Gujarat: a good choice!
Diu (India) to Jamnagar (India), Nov-02-07 / Nov-18-07
The last few weeks were great. For the most part we stayed on the island of Diu. This small island has a different status in India, due to its colonial past. In 1961 Diu became part of India, after Portugal renounced its colonial claims. Diu is a great place to relax for a couple of weeks. This is the right place to recharge your battery after a few months of travelling in India.

At first we only wanted to stay for five days on Diu, but also because of the Diwali Festival (9 november 2007) we stayed for almost two weeks. The main holiday season of the Indians is around this annual, nation wide festival. Already one week before Diwali it is difficult to get a ticket on busses or trains because all Indians are hitting the road. Moreover, in the touristy places it is difficult to get a hotel room for a reasonable price. That’s also the case in Diu. Prices for rooms that normally cost 400 Rupees (Euro 7.50) go up to an amounr of 2,000 Rupees (Euro 37.50) around Diwali. Hotel owners get dollar signs in their eyes during the festival season and try to gain maximum profit out of these few weeks. We spoke to some travellers who already stayed a few days in a hotel before the Diwali festival and who were forced to leave their room before Diwali. Obviously, they were allowed to stay if they were willing to pay 2,000 Rupees per night. Understandably, those travellers were “not amused” that they had to leave Diu because there were no reasonable priced rooms available anymore during these days. Luckily, we did not have this problem because we agreed on a fixed price rate that was also valid during the Diwali Holidays.

Group of kids in the fishing village of Simbor, close to Diu
In the week before Diwali, we also visited Sasan Gir National Park. This national park is the only place on earth left where you can see the Asiatic Lion in their natural environment. From Diu, it is only a three hour drive by bus to reach Sasan Gir. We stayed overnight in Sasan Gir to have the opportunity to do several safaris to enlarge the chance of seeing a lion. During these days we kept our hotel room in Diu to be sure to have adequate accommodation during the Diwali days. Sasan Gir is a nice national park, but unfortunately we did not see the lions. We had quit some bad luck during these days. We arrived on a Monday in Sasan and we arranged a safari for the same afternoon. To visit the park, you have to hire a jeep which can carry six passengers (additional to the driver and the obligatory guide). We could find three other passengers, so we could share the price of the jeep with five persons. Within an hour after driving into the park, it started raining enormously. It was not just a little shower, but it really rained cats and dogs. The rain was accompanied by heavy lightning and the unpaved roads transformed into swirling rivers. We found some shelter for half an hour, but after that time the driver decided that we had to drive back. If we would wait any longer, this could mean that the roads would not be passable anymore. Being stuck in the park was not an attractive option, so finally we agreed to go back. We drove back in the open jeep, while the heavy rains and fierce lightning continued. Soaking wet we arrived Sasan. Because we left most of our luggage in Diu, we did not have any spare cloths. Luckily we were able to dry our cloths overnight by making maximum use of the fan in our room.

On the next morning, we decided to give it another try to see the lions. The sky was clear again, so we were hopeful that it would work out fine this time. Again, we booked a jeep but now we booked a morning safari that would start at 6:30 am. Just after we got up at 5:45 am, the earth started shaking. It lasted for a few seconds and after we got out of the building it appeared to have been a minor earthquake. The locals weren’t worried as this seems to happen regularly in this area. When we wanted to start with the safari, there was another problem. Because of the heavy rains of the previous day, the roads in the national park were declared “not passable” for the time being. Therefore, no permits were given to get into the park. At 9:00 am we finally got our permit to go into the park. By this time, the best hours for lion spotting are already gone because lions prefer to lay in the shade under the thick bushes when the sun gets hotter. Another incidental is that there were many jeeps in the park because of the Diwali holidays. This is another reason for the lions to hide under the bushes, especially because the jeeps aren’t particular quiet. We considered trying one more safari to see the magnificent Asiatic Lion in Sasan Gir. However, the prices increased the next day with more than 50% because of Diwali so we decided to give up and head back to Diu. Maybe, we go back to Sasan Gir at the end of November but that is rather unlikely.

Colourful powder during the flag festival in Dwarka

There was one other alternative. There are shady persons who offer safaris on “no cure, no pay” basis. In other words, you only have to pay if you see a lion. Matter of minor importance is that it is an illegal walking safari. So, you go with mister Shady who is only armed with a stick to look for the lions. Mister Shady told us proudly that lions aren’t that dangerous, but that leopards are the real danger. After he told us about some of his close encounters with leopards we were sure that we would not join him into the bushes. These kinds of persons seem to have “friends” among the rangers who are probably bribed to let shady figures, accompanied by travellers, get into the park on foot.

After two weeks Diu, we went back to the main land of Gujarat. At this moment we are in Jamnagar, after visiting Porbandar and Dwarka. Since leaving Diu, we rarely saw other foreigners. We are glad that we made the choice to leave Rajasthan to go to Gujarat. Gujarat is the India that we hoped to find when we came here. People are friendly, the surroundings are beautiful and the travel experiences so far are great. We especially enjoyed our stay in Dwarka. In Dwarka we visited one of the most holy places for Hindus (Dwarkanath temple devoted to Hindu God Krishna) where we were shown around by one of the priests. The number of pilgrims in the temple was enormous. When we got out of the temple, we saw that big groups of pilgrims were still on their way to the temple. Some of those pilgrims had coloured powder on their faces and their hair. It looked very festive. Ivonne asked one of the young women why they did this. She didn’t speak English, but two elderly women showed that it had something to do with dancing and partying. When they noticed that Ivonne was interested, the sturdy women did not think twice. In no-time Ivonne had some blue coloured lines of powder on her face. The other women thought that this was very funny, and they joined in by throwing hands full of blue and pink powder over Ivonne. Edwin already foresaw this happening and he found a place to keep himself and the camera clean. When we walked through the narrow streets afterwards, we saw some dancing groups of pilgrims that threw hands full of coloured powder in the air. When they saw that Ivonne was already covered in powder, they did some justice by throwing a few hands of pink powder over Edwin’s back. When we came back in our hotel, the hotel owner asked what had happened. That’s something that we would like to know! The hotel owner explained us that there is some kind of Flag Festival, but he did not know the details. However, he knew that this festival is exuberantly celebrated. Although we still do not know what was the purpose of all this, we know that it was fun to be there!


© copyright - / 2007