats too..
Here is Anandamide by Abhinav.
Black Sand Beach
Northern most end of the North cliff, you come to the serene Black Beach. The beach is covered with black sand while the waves bring in the usual sand. Its amazing seeing the contrast. Its a place to take postcard perfect pictures. However I see some parts of beach and the cliff had a lot of rubbish accumulated. How can an award winning state for sustainability ignore a place like Varkala. Last year, Kerala became the first Indian state to win The UN Award For Sustainable Tourism for its global leadership in creating innovative initiatives for sustainability. Initiatives like promoting home-stays over hotels, eco-tourism, Ayurveda workshops with locals, promoting local handicrafts, no use of plastic etc. It was disheartening to see that a beach so remote has so much thrash on it and nobody is taking responsibility for it. I got a plastic bag and started collecting as much thrash as I can. Bottles, chips packets, cigarette packs, plastic bags etc etc. Seeing me, a couple also joined me while the local fishermen saw. I think its the responsibility of both travelers and the locals to maintain the sanctity of a place. Where the tourists should not be littering and the locals should not allow it. The place and the people should benefit from the tourism, not suffer because of it. Its very important to be a responsible traveller. Leave an impression, not a pile of plastic.