Up the ghats, to Bangalore

With the heat in College subsiding, I was longing for a break - a few days away from the rush of daily routines. A trip to Bangalore was on the cards since long, and was getting postponed by a week every week. One fine Wednesday, I decide that I'd be heading to Bangalore that Friday. I booked the tickets on Thursday morning and apply for leave the day at college.. the leave was approved without any questions asked. Thursday had a sleepless night in store, and I was more anxious that excited about the journey. This was set to be longest journey in a normal KSRTC bus.

I was woken up on Friday morning with the rather unpleasant tone of my mobile phone's alarm. I did try to catch up a few more winks before getting into my senses. Got off the bed, off to get ready for a very long day, which turned out to be longer than expected, ahead. Rushed through the morning chores, and arriving at the dining table to down a hot cup of tea. Breakfast was packed, and a few bananas were packed as well. I left home exactly at 0525, and walked up to the bus stop, reaching there in three minutes. The clock showed 0528 now. The first KSRTC bus from Kodungallur leaves at 0530, reaching my bus stop anywhere between 0533 and 0538. In the meantime, the tea shop near the bus stop was getting ready for the day ahead.

A couple of minutes past 0530, a run down private bus rolled into the bus stop. Although a fan of KSRTC buses, I did not want to risk waiting for one. Reluctantly, I got into the bus. Surprisingly, though, the bus waited at the stop until I got in and took a seat. The conductor did not bother collecting the fare from me for some time. He turned up a good 10 minutes into the journey - there were all of 15 passengers in this 48 seater bus. The driver drove slowly till we reached Irinjalakkuda, about 15 kms from my place. He ensured that he stopped at every stop, and until people got in. He drove the last 500 metres to Irinjalakkuda Bus Station like a maniac. Only a couple of passengers got in here. As we headed out of the bus station, KSRTC's RRC864 (Kodungallur Unit) crossed us with much vengeance - I lost my heart at this.

We stopped at Tana bus stop for more than 5 minutes, in eternal wait for some passengers. No one joined, but the KSRTC bus caught up with us by this time. This made our driver go mad, and he drove ahead like a Maniac. Driving at no less than 80kmph through narrow roads, was by no means a comfortable experience for passengers. Every time we stopped at a bus stop, the KSRTC would catch up, and then our driver would go mad trying to increase the gap. At the end of the journey, the bus had no more than 50% occupancy, and burned lots more of fuel than it would have during a normal run. I was dropped near the KSRTC bus station, around 0625. Walked down to the bus station, and took a couple of snaps.


All set to head to Mysore: My bus, RRK522 getting ready.

My bus for the journey ahead was already parked at the fuel station. The bus was washed that morning and was getting refueled. The bus, RRK522 of Thrissur, a Dec 2007 model Ashok Leyland Viking, was all set for the 290-odd kilometre run to Mysore, via Perinthalmanna, Nilambur, Vazhikkadavu, Gudalur and Nanjangud. The bus was parked quickly at the platform, and I was the first to get in. I had a reservation - that too the hot seat, #51. I left my baggage at my seat, and rushed out for some photography. There were lots of buses at that time, especially many that I've never seen earlier. Buses kept arriving at a steady pace. The driver for my bus got in sharp at 7 AM.

The conductor came in at 0700, and signalled the driver to start. We started off about two minutes past 7 (0702). The were very few passengers at the beginning. We filled up at Vadakke Stand, and from places along the Wadakkenchery road. We had to stop at the Wadakkenchery Level Cross for a freight train to cross. We picked up more passengers as we proceeded towards Shoranur. More and more passengers kept joining us at every stop. We stopped at Shoranur and Pattambi bus stations. We finally stopped at Perinthalmanna Bus Station (at 0910) for Breakfast. I did not feel like eating anything from the 'hotel' there. I picked up some Dal Vada from a nearby tea shop and went about photographing inside the bus station. We started off from there at 0925.


Somewhere on the way to Nilambur.

