On to Mumbai


Thursday, 10th February 1994

We sat out on the platform at Udaipur station and watched as two or three steam engines ran in and out of the station.   It was wonderful to see and I admit I was a little disappointed when our own train finally arrived with a diesel locomotive on the front.

There was quite a bit of confusion over our names on the sleeper compartment and we feared we had been missed off the list altogether until we spotted the only non-indian names on the list “haton paddy” and “nametesta”.  Assuming that must be us we boarded that carriage.

The 9643 Express to Ahmedabad set off at 18:45 on time.  We had a 1st class non-air-conditioned compartment; it was a bit dirty but otherwise okay.  It had an opening window and it wasn’t long before I heard the unmistakable sound of a steam locomotive working hard coming through that open window.

As the train curved around the next bend I saw to my delight that they had replaced the diesel with one of the steam locomotives we had seen in the station.   It was just going dark but it was magical watching the locomotive producing plumes of grey smoke as it hauled our train.

This was the only time in my life I was ever hauled by a steam locomotive on a real working train (as opposed to countless times on heritage lines).

With the sound of the locomotive, the whistling and the smell of the smoke coming in through the window, it was a long time before I managed to get off to sleep.

 


Friday, February 11th 1994

I woke several times in the night and each time I checked if the steam locomotive was still on the front. It was.   I finally woke up at 4am for good and there was much puffing still going on.  Slowly the suburbs of Ahmedabad came in to view. We were almost on time.  We were ten minutes late at the most.

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At 4:50 am we ran across the last bridge and drew to a halt in the station.  We saw the blue and white KV express for Mumbai waiting in the opposite platform.   Our names were not listed on the AC2 chair carriage notice, but on the advice of a nice railway man on the platform we boarded the train anyway.

We didn’t hang around in Ahmedabad. The departure for Mumbai was at 5:10 and it was still dark when we left.  The guard came along and was also unsure about the seats.  In the end he told us we could an sit in them to Surat but after that he told us we may have to stand.

Breakfast was, unsurprisingly, vegetable cutlet and tomato sauce.

The journey was actually very relaxing.  The scenery was mostly coastal. This was the first time we had seen the coast in India.  We slept on and off throughout the trip.

Surat came and went and there was no problem with the seats at all.    We ate the sweets we had bought in Udiapur and marvelled at the names; Mango Mood and Coconut Milk Crunch.

The train began to pass through the heaving suburbs of Mumbai almost an hour out of the Mumbai Central and they got denser and denser as we got closer.

We finally arrived at Mumbai Central at 13:15, about a half hour late, and then boarded a crowded local electric train for the final stage of the journey into Churchgate.

Mumbai had a nicer and more affluent feel to it than Delhi and we enjoyed the walk from Churchgate to our hotel.

The hotel was located just off the coastal Marine Drive.   After a bit of worrying on our part they finally confirmed that they did have our reservation. We were shown to an unusual two tier room with a bed and a TV up the top and a living room down below.

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After a shower to freshen up we headed out onto the Mumbai streets. We  walked back down to Churchgate and then on past the university and the court building and all the way down to the Taj hotel  opposite the “Gateway to India”.

The British influence was very obvious in all the 19th century architecture. The city felt very vibrant and exciting with lots of things going on in the streets.

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We went into a book shop at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and tried to find a bus map.  No luck.

We walked around the port area a little bit and watched the hawkers selling balloons and post cards.  We were approached by several people who offered money changing and, after we refused that, drugs.

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We walked all the way back up to Electric House in search of a bus map but we still couldn’t find one. We gave up on trying to catch a bus and walked all the way back to the hotel via Churchgate station.

We carried on walking out onto the promenade and had a quick look at the sea. There were some lovely  views along Marine Driveway.

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We went back to the hotel, had a beer in the room and then fell asleep at 6pm. We finally woke at 9pm.  We then had a fabulous meal in the hotel of tandoori pomfret and vegetable pilau rice.

 

 


Saturday, 12th February 1994

We woke up and went out for breakfast at the Gaylord bread shop. We enjoyed quite a few different types of bread and coffee.

We tried catching a bus we couldn’t work out the system, so we gave up in the end.   We walked back to the Gateway to India this time via the vibrant banking district and past the naval dockyard.

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We bought tickets for the Elephant Island boat trip. We chose the luxury boat for  50 Rupees.  As we queued to board the boat in the hot sun, a guy was selling water to the people in the queue. He told us that there would be no water at all on Elephant Island.  Of course, we fell for this and bought one of his bottles at a surely over inflated price.  We were not the only ones.

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Finally we moved onto the boat and it left. We had a very pleasant conversation with an Iranian woman married to a Frenchman and living in Paris.  She told us that it was the 15th anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution.

Somehow I got a splinter in my finger from the side of the boat and I spent over an hour trying to remove it.

We arrived on Elephant Island and climbed up the hill to the caves. It had all the usual shops and kiosks selling the normal tourist dross including lots of water.

The caves themselves, though, were interesting and the monkeys that surrounded the caves were even more interesting.   We watched as they constantly tried to spoil people’s photographs.

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We went back to the port at 3pm and found it was low tide.  We then had a bit of a fiasco trying to board the boat.  In the end we were loaded onto a little raft and finally transferred to the luxury boat.

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Back on land we continued searching for bus map but still couldn’t seem to find one.  We decided to risk it and boarded one of the London-like double decker buses, a number 6, heading for Victoria terminus.  We alighted at Victoria terminus railway station and went inside for a look.  It was certainly as beautiful inside as it was outside.

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Victoria

We walked back down to Churchgate passing a vast array of shops selling everything from shoes and  calendars to batteries and electric motors.  Nobody was selling a bus map though.

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We kept on walking and stopped for a snack of vegetable pakoras, chana (chickpeas) and uttapan.  In the end we walked as far as the Oberoi hotel and went inside for a look. It was very nice inside and was decorated for Valentine’s Day.

As on the previous evening we walked along the promenade and watched the hawkers selling nuts to people. There were also a lot of young kids trying to dance like Michael Jackson.

We went back to our hotel and had a great meal of curried lobster, curried pomfret and vegetable pilau rice.

 


Sunday, 13th February 1994

We had breakfast again at the Gaylord restaurant and then got on a bus.  It was the wrong bus.  We ended up arguing with each other and I expressed my utter regret about not being able to find a bus map.

Eventually we changed buses and reached Colaba.  Two very nice guys helped us to find the World Trade Centre.    It was closed.

We gave up and got on another bus and headed all the way to Chowpatty beach.  It wasn’t a bad beach but there were horses and a lot of beggars on the sands.

We walked up from the beach through the beautiful hanging gardens to the top and all the way back again.  We bought some sweets for the forthcoming journey and then got an electric train back to Churchgate.

We walked around Churchgate and had a bit of snack food including vegetable and onion pakoras and a bread roll filled with potato dumpling.

After collecting our luggage we headed once again back to Central station to board the overnight Rajdhani Express bound for Delhi.

Rajdhani Express