We drove down from Munnar to Marari Beach, where we were staying at Marari Villas, Palm villa. The villas are on the beach, however as there has been some erosion from cyclones and high tides, a wall of rocks and sand bags lines the beach front directly in front of the hotel. Along the beach to the north, the area opens out, and you can see remnants of at least two houses that have been destroyed by the sea. This beach is home to fishermen, with their colourful boats, nets and smaller paddle bats they use to collect the nets with. They are more like a surf board than a boat, and the men who operate them paddle them for kilometres without a motor.
There is little else around here, and we find that we are the only guests at the hotel, so we are given the royal treatment, meals cooked to order and staff at the ready for our every whim, and the pool all to ourselves. The food here is excellent, best hotel food so far, and Neil opted for a cooking lesson with the chef, which also involved going to the market and choosing the fish and vegetables for dinner.
This place is really lovely to chill out and have rest for a few days, which was out intention. These villas are very comfortable, and the owners go to extra trouble by providing little things like beach mats, sunscreen, nice toiletries, real coffee and plunger, board games and toys for kids etc.
We had hoped to be able to swim on the sea here, but we were a little put off by the fact that the fisherman also use this beach as their toilet. All along the beachfront at the high tide line, if you go for a walk in the morning you will see little piles of turds (no pleasant way to say this) and fishermen squatting after they come in from the sea. So, maybe we were being squeamish, but we opted for the pool when we wanted to cool off.
One day while at Marari, we drove down to Alleppey (Alappuzha) town and beach, wandered around the shops, where I bought some silver anklets ( as you do) and then had dinner in a restaurant by the beach, Raheem Residency, where we enjoyed some good food, and a gin and tonic, finally! Very few restaurants here have alcohol, so this was indeed a treat.
We had some difficulties with Lewis Hamilton, our driver, who refused to drive us because he had gone home, even though he was supposed to be available to us, so we spoke to his boss and requested a new driver for the rest of this section. By then we had enough of his crazy driving, refusing to listen to what we wanted to do and taking us places we didn’t want to go.
The next day we left Marari with our new driver, Shafi, who is a much more careful driver and a very quiet and softly spoken, nice fellow. What we did discover is that drivers are not given accommodation here, they mostly sleep in their cars outside your hotel. When we realised we offered to pay for Shafi to get a room, but he didn’t want one. Our hotel here kindly made a bathroom available for him to use.
In Varkala beach, we are staying in a small guesthouse on the south cliff area. Varkala beach has two cliff areas, north and south, and between there is a low area where you can access the beach. This is lined with shops and restaurants that wind their way along the path up to north cliff. This is a very popular area for backpackers and young travellers, so there are lots of ‘hippie’ type shops and cafes, but there is also a lot of domestic tourism too.
Our room at the guest house is on the second floor, and has a lovely terrace overlooking the sea, and a table where we are served our breakfast each morning. These small homestays in India are great value for money and offer a homely experience that is much more personal and genuine that the big hotels.
Not a lot to do around here except go to the beach, but it’s a lovely place to do just that, and on Sunday evening everyone else thinks so too. Sunday evenings are family time, and so you will find hundreds of families at the beach at sunset, playing in the water, taking selfies, and generally enjoying themselves. We have seen this a few times now; everyone is in their Sunday best clothes, getting splashed by the waves and having a ball. Especially the kids; little girls in long frilly dresses, getting drenched and falling over on the sand, and no-one telling them off for messing up their clothes. We walked along the beaching just watching families having fun together, the headed up to a beach restaurant to have a beer, watching the sunset. Magic!
The next day we decided to go to a lake nearby and take a boat trip to Golden island, which has a temple ( actually three small temples, one for Vishnu, one for Ganesh and one for Shiva. We also saw some water birds and more sea eagles, and watched one swoop down and grab a fish from the water. I was too slow to film it though.
We returned to Varkala beach for lunch at the Coffee Temple, which is a hippie kind of place with a wide selection of things like smoothies, juices and veggie burgers. We have done a little shopping here; we found a place that makes clothes to order from organic cotton and linen, hand woven fabrics and vegetable dyes. Simple but well made clothes, so I have ordered a shirt and a dress, and Neil a shirt, all done within 24 hours. I also bought some jewellery, a silver bracelet and ring to add to my collection.
Today is Vishnu day, which is a big holiday here, and there are lots of goings on at the local temple around the corner. We wandered around to the temple in the evening; it was all lit up with oil lamps and there was a dancing performance going on, while many people were coming to offer prayers. It was hard to photograph, and we weren’t really sure if we were allowed to, but I did spot these girls backstage, waiting for their turn to perform, and they happily posed for this photo.