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Published: August 15th 2005
I promised you an update exclusively on Diu, a lovely island that was foremerly a Portugese colony. And so I start of from Bhavanagar in Gujarat... Today was spent on a bus most of the time. I took a state bus out of Bhavanagar and towards Una en route to the island of Diu. I arrived to Una only to find out that the entire bus station parking lot was flooded in a few inches of water. The only save heaven from the water was the standing covered waiting hall, which was on a bit higher grond then the road. I waited and waited, carrying my heavy backpack as the floors were wet, until the bus arrived. There were 3 foreigners on the bus, a sight I haven't seen for a few days. Once in Diu, we sort of teamed up as it usually is the case. We grew to know each other over the course of the next few days. Jason, a photographer from England, is on an ambition 10+ year project to cover India in portraits; Brian (Irish) and his gf Sussana (Austrain). The cheap hotel in town had closed for the season so Sussana went out
hunting for one. We ended up staying in Hotel Uma Shakti for a mere 150 R per room with tv, weastern toilet, but Indian showers. Let me tell you abotu an Indian bathoom. They don't like showers, but do like modern plumbing. You get a bucket and a big cup. You fill up the bucket and then use the cup to pure water on yourself. It is amazing how one bucket is more then enough to wash yourself!!!
Anyway, after leaving my stuff and freshening up, I went for a stroll into town. Diu, a former portugese colony, still retains much of it's architectural sharm. The island, which in itself is about 20 km across, wastaken over by the Portugese in the 1530's and up until the 196o's it used to be a colony of Portugal. I guess that I do need to clarify that the term island is used loosly here. Diu is as much an island as South Padre Island (Texas, USA) is an island. In other words, you just need to cross a small bridge to reach the island! The Portugese brought about many changes in Diu. They introduced Cristianity into the region and even today
you can see churches and other rementants to that effect. For example, I was told that there are about 200 catholic families in Diu itself. Another of its legacies is its architecture, which is more Portugese then Indian. You can see it as you drive thru the aproaching countryside. You can also see some Portugese blood in the locals as some have a lighter brown skin, lighter brown/blond hair, and more. Some, specially the elders, even speak Portugese as well, but no longer as their 1st language. It's the combination of old Portugese and the new wave of India that makes it a special place an so I would discove in the next few days.
I met up with my new friends at the hotel bar/restaurant later that evening. They were chilling otu in the top floor terrace enjoying Diu's other unique aspect, the legal sale and consumption of alcohol. The nearest neighborhood is the state of Gujarat's, which is a dry (no alcohol serves) state. Diu on the other hand is an independent Union territory and as such is a heaven for alcohol drinkers that come from Gujarat just for a drink!
After a few beers last
night, someone came up with the idea of hiring some motorcycles to explore the whole island. I wasn't planning on it, but I said why not? So, the first course of action for today was to find where to rent one. As we searched aroudn town, we accidently bmped into Diu's market, where colodful women and men were selling veggies and fruits. It took us a few hours, but in the end we found a place renting them. They didn't have motorcycles so we had to settle on mopeds. They were dirt cheap at 80 R (R=Ruppes) per day. Gas would amount to an extra 85 R per day. So it was a great deal! Let me tell you, I don't know when I last drove a moped, but like a bike, once you learn it you will always remember how to ride one.
Driving thru town, we got to the sth Gate and took the coastal highway to Nagoa Beach, the best beach on the Island. It is certainly nice, but as it was Monsoon season the water was murky (muddy). That didn't stop the Indian nationals from swimming though. Let me tell you, Indiands have a different
way of spending the day on the beach. At home (as well as Europe and Australia), the less clothes you wear the better, but in India it seems to be the opposite - the more clothes you have the better. I saw guys swiming in their jeans and shirts. I a saw girls swiming in their saris, a traditional Indian dress. No wonder there are many drownings by the sea in India! We ate at this lovely restaurant overlooking the beach.
We continue driving along the coastal road until we reached the fishing village of Vanakbara. Durin the monsoon season, the fisherman bring their ships into port and actually move them into dry land for repair. We accidently stumbled into this scene where hundreds of massive wooden boats where docked in dry land for repairs. As we walked across them, we could see the repairs being made. Some where applying a fresh layer of paint and water prooving the bottom of the boats. Others, where busy patching or welding parts of the ship. These ships were wooden of course and so repairs were necessary. The roters alone where several meters in lenght.
