It was the first day of the new year, and we woke up to a beautiful fog hovering over the ocean. There was a little bit of a fog in Jamnagar as well, but this was far heavier. We took a pre breakfast stroll and were surprised to see a swim club in action. I really admire those young girls swimming in the icy cold ocean through the mist.
There is no traditional Gujrati breakfast as such, on the road you will get fried snacks – like methi pakora, dhal vada, fafda and jalebi with tea from whenever the shops open till about 11:00 am, after that the flame will be switched off, the oil cooled and they will flat out refuse to make any for you. Most of the hotels we are staying in offer breakfast as part of the deal, but we generally get toast and eggs (sometimes it is just toast, many places in Gujarat won’t serve eggs, Porbandhar included) or Punjabi Aloo Paratha or Maharashtrian Poha and sometimes idlis and dosas !! This has been most unsatisfactory for me, the parsi akkuri at the Bhuj house is the one exceptional stand out breakfast we have had so far (refer previous post).
So after another average breakfast at Lords, we set off towards the union territory of Diu, further south on the Arabian Coast.
We had been in Gujarat for 12 days now and were counting the minutes and kilometres till a well deserved afternoon beer. The road from Porbandhar to Diu hugs the coast and is very scenic. We saw some windmills on the way, but like all the windmills from Mandvi to here, they weren’t working, they stood like sleepy giants waiting for something.
60 KM from Porbandhar, we passed a small beach called Madhavpur,the road here is right by the ocean and we couldn’t but help take buttercup in. The sea was a welcoming blue and the sand was sparkling. From the very beginning of the trip we were hoping to nesting sea turtles on the western coast as December to March is the season. We saw our first turtle on this beach, but unfortunately she was dead. It looked like she had got caught in a fishing net and had been thrown back into the sea. Sea turtles come close to land only during their mating season and only the females come to land to lay eggs. So during this time trawler nets can catch many many turtles in one go as the courting males gather around the receptive females trying their luck. The unrecorded record is 200 in one net, and that is one of the reasons why they are endangered. Needless to say it is very important to eat sustainably sourced sea food during this season.
From Madhavpur we drove through tree lined state highways, till we got close to Somnath when we had to join an unshaded 8 lane highway for a while. Somnath is an important religious centre, and the highway is dotted with restaurants offering you everything from the Guuju Thali, to 18 types of dosas and pure veg – Chinese food, but nothing could sway us, beer was calling. Soon you turn left to Diu, and the road once again becomes narrower and shady, and you cross a bridge to the island.
Diu was a portugese colony and became a part of India only in 1961, and Portugal still offers the people of Diu and option of citizenship, and we have England doing a Brexit!!. The anglo – portugese live near the town of Diu, around the St. Pauls Church. There are small fishing villages on the other end and most of the resorts are around the popular crescent shaped Nagoa Beach.
Diu is a popular weekend getaway for the Gujjus, and both families and groups of boys will throng the beach and bars and it is best visited during the week. The last time the Other and I were here back in 2011, we stayed in a old portugese villa in Diu Town, (its closed now) and witnessed several amazing phenomena, including 8 boys tumble out of car, run to the nearest shop buy one bottle of beer and excitedly lock themselves up in one room of the villa. Yes that’s right – 8 boys, 1 beer and 1 room, it was a wild party.
Talking about our previous trip we spent the weekend drinking and sunning ourselves on the beach and then it was time to go. We had train tickets from Veravel 90 KM away to Ahmedabad, where I lived at that time at 7:45 PM. The bus ride to Diu from Veravel took us around 3 hours while coming, so we planned to leave around 3:30 to reach the station in time. We decided to be even more smart about it and buy our bus tickets in the morning. So we sauntered their after a lazy breakfast, and the guys at the bus stand informed us that we could buy tickets on the go ant that there was a bus at twelve o clock ,one o clock and two o clock. We assumed that it meant there were buses every hour and parked ourselves at a near by restaurant and proceeded to have our last beer before entering dry Ahmedabad.
As gujarati tourists are their main bread and butter, many restaurants in Diu offer the Gujju Thali and we just realised that beer and thali was actually a deadly combination and were looking forward to a nice nap on the bus.
