Slightly confusingly, my blogs have got out of order; we went to Varkala after Munnar and before Christmas in Cochin.  Mr Beet liked it so much that we were going to go back there again after Christmas, and therefore I was postponing blogging about it until then.  But then we had to stay an extra three days in Cochin due to Mr Beet’s being unable to travel (Delhi Belly / Ooty Booty again – miraculously the only day we have both been well in India was Christmas Day).  So now we won’t have time to return to Varkala.

Our trip to Varkala from Munnar had also been postponed a day due to Mr Beet’s ill health.  We tried to leave Munnar, but after 10 minutes on the bus on the windy mountain road out of town, Mr Beet was distinctly green around the gills and we had to abort, go back to our hotel and put him to bed.  The next day, we organised a private car to Varkala, which was expensive but more comfortable and less vomit-inducing than the bus.

When we eventually got to Varkala, we met up with one of Mr Beet’s old workmates, who had come for a couple of days sun following three weeks of trekking in Nepal.  Mr Beet jumped at the chance of having a drinking buddy, but most of the premises in Varkala are not licensed.  However, this is not a problem; you just have to drink your beer surreptitiously out of a mug rather than a bottle.  I’m not sure that the authorities are entirely fooled by this ruse, but nobody seems to have the heart to enforce the licensing laws, so everyone is happy.

 Col and Damien have a surreptitious beer

Varkala is pretty touristy, which we didn’t actually mind too much as our illness has rather dampened our enthusiasm for Indian food.  I’ve been having fantasies about mashed potato and spaghetti bolognese, so it’s nice to have some Western food options during our recovery period.  

Varkala is popular with the hippy / yoga bunny crowd.  There’s lots of dreadlocks, baggy trousers and Paulo Coelho books.  We spent our time chilling out on the beach and swimming in the beautifully warm Indian Ocean.  After having a rather tough time in India, this was a chance to properly relax and we took full advantage of it.

Lol parkrunning on Varkala Beach

The guidebooks warn you that some local men make the trip to the beach especially to perve at swimming tourists. Considering all the stuff that is available on the internet, or even on MTV, it seems rather sweetly old-fashioned that there are people who still get their jollies from the sight of a woman in a two-piece swimming costume. All the Western tourists were wearing swimwear and the perverts, if there were any, were perving discreetly. However, it is certainly true that Indian women go in the sea fully clothed in their saris, while Indian men go swimming in their pants.  Hardly fair.

In order to enhance my relaxation after a day lounging on the beach, I booked in for an Ayurvedic massage.  First I had a head massage, which was so relaxing that I went into a sort of trance, and then a full body massage that was pretty thorough!  The oils the masseuse used left me smelling like a sort of curried mince pie.

More photos of Varkala are available on Mr Beet’s flickr page.

Christmas in Kochi

Our Indian Christmas was celebrated in a homestay in Kochi aka Cochin.  A large proportion of the locals are Christian, so Christmas is celebrated here for real and not just for the benefit of the tourists.  Our host family had decorated their house, and there are lots of lights and Christmas trees up in town.  Christmas here is sort of conflated with Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night, and probably some other Indian festivals as well.  The local kids put on santa hats and demand cash, and they build a giant wicker Father Christmas and burn him, which seems rather ungrateful after all his hard work.


We are somewhat limited with what Christmas presents we can give each other, since we will be travelling for another 7 months, but we feel the need to mark the occasion with some little tokens.  Mr Beet gets me a scarf and a little elephant.  I get him a t-shirt and some Celebrations that I’ve been smuggling in my bag ever since paying a vastly inflated price for them at Bangkok airport.


I am briefly excited by the fact that we have a TV with BBC World Entertainment channel, thinking that I might get some good Christmas TV to watch.  Alas no, and for future reference BBC; six hours of the Royal Wedding then someone getting shot in the head in a double episode of Silent Witness does not constitute a suitably festive broadcasting schedule.

Our hosts lay on a nice festive breakfast, with bacon and eggs and Christmas cake.  Fuelled up, we go for a little walk around town to have a nose around, some tea and cake and then an internet cafe to skype home and make sure that everyone is missing us.




In the evening we decide to break the budget on Christmas Day and go for a turkey dinner at one of the posh hotels.  They’ve even got sprouts!  It’s not exactly like home, but it is turkey and we are left uncomfortably full – the true spirit of Christmas.


More photos of Kochi are available on Mr Beet’s flickr page.

parkrun on tour – 24 December 2011

Due to the infamous “Delhi Belly” I have missed my last two Saturday parkruns, but I was sufficiently recovered on Christmas Eve for a barefoot run on Varkala Beach, for my first Indian parkrun.  I would not recommend running barefoot on sand all my toes are blistered!


Can you spot me?


Munnar, or to give it its full name, Munnar Munnar Do Doo Be-Do-Do, is another cool hill-station surrounded by tea plantations.  After failing to do any hiking in Ooty, we decide to have another try in Munnar.  I am still feeling poorly, but I’ve had three days R&R in Kannur so I think it’s about time we tried some sort of activity.  We sign up for half a day’s hiking.  We start at 6.30am, so that leaves all afternoon for catching up on the 16 hours sleep a day that I now seem to require.

We are in a group of 10, and our guide Sri gives us a bit of background information about the town and the tea plantations.  He refers to us collectively as “all of you”, which in his accent sounds like “I love you” so it sounds like he keeps saying “look over here – I love you” and “let’s take a break – I love you”.  The Indian churches have decided that they are not going to be outdone by the mosques’ call to prayer, and broadcast Christmas carols at 7am every morning.  So we are hiking up to through the plantations to the strains of “We Three Kings” drifting up from the valley below.





More photos from Munnar (Munnar Do Doo Be-Do-Do) are on Mr Beet’s flickr page.