Diu is a little island off the south coast of Gujarat that was under Portuguese control until some point (I'm vague on any actual sort of date or time frame....I'm no history buff). The general architecture is a weird mix of Indian construction with the loud colours that you see in a lot of Portuguese culture, made even more obvious when you see the grey pure concrete buildings being constructed next to the ADHD coloured buildings. Connected to the mainland by a bridge the whole island is pretty tiny at 14km in length. Apparently it's a big holiday destination in the high season but this is MONSOON so it randomly rained like rain is going out of fashion and everything was a fraction of the price (our hotel was 500 rupees a night instead of 1500).
Highway to HELL
Allow me, if you will, to take you on a literary journey. Close your eyes and imagine the worst smell you can think of, throw in a heavy over tone of body odour, if this makes you gag/throw up in your mouth a little then you're on the right track. Now infuse that very smell into a cold, ever so slightly, damp mattress and put a blanket over the top. The blanket is dry but has the same smell and is covered in bits of general muck that stick to you the minute you touch it along with it's fluff. Now take a 10 hour night bus on that very mattress and blanket and try very hard not to think or talk about your situation. It will make you sick.
This was our bus journey from Ahmedabad to Diu. We covered ourselves in our sleeping bag liners. It was terrible. I'm still trying to repress the memory.
La Dolce Vita Music Garden
The first night in Diu we went for something budget-as-hell that the book said was cheap but okish. We were craving a shower/bleach after the bus so didn't look too closely when showed the room and ended up in Jay Shankar. While perusing the balcony [read: bored] I noticed a little restaurant over the road call La Dolce Vita Music Garden. It looked nice enough as being the lazy person I am I made sure we ate their first rather than trying to find somewhere else. Best decision of the trip.
La Dolce Vita is a collection of tables under a thatched reed roof attached to the owners' house. They have a fairly large selection of dishes on the menu that they cook in their own kitchen and were always happy to see us - probably because we were their only customers 99% of the time. They even helped us to learn a lot of the dish names, which became invaluable in other restaurants as up until that point I'd mostly picked dishes based on either randomly pointing at one or whichever had the coolest name. This had mixed results... I found a dish there, that was much like the first one I had in Delhi, called Aloo Gobi which means Potato Cauliflower. It didn't have much sauce but tasted great and mixed with one of their mammoth portions of rice formed more of a feast than a single meal. Nom nom nom!
My favourite part of La Dolce Vita is how the dishes always vary from day to day. This can be seen more explicitly in the lassis (like a milkshake but with yoghurt) and milkshakes that were practically a different drink every time we had one and just adds to the homely vibe of the place.
Fort Boyard and Fort Bill
In various places around Diu I've seen pictures of the sea fort in the main port bay. I promptly named it Fort Bouyard in my head and would strongly recommend the Diu authorities follow suit. You can't visit the actual fort so the only way to see it is to take a fishing boat around the outside and since the weather took a turn for the worse it got sacked off. Of course there are totally tigers in there for people who don't make it out of the cage fast enough, this I am sure of.
We did go and see the main fort regardless of the rain. It's one bad ass fort! Built into the bedrock of the peninsula, surrounded on three sides by sea and a double moat on the final side it seems pretty impenetrable. Somehow the Portuguese were ousted by the Indian army though. Fail. The two moats are backed by walls with with three bastions on the outer wall and four on the inner, each bastion packed to bursting with cannons...how the Portuguese lost is beyond me. L for love! The fort is still in use as the local prison and for some government offices since these existed back when it was built so it does make sense, but it does mean some parts are off limits which is a shame.
The first spectacle as you enter the fort proper is St George's Bastion which, apart from being named the best, overlooks the landing pier ready to bombard any marauding pirates. We saw another random bastion after this, St Luzia I think, which was more of the same, an armoury which seemed to have some rather more modern (post WWI) artillery pieces and a chapel before we got historied out (ADHD much?) and left.
We saw some restorative work had been done to walls here and there and some workmen were fixing up a wall but it's nothing like you'd see in England at say an English Heritage or National Trust site. The new brick work seems far less long lasting than the 500 year old stuff they are removing, which is a shame. There's a general feel of disrepair about the place which isn't helped by the large patches (old buildings that have since fallen down possibly) of overgrowth. Had English Heritage got their hands on it we could have at least had an overpriced coffee at the end.
Overall the fort can be summed up as RAD^Sick especially if you're into history but I'd forgotten most of the broken english translation of it's history by the first bastion. The slippery steep slope (stairs anyone?) up to each bastion was enough to pique my Fear of Heights into rearing it's ugly head. Flip flops were a bad choice.
I couldn't help but think that had the place been done up it would have been amazing for paintballing or airsofting on an epic scale. Pirates attack the fort anyone?!
Towards the end of our Diu tour we were, once again, visiting our favourite restaurant when the second group of people we'd ever seen there appeared. Six shifty looking indian fellas came in and perused the menu before sitting down. I didn't pay them much attention after the initial shock at seeing someone other than the owners in my restaurant. After we'd finished yet another scrumptious gut busting meal I popped out my iPhone to look up a route from the restaurant to the local fort when one of the shifty gentlemen appeared at my shoulder giving me a pretty good fright. This put me on edge a bit until I later found out they had all been watching us the whole time and seemed especially interested in our wallets when it came time to pay up. Worse still the wife had stayed inside and when one of them approached us to ask for, what we thought, was a photo of the group the husband had told Poppy to sit down almost the moment she stood up. I found most of this out as we were walking away and immediately felt uneasy, promptly topped off by one of the guys coming out of the restaurant to watch us walk down the road. He was still there when we went round the corner a few hundred metres away. With paranoia rising we walked back to the hotel at almost running pace and promptly hid in the room for the next few hours, leaving the fort for another day.
Looking back on the experience the group were probably not muggers/the mafia and simply really leery guys which would explain the wife staying inside and the husband barely talking to us after they arrived (he was too busy keeping an eye on them). The worst part of the whole thing is we'd both become very comfortable in Diu, with Poppy venturing out unaccompanied occasionally and me using various tech in public but we were a little on edge afterwards and it took us a couple of days to get comfortable again.
A very early start (5.30am) saw us on the 7am (sorry 7.30am...) bus to Veraval which needed to be jump started and whose horn got stuck on after mass overuse so the driver had to disconnect it. Sitting down the front of the bus meant we got to ignore almost all the usual stares (the door was in the middle) - a nice change. Once in Veraval we went looking for the bus we'd been assured we could get to Visavadar, which turned out to actually be a bus to Junagh and then get a connection from there, an extra 96km. It's only 120km from Diu to Visavadar.
A hilariously roundabout negotiation for a rickshaw got us to the train station for 10 rupees saving us the trip in the pouring rain. We just about managed to purchase a ticket to Visavadar on a train that was leaving 3 hours later and headed for our platform. The bridge was really high and floored with tiles that were slick with rain, so so utterly dim cool with a giant bag and flip flops on. Even after being up close to 9 or 10 hours I still loved being on the train. Over half the stops had no visible buildings but people would be waiting around, sometimes to sell you things when you got off for a break or because it was a 'station'. At one stop there were monkeys outside, so being the ultimate tourist I leap from the train, camera in hand, and tried to get as close as possible to get a good picture. These monkeys were enjoying the food they were being given but apparently the white man getting closer than 3 feet is a faux pas....I got hissed and had teeth bared at me. It was rad. I could have totally taken that monkey....