After Perinthalmanna, we veered off from the Kozhikode road, onto the road to Nilambur, via Pandikkad, Wandoor and Vadapuram. The road was not in great shape. Works were in progress at culverts along the way, and this made the road condition even worse. One one point, the bus had to stop on a sharp incline. Poor bus, it couldn't start off in the second gear, and the driver had to engage the first gear, aka "Load" gear. The run was uneventful. The driver was pretty fast, and he kept overtaking vehicles at a constant pace. We stopped outside Nilambur Bus Station to drop a few passengers, and then again in the middle of the town. The Vazhikkadavu-Nilambur-Kozhikode is one very busy route for KSRTC.

The run ahead of Nilambur was again uneventful, except the fact that Private buses do not let KSRTC overtake no matter what. Our driver had a tough time overtaking a few buses on the route. We stopped for about 5 minutes at Vazhikkadavu, while the conductor went to the Station Master office there to get the way bill signed. The action began after Vazhikkadavu. At the checkpost, where ghats begin, there is a "speed limiter". While my bus was about to enter the "zig-zag" shaped speed limiter, an autorickshaw decided to jump across. Using the choicest abuses, both the driver of my bus and the driver of the rickshaw had some argument. Finally, the rickshaw driver had to budge, and make way for my bus. As the bus inched forward, a Malabar bus decides to jump across. WE lost more time here.







The ghat section was interesting, and was demanding on the bus. the curves were sweeping and constantly appearing. The road was pretty narrow, but in good shape. We had to follow a crawling truck for quite some time, causing a lot of time loss. The driver was constantly honking through the route, since the curves were all blind and sharp. The bus was in the third gear through out the journey. There was no scope of speeding up anywhere. At one point, we had a narrow shave, when a truck appeared round a curve all of a sudden. We had to stop a while after Nadugani to let a few passengers alight. We stopped outside Gudalur bus station for some time - just enough time for the driver to take a leak. The bus got entirely crowded at Gudalur - I did not expect this to happen since the fares in Tamil Nadu are much cheaper than in Kerala.


Entering Mudumalai Wild Life Sanctuary


Few Wild Elephants...

The forest route began soon after leaving Gudalur. The driver strictly adhered to all driving rules inside the forest -no honking or overspeeding. There were lots of speed breakers all through the way, and the road was in good shape. The driver slowed down everytime he spotted a wild animal (an elephant or a deer) - to let passengers have a jungle safari experience. The roads in the Karnataka portion were slightly in bad shape. We reached Gundlupet, about an hour and 10 minutes after setting off from Gudalur. The most interesting part in the journey was that the driver stopped where ever passengers requested for a halt - it was interesting to see people alighting in the middle of nowhere - with just a couple of homes anywhere in the horizon.

We stopped outside Gundlupet bus station for a couple of minutes and then started off towards Mysore. By now the crowd inside had thinned, and we had only sitting passengers. We stopped for lunch at a hotel called "Coffee Stoppe", about 3 kms away from Gundlupet. One Kerala SRTC Fast passenger (going to Kozhikode) and a Karnataka SRTC "Ambaari" (Corona, heading to Bangalore) was also waiting for lunch here. The restaurant was decent and clean.


While we stopped for Lunch.. at Coffee Stoppe, near Nanjangud.

The food was just about okay, and I was not very insterested in stuffing down food. I had some porotta and a veg accompaniment. I downed food quickly and walked out for some photography. The Kozhikode bus had left by now, and the Corona was preparing to leave. I was confused, if I should change buses and take the AC bus immediately. I shot down the idea, and decided to stick on to my bus. The place of the Corona was quickly taken over by a Malappuram bound Super Fast bus. We stopped at 1334, and started off at 1356. That was pretty efficient, I must say. While we moved out, a sleek looking Volvo 9400 of Karnataka SRTC (Airavat) pulled in.

The driver was back into business once on the highway. One huge "disadvantage" our driver had was that he was not ready to overtake through the left, or make dangerous "cuts". He kept firing on all cylinders, and we were at Nanjangud in no time. The run from Nanjangud to Mysore was slow owing to heavy traffic. We reached Mysore town soon, and ran around Mysore Palace at 1507. We reached outside the bus station at 1510 - the bus did not go into the bus station. The driver said that the bus station is badly crowded and the block inside would mean the bus take a long time to come out. The bus was parked on the road side later, in preparation for the return journey.