We continued drivinng around the island
until we reached the Tad village, where we came across another bridge leading to the mainland. We corssed this smaller bridge and followed the coastal road that eventually connects with the main road leading to the bridge to the town of Diu in the island of Diu. This coatal road thru the mainland was fantastic. The scenery and people we met made us forget about the many bumps and water creeks we had to cross. Jason and I quickly stopped as we spotted two Eunochs. This ppl traditionally lack full use of their reproductive organs. Some, even have both male and female parts. Others, chop off their penus as they renounce their male identity. As such, these two Eunoches were wearing special Saris and long addorned hair. These class of ppl have lived in India for thousands of years and have played an important role on their past. For example, in the maharana palaces of Rajasthan, Eunochs were bestow the prestigious duty of guarding the entrance to the Zenana, the special place in the palace where all the kings wifes and concubines lived. Lacking the male organs, often castrated, it was hopped they would keep the male lurkers from entering
this secluded area of the palace. So much for tranvestis being a modern phenomena eh? We took pics of each of the two in portrait style. We then gave them some money for their troubles. They are used to it as they dance during festivals and weddings. They are even considered good luck to have a few of them dance on your wedding. The rest of the time they really on donations for their living expenses.
We continued driving until we came across a local market. This one was 100% traditional with tribal ppl coming together selling veggies, fruits, and sea food. The women here were all wearing colorful traditional saris, complex ornamental earings and wrist bands, as well as interesting tatoos. It was a sureal experience that reminded me to the traditional mkt in Guatemala, specially the one in Solala, a village near Lago Atitlan.
We returned back to Diu across the main road and bridge after a full day of driving. Later on, we met again and headed to the night market on foot. It is here wherre we met the Lassi king himself. A lassi is an indian drink made out of milk and yogurt.
It's really hard to explain unless you've had it for it doesn't quite have the flavor of yogurt or milkshake. It's definitly good to have any time of the day. It can be either be sweat or dry. It also can be combine with fruit, spices, or nuts. This guy, dressed in an 80's attire and dancing to the tune of Thriller. I kid you not, he has this way of making lassis while dancing and to the tune of 80's music or tacky Hindi songs. He was quite a character. We even took a video of him the following night!
After dinner, Sussana called it a night and so us guys headed to a local bar. Walking into this poorly lit alley, with the thick smell of urine in the air, we stumbled across this bar selling local alcohol as well as the national beer, "Kingfisher." The bar could have been cut out from a scene of old Cuba with the shady patrons drinking the cheap rum and having a chat. The wall proclaimed it to be a local hangout with "locally brewed alcohol." We ordered a round of beers to get the night started. Eventually, we ordered
a round of shots of the locally brewed moonshine for a whopping 3 Rupees each! I even had a conversation with a local in Portugese, which is quite similar to Spanish. He was quite a character: born in Mozambique, worked in las Islad Canarias for a while, and was now living in Diu.
Brian and Susanna felt a bit under the weather today so Jason and I took off on our own exploring new parts of the island. Our first stop took us to the salt pans on the north part of the island. We continued driving thru the north coastal road passing some incredible countryside with tons of locals and migrant workers cultivating the fields. We then ventured into a town where the sounds of drums and festivities permeated the air. It was a glorious festival and scene as we saw women in beautiful saris marching down the road. I said it was a wedding, but Jason cautioned me as it could also be a burrial ceremony. I was on the right track as we soon followed them to the wedding reception. It was here were the father of the groom welcomed us into his house and invited
us to be part of the afternoon activities. Indian weddings are a glorius feast taking well over a week at times. They are horses, elephants, and other fancy rides involved in the orchestrated festivities. The bride wears an elaborated sari with tons of jewelery on her face and body. The groom is not far behind doning an elaborate set of jewlery, sords, hats, and flowers. We didn't get to see the bride, but we were introduced to the groom, who allowed us to take a portrait of him in full gear.
The ppl of Diu are quite friendly. As we continued on our drive, we were stopped by a group of charismatic girls working the fields. They waved at us, using that downward way Indians wave their hands when they want you to approach them; and then asked us to stop for a chat. They looked like they could use a brake from their hard job so we obliged. We asked them if we could take photos and they happily obliged. You should have seen the way their eyes and faces sparked when I showed them their pics on my digital camara's LCD screen. It almost looked as though
they hadn't seen a pic of them in a while, if not ever!
