DREAMING IN DIU

img_6189And again, for something completely different… Hearing conflicting reports, we decided to pay a visit to Diu, a tiny coastal island, formerly a Portuguese colony and held by Portugal as a protectorate until 1961 when India lobbed a shell at them and they belatedly joined India. It still has special status however, like Daman further down the coast, and the much better known Goa.

This special status allows it to be a tiny “wet” area in the midst of the very “dry” state of Gujarat. Therefore we had heard it to be full of drunken Gujaratis on weekends, roaming the beach at Nagoa and generally making nuisances of themselves. An unfortunate side effect of prohibition, I guess. However the lure of fresh sea food, cold beer, and a holiday from the “pure veg” breakfast regime was too much to resist so we made our visit during the week.

IMG_6270.JPGOf the many notable and extremely pleasant things about Diu, the first to strike us was the cleanliness of the streets. They have instituted a ban on plastic bags and have encouraged restaurants and hotels to put in water purification plants to stem the flood of plastic bottles. That plus putting up garbage bins in public spaces and discouraging litter has had an astonishing effect on the place.

IMG_6280.JPGSecond the food is so good, especially after 5 weeks of the Indian diet, a good deal of that time in pure veg places. Pure veg doesn’t just mean no meat, it means no eggs or dairy either. Breakfast is particularly brutal for those who can barely cope with the level of spice in lunch and dinner. And did I mention the cold beer? Any kind of alcohol actually, though your correspondents stuck to the beer.

We stayed at a cute guesthouse out of the town itself beside Nagoa Beach. As Indian beaches go, Nagoa is pretty clean, but not really what foreign tourists have in mind when visualizing a beach. However very good for walking, people watching, and relaxing which we appreciated after 5 weeks of travel.

IMG_6264.JPGIt was easy for us to take a tuk tuk from the guesthouse each morning for a ramble in the charming streets of the town. There are a couple of lovely old churches, one called St Paul’s, reputed to have the best church facade in India, though spare and minimalist inside with an all white interior embellished with shell designs at the roof. Very peaceful and much in use.

IMG_6240.JPGThe fort is very old, dating from the mid 1500’s and fun to ramble over. The views over the ocean with fishing boats and bigger wooden boats plying the water are lovely. Lots of Indian tourists, and as usual, no foreign ones. We are having to harden our hearts to the cries of: “Selfie, selfie eck (one) eck” especially with school groups as it soon becomes a mob scene.

Strolling through the usual market at the quayside as always provided endless fodder for the photographer. Some good examples of the body tattoos that women sport were recorded along with the vibrant hues of the produce. An interesting melange of fish boats tied up at the quay which we enjoyed watching from an overhanging restaurant we lunched at.

IMG_6260.JPGWe loved the streets, relatively quiet for India, though one still has to be constantly vigilant to the wildly careering scooters and motorbikes. The architecture was really attractive, sort of Portuguese influenced haveli style with ornately carved verandahs. One, where the family still lives upstairs and runs a business downstairs, has been gorgeously restored. How I wished for a tour! IMG_6302.JPGThe others range from partly restored, to decaying, to decrepit but are charming nevertheless. We loved our daily ramble through the backstreets. It was so nice to be surrounded by ocean, we always seemed to turn a corner and see the sea waiting for us.

IMG_6352.JPGOne day we took a tuk tuk in the opposite direction to a small fishing village at the other tip of the island. Huge fishing boats were pulled up on the quay for repairs and refurbishment, quite the sight to see a crane hoist one up, while a gaggle of young men steadied its dangling passage to a spot where more young men were hastily piling random bits of wood to hold it steady for the work to take place. It appeared to be the most perilous of operations, and the ship balanced on piles of scrap lumber to be so prone to topple, but this is India, they’ve done this before, and most people have survived…

IMG_6399.JPGSkipping through the piles of fish detritus — had to wash our Tevas again after this outing — we wandered through the twisting web of tiny streets, blissfully too narrow for vehicles, enjoying tiny views of the lives of these villagers who, as usual, were fascinated by our novel appearance and eager to be friendly, their only English phrases being: “What is your good name?” And “From what country are you?”

The happy crew of young men running our guesthouse grew to love us, as always happens when you stay 5 nights, and we loved their food. We felt relaxed and ready for the last leg of Gujarat when we sadly waved them good bye. Next stop, Bhavnagar where we are going mainly to climb 3300 steps to the massive Jain temple complex at the top. I have been in training for this ever since we left home, with my trusty cane in hand I am going to give it my best effort!

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