The character 'Garuda' was chosen by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation to identify their fleet of swanky "Air Conditioned Air Buses" aka Volvos. KSRTC was never used to branding their services, and hence this brand was advertised in bold on their buses - just two of them! However, the fleet never grew, and the name was taken over by APSRTC. In 2008, KSRTC sold their Volvos and replaced them with a brand new fleet of three Volvos. The Garuda brand was used yet again - but the advertising was not bold this time.
Since the time these Volvos hit the road, I managed to travel three times on them. I wanted the fourth one to be in broad day light. Some personal works had necessitated a trip to Trivandrum on April 07, 2010. I went to Trivandrum by train, and decided to return by bus. The train journey had nothing special (worth mentioning) other than the fact that we were hauled by a WAM4! The tired looking WAM4 ensured we reached our destination well on time. The trains aside, back to buses: I was joined by Sankar (A die-hard fan of KSRTC buses) and Jayasankar (an IRFCAn and a fan of buses) for some bus spotting at East Fort, Trivandrum.
The trip also included a trip in the new Volvo City buses in Trivandrum city - the bus had all of 5 or 6 passengers in it, and no wonder they made losses. I spent very long time spotting buses sitting at the Thampanoor Bus Station (The Central Bus Station in Trivandrum). The 15.15 Volvo to Bangalore had all seats taken, and the few empty ones had passengers joining en-route. The Karnataka Volvo to Bangalore lined up no later - but this day was my chance to travel on the Garuda, yet again!!! I decided to hold on. I enquired at the counter if the service was being operated with the Volvo today as well - they replied affirmative. I decided to hang on.
The Super Fast service to Mangalore invited some stares from me - for such a long route, a pretty old bus was being operated! The service was pretty crowded though. A few more long route Super Fasts went past, while the sky opened up. It poured down for a while, and later dried up. Around 4.25, my bus was brought in. RA100 was working the schedule today. I rushed off to ensure that I got my favorite seat - this bus has no reservations and hence one has to rush to get hold of good seats. I jumped in the moment the door was opened, and grabbed the hot seat - #1. I settled down, and let other settle down before I jumped off for a photograph of the bus.
My bus - RA100 at Thampanoor.The trip was about 60% full from the starting point. Music was being played (from an FM Radio Station) over the AV system. The bus started off at 1645, late by 5 minutes. The bus had to crawl most of the time, thanks to the awful traffic in the city. The evening peak hour added more to our miseries, and the works on the flyover at Baker Junction (???) added more spice to our misery. The crawl continued all the way till we got back to the highway, after having crawled through the city. The run was eventless. The FM station waned off as we neared Attingal. It rained down almost heavily around this time, and the driver slowed down a bit - being early summer showers, the roads appeared a bit slippery.
On the journey... somewhere near Attingal
We picked up a bit of passengers at Attingal - and by the time we crossed Attingal bus station, the clock ticked past 1800. The traffic around the bus station was even worse - with a few diversions in place. The driver got on to the task once we were on the highway. He kept maintaining speeds around 100kmph all the time. By now the AV system was blarring out a recent Telugu-Malayalam Dubbed flick. Allu Arjun kept flying up and down the screen hitting out the baddies with ease, and even playing tricks with trains! The bus was by now nearing Kollam. The traffic block from Kollam Railway Station to the Bus station was horrid, and it took over 30 minutes for us to cross this small stretch. We reached Kollam around 1930 - no passengers joined us here.
Our next halt was at Kayamkulam - around 2030 (or so). We stopped for about 10 minutes here - a tea break. I used this opportunity to chew down some snacks and down something cold - I was desperately hungry by this time. We got back to the highway by 2045. The driver let the beast rip after Kayamkulam - we kept speeds around 100. The movie changed, and yet another Dubbed flick was played now - this time the hero (same as the earlier one) could make many baddies fly off with just one hit! Looks like creativity is on the rise in the film industry - Graphics guys certainly have a good time!!! We dropped off one passenger at Alappuzha, and rushed through (without going to the bus station).
I tried napping, but failed miserably. My day had started at 0230 that morning, and had to report for a morning duty the next morning! The bus was by now ripping through the four-laned section from Cherthala to Vyttila. We stopped at Vyttila junction to drop a few passengers, and then at Kadavanthra for another few. We stopped at Jos Junction to drop few more passengers - I opted to continue on to the bus station (for some night spotting). We reached the Ernakulam bus station around 2215 - more than 4 hours after we started off from Trivandrum, late by close to an hour. The bus station wore a deserted look at this time - the City Volvos were lined up at one corner of the bus station. I hired a rick and headed off to the station, to pick up my car from the parking! There ended the fourth journey on a KSRTC Garuda! The service appears rocking each time I travel in it - the crew are friendly. Run more services! They'll rock!!!
A Short Clip taken during the downpour, on board RA100...