We’d been to Varkala before, about 8 years ago. That time we stayed in some circular huts with leaky roofs on the hillside, down at the end of the valley road. This time we were on the north cliff, behind the line of restaurants and stalls that line the path. The Heavenly Breeze was a rock bottom simple kind of place, but it did have a little sit-out area and it was set in a garden away from the worst of the noise.
It was overpriced though – I’d booked a few days online but after a couple of nights I discovered that walk-ins were paying only 60% of what we were. The final straw was a party of young Indians who stayed up until 3:00am every night drinking, playing music, and shrieking. It was time to move on.
We met Bilal outside his shop next to the Tibetan market. He was a typical Kashmiri shopkeeper – charming, chatty, and if you weren’t careful you would somehow find yourself buying something you didn’t need and couldn’t afford. We didn’t buy from his shop but we did agree to look at one of the guest rooms in the same building. Smart, nicely furnished and spacious, they were in a different league from the Heavenly Breeze for the same money that we were paying. Sold.
We only made it to the main beach once during our stay in Varkala – it was such a steep climb back up the steps. The rest of the time we went for walks around the cliff top, or down into the village and up to the south cliff. One day we headed north to new territory. The buildings straggle much further along the cliff edge than they did on our previous visit, all the way to where the path heads downhill into the next valley. Beyond was a black sand beach. No tourists here, just a few fishermen’s huts and a mosque. Then the sand turned red again and there were a couple of resorts – peaceful, but a long way from anywhere.
Varkala developed when package tourists discovered Kovalam. Now that it too is on the package tourist map, I wonder how long it will continue to attract the backpackers that are its main visitors. It’s become like Palolem – too big, too busy, no longer a secret and getting expensive. Such is the fate of most backpacker haunts I suppose.