A big gujju family occupied the two tables next to us, dividing themselves according to the sexes. The table of around 6 women were closer to us, and the aunties and young women were giggling uncontrollably and then ordered 1 beer. They were very thrilled about it and shot defiant looks at the table of men every now and then. When the beer arrived, they asked for empty plates. Curious the other and I stopped all conversation and turned our full attention on them. Then the plates arrived, and the aunties dug into thier massive hand bags and pulled out packets of peanuts and other snacks and proceeded to serve it on the plates. We were astounded, but the hotel staff seemed to be ok with it, they infact seemed to be used to it. They also ordered the thali, but supplemented it with theplas and condiments from their bags. These were passed between the tables too. WoW!!, I cannot say this enough – but Gujrat and gujratis are really one of a kind.
Completely satiated we dragged ourselves to the bus stop and to our utter dismay we were told that the last bus was at 2 and had left an hour ago. Crap !! We were told we would get buses from Una to Veravel and we should take a chakda there. These are brightly painted fish carts attached to diesel bullets. I was telling the Other that if buttercup got stolen in Diu, we would find her in a chakda a couple of years later, but he astutely pointed out that they use only diesel bullets which royal enfield has stopped making. We got in along with 20 other people and chugged along slowly towards Una. The chakda is beautiful and an interesting way to travel, you should try it when in Diu, but the one thing it is not is fast. We reached Una with exactly three hours to spare to the train. We couldn’t find any buses but helpful villagers asked us to try taking a luxury. Luxury !! then name sounded so helpful, I was sure we would make it in time for the train. We walked to the market place and asked around for a luxury, we were pointed to a bunch of metal held together by four wheels, it was an old school van in it’s fourth recycle. We squeezed in along with far more people than could fit into the luxury, along with a few chickens and a goat or two. When the conductor cum driver came around for tickets, I told him we had a train to catch at 7:45 PM and really needed to get to Veravel on time, he assured us we would miss the train for sure with an evil smile proceeded to ask people to keep their children on their laps so he could fit in more people in the van.
There was one young woman with her two children in the seat in front of us whom we nicknamed tigress. She refused to keep her children on her lap as she had paid for their tickets and glared at the burly driver twice her size till he cowed.
The luxury crawled along at a snails pace stopping at every village and hamlet for painfully long stops, when the driver would open the door, let people and livestock out and then rearrange the new people in the precariously overcrowded space. He was careful not to step on the tigress’ toes again though.
At one point the driver decided he wanted to make a phone call. But he didn’t own a phone, so he stopped the van and asked around for one till a good Samaritan gave him one. He then started punching numbers while reciting them loudly and got it wrong a couple of times to everyone’s mirth. The tigress laughed the loudest and heckled him, but he persisted… nainee.. seven.. two and then finally connected to someone. I guess he didn’t know who he was dialling, maybe he just wanted to use a phone.. he started yelling Kaun ?? ( who ?? ) repeatedly on the phone… finally the tigress had enough and she said in a crisp clear voice – tera baap ! ( your father !). The whole bus burst out laughing and that did the trick, the driver gave up and finally started thhe luxury. This had cost us an additional 15 minutes.
The closer we got to 7: 45, the chances of us making it to the train seemed even more remote. I had run to the driver and pleaded with him to go faster several times already and was now almost in tears. The rest of luxury had been following our conversations and were rooting for us to catch the train. Everyone urged him to go faster, and with 10 minutes to spare he pulled up near some railway tracks, he asked us to run along them and said we would reach the platform directly. As the entire van cheered we ran to the station and to the train.
We got into the train and I was crying in happiness but the Other whodidn’t have to work the next day said he was reluctant to leave the luxury and his new found friends…
This boy sometimes…..
So back to the present.
This time around we were staying at a resort on nagoa beach, the hoka island villa. The portugese brought slaves and a many headed palm tree called hoka from Northern Africa during their rule of the island. The hoka tree is found all over the island, and the descendants of the slaves, called Siddis and are said to have distinctly African features and live in settlements on the mainland.
Like the many headed palm tree, the villa has a labyrinth of rooms, a veranda restaurant and tiny little pool. They have no room service, and serve RO water in tiny glasses so you don’t waste it nd have just recently added TVs to all the rooms. ! The rooms themselves are small, airconditioned and functional but the star of the place is the food. It is very rare that a sea food restaurant serves good vegetarian fare, but it is to die for – do try their dahi baingan ( brinjals in yogurt) and the hoka vegetable curry which is coconut milk based. The staff are great too, and I would give this place a 4 out of 5.
