Oct 02, 2014
Having travelled to many popular tourist destinations in India, now I have turned my focus on exploring lesser known tourist places in India. Diu is one such place, part of the Union Territory of Daman and Diu. It is an island tugged in the western part of Gujarat, connected to the mainland by a bridge which is adjacent to Una, a city in Gir Somnath district in Saurashtra region. I searched on the net for tips and advice for a road trip to Diu and did not find any blogs or news items barring one post on Team BHP, but that was a year old. So for fellow travelers, I decided to write this. I hired a car for self-drive (Swift VDI) in Ahmedabad and followed the Google map and suggestions for some local friends in Ahmedabad to choose the best route, (for me best means scenic route with intact roads and clean toilets at petrol pumps or in restaurants).
We were told that the NH 51 highway is the best route which goes like Ahmedabad-Bhavnagar-Talaja-Rajula-Una-Diu and its NH 51 throughout. We started off at 8.30 am from Navrangpura in Ahmedabad on 19th September, 2014. It took about 55 minutes to cross the parts of the city and the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar (SG) highway, which was quite busy, full of trucks, two wheelers and of course cars. The traffic in Ahmedabad is a challenge. I had a real hard time negotiating the unruly movement of two wheelers and non-motorized vehicles, for whom both sides of the road are meant for moving in both directions; and add to the woes of a car driver, the cows chose to do their morning chores right in the middle of the road, oblivious of the traffic. The SG highway merges with NH 8A which gradually gets narrower as you keep moving away from Ahmedabad. Once you enter in to rural areas, every village greets you with abrupt speed breakers, which not only break the speed, but by design can hit the bottom of your car if the ground clearance is less. And most of the roads near such human habitations are full of potholes and deep craters, sometimes making one wonder whether these are craters on the moon or earth? Of course in between, there are stretches of good roads, but those are like oasis in deserts. The average speed in my Swift on this segment was about 40 km/h.
To speak of the toilets, we tried at 8 different petrol pumps to use the facility, but all were so dirty that it was impossible to use them even if decide to do so with your eyes and nose closed. However, the service personnel and managers of the petrol pumps at each of them were convinced that the toilets were CLEAN.
We did find a restaurant where clean toilets were really clean, about a few km before Talaja. The nightmare on the street began after crossing Alang, the world famous ship breaking center. From here for 50 km, the road was full of potholes and huge craters. There was a brief respite between Talaja and Mahua. From Mahua began the journey of a life time, till the outskirts of Una. I have never seen such a long stretch of road, about 20km, where practically the road did not exist. And above that it was raining so all holes were filled with water. With water filled holes, the biggest problem is that you can’t judge the depth of the hole, so everywhere we had tried to follow the vehicle ahead, mostly truck or Innova to judge whether my swift can clear that hole safely. It took more than 90 minutes to cross those 20 km. And I was exhausted from the stress the driving caused. Anyway, from Una we took the left turn and reached Diu after 8 km of driving through single lane road. The 364 km were eventually covered in 10 hrs 40 minutes with a 45 minute stopover for lunch.
I was too scared to take this road back to Ahmedabad, so I started exploring and unfortunately not much wisdom flowed from the reception of the resort where I stayed or the local shopkeepers in Diu; for whom this was the best route as it was the shortest; and since they did not drive themselves, it was alright. The bad roads were taken for granted by most of the people I interacted with. Finally, one shop owner in downtown Diu suggested that I should enquire from the taxi drivers in Una, to find the best route. On my return journey, on 23rd September, again I started off at 8.30 am and reached Una and stopped at the bust stand to take advice from the taxi drivers standing there. One knowledgeable taxi driver suggested a route and assured that it is a smooth road. Though skeptical, I decided to follow his advice. This time I took the route that is a state high way, road without a divider and is single lane. So the route was Una-Dhokadva-Khambha-Chalala-Amreli-Lathi-Dhasa-Vallabhipur-Dhandhuka-SG Road-Navrangpura. Now this road was a different story. Between Khambha and Amreli, its picturesque, with green fields, flowing rivers, and small hills at the horizon and indeed no potholes, no rough patches longer that a km at a stretch and only a few of them in all. We made good use of the district court premises in Amreli to ease ourselves as it was newly build court building and later, just before Vallabhipur found a hospital, whose gatekeeper was gracious enough to allow us to use their conveniences. We did enquire at two petrol pumps; but it seems perception of hygiene at petrol pumps in Gujarat (compared to Rajasthan) is yet to match that of the modern civilization. But this road was less busy, no trucks and very cooperative villagers who kept guiding us with correct directions at every turn. The same 349 km this time was covered in 5.30 hrs till we entered the city of Ahmedabad and of course the city traffic nullified all that.....
Nevertheless, the return journey was a visual treat as well as a drivers' delight.
Diu is one of the least know sea side destination in India, so it has lot of virgin beaches, unspoiled landscapes and empty roads. A place where peace is in abundance and food is delicious as well as inexpensive.