Portugese called it Ilaha de Cama, The Isle of Calm. And true to its name Diu is one laid-back calm town.
Ours was the only car that seemed to occupy the wide metalled road besides an odd motorbike or pick-up van here and there. There was no hustle-bustle otherwise a very common site on any given time and day in all Indian cities. Curious, I observed aloud in my mother tongue. The resort’s cab-driver who also doubled up as our city-guide, a Gujrati, happened to understand my Marathi lingo. He shared his pearls of wisdom with us…
“It is a ‘dada-dadi, nana-nani’ town!” (It is a grand-parents town)
“Because only parents and grandparents have houses here. Their children are all NRIs and visit once a year”
And truth is the cab driver might not have exaggerated even… Primarily a fishing town, it is the tenth least populated district in India with an area of only 40 square kilo meters. Had we not stopped at different places, the ride through the city would have been over within an hour or so.
All we wanted to do at Diu during the two-day stay there, was to indulge in leisurely walks down its un-crowded beaches letting our feet sink in the soft clean sand with Arabian sea kissing our feet now and then…
Yet we asked our local city-guide-cum-driver his opinion. He chalked out the itinerary for the next day. To my pleasant surprise, he told us about the adventure sports right there on the Nagoa beach just across our resort!
So of course without wasting much time we headed straight for para-sailing over the sea the same day!
Local knowledge is always practical so the next day heeding our driver’s advice we went along with the itinerary he chalked out for us. And honestly two days are more than enough in Diu…
So here is Ilaha de Cama dentro dois dia or what to do in Diu in two days…..
Visit the most important Portuguese fort in Asia if history and old buildings excite you.
This formidable and imposing structure was built in 1535 and is surrounded by sea on three sides and protected by a moat connected to sea on side of the approach gate. Besides the Governor’s palace, barracks for garrison, churches and state offices, the fort also had a small prison.
The guide at the fort told us that even today the prisoners are kept in the fort prison and that part of fort was not for tourists. I wonder what stories must be caged within those stone walls….
The larger prison by Portuguese, Fortim-do-Mar also known as ‘Panikotha’, is in the middle of the sea. It has a church and a light house. The Panikotha was closed to visitors as it is being developed as either a restaurant or museum.
Panikotha or Fortim-do-Mar from the moat side of the fort
Due to some weird orders, the guides are not allowed with the visitor inside the main area of the fort where they are most needed. Since we were on our own, the various rooms and their purpose was as good as a guessing game for us. Roaming within the stone structure we could identify two churches, a bastion, a lighthouse and a room where some old armoured guns (and I was guessing they belonged to the second world war times) were kept rusting in the sea breeze.
With no one to give an account of history, we spent time in taking pictures of whatever suited our fancy.
An abandoned and forgotten chapel with weeds and a padlocked gate
St. Tigo’s Church or is it St. Iago…
Armoured guns lying in a state of neglect
Brick vaulted passage
Royal insignia on fort wall
Canon to protect fort from sea-side
The Union Territory came under the possession of Indian government only in 1961. For fourteen years even after India became a Sovereign Republic, Diu was still occupied by Portuguese Empire. In December of 1961, Indian defence forces launched Operation Vijay and took hold of the territory finally.
The fort lies today in need of much attention or it will be reduced to a pile of stone soon taking down with it a slice of Indian history.
Earlier on way to the Portuguese fort we had stopped for few minutes at Shell Museum which has quite large personal collection of shells by a Mr. Fabario an ex-captain in Merchant Navy and is worth a look.
St Paul’s Church:
An hour was more than enough at the ruins of Portuguese fort with information and stories restricted to a stone plaque. Our cab driver suggested the St Paul’s church next. And off we went to visit yet another much-in-need-of-overhauling relic.
A man sat selling candles just outside the church. We bought five candles among the three of us to light at the altar.
Named after St Paul, the apostle of Jesus and dedicated to Lady of Immaculate Conception, this church designed in Baroque style of architecture is one of the oldest church in India. The church must have been a beauty once upon a time….and it still held its head high from outside with its beautifully carved decorations in white stucco. The inside story is however very different.
Once inside I felt sad to see the condition of the church. The statue of St Mary at the altar and other intricate decorations which are all of Burmese teak have lost their shine and the paint of blue-white barrel-vaulted nave and the white walls was peeling with large patches of seepage. There was hardly anybody praying in the church. The general neglect by locals appalled me no end….
St Paul’s Church
Slightly miffed we headed towards the Gangeshwar Temple. With a poetic reverence, somebody had told me that the sea waves reach out to Lord Shiva here everyday. Intrigued, I made it a point to visit this temple.
