Gujarat

Gujarat

Gujarat is a stronghold of Jainism, and for many it is seen as the home of Gandhi and his message. Though one of the nation’s most industrially advanced states, it is equally well known as the home of traditions and religion, drawing thousands of pilgrims each year. Its lifestyle is colourful with bright textiles, handicrafts, folk-dances and festivals that are vivid splashes of bright sapphire blues, rich reds and lush emerald greens. Its people are gay, gentle, hard-working and inquisitive; many have never seen a foreigner before. Gujarat exists out of time. Untouched by tourism, it extends a warm, rather surprised, hand of welcome to the visitor who really wants to get away from it all.Nowhere is this more true than on the southern coast of the state. Here a small triad of nascent resorts provide the visitor with the best beaches, wildlife and historic temple architecture that Gujarat can offer. The central attraction, the 16th-century ex-Portuguese port of Diu, is a small idyllic town of Mediterranean charm, with relaxing bars and tavernas, two glorious beaches, Catholic cathedrals and an imposing fort. Life here is slow and peaceful, a complete contrast to the normal hustle and bustle of India. Close by is Somnath, a major Hindu pilgrimage centre, with a famous shore temple (seven times destroyed and rebuilt) and another fine beach. At Sasan-Gir, one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in the country, the Asian lion roams his last natural refuge on earth. Travelling this virgin territory, frequented by few foreign visitors, you will feel like a stranger in paradise.Season: October to March
Monsoons: June to September
Climate: 27°-41°C (summer); 14°-29°C (winter)
Route duration:5-10 days (far longer if pinned down on sunkissed beaches)Bombay to Diu 930 km (580 miles)

Air / Road
Vayudoot offers one flight daily to Keshod (PF325, Rs1540). It’s wise to book a return as Keshod-Bombay flights are heavily subscribed. From Keshod to Diu is 150 km (94 miles) by road: local buses to Veraval (11/2 hrs), to Oona (2 1/2 hrs) and to Ghoghla (30 mins). Then either ferry or, when the new bridge is completed, auto-rickshaw over to Diu.

Rail
There are daily trains from Bombay Central to Ahmedabad (9 hours); and the Gurdinar Express from Ahmedabad down to Veraval (dep 8.45 pm daily, arr 10 am next morning).

Road
The daily ‘luxury video’ bus runs direct to Diu (22 hours). Book from Goa Travels /Hirup Travel Service, Prabhakar Sadan ground floor, Khetwadi Back Rd, 12th lane (tel 358186, 359856) or Pawan Travels, 103 Auto Commerce House, Kennedy Bridge, near Nana’s Chowk Post Office (tel 356887, 357907). This is a notorious Indian bus journey: a whole day of excruciating disco music/video films, potholed roads and arguments over double-booked seats, plus the occasional breakdown. Take earplugs, two seat-cushions, and a crash helmet. One way on this bus is quite enough. It’s popular though, and much quicker than the train. There’s also a cheap state bus (about Rs100) from Bombay to Oona—less comfortable, but no video! Book from MTDC office, Bombay. It leaves 12.30 pm daily.

Diu to Somnath 54 km (34 miles)

Road
Buses to Oona (Rs4) and Veraval (Rs12); then a Rs15 rickshaw or Rs3 bus for the final 7 km (4 1/2 miles) up to Somnath.

Somnath to Sasan-Gir 46 km (28.8 miles)

Road
Bus from Veraval (2 hours, Rs6). Do check timings for Sasan-Gir buses before going up to Somnath: it’s an irregular service.

Sasan-Gir to Diu 105 km (65.6 miles)

Road
Two express buses daily to and from Oona (3 hours). Then bus to Ghoghla.

Rail
Daily train to Oona (9 hours). Slow.

Diu to Bombay

Road/Air
Buses from Ghoghla, Oona and Veraval to Keshod; one Vayudoot flight daily to Bombay (PF326, Rs1540).

Rail
Daily trains from Veraval or Somnath (13/14 hours) to Ahmedabad; night train to Bombay (dep 10.35 pm, arr 7 am).

Road
Two ‘luxury video’ buses daily (22 hours): 11.30 am departure from Diu, booked from Goa Travels, opposite jetty (tel 44, 87); 10.30 am departure from Ghoghla, booked from Rajasree Travels, Main Rd, Ghoghla (tel 98). Reserve your seats well in advance.

CONTINUATIONS
From Ahmedabad, you can connect with the Rajasthan itinerary via quick bus journeys up to Mt Abu (6/7 hours) or Udaipur (8 hours).

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