Beach Holiday & Elephant Festival, Bob Marley Ban

Trip Start Sep 29, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2010

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Where I stayed
guesthouse near the party site
house down an alleyway near Suset rest and Namaste Ayurvedic

Flag of India  , Kerala,
Saturday, January 31, 2009

We left the lads Stu and Ben in Kollam and took a bus and rickshaw combo to reach Varkala Beach where we checked into a plush room with the best shower in India included. We awoke to kids screaming and rubbish burning outside our window, moved to a Baba's house then took four hours to walk to the beach after stopping and talking to everybody. We had primo juice at The Juice Shack and then went for a walk on the cliff edge where there's some nice, intimate restaurants with many kinds of cuisine on offer. We spotted Welsh Chris and the Dutchies Sandra and Mishel with Swedish Emmanuel lying on the beach and did a dance for joy and a Coo-eeee from above before joining them on the sand. We had a lazy afternoon lunch at the treehouse place, watched the sunset and a very good hula hooper then a dinner at The Hungry Eye, nice one.

Varkala Beach has a backdrop of  red cliffs adjacent to the Arabian sea and also a few waves for swimming and bodyboarding the white wash. It's high season but there's still lots of space on the sand. The feel is a little more relaxed than Goa, very cruisy and there's less peacock prancing happening. It's basically eating and going to the beach.

Next day was a beach day. The crew above headed to Trivandrum to find Amma the Hugging Mother saint and they all came back very high, buzzing and happy with their experience. We wandered around shopping, drinking tea and followed some chanting to a temple. I bought a sundress that actually looked like a see-through potato sack when i got it back to the hotel because there was no mirror in the shop i bought it from. I also got some fake Armani sunglasses so i can see again. We watched another perfect sunset and i ran into Ben from the boat and pixie Xavier and Avi from Hampi. We saw the Dutchies in the street and enjoyed another dinner date at the tree house restaurant with Emmanuel and Chris with chats late into the night.

Another Juice Shack morning and beach day the next day too, there's a pattern emerging. Ginger Chris had hired an umbrella so he didn't get too lobster-ish and i sat and chatted to the lads. In the afternoon Nadia persuaded Chris to get a nose piercing done with her so they went to the local beautician's shack where a woman used a gun to staple some large, diamond bling studs into their noses. His and Hers nose piercings. Luckily the new jewellery suits them both and they are now pierced and proud. Bling, bling, bling!!!

That evening we all had tickets to a nice little party gathering happening right next to our hotel in a fabulous garden space. The party was advertised as a 'magic chillout and positive vibes psy party', nice one. The crew had made a nice little space with bonfire, lighting through the trees and chill out mats. When we arrived for the party there was an eclectic, experimental, psychedelic type live performance happening by musicians using flutes, a lute, vocals and drums and a stunning woman from Australia was singing. Next the same crew's DJ jumped straight into some funky, merry psytrance tracks that were good for a dance and shennanigans and nearly everybody was up on the dancefloor boogeying the night away. After one beer each, the bar had run out but it didn't matter, the company was hilarious. It was a fun party and we lashed out the poi i had made from tennis balls and socks and the devil sticks. Mono Loco was given a glowing collar from Pia the German and he had a fantastic time dancing and drinking Kingfishers too. Chris was having flashbacks of his raver days at the silo in Holland. Many laughs were had and a good time was had by all. We followed the crew who were singing 80's songs all the way along the cliff to the Funky Art Cafe where there's no art for an afterparty that never really got going. The young lads who work there were dancing camp style like Bollwood actors and others were playing guitar.

Next day we scoured the cliff to find a TV on which to watch the Australian Open men's tennis final with Federer and Nadal playing. We were joined by some Scottish pub monster folk. I ate some mashed potatoes and onion dish with lashings of tomato sauce Aussie style. The Aussie crowd watching the game cracked us up in laughter. The youngster Nadal won.

We had to get out of our hotel because the Baba who runs it is a bit of a groper trying to grab our arses and a strange man indeed, he's a couple of cans short of a six pack because kept inviting us for sex despite us telling him we were not interested. He would follow us up to our room flashing a giant Colgate, jetser like, white grin then we would have to close the door on his face. So, we moved to the same place Chris is in with a Keralan family in an unmarked guesthouse behind the Sunset Restaurant and down an alleyway where the Namaste sign is. We can hear the ocean from our room.

Next day we hit the beach again and did some bodysurfing. I did a Baywatch style rescue attempt on Chris trying to drag him out of the ocean and do CPR. There is some beautiful yoga sessions happening on the beach at sunset everyday with a saxophone player providing the soundtrack, nice one.

We all ate at the Rock n Roll Restaurant for Emanuelle's last night. We met a very cute Austrian girl named Victoria ansd some Canadians Jeromy and Matthew. Emanuelle is a curious, cool cat Swedish guy who is riding an Enfield motorbike around India. We were sad to see him go as he leaves for the north. In the venue they actually played hip hop and the dreaded Brittany Spears music. There wasn't alot of Rock or Roll happening. The service was great and the food was amazing though. Here i tasted the most wonderful fish i have ever eaten, a delicious sea salmon fillet chosen fresh from the table where the catch of the day is displayed. Most of the restaurants have these display tables where there is all kinds of fish including sharks or giant, marlin fish to choose from as well as giant tiger prawns and squids. The restuarants will cook it in a variety of styles. There was some bonfire action down the beach late into the night with firetwirlers and drummers. On the way home in the dark, Nadia stubbed her toe and split it open, the same way i had in Fort Cochi, where does all this toe karma come from?

