Our train to Varkala above--alright, we did buy bicycles to ride but, I really wanted a Indian train experience. We decided to take our bikes on the train to Varkala and then we would ride from Varkala to Mumbai (we had three months). We got a regular class ticket (one can pay for sleeper car, 3AC-- private bunk and AC, 2AC--private bunk with curtain and AC and 1AC--private room, AC and meals). The regular class is just one bench for everyone and anyone to sit on. We scored seats but quickly learned that Indian culture isn't really one for personal space as numerous fellow passengers squeezed in right beside me, despite their being not even an inch between us. I found it also very odd that women would be standing, old women even, and men would be sitting without offering their seat or pretending to offer their seat. Apparently once one gets a seat, one does not offer it to ANYBODY. A trick we discovered was the metal luggage racks above the benches were empty and we could lie down completely on them (one at a time of course). Our train ride was four hours and I spent it reading Game of Thrones (the books are INCREDIBLE!) and Guy started playing his guitar about half way in. It quickly turned him into a mini celebrity and nearly every passenger on board wanted selfies with him. It was hilarious!
We arrived in Varkala around 10pm and were so happy to have our bikes. They arrived in perfect condition (we had to put them in the luggage car for an extra $5) and once we retrieved them, we sped off into the night. We had no idea where we were going but, somehow ended up a hostel very close to the beach. We picked the first hostel we could find that night and vowed in the morning to wake up and explore for something more budget friendly versus the very nice but very expensive place we had stayed in. When we woke up the next morning and got on our bikes we found, Soul and Surf. Soul and Surf is a beautiful surf and yoga resort on top of the cliffs of Varkala. It hosts a cafe and lounge area and access to the beaches below via a steep, stone stair case. We wanted to stay there badly but, it was over $100 a night so, instead we hung out there as often as possible. The food is geared towards a healthly traveling crowd (no curry) and delicious. It was on the expensive side and thus we only at their cafe one night. Luckily for us, the night we ate at the cafe, which is under the stars with gorgeous wood lounge sofas, we ate under the full moon eclipse! I typically stay up to date on our moon happenings but haven't as I've traveled. It was a welcome and magical surprise.
The rest of our time was spent on the incredible beaches of Varkala. I fell madly in love with the area. The beaches are framed by steep, rocky cliffs that are various shades of rust and lined with palm trees. The water was clear blue and just warm enough to cause no hesitation in jumping straight in. We spent our mornings at Soul, drinking coconut slushies (coconut and ice blended, so good. And it made the less sweet Indian coconuts much more enjoyable) and coffee. When 2pm hit, we would wander down to the beach and play in the waves until sunset. At sunset we would find a good curry spot, eat and call it a night. Rinse and repeat.
Our time was going swimmingly until about 5 days in, after a very delicious curry dinner, I got sick. I was up throwing up all night and the next day. It was awful but, I had expected to get sick at some point. I felt fine the next day and then the day after, sick again. It was a brutal two days! I had really bad pains in my stomach for 24 hours and was bed ridden for nearly two days. Luckily, Guy met a fellow traveler who had been sick in India on multiple occasions and he gave me all the provisions to get me healthy again.
Once I felt like I could keep down food for a full day, we started planning our next move. Much like every other woman my age, I had read Eat Pray Love years prior and it planted the seed of going to an ashram whenever I made it to India. My friend Sara recommend Amma's ashram that was 50 -60 km north of Varkala. As luck would have it, we met three new friends who had just returned from the Ashram and informed us Amma would actually be in residence when we were going. And they were going to head back to be with there with her as well. I knew that their are no coincidences and we were being called to Amma's ashram.
We left two days later, backpacks strapped to the bikes and began our day long ride from Varkala to the Ashram.