Bangalore to Varkala

November 10, 2009

We left Bangalore last night on an overnight train. We were joined in our sleeper (2AC) car by two guys who were heading to Cochin for a business meeting. After chatting for a while they started making recommendations for our next few days. “You must go to Varkala” they pressed “You will find nice people there and its not too busy”. We chatted a bit longer and then settled in to read the guide books. Dad and I both picked a few hotels that looked good and then hit the hay.

We were awoken by the sheet and blanket guy at 4:15am. “Cochin” he said, walking away. We stepped off the train into pouring rain. We were immediately herded by one tout after another. Shaking them off (we’re finally getting our wits) we headed for the exit. Dad stopped me, “We should probably figure out what we are doing now.” “24 hr Cafe Coffee Day, then plan”, I replied tersely.

At the curb a rickshaw driver tried to lure us into his tuk-tuk. “No. Cab!” we said in sync as we walked away. Across the street the cab driver made us stand in the rain while he told us that there were no 24 hr CCDs and no restaurants that were open.  Annoyed and increasingly wet, we headed for the relative shelter of the nearest coffee-wala.

I was enjoying the stares when our friend the rickshaw driver came over and started herding us into his vehicle. Defeated I let him put my bag in. Dad still had some juice left and insisted that we wouldn’t fit, and he did not want his luggage on the roof in the rain. Our new friend called one of his buddies over and rickshaw driver #2 had a much larger cab complete with a trunk. Happy, we climbed in and were whisked off to a very accommodating local hotel. I was quite proud of us for not even commenting that we were, once again, not taken to our prescribed destination. In the hotel restaurant, we were served coffee and chocolate mouse, and allowed to sit for a few hours and plan our day.

We decided to try out a “Volvo Bus” on the recommendation of our train friends. Well fed and caffeinated, we hopped into another large rickshaw and headed to the bus station, only to find out (eventually) that the Volvo buses had all been canceled. “Canceled? All of them?”

Who knows what the real story was, but I wasn’t interested in fighting. Once again India was pushing us in another direction, and its a big sub-continent, so I’m not going to argue. Besides, its taken fantastic care of us so far.

So with a light step we hoped back into a rickshaw and hightailed it over to the train station to catch the Kerala Express to Varkala. We bought our ticket and with the help of a porter, headed over to platform 4 to await our train.

As the departure time drew near we started to worry that we might be on the wrong platform. I wandered off and found an official looking person changing the placards on the coaches. Struggling with language I finally came to understand that we were in the right place.

A few minutes later our porter came over to tell us that we were on the wrong platform. He loaded Dad’s bags up and we headed over to platform 3 in time to catch the train. This was the first random act of kindness of our day, and it left us feeling 10 feet tall.

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