Mangalore to Bangalore on an Airavat....

June 11, 2009: After a very tiring and hot day, amid heavy crowd attending a wedding, I walked slowly towards an auto rickshaw, which would take me to the KSRTC Bus Station at Kasaragod. I was travelling back to Bangalore, and fortunately without any baggage – other than a small back pack that contained by camera. The bus station at Kasaragod was in shambles, as most part of the land was being utilized to construct a multi-storied bus station. KSRTC recently discovered that the land it held – in the form of bus stations and garages – had a high value in terms of revenue, and the corporation started exploiting the value of these lands by constructing shopping complexes in them. Kasaragod was among the first bus station to go under the exploitation hammer. The one coming up at Kasaragod is called “KSRTC Tulunad Shopping Complex”.

Having a bus station cum shopping complex had many advantages to the passenger, in additionto the revenue that it brings in for the corporation. For the passenger, these shopping complexes would also present an avenue to have some shopping before they get into their buses. These shopping complexes would ideally have a restaurant, some light snack stalls, a pharmacy and some other miscellaneous shops. I wish the ones being built by KSRTC make good shopping avenues. Coming back to my journey – the construction work meant that the bus station did not have any space for staffs to rest or for controllers to work from. Buses were parked in every possible space.

One side of the bus station was being utilized to operate buses towards Kanhangad, and the other towards Mangalore. A couple of Karnataka SRTC buses were already preparing to head to Mangalore. I initially planned to take a Kerala bus – just for the fun of travelling sitting at the front along the driver. However, the blue and silver buses of Karnataka SRTC were luring me into them, and decided to try them out. After stocking up a cold bottle of water, I got into one of Karnataka’s buses – KA19-F-2712, of Depot 2-Mangalore. The seating was 2x3, and seats had fabric seat covers. While fabric seat covers do give a plush feel, their maintenance is tough – and in the absence of which the seats would look avoidable. I sat somewhere towards the middle of the bus.

The bus that I took to Mangalore, from Kasaragod

The crew boarded, and we left at around 1905. The bus – I learnt from the controller – was running out-of-turn. The bus headed straight to the private bus station, from where the crew managed to fill about 60% of seats. The bus was built on a TATA Chassis, and it was making an annoying noise through the journey. The crowd in the bus was never above 75%. The conductor issued me ticket for Rs. 27 – but the ticket, printed on Thermal paper using an ETM, turned out blank. He said that the machine had some problem and wasn’t printing properly – aren’t these crew issue back-up provisions, in the form of normal paper tickets? The run to Mangalore took about 2 hours including a 5 minute halt at Kumbala, and the bus reached Bejai KSRTC bus station at around 2100.

This was my first visit to the KSRTC bus station at Mangalore – I was visiting the City after long 5 years. My bus from Mangalore to Bangalore was at 2220, and therefore had about 80 minutes to spend. I headed straight to a shopping mall right opposite the bus station for my dinner. After a slightly heavy dinner, I reached back at the bus station. The bus station looked too small for a city with pretty high importance in the state. The bus station was around the same size as that of the Mysore Road Satellite bus station in Bangalore. One part of the bus station was held exclusively by buses heading to Bangalore. There were almost all classes of service being offered by KSRTC waiting at this side of the bus station. There were atleast 4 Volvos, two Rajahamsas and one Express bus heading to Bangalore at that point of time. Boarding was happening for a bus that was to depart at 2150. I noticed on Volvo in a very pitiable state standing among the lot. As luck always ‘favours’ – the bus that I termed pitiable a while back was announced as the 2220 Volvo to Bangalore.

The bus that was to take me back to Bangalore was KA01-F-7737, of Mangalore Depot-2. I had an e-ticket, and that wasn’t printed properly. The conductor was slightly confused if the ticket was indeed genuine – he was satisfied after checking my identity card and on seeing my name on the reservation chart. The maintenance seemed average, with seat covers seen torn. My seat was in the first row. I stood outside the bus, since it was too hot inside. The driver switched on the engine – and the AC – at around 2215. The departure was delayed, and we left only at 2227. The bus was rattling badly and the pick up was too poor. The bus struggled at the slightest grades, while normal buses easily overtook us. We stopped at some place to pick up some more passengers, and left from there at 2236.

The Mangalore-Bangalore route sees a lot of Volvo services by the state run KSRTC as well as private operators. There are to different routes between the two cities – one via Hassan and the other via Mysore. The one via Hassan includes the infamous Shiradi Ghats, while the other runs through Madikeri. My bus was initially announced to run through the former route, but was later rescheduled through Madikeri. My sleep through the run was disturbed due to bad roads, intolerable sound from the front suspension assembly and sudden braking. I somehow managed to doze for a while, and got up when the bus stopped at Madikeri for a break at 0138. A bus that had departed earlier from Mangalore was waiting there. The toilets were in real bad shape and the bus station was dirty overall.

We left Madikeri at 0150. The driver picked up some speed after Madikeri. I slept as soon as the bus crossed Kushalnagar, thanks to good roads from there. I had an undisturbed sleep after there. I woke up as the bus crossed Ramanagaram. The drop down screen between the passenger cabin and the driver cabin was pulled up around 0600. The bus stopped at Kengeri to drop a passenger, and again near the satellite bus station to drop some more passengers. The bus finally reached Kempegowda Bus Station at 0636 – about 36 minutes delayed over the scheduled arrival time.

The bus that brought me to Bangalore, after alighting.

The crew were courteous, and the blankets provided were in better condition, compared to some buses of Bangalore Division. The maintenance of the bus leaves a lot to be desired. I headed home in a city Volvo from the bus station at around 0700, and reached home by around 0730.