Lottie Elizabeth PhotographyTravel blog: finding bliss in Kerala, South India – Soul & SurfSoul & Surf, Varkala - a yoga and surf retreat

I have been in Kerala, southern India, for almost two weeks now and sitting down to blog about my experiences feels almost overwhelming….but in a good way!

Earlier this year I started looking at surf and yoga retreats on Google and stumbled upon Soul & Surf (http://www.soulandsurf.com), which runs retreats in India and Sri Lanka with pop ups in Portugal.  Whilst renowned for its yoga practice, I hadn’t realised that you could surf in India. When I think of India my head is immediately filled with images of the Taj Mahal, Bollywood, overfilled trains, curry, tea and spices but one read of Ed and Sofie’s story about how they came to arrive in Kerala (http://www.soulandsurf.com/retreats/india/us/about) and a quick look at their photographs on social media and I was already pricing up flights. The only question in my mind was how long can I stay?!

Now I’m here and have experienced just how amazing this place is I know I made the right decision! I have a list of places as long as my arm (and I have the longest arms ever…true story and great for carrying surf boards!) that I want to visit but right now, this is where I needed to be. How do you sum up a trip like this in words? I’ll start with this….

Bliss

Noun
1. Perfect happiness; great joy. “she gave a sigh of bliss”

Synonyms: joy, pleasure, delight, happiness, gladness, ecstasy, elation, rapture, euphoria, heaven, paradise, seventh heaven, cloud nine, Eden, Utopia, Arcadia.

Reach a state of perfect happiness, oblivious of everything else.

Blissful. That’s exactly how I feel right now. So much so that I was meant to fly home a few days ago and delayed my flight. I just wasn’t ready to give up this state of perfect happiness!

So, what’s it all about and what have I done out here over the past two weeks? Whilst I’ll mostly let my images do the talking my average day is a bit like this:

6.10am – snooze the first alarm!

6.20am – wake up, throw my surf gear on and meet the gang for coffee and bananas.

6.45am – pile into rickshaws and Soul & Surf’s iconic blue jeep or pink car and make our way down to the beach.

7.00am – warm up and surf surf surf! The waves vary but there’s something for everyone. White waves for the beginners, fast green waves for the more advanced and a sprinkling of fisherman to keep it interesting!

9.30 – head back to Soul & Surf for breakfast. If you are lucky there’s time for a quick stop for chai and the most amazing deep fried banana cake balls! After all that surfing you deserve some carbs!

10.00 – breakfast and slideshow of the morning’s images (our resident surf photographer is the legendary Steve Badger Coombes – https://www.instagram.com/stevebadgercoombes/)

10.30 – annnddddd relax! Top up the tan, chill in a hammock, play football with the locals or take a wander down to North Cliff.

Evenings are fairly chilled. Yoga is on the rooftop at 5pm with the uber lovely Hayley (there’s a morning practice too for non surfers), sunset is at 6pm then it’s over to the North Cliff for a cheeky beer (the consumption of alcohol is technically illegal here but the local restaurants seem to get around this by wrapping your beer in newspaper, which is kept hidden under your table and served in china mugs. Slightly quirky and totally corrupt but it works!), a meal with the locals (where it’s normally 100 rupees or £1.20 for a meal…bargain!), pizza and movie night (Tuesdays and Saturdays) or a BBQ. There’s plenty of food options out here, vegetarian/vegan friendly, delicious fresh fish and some western options too! There’s something for everyone.

After all the surfing and yoga, I have also been to a cookery class with a local lady, Kumari, who cooked up the most incredible vegetarian cuisine in her little kitchen and been taken on a tour of the local area by Anil, the best rickshaw driver in Kerala! I would 100% recommend both for a real Keralean experience!

Finally, it wouldn’t be right to come all this way without experiencing an Ayrvedic massage. Ayurveda, which literally means the science of life (Ayur = Life, Veda = Science), is an ancient medical science which was developed in India thousands of years ago. I opted for a full body massage which used oils and left me feeling so relaxed!

So, over to the images. Here’s a little gallery, which I hope, will do justice to this place. I have never been anywhere that is so welcoming of tourism. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is so smiley and happy for us to be here. From young children waving from the street to the fisherman on the beaches. I have been greeted with a open smile and not just a polite little smile, a true ear to ear light up in the eyes kind of smile – it’s totally infectious!

To the guys and girls at Soul & Surf….thank you! From the fabulous surf instructors, volunteers, kitchen staff, cleaners, yoga instructors and everyone else that makes the magic happen, you guys all rock. I’ll be back!

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