Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Varkala gets an A+!

I'm going to say it: I didn't like Kovalam. From the sketchy dudes lining the walkways to the garbage filled lots separating hotels, the place just rubbed me the wrong way. I had some amusing experiences (my landlady asking to borrow my shampoo, for instance, and then asking to "borrow" 5000 rupees (about $100) to fix the faulty shower in my room), and some lovely moments (with my new yoga friends!), and some memorable moments (the three hour rickshaw ride, for instance), but mostly I just felt like the place was off. It's a manufactured seaside town and there's little goodwill for or from the tourists. I don't blame the merchants - they're just trying to make a buck, and they don't have much time to do it in. But walking around I felt anxious and unsafe.

Varkala, on the other hand, is super! I came here on the bus with three yoga friends. This was my first "backpacking" experience so far - as in, I left one place for another with my backpack as my main piece of luggage. I sent home a suitcase full of clothes, yoga gear, and souvenirs last week, but, apparently, I did not send enough:
Said  suitcase. 
My first India Post experience, in Trivandrum, was probably quite typical: two hours in a room with meaningless signs, multiple clerks, and no clear information. If the Russian girls and their Indian friend hadn't been there to help me, I probably would have just given everything away. Okay, no, I would have just been more frustrated.
The empty luggage, about to go to a new home. 

All my stuff is in that box.  The lady taping it is the new owner of the  empty suitcase!
I can already hear the head shaking and tsk tsking of all you efficient packers who don't bring along three months worth of tampons or five different pairs of yoga tights just in case. But you know what? I've made peace with my shitty packing strategies. I'm not a practical person - I have a hard time navigating this world - and I mean this literally. You might think, what is she talking about? She seems fine. Yes? (Or maybe, no. Then you've been paying attention!). If you're in the first camp, I have this to tell you: I've been copying you. That's why I cross the street at appropriate times, push doors open instead of pulling them with all my might, and refrain from petting the kittens with all the fleas. But now that I'm on my own, I can't fake it any more. This morning, for instance (on my way to the post office for the second time to send more stuff home), the rickshaw driver had to help me open the door to the ATM, the tailor who packed up my belongings rubbed my forehead for me (with not super clean hands) when I thwacked my head on the fan (his gesture was kind but really unnecessary), and the post office clerk had to point multiple times for me to understand where the stamp glue was actually located. I'm not saying I'm stupid. It's just that if I were to design this world, it would look a lot different. There would be more stained glass, for instance, and probably a dearth of doors. And lots and lots of typewriters. And art. But whatever. There are good reasons I'm not an engineer (for the record, I was pretty good in math at school.)

Also, my packing strategy is ruled by a "what if" philosophy. For instance, what if I am driving from Mysore to a temple three hours away and my contacts start to bother me? Easy, bring along a pair of glasses just in case! And what if on said temple trip I get into an accident and my glasses are brutally crushed? Ha! No problem, I have an extra pair in my apartment back in Mysore. See? Disaster thwarted. That's why I have two pairs of prescription glasses, one pair of prescription sunglasses, one pair of cool non prescription sunglasses, and one pair of backup functional but not cool non-prescription sunglasses with me. And 90 pairs of disposable single use contact lenses. I take my eyesight very seriously. And I sent none of these home. Safety first!

My second package home consisted of some spices, clothes I really didn't need (hello bucket washing!), and a book. Nothing that crazy, but enough that I can now carry my backpack. My yoga friends really helped me out on that first leg from Kovalam to Varkala - I pretty much would have been stranded without them! Or paying through the teeth for a taxi. 

But back to charming Varkala. First, I can't say enough about their post office - fast, efficient, friendly. I'm not kidding. Thank you India Post Varkala!

Photographer writing details on the back of his photographs for me. Super cool.

Beach nearing sunset.

Varkala at night.

Varkala is much more chilled out (I'm watching a couple hippies as I write this!). People practice yoga on the beach in the morning (I practiced yoga on the beach this morning! And won't do it again - sand gets all over. I'm fully exfoliated now), the merchants yell at you way less, and everyone looks happy to just hang out. Except for me. I've been finishing edits on the book (yes, finishing them. They are finished), desperately searching for internet connections. I have an internet USB key, bought with the help of my Kovalam landlord's son, but it has mysteriously run out of money - I had enough to last me another two weeks of regular internet usage. Oh well, it's India.

But now, for the next 5 hours before I need to pack and get ready to head to Kollum in the morning, I am going to be super relaxed. Starting...now.

Here, more pictures:

Beach by day. Varkala is perched on cliffs. You have to walk down stairs to reach the beach. 

That's my towel., blocking the sign. You can see the ocean from my room. And that's my laundry.

More beach. 

This place has good chai and internet. 

My second storey hammock, the most dangerous hammock in the world. 


Linds said...

Great post Jani.

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