The Mysore Palace, as seen from the bus.

I walked into the bus station - somehow the bag felt heavier than it was at morning. May be I was tired after the first 8 hour long journey in an "ordinary" non-AC bus in my life. The seat was certainly comfortable, and the leg room was amazing. The seat slant was acceptable and the cushioning was adequate. Meanwhile, my walk inside the bus station continued. The bus station was badly crowded, and buses were parked in a haphazard manner. I was awestruck seeing the number of Volvos being sent to Nanjangud - is the route so profitable?

I headed off to the "Bangalore" Platform. There were three Volvos and three Sheetals parked, ready to start. I took the Volvo at the front - there were hardly 4-5 passengers in the bus. The driver had doubled up as the conductor as well - I was given a ticket. The ticket was Rs. 260, and the distance is just a shade over 150 kms. I had paid all of Rs. 160 for the 300 kms journey from Thrissur to Mysore! But then, this was a Volvo! I took my favorite seat, the first row. The rush of buses heading out of the bus station was heavy, and there was a huge traffic pile up outside the bus station already.


Speeding off to Bangalore.. the maximum we did was only 90kmph

The driver of my bus was trying his best to get more passengers. We started off from Mysore Bus Station at 1535. The bus had some 20 passengers by now. We stopped at a couple of places before entering the highway and picked more passengers. We had a maximum of 25 passengers (occupancy of just a shade over 50%) as we entered the highway. The driver parked the bus on the side to finish dispensing tickets, and one 500-ml bottle of water each was given to all passengers. We stopped at Kengeri to drop a few passengers - We reached Kengeri, from Mysore in just two hours. It took us a full hour to reach Majestic (Kempegowda bus Station) from Kengeri.


The Airavat, after dropping me off at Kempegowda Bus Station.

We reached KBS, at 1830, ending a marvellous, but unexpectedly long journey from Thrissur to Mysore. It took me 11 hours and 30 minutes to reach Bangalore from Thrissur. It took an hour from Home to Thrissur. The real "journey" began after reaching Bangalore. I walked over to the BMTC portion of KBS. Headed straight to the "Volvo" platform. I was desperately hungry and downed a couple of samosas from a stall at the bus station. I started by eternal wait for Volvo to Bannerghatta Road. As I reached the platform, two Volvos departed back-to-back to Electronic City/Narayana Hrudayalaya. My wait began at 1840, and there was no sign of a volvo to my place even after the clock ticked past 1930! BMTC has not improved from its habit of not operating buses during evening hours - I remembered my days in Bangalore, when I had waited for hours together for a bus to Bannerghatta road during evening hours.

Finally, after thinking a lot, I jumped into a Volvo heading to HSR Layout. I called up home, and arranged to be picked up near St. Johns. The 25-rupee journey took about 40 minutes, thanks to the traffic at Shantinagar. Surprisingly, the traffic on the road was unusually thin. Dairy circle painted the usual sad picture - vehicles were lined bumper-to-bumper through the length of the flyover. I got off outside St. Johns Hospital, and began the next wait - for the car to come. Later headed off to begin my eating spree (written earlier)..

The return journey was eventless - will try writing on that very soon. The images from the trip are here. I had taken a few videos on the journey - they are here.

Comments

Sunup said…
""The bus was in the third gear through out the journey""
Makes me think with awe on the Volvo 8400 City Bus' sheer power. Recently I went up to Chamundi Hills from Mysore city in an 8400. It climbed up the hill so effortlessly with such good speed, while the 'ordinary' city buses and the chartered tourist buses were struggling in their lower gears in crawling speeds.

""I was confused, if I should change buses and take the AC bus immediately. I shot down the idea""
I guess your decision was good enough. I had a bad experience on an AC Corona from Bangalore to Mysore. Not only was it slow and underpowered when compared to the Volvos, the cooling was very poor too. The staff was just mum when people started complaining. The only positive is the fare, which at Rs. 200, is slightly cheaper than the Volvo fare. The Leyland Sheetals and Meghdoots are far better than the Corona in this aspect.

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