Category Archives: Travel

A Miracle Steam Engine Ride

Fort William is well known for the highest mountain peak in UK. The ropeway to this peak was one of the attractions . However it has been discontinued due to an accident.

Among others there is a cruise wherein one gets to see seals and birds .

The one which appealed to me was the Jacobite Steam Train ride .

I had made a trip a few years ago to Fort William only for a day and could not experience all this .

Recently my wife and I decided to take a short break from Glasgow to Fort William . I checked at the possible places of interest to see before our departure. My wish was to get on the steam train ride, but no seats were available as they had been booked online for the entire year . This was very disappointing.

Out trip commenced with the ScotRail train from Glasgow Queen Street station to Fort William.
We were one hour early at the station. I thought the timing of the train was 1207 hours. It turned out to be 1222 hours. At 1215 the platform number was announced and we immediately moved to it. We were told by the railway checker that we should occupy the middle carriage. However our tickets showed carriage A . Being a bit confused we were about to enter the last carriage with A on it. The guard frantically told us to occupy the middle carriage. This is important as 2 rear of the 4 carriages separate at Crianlarich one going to Oban and the other 4 to Fort Willaim .

We settled in our seats and enjoyed the journey . City landscape gradually changed to country scenery . There were open meadows with sheep and cattle grazing. As we approached Fort William we saw hills and rivers.

We also saw waterfalls. Forests passed in a flash. In 41/2 hours we arrived at Fort William.

At the station I enquired about the Jacobite steam train ride. Here is where our little miracle began . The ticket checker told us that the operator for this ride was independent of Scot Rail, and we could try for tickets at 8.30am next morning at the same platform .
We then proceeded to the hotel Cruachan . After checking in we went for a walk and got a few photographs on my camera.

Since it was about 7 pm we decided to go for dinner, and were in for a shock as practically every restaurant was full with diners. The Tavern looked good and we entered . There was already a couple waiting to be seated. After about 20 minutes we got a table and had a good meal.
The city center of Fort wIlliam looked quite desolate as we stepped out . So we returned to our hotel. The rooms were very comfortable. We showered and retired, to wake up next morning to a pleasant day. The buffet breakfast was sumptious.
It was then 9.30am and we were told to come to Fort William Station at 8.30am to buy tickets on cash payment as just one carriage would be available.This was for the Jacobite steam train.
With a prayer on our lips and hope in our hearts we proceeded to the station. Lo and behold the queue of passengers for tickets was being allowed to enter the platform to buy tickets at carriage A. Surprisingly we got tickets for the last two seats .

I got a nice picture beside the steam engine. The train steamed out of Fort William for a two hour ride to Malaig a tiny port famous for fishing . We had good weather ideal for photographs . We passed through forests and hills with mountains in the distance including the famous Ben Nevis. The train stopped for 20 minutes at Glenfinnan station. Passengers walked around. Since the engine was still emitting steam we took a few pictures with that at the backround.

On leaving Glenfinnan station the train proceeded to its destination not without a breathtaking view of the famous viaduct over which it was passing through. It has a long curve and one can get beautiful pictures. This part of the journey is famous for being featured in the Harry Potter film.

To add to that we had good catering on board. The staff had black úniforms with a hat that had a caption ‘éngine driver’ on it. One of them was quite amusing . He blew a long whistle which sounded like the hoot of the engine; and chatted away with passengers as he served. He was the most hardworking in serving and clearing.

In an hours time we reached Malaig. There we stopped for 11/2 hour . At this port , we walked around and again I pulled out my camera to get a picture.

We decided to have lunch when again we were late and every restaurant was filled to capacity. Eventually we discovered a family run cafe just opposite the station. I had a roast pork roll with apple sauce. The apple sauce was new to me and delicious.

The wind and rain began just when it was time for departure so we hurried to the train, which left on time.

The train passed the Neptune Staircase on the Caledonian Canal which consists of 8 locks The weather gradually changed and was not suitable for photographs

I recorded the sound of the steam engine chugging along, something I remember as a child when travelling from Mumbai to Bangalore.

In two hours we arrived at Fort William station where we spent about an hour to get our train to Glasgow Queen Street station. The time was 1720 hours and few passengers were on board , a far cry from the Jacobite train journey which was buzzing with excited passengers.

The sunset on our return train journey brought a peaceful end to our memorable trip to Fort William.

Edinburgh and Greyfriars Bobby

The visit to Edinburg was keenly anticipated. We thought of joining the walking tours with a guide .

This idea had to be shelved as I realized that at Edinburgh there were steep slopes and being a senior citizen I would not cope with this .

Anjean and I with our daughter Larissa and her husband Lloyd agreed that we do our own walking tour.

There seemed to be a holiday atmosphere. People were dressed in colourful summer attire, good walking shoes and cameras .

We began our walk with first a visit to Starbucks . The coffee and hospitality was warm and efficient.

We then proceeded to the St Giles Cathedral which has so much history…. a bit of heartbreak in that , bringing into focus the split in the church . I was very impressed with the stained glass Windows. The special cordoned area for the choir , seemed quite unique.

St Giles Cathedral

As we walked along , we approached the Edinburgh castle . This was a good spot for photographs .

I was surprised to be see the India Cross made of sandstone. It was erected to commemorate the 78th Regiment of Highlanders who quelled a mutiny from the Indian soldiers who fought against British rule in 1857. The Regiment was jointly awarded the Victoria Cross .( I wonder what happened to the Indian soldiers )

The India Cross has an elephant carved at its base . This elephant badge was awarded to the regiment in 1803 .