This is one of the interesting things to do in Diu….. be it for sake of devotion to pray at this sea-side temple or just to see the crashing waves rushing in and small crabs scrambling away to hide in rock cracks.
The temple is much revered and the five shiv-lingas are said to have been installed by the Pandavas. If that is really the case, I wonder how the idea of making lingas in the small rock cave would have originated in mind of the Pandavas? The lingas are approached by a flight of stairs going down towards the sea.
When we reached the temple, it seemed somebody had already done an elaborate prayer because all the lingas were covered with flowers and milk. We waited not only for the devotees to finish with their prayers but also the huge wave which was supposed to wash the lingas.
After some five to six big waves which crashed on the rocks but failed to reach the shiv-lingas, we were rewarded by Lord Shiva and the sea swelled up in a huge wave which rushed past the rocks crashing noisily with great force and the sea water washed over the shiv-lingas wetting our clothes in the process.
Sea waves reach the Shiv lingas during high tide
It was almost noon by the time we left the temple and went for a quick view of INS Khukri memorial and another church. Both were disappointing but may be it was the wrong hour of the day. We soon left for Naida Caves before lunch.
Another enjoyable site, these visually delightful caves have resulted from the rock mining which was discontinued later to keep these caves. It is more like open to air maze. The trees and plants growing through the caves give it a mysterious look. Sunlight filtering through various gaps creates wonderful images of light and shadows on cave walls.
Sunlight filtering in through many gaps in the roof of caves
Caves have trees growing inside them
As we roamed around the caves, we lost our way. Taking the roughly cut stairway on the cave wall, we finally scrambled to the top of the caves. Trekking along the top we had to be careful of small and big gaps on the surface which opened directly on the bottom of the caves.
With the Portuguese practice of afternoon siesta still very popular among the locals, our cab driver, with approaching lunch time had become quite restless and impatient. He was quite surprised to see us finally trekking down the top of the caves!
With only beaches left to be enjoyed on the itinerary, we decided on having an authentic Portuguese cuisine and headed towards O’Coquerio Restaurant. But since we had not pre-ordered, we did not get any food there. Instead we opted for very satisfying pure vegetarian food at Cat’s Eye Restaurant of Hoka Resort.
We relieved the cab-driver cum city-guide from his duty and decided to enjoy the beaches at our own pace and time….after all beaches are for leisure walk and fun in sea, not some spot to be ticked off on the to-do list.
Since we had already indulged in para-sailing, the earlier evening, as soon as the guide informed us about the adventure sports at Nagoa beach, we settled for a lazy walk along the sandy and at places rocky shore-line fringed by Hoka palm trees that were brought by Portugese.
While my daughter busied herself with a sandcastle I strolled down farther and suddenly found myself tele-ported to moon surface!!
Ha! Just Kidding…but the rocky surface near the sea looked so out-worldly….Really..I had walked quite far and the sandy part of the shore was left much behind. I sat down to wait for my daughter and husband to catch up on those craggy rocks. A whole colony of tiny shells, the size of a pin-head lined the crevices, waiting for high tide to sweep them back in the ocean.
See….I am tele-ported on the moon
By the time we finished with our exploration of moon surface by the sea, it had started swelling and protesting with huge waves crashing noisily…eerily….. May be it was the time for night owls and the sea was warning us to return in the safety of our resort… We decided not to tempt the natural forces to turn hostile and walked back through the sea-side park…
Sea roaring away at late evening
Our two days ended. We were happy to Do Diu like Diuans Do… relax, laze around and have a chilled beer!!
- Afonso de Albuquerque, second Portuguese governor introduced Alphonso(Hapus) mango in India and has the origin of its name after the governor.
- Hindi word ‘Balti’ for bucket finds its roots in Portuguese word ‘Baldi’ for bucket
Diu, an island, is connected by bridge road to Gujrat and has no railway access. The small airport has a single flight from Mumbai everyday.
Within the town, auto-rickshaws, two-wheelers are common or the resort arranges for pick-up and sight-seeing.
Some good resorts are lined along the beach. Kostamar resort, Radhika resort, Hoka Island resort are some of the good ones. We stayed in Kostamar Beach resort right next to Nagoa beach and utilised the evening hours to the fullest because of its proximity to sea.
Roof top restaurant at Kostamar is known for its sea-food. O’ Coquiero serves authentic Portugese food but needs a pre-order with minimum order for six people. We loved the Cat’s eye Restaurant at Hoka Island resort with its earthy home style cooking of vegetarian food.
Adventure sports and the fun at beach at http://streettrotter.com/2015/11/14/para-sailing-in-diu-a-travellovestory/