Our first experience of Palm Tree Heritage Hotel was sitting beneath the trees on the edge of the beach, examining the wave action of the Arabian sea and watching the red kites swoop and soar overhead; whilst sipping a mint soda drink. If this was to be the format for the next few days then it would be fine by me.
We were checked into our perfect little room on the cliff top and listened to the waves pounding the rocks below. With a beach on both sides we were in a prime position. Palm trees shaded our little balcony and we enjoyed watching people stroll by along the red tufa path.
At night we could see the lights of around forty fishing boats twinkling on the horizon.
We managed to exert enough energy to walk both north and south along the cliff path and discovered that we were in just about the most perfect spot. Unspoilt and quiet. The shops along the cliff to the south were interesting enough and I visited the Varkala Aquarium to while away an afternoon. I could have seen a 3D film for an extra 25rupees but there weren’t enough visitors to warrant showing the film. I elected to pay the full amount (£2.50) and sat in the cool of the air-con with all the members of staff who had come in to watch with me.
Every day; the farmers drove their water buffalo between beach and farm, right past our front door. Every morning; the fishermen laid their nets from the beach using remarkable coconut trunk canoes and lots of enthusiasm.
After about 45mins the net, and the daily catch was in. They had pulled in many small fry; all wriggling and shimmering in a fishy mess enclosed by the tiny mesh of the net. There was also a sting ray and some larger fish. There was an awful lot of plastic too but that was simply thrown back into the water!
The work was not over yet The nets were laid out along the entire area of the beach and the men sat down and began the intricate process of fixing any holes. The huge boat also had to be dragged and spun on its axis to a safe distance up the beach.
Locals told us that the beach used to be a wide curving expanse of sand but after a very severe cyclone hit Kerala in November 2017 (Cyclone Ockhi ) the coast line changed. The waves at that time were as high as 7m in some areas and there was a deluge of accompanying rainfall. The cyclone claimed at least 12 lives and more than 200 fishermen were left stranded and had to be rescued. This was a sobering thought as we looked out over what looked like a fairly benign stretch of water.
Since then, the water level has risen to such an extent as to be a threat to properties along the cliff. The remaining beach was really quite small. The waves came crashing in full of sand. Swimming from the beach was quite challenging especially entering and leaving the water. I didn’t fancy it but Sue was brave enough to swim.
One day, we decided to head into Trivandrum, the capital of communist governed Kerala. First stop was the Temple, well, after a masala dosa snack! After that, we felt armed and ready to head out into the heat to walk round the beautiful building. We wandered the streets and then went to the park intending to visit the zoo and the museum there, but both we closed on Mondays.
The heat sapped our remaining energy reserves and we were glad to get back to the station and thence to the cool breeze on the beach.
The day after we organised a quick visit to the elephant sanctuary near Varkala, where we saw a number of elephants chained up in the shade. We fed one of the elephants 5 kilos of bananas which he dispatched in about 30 seconds. It was a rather dispiriting experience and not at all what I had hoped for.
We stayed in a lovely hotel on Princess Street and enjoyed wandering around the area. We had a pleasant evening sampling the delights of the Old Harbour Hotel and The Tower Hotel next door. We ate at a fantastic waterside restaurant on our last night. Our visit to the Folklore Museum; housing an incredible private collection of items and antiques from around Kerala; involved a wonderful ferry ride across from Fort Cochin to the modern part of the city; Ernakulam. That was one of the highlights for me as it was a cool and stress free way to travel.
All too soon, it was time to be heading back to the UK. We have had such an amazing time and have many wonderful memories from our trip.
Til the next time India……
Next: Back to the boat, Linea in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily.