April 26th – Varkala

The weather had cleared to a pale blue sky by the morning. The air was cool and in the still shade of the palm trees the temperature was, for now, perfect. Walking through the village and out across the morning haze that hung just above the smooth, wide sand we saw almost no-one. Up on the cliff-top pathway occasional figures caught the sharp angle of the sun that edged over the palm trees. The sea was glass-smooth and merged almost seamlessly with the pale blue sky above; as we waded out and out along dead flat sand it felt like we could have walked all the way across the ocean to Africa. Every wave that summoned the energy to weakly break from further out seemed to be stuck in perpetual limbo, rolling slowly past us, over the shallows and up the beach behind us without ever kicking up spray or petering out.

Varkala Beach, India.

Sitting back at the turquoise blue water of the shallow’s edge, I could let the gentle waves wash past me with the smallest of effort: The slow current drew warm clouds of golden sand and scattered sunlight over my outstretched arms and pulled gently at my shorts. As the white foam of the shifting water receded it would occasionally deposit tiny sea-shells no larger than a tiny fingernail. I felt the sand of my seat shift and collapse with each of these passing waves, as if, given time, the beach would swallow me up completely. It was a tempting prospect.

Two new friends on Varkala beach, India

My two new friends.
-Varkala, India-

Needless to say, the time spent in Varkala passed easily. The beach and the surf both busied up as the sun and temperature rose. While on land there appeared a surprising number of North Americans as well as the council-employed beach cleaners who I had much to thank for (considering some of the items that wash up on Indian beaches), the water threw up some spectacular surf out towards the break. Where at eight that morning I had been enjoying the soft ripple as a slow wave ambled past us, now there was a scattering of people all up and down the surf-line facing down the monsters that crashed upon us. It was shallow enough to keep a footing but exhilarating enough to keep it exciting. I retreated after being flipped somersault underwater and snorting a heroic amount of seawater. Alec emerged, burned, an hour later. In the meantime I had bought a copy of Alex Garland’s The Beach and had made friends with a pair of mute and deaf Indian guys that seemed to be in the care of one-another; the conversation was strained, to say the least.

Vigorous surf on Varkala beach, India

-Varkala Beach, India-

We periodically alternated between the lantern-strewn cliff top cafe and the white sand that it overlooked. The novelty of western food- scrambled egg, instant coffee, toast and jam, pancakes, boring pasta- showed no signs of wearing off, nor did the simple pleasures of splashing around on the beach like we were on the front cover of a Thomas Cook travel brochure. Further down the pathway I found somewhere to upload the pictures from my camera and then wrote a letter. I got tan-line around my shorts to match the permanent red ring around my neck. I read half of my book on the beach and enjoyed the novel sight of the western girls that strolled the beach in their bikinis while Alec bobbed around somewhere in the Indian Ocean. It was his birthday.

Varkala beach in the evening light, India (black and white)

Surf in the evening light
-Varkala, India-

That evening we ate dinner in a sturdier looking restaurant than many of the others along the top. As the rain, thunder and lightning hammered down around us I tucked into perhaps one of my tastiest meals yet- grilled lamb kebab with a ginger-lime sauce, fluffy rice and crispy fried vegetables. We headed later to our cocktail bar from the previous night to our same vantage point looking west over the palm trees and the rocks below. As the storm rolled away over the Arabian Sea and into the blackness of our panorama, the towering banks and rolls of thick cloud were spiked with the rapid flashes of the electrical fury within. As the storm clouds erratically flashed off to one side and away to another, I was reminded of electrical signals firing across a brain, connecting in sequences of flashes from one cloud to another and trailing off again into thoughtful calm. Soon, the kilometres stretched out between us and this tumbling, rolling mountain range of pitch-black clouds that struck a sharp contrast the stars glittering stars above them. As the storm burned itself out, the entire show was tinted in an eerie, dusty orange through the miles of atmosphere that it travelled through.

***

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