Varkala, Backwaters, Fort Cochin, Bangalore
06.04.2009 - 14.04.2009 33 °C
The 18 hour journey from Pondicherry to Trivandrum in Kerala wasn't actually that bad. Especially as we were in the slightly abnormal position of considering ourselves lucky to be on the bus at all. A local bus and a rickshaw ride later and we found ourselves in Varkala a few hours earlier than we would have been had we got the train as planned.
Varkala, or the part we were staying in anyway, is a beach resort with all the accommodation, restaurants and shops on a single road that runs along the top of large cliffs, with the beach and the ocean down at the foot of the cliffs. It is quite a touristy place but this suited us fine as we were happy to continue our break from the more hectic parts of India.
One of Mike's friends from Edinburgh, Paul, was there with his mate Bryan so it was good to catch up with them. We stayed for five nights and predictably spent a lot of time on the beach and in the sea amongst the waves. We also had some good meals at the restaurants and went out drinking at a few of the bars.
It was really nice to have a rest from all the traveling we'd done up to that point but inevitably this had to come to an end. When we left we got up at 6am and got a rickshaw to Varkala train station where we caught a train to Alleppey and sat in air conditioned comfort for the short two hour journey.
When we arrived we got a rickshaw down to the jetty and got ourselves a houseboat for an overnight trip. The houseboats are in the style of rice barges and slowly meander through the Keralan backwaters. The one we got had a small upstairs section with a sheltered sitting area and an open sun deck. We spent the majority of the day up there drinking rum and beer, listening to music and appreciating the scenery. Occasionally we would go down stairs and eat the tasty Indian food that the chef prepared.
We woke up the following morning expecting to have a few hours to slowly cruise through more of the backwaters. However, the whole thing ended quite abruptly when they gave us our breakfast, set sail, and it transpired that we had spent the night moored round the corner from the jetty! We were off the boat shortly before 9am and not long after that were on a bus to Ernakulam.
When we arrived in Ernakulam we were unsure whether we should go straight to Bangalore or spend some time in nearby Fort Cochin. We couldn't decide so we tossed a coin and it determined that we should go to Fort Cochin. We ended up staying for two days and were happy that it turned out this way.
On our first full day we got a vehicle ferry the short distance to Vypeen Island and then a local bus to Cherai Beach. Despite not being the most attractive of beaches it was worth going to and was interesting for us to see as it is popular with Indian holidaymakers who use beaches in a very different way to westerners. There is no swimwear or sunbathing and the women, dressed in full saris, timidly go up to the edge of the water to briefly stand in the shallowest point of the ocean.
The next day we stayed in Fort Cochin and looked around the sites there which include a few temples, some Catholic churches which were built by the Portuguese and massive Chinese fishing nets which line the northern shore. The whole place has a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere and looks like an English country village at some points and a regular Indian town at others so is enjoyable to walk around.
We left Fort Cochin and got a night bus from Ernakulam to Bangalore. Bangalore is a large fairly uninspiring city but we easily kept ourselves entertained for a day. We went to a shopping mall where we bumped into Ellie's friend Will and his mates who we planned on meeting in Hampi. We had lunch with them and in the afternoon the two of us went to a few bars, one of which is called Nasa and is amusingly designed like the inside of a space ship. After a few pitchers of beer and a curry we went back to our hotel room, chilled out for a bit, then went to the train station to get a night train to Hospet.