We continued driving and headed into what I believe is the most beautiful corner of the island. We took this road that forms a big circly. Half of it passes thru gorgreous cultivating fields with marches on the background. We could see birds flying into and over them. At the far end of it, a couple of fisherman waved and pointed the way around a hill and back into a coastal unpaved road. We continued back into the paved road until we stopped at the interesection where we had just started the Circle drive. We were joined by a group of boys and girls. This particular girl was so cute and shy. You could see a bit of Portugese blood in her eyes and hair.
We decided to head back into the circle road and check it out again. This time, we took an unsealed road that branched off to the left towards the north. As we peacefully drove thru the countryside, we were stopped by these two ladies, who were washing clothes on a lake. They were yelling something at us. At first we
thought it was chocolate, but I just got an email from Jason the other day that what they were probably saying wasn't "chocolate," but "takla," which is the local word for bald and in their rudementary dialect and accent could easily be confuse with the former. We told them we didn't had chocolate as at that point we thought that is what they wanted. As they were wearing this intriguing saris, we asked them if we could take a picture of them. They said no and motioned across the lake where this man was standing. For no apparent reason, he became aggitated all of a sudden. He picked up two massive stones and began to walk over here. I quickly turned on my moped and yelled to Jason that it was time to get going. No sooner had I started driving that they guy began running towards me. You need to understand that the mopeds we were driving were not the fastest motorized vehicles out there. Out of the blue, the guy threw this massive stone the size of my head towards me. Luckily, it missed me as it narrowingly swerved past me behind my back. Jason avoided a stone
as well. God only knows what would have happened had any of the two stones hit either of our heads. It might have been enough to kill us! Luckily, we escaped unharmed. Jason was quite angry at this point so I had to cool him down and convince him to keep going. It's not worth storming up against this type of psychos as no one knows what they have statched in their clothes.. perhaps an ice pick or a knife, both of which could have done serious damage. Instead, we stopped on the next town over and asked a local for assistance. The psycho and the two women were long gone by the time we returned to the scene of the accident though. They had fled this nearby village that was inaccessible due to lack of roads.
As the evening approached, we drove to the other side of the island to sunset point. The sunset wasn't spectacular today, but we did get to see an Indian movie filmed by the rocky sunset point. It wasn't a Bollywood (Bombay film industry) production though. Instead, it was a low budget Gujarati film. The dancers were quite sexy and interesting to look
at. We met up with Brian and Sussana here.
After dark, we drove back into town, where we stopped at St Thomas Church. This old church is now a museum with an attached bath and hotel. The white church was beautifully lit and the atmosphere was great so we stayed for a few drinks. We ordered some fried chicken only to be declined as the last order of it had gone to the table next to us. We decided to settle for four orders of finger chips (fries), but in the end we only got one order 😊. Only in India I guess...lol!
As we were a bit hungry, we left the bar and headed to the night market. We had a filling dinner here again at a good stall. It was followed by a show from the lassi king. Quite a scene let me tell you! The lassis were actually good as well. Of course, his 80's due and dancing is what attracts the tourist of Diu, national and locals alike.
The following morning, we all visited the Diu Fort. Built by the Portugese, this eventually became one of their most important forts in all of
Asia. It was massive so it took us well over an hour to see it all. Up until the 1960's, the fort garisoned over 350 portugese soldiers. It is sorounded by sea in 3 sides and is protected on the toher by a ropck-cut canal. As added protection, it has two moats, one of which is tidal. We got to witness both low and high tides as we entered and exit the fortress respectfully so I can attest to its validity. It is dry on low tide and fills up on high tide. The highest point of the fort itself has lighthouse. On top of it lays an observation deck that offers a superb view. Add to it the other installations of the fort. You get to walk on top of the outer wall at times, which still has a beautiful decorated cannons on display. You also get to walk on the ground, past the remains of long ago abandoned bldgs.
After visiting the fort, Jason and I went for another spin on the mopeds. We followed the main bridge back to the mainland and then took the same mainland coastal road as the other day. Our first stop
was at a little town where tons of kids came to our side. They began flooding us with questions and hellos. We exited that scene and continued on our way. We met a smaller group of children down the road and took a few pics of them. Once more, their eyes lighted up with joy as I showed them the results on the LCD screen.
Then, we spotted a herd of camels about 100 meters off the road. We stopped and parked the bikes to explore the scene. As we approached them, we were welcomed by two herders. One was attending the herd, while the other was boiling some camel milk. It was very interesting to come across such nomadic herders.,. We were even offered a bit of cammel milk, which is quite creamy and tasty. We continued opn the road until we came across a goat herder and its herd. He was quite a character as well, posing in with his stick, as well as his pots and pans.