We reached just in time for lunch, settled in and were soon sipping ice cold beers. The owner of the place, Adithya who lives in Delhi so happened to be in the resort at the same time. He is a fellow biker had seen buttercup and came up and spoke to us, and we discovered many things in common including our common distaste of the wasteful egg – white fad and the fact that all three of us were from K.F.I schools albeit different ones.
He asked us to avoid Nagoa beach and head further west to Gomatimata beach for a sunset swim and that is what we did. There were a lot of guys drinking in groups on/ by the beach so we didn’t linger, but the beach is so deserted it would have been perfect for a group of us, a beach blanket, a bonfire… Sometimes travelling alone, just the two of us has its limitations.
A great sunset later we were back at Hoka for our evening drink and dinner. The temperature suddenly dropped and it was quite chilly. They had a bonfire burning and we made ourselves comfortable around it. We were soon joined by a couple from Udaipur. They have been coming to Hoka regularly for the last 9 years or so and had over the years built a great friendship with Aditya, who also joined us in a bit along with another guest at the restaurant -a young doctor, a single woman struggling in Diu. I really admire her, I don’t know if I could survive in a place that small ( minded not size) and manage with hardly any friends. She has been there for 18 months now but said she was ready to move on. I think she was glad to have a bunch of people to talk to…
Good conversation, a glass of rum and a warm fire and I thought things couldn’t get any better when the Udaipur couple’s son joined us with his guitar. Soon he was strumming and we were all singing along, the times have changed but the songs haven’t. Three generations – Aditya and the couple, us and the young doctor and boy were singing along to The Beatles and Floyd. The newest song was perhaps yellow by coldplay. This is what I call timeless music. Back in college, many of my friends were in bands, and we would often drink and sing songs all night and 16 years later, it was different people, different city but the same songs. It was a great first day of the year.
At 2:00 AM the day’s riding caught up with us and the Other and I excused ourselves to go crash but they guitar continued strumming.
We spent the next day splashing about in the pool, the ice cold water was super refreshing and then borrowed Aditya’s cycles to test out the cycle track laid partially around the island. A great effort by an urban designer I know from Ahmedabad but the municipality has no idea how to use it or promote it, there are no cycles for rent for starters and if not for aditya’s generosity we would have not experienced it at all. It could be a great tourist attraction if only the municipality completes it, uses it to connect tourist attractions, creates a trail and promotes it, sadly we were the only ones using it that day.
We got back in time to catch the sunset from the cliffs behind Nagoa beach. Despite the beach being crowded, the cliffs around the corner are serene and peaceful. All of you must be tired of my sunset descriptions, but the west coast keeps giving us one brilliant sunset after the other and I am not going to stop till we get to Kanyakumari.
We headed back to Hoka for another night of music around the fire.
The nicest thing about Hoka is the fact that you make friends, and it is a place where people meet and that was a definite highlight for us.
I shall leave you once again with a list of things to do in Diu and hope you can cycle around too if and when you guys visit, my suggestion is to go as a gang of friends to be able to make the best of deserted beaches.
- Wander around the Diu fort built by the portugese. You get great views from the top and we actually saw sea turtle mate the last time we were here
- Wander around the portugese quarter, visit St.Paul’s church and try a locally made cola with a hint of jeera available at the stores in this part of the town. There is also an old ice cream parlour on the main road, with homemade ice cream that is worth trying
- Visit the watery graves of the fisherman lost at sea near Gomtimata Beach
- Walk around the naida caves – this is again not a couple activity, you need to be in a group
- Go to Vanakbara fish market and gape at the gigantic banyan tree at Nagoa
- Drive by the colourful nagarseth Haveli
- And most importantly explore all the beaches, Nagoa is crowded, has a lot of water sports, but there are several other serene ones as well as cliffs for views. My suggestion would be to avoid wearing a swimsuit in Nagoa and wear it in the other beaches only if you are in a gang.
- There is also a a sunset point with a navy boat – INS Khukherey , which is worth a visit.
- If you really have a lot of time, there is sea shell museum near Nagoa, which can be missed, but is sort of a good way to pass time on a hot afternoon