We got hijacked on the way to the bus station. No, really. Okay, not exactly.
We flagged down a rickshaw, dickered for the price, and settled on something I was okay with. As we were doing this, a car pulled up behind us. After some talk in Malayalam between the drivers, the car’s driver came up to us with the rickshaw driver. The offer was a taxi ride from Varkala to Kollam for rs. 300. That sounded pretty good to me, though I really have no idea what it should have cost. We accepted the offer, and took the easy ride to Kollam. Except for the usual hundred near-death experiences, it was a very easy trip. The driver is very fond of the “Hugging Mother,” a woman who has an ashram around there. As near as I can figure out, she believes in hugging people. Yep.
We managed not to get sidetracked to stand in line for a hug and made it to Kollam in the early afternoon. We had the guy take us to the Government Guesthouse, a 200 year old mansion in a park area. After walking around with raised eyebrows at the twenty-foot ceilings and enormous rooms (including the cavernous bathroom), we wandered out to the Amusement Park.
We were more looking for the jetty (you know, boats and water, we like that kind of thing), but it was only rs.5 each, so we said what the heck. The concessionaire waved us in with a “Happy Onam” and we replied in kind, surprised and tickled that he didn’t charge us. It was more or less a kid thing, of course, so maybe he just knew we weren’t going to stick around for long. Nice guy either way.
We wandered along the stretch of shore inside the park, looking at the old boats laid out on their sides. Along the water’s edge, semicircular concrete outcroppings with concrete benches had been installed. Many of them were sliding into the water, but we perched our butts on one that seemed rather solid.
From the next area over, we heard a cheery hello. A group of young adults waved and called to us and when we responded enthusiastically, they came to visit us. Actually, they kind of rushed us! We have the usual where are you from, what is your name conversation, then got the low-down on everyone’s ambitions in life. All were in college for something – teaching, nursing, engineering, IT…they were charming and excited and I was in love with each of them just a little. The only thing they were split on was going to the US – some thought that would be perfect and others wanted nothing to do with it.
After the rest of our short stroll through the park, we walked around in circles a bit, got some good photos, and went back to the room, resigned to a quiet evening.
The daily power shutoff happened at 9pm, but in the distance we could hear music. Without being able to read, we were a bit restless and decided to hunt down the festivities.
It was an Onam festival, of course, but this was a youth performance kind of thing. Totally cute, very enjoyable. The funny thing was that they seemed to have a CD of the music, but it wasn’t in order and they could never find the right song – it took so long between performances!