We drove back to Diu and headed to Nagoa beach for lunch back at the same scenic restaurant. Lunch was followed with a fresh cononut juice. We then
took off towards the other side of the island. We had passed a waterpark about 5 km from town yesturday and had been told it will be opened this afternon. So we headed over there to check it out. It was quite small with only 3 slides, one tiny excuse for a wave pool, and a kids corner. Funny thing though is that the place only seemed to have enough water to have one of the 3 sections running at a time. Therefore, we had to pace ourselved. It must have been something to see us having fun like kids. Jason is in his 30's and I'm in my 20's. Besides us two, there were about 10 other kids in the park. I even met one of the parents who spoke Portugese. She was born in Mozambique, raised in Portugal, and now was living in Diu.
I left on my own around 5:30 to catch mass at St. Paul, a catholic church in town. It was quite an experience. I got there early and where soon joined byh the local congregation. A pair of nuns started things off with a few prayers, a reading of a few passages from
the bible, and a few songs. After we all said 2 myseries. This was all orchestrated with the left side of the church saying a few verses and the right side saying different phrases. The echo of the massive bldg meant it had a fabulous acustics. It is also worth mentioning the old wooden carvings I noticed around the church and at the altar. I thought that would be it, but then a priest joined in and gave a full mass in English.
I met me friends up at St. Thomas Church Bar for a few drinks. We then moved the party to the hotel. At the end of the night, we stood at the terrace looking at the spectacle below. There was no parting going on, heck, no ppl period. Instead, one could see cows everywhere pleasently seated relaxing on the road. In India, cows rule the roads!
All good things come to an end, and so today was to be myh last day at this lovely island. I had a great time, but new adventures lay ahead of me. On this last day, I took for the roads to revisit some of my favorite spots and
explore other new ones I hadn't yet visited. I started things off by revisiting the scene were Jason and I got stoned (not with drugs, but with real rocks thrown on us) the other day. I entered the road via the hospital route from where we had exited the other day. One km or so brought me to the scene. The place look so calm and beautiful today, so much so that no one would have known what had occured a few days earlier.
The dirt gravel road ran into the lovely Circle Road, which I decided to take once more. As I was riding along the end of the loop, the fisherman who showed us the path the other day waved me to stop and come up the small hill. You could see the fishermen blood in them. This being the monsoon slow season and all, it meant they were passing their days fixing the nets and their equipment. I was there for a while until I bid them a farewell and continued on through the road. Eventually, I reached the interesection that started the loop and so decided to go at it again. I passed through the
lovely scenery of green fields with migrant workers working them. I was then stopped by a family who asked me to take a pic of them. And so I did. Afterwards, I showed them the results and to this day can still remember the proud looking eyes of the mother gacing at the photograph.
I met up with Jason at Nagoa Beach for lunch. The all to pleasing early afternoon that came to a halt when a poor drunken young man nearly drowned as the sea pulled him too far in with his full clothes on. Fortunately, he seemed to have recovered, but not thanks to CPR, which they should have done. He just seemed to come back alive by sure luck!
I bid Jason a farewell for now as I headed to the other side of the Island to visit the small town of Fudam. The church of town stands tall atop a hill giving the place an erie Portugese feel. Alas, the church seemed to have been abandoned years ago, deteriorating into the oblivioum as much of the old Portugese past on this island seem to be headed.
Me next stop was at the caves,
if you can call them that. They are actually massive sedimentary rock that have eroded into the earth to create massive natural rooms with holes that allow light to creep in. Alas, the heat of the day was catching up on me so I drove back into town. I proceeded to return the moped. Afterwards, I felt as if I had lost a limb. After all, my experience in the island of Diu would have been a totally different one had I been confined just to Diu town itself.
I spend the rest of the afternoon chatting with Sussana and Jason as I waited for my night bus. Then, Jason did me the favor of offering me a ride to the bus station. Oh what a funny scene that was with him driving and me clinging on to the back of the moped with my big rucksack behind and my daypack on my side! I bid him a final farewell as I took a night bus back top Ahmadabad, a large city that serves as a major crossroads into and out of the state of Gujarat.
Ah yes, I feel I have said enough on this update for
Baby crying upon seeing a white person
Some babies had never seen a white person before. This one started crying when we drove by his/her house.
now so will leave you right before I enter the magical state of Rajasthan, home of the Maharayas and the powerful Rajasthan armies. They have forever left their mark in history with their magestic forts, beautiful palaces, and intriguing Rajastani culture. More on that to come on the next update in a few weeks.
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