Varkala: Sun, Beaches, Bikinis, Pineapples and Coconuts, and a Rooftop Bed
There wasn't a single available room in all of Varkala's hotels that wasn't under 500 Indian rupees. Yes, that's only a bit over $10, but for five months I'd been getting rooms as cheap as...well, for free, and "splurged" for a room with an attached bathroom for 300 rupees. So why break the streak and start forking over the money now, during my last week in India? I was prepared to walk through the entire town before I settled for paying in the double digits of American dollars.
Luckily, the Tibetan-owned guesthouse I walked into took pity on me - my face mirrored exhaustion and frustration, and she probably softened a bit because I looked like I could be her sister. She offered to lay out a bamboo mat on the roof of their humble guesthouse and said I could use the water pipe on top of the building to take a shower. So far, so good.
"How much?" Because it was high holiday season, I was prepared to hear '700 rupees...only for you. Special price.'
I didn't even try to bargain - I happily followed her up to the roof, where, as promised, she laid out a bamboo mat and gave me a pillow (clean! This guesthouse passed the first test). At the corner of the roof, under the branches of a coconut tree, she pointed out my shower: a faucet pipe that was 3 feet tall.
"And you can shower here. But if you need toilet, you go downstairs, around the back, and use old outhouse. And, don't leave any food or apple leftovers on the roof. You have any food in your bag?"
I shook my head.
"Good, because ants will come to the sugar and then maybe bite you at night."
I made a mental note to wear socks and full-length pants and shirt to bed. I didn't want to wake up to unidentifiable insects feasting on me.
Later that night, I took a shower on the roof fully naked, squatting under the short faucet pipe and shaded by the coconut branches. The bamboo mat and thin cot set up for me was surprisingly comfortable - more so than 70% of the "beds" that I'd slept on in India - and no mosquitoes or ants attacked me. I slept under the stars and woke up to nature's alarm of birds and roosters, looked at my watch (5 am?!? Another 2 hours...), pulled my blanket sheet over my head, and returned to sleep. An hour and 43 minutes later, the sun woke me up - and that's a brilliant start to any day.
I did my business in the outhouse, brushed my teeth over the roof gutter, and tidied up my "room." I went for a run along the cliffs of Varkala that tower above the beaches, overestatic to be in shorts and a skimpy tanktop, running without having rocks thrown at me (Jordan) or male gawkers scratching their crotches (northern India). I ran past a fisherman preparing his net for the day, and he smiled (gotta get you some false teeth, pops...) and pumped his small fist firmly in victory.
I spent nine hours on the beach, alternating between taking dips in the ocean, soaking up Vitamin D on the beach, rolling over to read in the shade, and snacking on almonds and pineapple.
When I returned to my guesthouse for a rooftop shower, the Tibetan owner greeted me with a "We have a bed for you!" I'd been upgraded? Sweet!
My bed was set up on the roof, and was what we call in the Middle East a charpoy - a steel bed frame, with thick strips of braided fabric crisscrossed to form a sort of bedding. No mattress, just a sheet. I loved it. It was worth every single rupee I paid, and there's nothing better than falling asleep, exhausted from the sun, under a canopy of stars and coconut trees and waking up to a symphony of birds. I'd stay a whole two weeks here on the roof of Holiday Homes and on the beaches of Varkala if my damn Indian visa didn't expire in 5 days!