For all its undoubted beauty, a trip through India is occasionally wearing. The long distances, communication difficulties and pushy street vendors can frustrate even the most enthusiastic traveller. Not to mention the ever-present prospect of an upset stomach lying just around the corner.
After two weeks of sightseeing, travelling from Mumbai to ancient ruins, tea plantations and historic palaces, we reached Kerala. We were looking forward to spending some time at a slower place in the state described as ‘God’s own country’.
Our first stop was Marari Beach, a low-key destination with an almost completely deserted shoreline. We were travelling during the shoulder season and the number of tourists were out-numbered by fishing boats. The fishermen leave the nets and other paraphernalia on the beach so although the beach wasn’t pristine, it felt suitably rustic. A pleasant atmosphere exists between the fishermen and the visitors. During our stay, they beckoned us over to watch a turtle they had mistakenly caught walk back into the sea. Another time, a different group of fishermen sought our assistance to drag their boat up the shore. The water here is flat and relatively still, causing the Arabian Sea to feel remarkably warm.
The calmness of the sea is in stark contrast to the waves at Varkala Beach, almost four hours south of Marari. The destination features far more prominently on the tourist trail and consequently has a string of restaurants located along its famous red cliffs. The inevitable downside to the area’s popularity is the increase in floating rubbish at one end of the bay. If you’re able to overlook this though, Varkala is perfect for bodyboarding. The waves are frequent and consistently around a metre high, so they are easy to catch and sufficiently powerful to generate an adrenaline rush as the wave picks you up and hurls you towards the sunbathers on the sand. The rubbish is relatively easy to escape too, simply by walking along the beach north towards Odayam Beach or south towards Papanasam Beach. Here the stretches of sand run for as far as the eye can see and no one appears on the horizon.
Away from the beach, yet still keen to take it easy, we hired an overnight houseboat exploring the backwaters around Alleppey. Our private boat for the two of us cost £102 and we were picked up at midday before returning at 8.30am the following morning. Two staff were with us on the boat and cooked us three excellent meals while on the water. Onboard, the first thing that struck us was the size of the vessel – in addition to our ensuite double room, we had a large table and a sofa area in the outdoor area to watch the villages, palm trees and birds go by. The only disappointment was that the boat didn’t explore as many of the narrow canals as we had hoped and was moored early in the evening.
Overall though, we were delighted we decided to spend the last week of our trip in Kerala. Gorgeous beaches, stunning sunsets and lots of fried fish combined to create some of our favourite moments in India.