Fort Kochi And Varkala: The Little Known Wonders By The Arabian Sea
Sometimes greatest things are discovered by accident. Having just about 5 days on hand, and having covered most of the weekend getaways in this part of the country, we might as well have rolled a dice. The outcome was an impromptu trip to Kochi, a major city in Kerala, about 600kms south of Bangalore, and later another shortish detour to Varkala, Kerala’s Goa.
To get there, we just took the first available overnight bus from the KSRTC bus stop in Majestic, Bengaluru, and got to the city after a comfortable 12 hour journey. While Kochi is a proper city in Kerala with flyovers, malls and India’s only solar-powered airport, the real travel draw is Fort Kochi, a tiny island off a few kilometers by a ferry.
We took the first ferry out to Fort Kochi and the heat and humidity notwithstanding, after checking into our humble guesthouse (Jenny’s homestay), we set out to explore the tiny, but promising town.
But first, some breakfast! There’s an array of restaurant and cafes dishing out the usual travel fare, with a few seafood specialities of the coastal town. We however found our breakfast fix in one of stalls lining up a street that do basic omlets, sea food items and chai.
The first thing you’d notice on taking a stroll around Fort Kochi is its backpacker influence, always signalling a good thing for fellow backpackers. In fact every year Fort Kochi hosts the Street Art Festival where hundreds of artists from across India and abroad descended on the town and create art.
The streets are dotted with graffiti and other forms of art, though the most curious art can be found on tree trucks just by the main shore.
Kochi really comes alive in the early evenings, when the fishermen are out at the sea casting their Chinese nets about to get their catch of the day, against a stunning sunset. I managed to sneak in a couple of photos.
Once the sun is down, there’s not much to do in here, apart from stroll around, take in the sounds and smells wafting from the various cafes. We settled down in a quaint cafe over a pizza and a window view.
Next day, we checked out a Synagogue – India’s only surviving one at that. Kochi was a Dutch colony in the 1800’s and to show for it, the ruins of a Dutch cemetery lie in the bylanes of Fort Kochi, which we didn’t check out.
Done with seeing or doing all that Kochi had to offer, we made another impromptu trip out to Varkala, the Goa of the south. But I’d be damned to let the cat out of the bag because Varkala still holds on to a pristine and unspoiled charm that unfortunately Goa is past.
Varkala is a comfortable 4-5 hour train journey from Kochi, and the beachfront is 5-6 kilometres away from the city. The only way to get to the beach is to take an autrikshaw, or if you’re feeling adventurous, walk the distance.
The real surprise of the trip, Varkala is a beach town with a miles long cliff overlooking the Arabian sea, with a smattering of a beach down below. Hundreds of shacks, cottages, cafes, and souvenir shops line the cliff making for an easy, hippie backpacker paradise.
Realising that both of us were short on cash and the ATM was 5 kilomteres away and it being 10 in the night, we had 2 options in front of us. Dinner or check in to a hotel.
We decided on the former. Enjoying a lovely Italian beach at a shack, while we sat inches away from the waves was worth forfeiting a comfortable stay in a guesthouse. We slept under a defunct shack, with not a bother apart from a stray beach dog or a mosquito giving a visit every once in a while. The best part of sleeping on the beach is, you have no option but to wake up to the surprise. The locals start streaming in, yoga mats are pulled out, and cafes start getting to business. Catch a rising sun beyond the Arabian sea was quite a breathtaking sight.
We perched ourselves on one of the cafes on the cliff, and lingered on over fresh omlets and chai, with long, enduring views of the day progressing from a comfortable distance.