Thirty years later the regiment brought a real elephant to Edinburgh. It was well looked after with beer etc and led parades at ceremonial occasions.

We resumed our walk and refreshed ourselves with waffle icecreams .

The most interesting part of our walk was to see a statue of Greyfriars Bobby erected for his fidelity .

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby

The legend goes that Greyfriars Bobby befriended Colour Sergeant Scott . He would follow Scott to his home at 38 Candlemaker Row . The latter trained him to move from Greyfriars Kirkyard when the guns from Edinburgh Castle sounded at 1pm to Traills Coffee House at 6 Greyfriars Row where he was fed his dinner of a hot meat pie . Colour Sergeant Scott often joined him there.

When his master died in 1858 ,Greyfriars Bobby followed his master’s remains to Greyfriars Churchyard and lingered there until his death in 1872.

We had a quiet moment at the Churchyard .

Our walk ended with a sumptuous lunch at one of the popular restaurants Macker’s Mash Bar. We chose to sit out for our meal. If you are familiar with Glasgow and Edinburgh you notice many seagulls flying around . I was shocked to see a bold seagull land up on the table nearby after the diners finished their meal, to enjoy the remainder!

One cannot forget the grand architecture of the buildings at Edinburgh . George Herriots School was a spot where ‘Harry Potter’ fans show so much interest . Of course the story is quite different from the reality .

The pastry shop Patisserie Valerie was quite appealing. Lockkdown has not been helpful as the display was limited and the pastries we selected were well decorated but not too fresh.

We strolled around the shopping centre . The trams plying through the town caught my eye.

Finally we made our way back to the car park and Lloyd and Larissa saw us home to Glasgow after a long drive back .

Back in time – to Goa

At a ferry crossing

In recent times Goa has been a popular tourist destination

About 60 years ago before Goa was liberated from Portuguese rule , it was a quiet place . Fields , rivers and its beaches were serene and beautiful. Goans were at peace and mingled easily with the Portuguese .

My journey commenced when I was aged 9 years . As a family we sailed from Bombay (now Mumbai) by one of the steamers namely Sabarmati which operated between Bombay and Karachi. We stopped at several ports until reaching Karwar . Due to the size of the ship, we disembarked into a smaller boat to take us ashore . The highlight of the voyage was the service of meals in the cabin . It was a typically Goan meal with fish , curry and rice or an option for a Continental meal . But the dessert was a grand finale as the waiter announced ‘ Caa.ra..mel , in a long drawl , making it sound the most delicious sweet . Yes the Caramel dessert lived up to its name.

In the evening an announcement was made for housie (tambola) and passengers flocked to the upper deck .

This voyage lasted for about 20-22 hours

We spent a day and night at Karwar in a quaint hotel with just the basics . The proprietor told us about a beach nearby . This was a disappointment, as it was only a stretch of sand near the sea.

Next morning we got ready after an early breakfast to cross by ferry to Sadashivgad .

At the jetty a poor blind beggar sat at the road side, singing a song ‘ Bombai cho Babu Goiem voita ani Goencho Babu Bombai voita’ with small hand cymbals to resonate.( a song for the travellers passing him to and fro). I vividly remember him with sadness.

From there , we travelled a 7km journey by bus to the southern border of Goa.

The next stage was to cross over ‘No Man‘s Land ‘, so called as this was a stretch between the border of India and Goa . We walked for about 5 minutes and reached Polem the border town of Goa

I don’t remember whether passports or visas were required , possibly a permit. The Portuguese soldiers manning the Goan side were quite impressive. They had smart uniforms ,with shorts , and revolvers at their side.

I recall a few interesting memories , at the border. It was a hot summer , and soft drink and soda bottles were being sold . While opening these bottles a loud wheezing sound would emit . Something like jaa-een -ka . It really amused me . The bottle had a marble at the top, which prevented the aeration to escape until the marble was pressed down by a special opener like a cap

Soda bottle

My grandfather from Goa, waited patiently to receive us in Polem. That moment was an emotional one for us specially for my mother who was seeing her father after some years .

Another thrill awaited us as my grandfather had engaged a private taxi to drive us all the way to Bardez, in North Goa. The taxi was of brand Peugeot , which thrilled us.

We hardly saw any foreign cars in Bombay at that time, except the Fiat , Standard or a Morris Minor. Our family car was a hump backed Dodge. I was surprised to see so many foreign cars and buses in Goa

Our taxi driver was well attired like a royal chauffeur , and a hat to top it all .

Goa was so beautiful as we passed forests , fields , homes and many , many churches and chapels . I still remember our chauffeur doffing his hat as we passed every church or chapel .

In those days , we grew up making the sign of the cross as we passed the church. I was quite scrupulous in doing this and would remind my brothers to do the same .

Crossing the river by ferry became a moment of curiosity and tension .

After a long drive , about 3-4 hours we reached our home in Goa . A warm welcome from my grandmother awaited us . She cried tears of joy to see us . So started my first holiday in Goa.

I dream of those days , going river fishing with my grandpa, and playing hockey in the fields with the local boys . We returned home to drink those fizzy beverages made by dropping a tablet in a glass of water. The evenings ended with stories of Africa by my grandpa .

He had a wealth of stories for us , about his time in Kenya, East Africa while serving with the District Administration.

I will leave that for another time to relate these to you dear reader.

The subsequent ship which travelled directly from Bombay (now Mumbai) to Goa ; Konkan Sevak and another .. both have been discontinued.