After a mesmerizing trip with fellow railfans up and down the ghat section between Subrahmanya Road and Sakleshpur (on the Hassan-Mangalore Railway line), I landed up at Mysore around 4 in the morning. A short nap and a round of freshening up, I headed to a restaurant for breakfast - around 0700 or so. After breakfast, walked into the disoriented Mysore mofussil bus station - it was cold and I wasn't carrying any protectant clothes with me. The bus station was relatively empty that morning - thanks to Independence day, compared to my last trip here. The Bangalore platforms were active, with no less than 3 Airavats and Sheetals each parked, and a really long line up of Karnataka Sariges complementing them. I reached the place from where my bus would depart. but there was no sign of my bus anywhere.
I walked into the Station Master's office and enquired - he replied the bus would come near "platform 1" very soon. I chose to remain around the appointed area. There was one Kerala SRTC Fast passenger (heading to Kozhikode) and one TNSTC bus heading to Salem. There was one Karnataka Sarige to Coimbatore and one to Thrissur. My bus (KA-01-F-8437) came in at 0752, just 8 minutes short of departure. The bus was backed up at the very first "bay". The conductor went out to get the reservation chart, while the driver helped passengers leave their baggage in the underbelly carriage.
My bus being backed up at the platform, at Mysore
The conductor came back and checked tickets of all reserved passengers, while issuing tickets to unreserved passengers. I settled in my seat - my favorite, the hot seat (#4) on the first row! The bus was a Mark-III Volvo, with a 290hp CRDi Engine. The engine was left on all the time, and the airconditioner had a very light role to play since it was equally cold outside the bus as well. The conductor tried attracting more passengers to the bus - we finally moved out at 0810, with about 30-odd passengers on board the 45 seater bus.
We rolled through somewhat familiar roads of Mysore. The road around the bypass road was in horrible shape and the traffic made matters bad. The driver picked speed soon after we crossed Nanjangud. The road was not in very good shape, requiring frequent slow-downs. Potholes were huge enough to swallow a small car easily, making matters even worse. The bus pulled into Chamrajnagar bus station, allowing the conductor to get the timing entered in the way-bill. This time was utilised by some to take a break. The driver loaded loads of biscuits and roasted bread from here (more on this later).
We started off from Chamrajnagar very soon. The roads were somewhat good after Chamrajnagar. The driver was back to his self after Chamrajnagar. He stopped everytime he spotted a monkey to feed them with biscuits, roasted bread or bananas. We stopped at Hassanur for breakfast, around 1025. The place was full of KaSRTC buses, two Expresses and my bus. I decided to skip eating from the hotel (Since I had a sumptuous breakfast from Mysore before starting off), and had some crisp snacks from a nearby stall. We started off at 1045. Hassanur marks the beginning of the descent. The ghat section is only 11 kms long, but takes about 45-50 minutes to finish descending. There are 27 hairpin bends in all.
The Foggy start...
The start was foggy, and visibility was poor at the beginning. The driver maintained slow speeds through the run. We managed to descend 25 of the 27 hairpins without any issue, but got stuck at two of the bends. At these bends the bus stopped 90-degree to the curve, then backed up and turned off. At about three bends, we encountered traffic pile-ups, mainly due to private cars not co-operating with heavy vehicles at curves. The first half of the ghat was all covered in fog, and made for an amazing experience. The ghat ends at Bannari - famous for a temple and a sugar factory.
Approaching one of the 27 hairpin bends enroute..
We ran through Sathyamangalam, dropping a couple of passengers there. We encountered a bit of traffic as we neared Coimbatore - but thanks to Sunday, it was all thin. We pulled into Gandhipuram SETC Bus station exactly at 1300. I narrowly missed a bus heading to my place, and then headed for lunch and then a bus-hopping trip back home.