Kovalam Memories | Kovalam Beach, Kerala 1977
Talking to a friend this week about her upcoming trip to Kerala reminded me of my time on Kovalam Beach in 1977 and thought it time to get some notes written up about those days.
That was the year I travelled overland from London to India. Digital cameras were not even thought of back then and all i had was my little kodak pocket camera and a few rolls of 127 film. Most of my photos have survived but are now aging gracefully and thanks to the digital age i am able to preserve them by taking photos of the photos, upload them here and show “How it was” nearly 40 years ago.
- The only way to travel to Kovalam was by taxi or by the late afternoon bus from Trivandrum. Since i had arrived in Trivandrum just after dark I had no choice but to take a taxi. This was my first taxi ride in India. The one thing i remember about this ride was the pitch black darkness that surrounded us when the driver kept turning the headlights on and off. When i asked him why he did it, he replied that it was to save electric……….. 🙂
- I took a room in a house that was popular with backpackers, not far from the sea. In my room was a huge wooden chest. The woman of the house asked me not to touch the chest and left the room without giving any explanation.
- It was at breakfast the next morning i found out all about the wooden chest. There were about ten of us sitting round this table when someone shouted “Heads Down” while a million or so cockroaches flew over our heads and out for their morning exercise !!!! An hour or so later they returned to the chest. This was repeated about sunset time each day.
- I decided after that event to continue to rent the room so i had a place to leave my backpack, but i would sleep outside on the beach under the stars which proved very enjoyable. Going to sleep to the sound of the waves as background music. I dont remember it raining either
- Those days on Kovalam Beach turned into weeks. Life was so idyllic. We pretty much had the beach to ourselves. There were only a few fishermans houses scattered along the beach.
- We wore minimal clothes on and around the beach. Either a pair of shorts or a sarong wrapped round my waist and in the evening a t-shirt as well.
- The Kovalam backpacker community was small, around 20 to 30 of us. We got to know each other and developed a good cameraderie between us. Books were exchanged, surf boards were borrowed and at night we would sit around talking and planning travels.
- The house i stayed in was made from wood and coconut leaves. The kitchen was outside at the back, as was the open air fenced squat toilet. For bathing we would wander along the beach and queue up at the well, taking it in turns to pull a bucket up, tip it over our head before sending it down for a refill.
- If we wanted to spend a day in Trivandrum we would either take the early morning bus or find enough people to taxi share. Once in Trivandrum we would drink a delicious coffee in one of the coffee houses lining the main street, do some shopping for supplies and have a Masala Dosa before heading back to the beach.
- There was a Hotel at the top of the cliff and on my birthday I decided to treat myself to a birthday beer. So I invited a friend to join me and up we walked to the hotel. I remember entering through the main door and feeling instantly out of place. Dressed as i was in my sarong and shirt all eyes in the hotel lobby turned to gaze at this hippy intruder. We ordered our drinks at the bar, and promptly left, returning to the beach for an evening swim.
- One of the young boys of the family i stayed with would run errands everyday. He would bring us anything from fresh coconuts to Ganja. After a while he was known as the Ganga boy.
- A couple of names from that time in Kovalam stick in my memory. There were Guy and Pamela Skipwith from Market Drayton in Shropshire and an Australian called Chook Chilcott from Queensland who believe it or not carried his surf board all the way from London to India, only for it to disappear from the roof of a bus we were travelling on, on the way to Rameshwaaram.
- Anyone recognise the names or know their whereabouts these days?
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Nice memories. Glad a few of your precious photos survived. I was there for about five days in January 1991. I was in Trivandrum for several days before I learnt about nearby Kovalam beach from a fellow traveller. Stayed at a fairly large, cheap hotel which had seen better days. It seemed mainly unoccupied and was by the road looking down onto the beach. Remember trying to work my way up a steep slope from the beach back to the road in pitch black on several occasions. Wish I had stayed there longer.
Kovalam was a good time. Sounds like the same hotel i had my birthday beer treat in 1977. It was newish then. I really felt out of place in my hippy clothes haha.
Lots of aussies were there surfing on the quiet beach. Now i seee that it has been filled with concrete. Not sure if i’d like to go back now.
Kovalam beaches 50 years ago were truly pristine… please view a few images from 1966!
Kovalam beaches 50 years ago… a time few foreigners remember today, let alone have photos to share, I opine… please see mine
I loved reading your post and am amazed that you remember so much from 1977! Kovalam was so different back then, but if you plan to visit again I am sure you would be surprised by the transformation. Its a highly sought-after place for tourists across the world now and may not be as serene as it was back then.
I would love to go back there to Kovalam and see the changes but i am afraid i might be disappointed since it has changed so much since i was there in the 70’s. I can still remember many details of my time in India very clearly. I think the main reason is that because we didnt have digital cameras then we had to use our eyes to take pictures and imprint them on our memory. Thankyou for reading Anupriya 🙂
wow! I wonder how much has changed since then.
Alot i think. Ive heard there has been lots of building. It was a nice quiet spot when i was there.
Hi Silver backpacker. Me and two of my friends went to Kovalam to celebrate the millenium new year. It was awesome! we call ourselves the Kovalam commandos .
Thats a great name Karan. Must have been fun there.Thats 15 years ago already. How time flies !!!! I hope to get back to Kovalam too one day soon.
As a Keralite, this was quite a lovely look back in time into my state’s tourism. Thanks for sharing these photos! 🙂
I wish i had more photos but back in those days it was all film and developing. No digital cameras with hundreds of images. I really want to visit there again to see how much it has changed.