I got onto the boat with Richard, who I had met at the ashram, and we chugged on through the backwaters towards the town of Kollom. The journey to Kollom was pretty uneventful and the scenery was less interesting as the waterways gradually broadened out and we started to pass through large estuaries. Of interest though was a hotel on an island promontory that had a massive 40 foot statue of a half naked woman on the tip of the island. This was bizarre considering the ultra conservative culture that existed in the area and also because the woman had an incredibly ugly face, while at the same time sporting a pair of impossibly large, pert breasts. The Lonely Planet guidebook also mentioned the statue and was extremely puzzled by its existence.
There was nothing much to see in Kollom at all. In fact the only thing my guide book could really talk about was the statue I mentioned earlier and that was just outside of Kollom. I wandered round town with Rich and quickly discovered that it was not a very tourist friendly town at all. There were hardly any guesthouses and the first couple that we did see were so appalling we could not even consider taking them. We did eventfully find one that was shit, but just about acceptable, while being dirt cheap at 160 rupees for the two of us (about 2 quid). We the struggled to find a restaurant to eat at, but when we found one the food was cheap and good.
I left in the morning and Rich stayed on in Kollom for a while to do another tour of the backwaters. Next stop was Varkalla. I was originally not planning on going any further south as I had to head north through India over the next month towards Nepal, many days travelling away, so I was really going in the wrong direction. However the Kiwi guy I had met on the boat on the first day through the backwaters had told me that the party scene in Goa was dead, due to a young backpacker being murdered there a few weeks ago which instigated a police crackdown. Apparently Varkalla was the place to be and as I was planning on partying in Goa I decided to do some partying in Varkalla instead. It was to turn out that the advice he gave me was complete rubbish but I was still glad to went to Varkalla.
Varkalla has a slightly unusual layout. The main accommodation and tourist area is a few km outside of the town situated on the tops of some high cliffs that surround a beautiful sandy beach. It was a beautiful place and the cliffs were spectacular but it was a bit irritating to have to go up and down so many steps just to access the beach.
There were loads of restaurants, accommodation places, small shops and internet cafes along the cliff tops and there were a few other travellers around. I chatted to a Canadian girl briefly after lunch and the sat listening to the waves for a while. After a few hours I bumped into the Kiwi guy from off the boat and went off with him and a South African guy he had met to a restaurant for some food and beer.
The evening started to take a slightly strange turn. The South African guy was really nice but the Kiwi guy seemed to be constantly on edge. He kept on hasseling the waiters for some weed and although he was told that some could be scored for him in a while that did not seem to be good enough for him and he started to get agitated. He was quite hard to talk too as well as somehow you had the feeling that everything he said, he was saying with a sort of arrogant aggression, as if he liked poking people to see where they were sensitive. After a little while he produced a chess board and started playing with the South African guy and the conversation ceased. When he started playing a second game with the South African guy without asking me I started to become really annoyed and so when Rich and a Russian guy that he had met finally caught up with me, I told the Kiwi guy I was a bit annoyed and we moved to a different table and left them to it.
Bizarrely the Russian guy that Rich knew was the same Russian guy who I had met in Cochin and was the same one who I had apparently shared the slow boat with down the Mekong in Laos! It was good to see them both anyway, especially after the awkwardness of the earlier evening and we proceeded to get drunk in several different places along the cliff tops. We headed to bed at about 1am, but it felt a lot later as everywhere closed early and there were hardly any people around. In fact many places were completely empty.
I woke up in the morning with a raging hangover and a hatred of Kingfisher beer. Why do they have to put that preservative into it that gives you a bad hangover and headache? I certainly believe that it is one of the most chemical beers in the world. I also woke up with the resolution to leave Varkala as it clearly was not the party paradise the the Kiwi guy had been telling me about. Still, I would stay for another day and if I had a fews months in India I would have stayed even longer.
I headed down to the beach and after being thrown about in the huge surf for a while and being roasted by the midday sun, retreated back to the cliff tops and the cool of the shops and restaurants that were there. I pretty much just lazed around for the day and then met up with Rich and Sen (the Russian guy) in the evening. No-one was up for another big night after the Kingfisher hangovers so it was a really quiet night.