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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Resting up in Varkala

Impressions of India: 11

I’m currently travelling for 3 months in India, through Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan, with a pretty hot and hectic schedule of boutique hotel reviews. The galleries below are my online photojournalist diary of scenes caught, people met and things found along the way. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did and am still.

Please do take a moment to log and/or e-mail me your reactions and comments? Given the slow upload speed, each post takes around 3 hours straight to get online (not counting image-selection and -editing time), and knowing that lots of you are reading and enjoying it will add great fuel to my fire.

Things had got just too hot and too hectic - it's apparently hotter-for-the-season in India than it's been for 100 years, it's been on the news here. So, after my last Kerala boutique hotel update and with a 5-day window before starting again in Rajasthan, I decided to hole up in laid-back hippie-haven Varkala, and do some serious photo-editing, review-writing and blog-posting catching-up.

This was my modest bedroom office, at the 'New Heaven' sea-facing guest house. I keep finding myself automatically reviewing my budget stays too - 'Ah, curling lino/peeling paint/neon striplighting/no sheets/towels etc. Now that's not very good,' before I remember that it's really not appropriate here.

Sadly, as so often happens when you stop after a super-busy time, I became ill there, so didn't venture out much from the shady cool of my fanned room. The shots below are my favourites from the few times I did.

More bold colour therapy - this time in the stairway of another budget guesthouse.
This man was begging on the same stretch of downhill path as the woman who comes just after, and the contrast between them couldn't have been more marked. While he seemed incredibly happy just to be alive, she seemed bitterly miserable - and not remotely keen to have her photo taken either.
Another picturesque, conked out sleeper, this time in the rubbish.
This poor elephant, chained by a front leg and a back to a nearby palm in someone's back garden, was attracting a little crowd of tourists who were all going 'oh look, how cute'. Cute indeed but also sadly coralled, hence the very tight framing.
Varkala's 'North Cliff' is seamlessly lined with restaurants, travel agents, guesthouses and hippie-tat stalls with their clothes billowing and bleaching in the bright sea air. This is the daughter of one of the stall traders - too cute not to include. 
Little religious shrines and statues and installations pop up all over India. This one is on the wide main Varkala beach below the temple.
The Indian tourists on the beach almost outnumbered the Western, given the end of season and intense heat.
The North Cliff's clothes-stall gauntlet: 'You come please, you look in my shop? Just looking, no buying! OK, you come back? You promise? You look later? I make you good price. Be my first business today, you bring good luck to me please?' I was living close by and so using restaurants on the cliff. After the first few runs, it started to get a little awkward as their desperation to sell something was clear, but I'm travelling light and have no space for shopping.
This made me laugh - advertising breakfast on a rickety fence in front of a sheer cliff drop. Don't go that way.
A sad-looking young knife-grinder at dusk. 
I love the way so many of the auto-rickshaws are elaborately decorated and jazzed up by their owner-drivers.
The dogs here are as graceful as so many of the women.
This is Abdullah, who I sat briefly with while he was fishing, with a single delicate line, at sunset off the fisherman's beach just north of the North Cliff. He and lots of his friends apparently spend much of the year in the Middle East doing contract work to make ends meet. 
Another seductive sunset, complete with happy swimmers.
And a laughing swordfish - one of the countless catch-of-the-day fish laid out in front of the North Cliff restaurants to tempt in passersby.
Posts still to come before we're up-to-date: 

Varkala's grin-inspiring Temple Festival finale
A train, 2 planes and a sleeper bus, from Varkala in Kerala to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan
One musical, 1 contemporary, 1 suddenly-abandonned, and 2 Stone Age-style villages in the Thar Desert
Magical Jaisalmer Fort

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