Yes, beach again the next day and we all realised in shock that we had been in Varkala Beach for a week now. Just eating food, talking crap and sitting on the beach. We hired an umbrella and people watched. I saw an Uncle Pervert taking sly photographs of all the ladies on the beach and very nearly had a go at him. There were some Indian lads wearing their motorbike helmets and walking on the beach, always so random. Ladies wander around the beach and sell pineapples and watermelons and guys with chai tea urns on bicycles also get around on the sand. Little skeleton leaf miniature paintings and wooden drums are popular too. I gave my old sunglasses (not the cursed vintage Carreras) to a couple of wooden flute sellers who were imprssed with them. Nadia had a dodgy palm reading and apparently she had been married, had a big life change at 40 and will live until she is 84. Chris hired a bodyboard and rode it like a warrior. There are rip currents all along the stretch of beach here and lifeguards patrol it. The other thing they do is blow whistles to stop the Indian locals from entering the water in the foreigners section of the beach. It is an absolute outrage. It's like a black / white segregation and made me feel very embarassed to be on their beach.Yes, i understand that some of the locals stare at the bikini clad westerner ladies because Indian women don't show flesh and swim in clothing but this is their country and they should be allowed to swim wherever they like. It's unfair that the foreigners have the nicest stretch of the beach. Indians unaware of the rule will wander into the ocean then the lifeguards will blow a loud whistle and walk towards them waving a bamboo stick to move them away. All the foreigners then stare at them to see what is going on. Plus, Varkala is a temple town and lots of pilgrims come here to visit and also to bathe in the waters here as part of their puja prayers. We are supposed to be immersing into their culture not them having to make changes for us in their own country. The main industry here is tourism though so i guess they are doing whatever they can to protect this and keep the cash cows happy.

One morning we went to the southern beach and visited the tank and the Janardham Temple which has some colourful carvings and shrines. There are some shrines to my beloved Hanuman the monkey god and to Ayyappan. There was also an interesting Banyan tree in flower within the temple ground. Around the base of the tree people had hung hundreds of plastic children's dolls as offerings. In Hinduism, the banyan tree is considered sacred and is called "Ashwath Vriksha" God Siva is nearly always depicted sitting in silence under the banyan tree. It is thought of as perfectly symbolizing eternal life due to its seemingly unending expansion. Also in Hindu culture, the banyan tree is also called  "kalpavriksha" meaning 'wish fulfilling divine tree'. We found out about a good tribal village art space and had breakfast on the beach with some nice, morning, chanting tracks.

We heard from the father of the guesthouse that there was to be an elephant procession happening at a small temple inland from the beach in the afternoon. I was very keen to see one of these events that are really just happening in Kerala at the moment. When we arrived at the temple there was a brilliant, female Kathakali actress in full make up on stage singing and a classical tabla player. The performace was hypnotic to watch. There was some good street food and chai on offer. Lots of local people and some tourists started to arrive and various performers started to appear. All of a sudden the grand procession arrived and it was all happening very fast, a spectacle for the eyes and ears. We sat ourselves up on a fence to get a good view in and to avoid the crush in the hype of the parade. Locals lined the street and watched from rooftops. First there were some hyper locals who had joined the parade followed by a float that was a boat that was pulled by men and moved up and down as in the waves at sea. Young children were paddlingthe boat in time to a drum beat. There were a couple of intense drumming groups who were drumming hard and fast and stirring the crowd up into more of a frenzy. There were some strange, scary looking characters dressed with headpieces, green make up and paper mache breasts and others spinning around with giant, conical head pieces made from fabrics. There was a cute, children's marching band dressed in red, white and blue and another dancing Kathakali character that was a bird with white feathers and long beak. The creature was playing it's part and scaring all the children in the crowd. Young girls dressed in their finest saris with jasmine flowers in their hair carried plates with flowers, candles and coconuts as offerings. Everybody was going into the temple for prayer and we felt quite under-dressed next to the beautiful clothing the locals had worn for the special occasion. Then as the highlight, a parade of eight massive elephants with chained legs appeared with tassles and gold metal ornamentation on the front of their trunks and men twirling umbrellas riding them bareback. The elephants were giant males with tusks and did a couple of laps of the temple grounds before being blessed in front of the temple entrance. The whole event was a bit of a buzzy adrenalin rush with so much going on at the same time. The festival was to go on all night with Kathakali performance.

That night we met an interesting doctor, Ann from the Netherlands who knew the Dutchies and we all talked some more crap over dinner with the crew just for something different. We made plans with Ann to visit Amma, the Hugging Mother's ashram in a couple of days so we could all feel the love and Chris and Sandra would be going in for their second hug.

On one of the last nights Chris, Nadia and i went to the more expensive Cafe Del Mar where the food was fantastic and the ambience great, that means simple tunes, candles and no flouro lights. My calamari tikka masala was delicious.

This was a nice holiday within our travels. The restaurants on the 'Vegas' strip were a little bit ground hog day. We mainly ate at a simple organic place called 'Cliff' for breakfasts and a variety of  locations at night. Varkala feels like a planet of it's own and is very much cut off from the whole India feel. A good place to visit with a good bunch of  new friends.

Sandra has decided to join us for the Vippasana 10 day silence retreat meditation in Chenganur so we're all mentally preparing for the course that starts very soon. We've had to buy a whole lot of new clothing. I've finally folded and purchased a t-shirt and it's one of the touristy Ganesha t-shirts because we need some gear for the upcoming yoga classes at Sivananda.
I never want to hear any Bob Marley tracks again, ever, i mean it.

Lame Jokes Of The Day:

Why did they have so much trouble burying Bob Marley? 
Because his coffin kept jammin'

What did Bob Marley say when his wife left him and took the oven?
No Woman, No Pie

really lame, terrible in fact
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