Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pandemonium square...

After three years of planning, booking and cancelling, I was finally at it – heading to Dudhsagar falls, near the Karnataka-Goa Border. I was accompanying Jayasankar on the trip. We were taking the Bangalore-Dharwad Siddaganga Express from Bangalore to Hubli, and then the Hubli-Vasco Link Express to Dudhsagar. Jay had arrived that morning at Bangalore, by the Chennai-Mysore Shatabdi Express. I was running late, and had to make a dash to the station. In the meantime, Jay got lunch for both of us. I just got into the station when Jay called up and said our train was on Platform 9 already, and I need to rush. The time was around 12:15 – and the scheduled departure of our train was 13:00.

I walked through Platform 1, and then walked through the trolley path. Just as I reached Platform 7, the DEMU towards Bangarpet (Marikuppam?) started off. The train literally crawled out – it took too long to clear out. Once it cleared out, I headed towards Platform 8. I was heading to Platform 9 – all of a sudden, I heard someone calling out my name – I turned out, and it was Jayasankar! He had settled down on Platform 8 – I just realised that there was some confusion.

The announcements on the PA system were hard to decipher – poor quality of announcement added to our woes. There was a talk of our train departing from Platform 9, but a rake with the markings “Bangalore – Shimoga – Mysore” (all written in Kannada) was stabled. I thought it was the Bangalore-Shimoga Intercity. The LCD panel kept near the platform kept displaying arrival-departure information, but there was no talk of this train to Shimoga – this confused me even more. Since the time of departure was approaching, and there was no sign of that rake departing, we decided to head to Platform 9.

We walked to Platform 9, and asked the pointsman standing there – guess what? The rake was indeed that of Siddaganga Express! The rake comes in from Shimoga, and goes out to Dharwad as Siddaganga! The lazy C&W staff at SBC changed the boards only on the platform side (the new boards read “Dharwad – Bangalore – Mysore”), and let the boards on the other side remain as “Bangalore – Shimoga – Mysore”!!! I was shocked, enraged and terribly disappointed! What if we hadn’t checked with the pointsman? We’d have merrily waited there for our train, while seeing it going out!!

We headed to the sole AC Chair Car coach in the formation of some 20-odd coaches – the coach was old, and poorly kept. The toilets were stinking, and the stink was penetrating to the passenger cabin as well. We had the “two-seater” on the first row – Seats #3 and #4. We just settled down – soon after, Jay headed out to check the loco. The Loco for our run was WDP4B #40046 of Hubli DLS. The train started off dot at 13:00. Just as we started moving out, the Chennai-Bangalore Brindavan Express sneaked into Platform 1 with a WAP7 in charge. There were no noteworthy incidences during the run – it was more or less dry. The Loco made a unique sound – the horn too sounded very different.
We reached Hubli perfectly on time at 2110. The train more or less emptied out here – it was cold at the station. We headed to Platform 2 to have some food. We had our dinner from a stall on the platform – replenished our water stock and got some biscuits and other stuff for the busy day ahead. The platform was crowded to the core – The Sampark Kranti to YPR and the Rani Chennamma to SBC would be arriving in an hour or so. The Sampark Kranti was the first to come in – it was a WDP4 (Or 4B?) of Krishnarajapuram in charge. In the mean time, we decided to head to Platform 4 (or is that 5?, the island platform near the coaching workshop). This platform too was crowded – on the other platform was the rake of Tirupati-Hubli Passenger with a live GTL WDM2 coupled to it.

The PA system came alive and blurted out: 11048 Hubli-Miraj Express would depart from Platform 4 (or 5?). Soon after the announcement was made, WDG3A #13052 of Pune came in with the rake of Hubli-Miraj express. This train has just one Sleeper coach, and about 11-12 General Coaches. The board resembled that of, what Jay calls a “Global Village Passenger” – the board had names of most places in the region! The WDG3A went with the rake almost until the starter at SBC end. We sat near the SLR of the Miraj Express – there were lots of passengers accompanying us. We had seen most of those faces in Siddaganga express as well!!

Confusion prevailed – there was no sight of our Link Coaches – one each of SLR, 3A and Sleeper. Sometime later, the WDG3A ran through the other line with the link coaches in tow. The loco went out, and came back to our platform. In the mean time, the Rani Chennamma to Bangalore came in. Our Coach was 2004-made. The AC was still to kick in – we both had lower berths. I directly hit the berth – so did our co-passengers. The TTE came in for checking soon after the train started from Hubli. The attendant also distributed the bed rolls – surprisingly they were well packed! The bedspreads were fresh. I don’t remember much – I fell asleep soon after the train started rolling.

I vaguely remember seeing the train stationary at Londa – but fell asleep again. I woke up only after we stopped at Castle Rock. I headed to the front to check our loco – it was WDG3A #14551 of Gooty in charge. Jay had witnessed the entire shunting operations at Londa – lucky him! I slept all the time :sad: I took a couple of images at Castle Rock, and then returned to our coach... The halt at Castle Rock was very long – the halt was almost an hour long. We got off at Dudhsagar –the rest is already posted!

We went through two Pandemonium squares on the day – Bangalore and Hubli. Lack of proper announcements was the villain at both the places. The improper boards too added to our misery at Bangalore.

Side Note: The dosas served by the vendors at Tumkur was awesome! So were the vadas at Arsikere!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

On Kallada G4, after 4 years!

Kallada G4 - a smaller company, part of Kallada Group run by four brothers - recently introduced a new Volvo B9R service between Bangalore and Changanassery via Ernakulam and Alappuzha. Kallada G4 is a smaller operator compared to the brother concern Suresh Kallada. G4 operates all of 3 services - one each to Changanassery (B9R), Guruvayur (Semi-Sleeper Non-AC) and Kottayam (Sleeper Non-AC).

Since the bus was new, booking on this service was a no-brainer - they did not have online reservation at that time, and I had to make a visit to their agent - Friends Travels at Madivala for the booking. The booking process was quick. The fare was Rs. 900 (compared to Rs. 950 on Suresh Kallada). The bus was almost empty at the time of booking. Interestingly, the bus that would carry me back was parked right outside the office at that time - had a quick look at the bus.

Fast Forward to September 01, 2011. I was at Madivala by around 2045, for a 2130 departure. My last journey on a Kallada G4 bus was in May 2007 (read it here). Back then the service was awful - they were operating the bus as Pathanamthitta-Bangalore via Alappuzha, Ernakulam - it was a Mark II Volvo B7R (The bus on the day of my journey was KA03AC2000, now with Sangita Travels). They recently sold their old B7Rs and replaced them with two brand new B9Rs. I somehow dared to try them this time - but the experience was too good.

Being at Madivala during the late evening peak hour, there were lots of buses heading to different places. After a couple of rounds of photography, I decided to get on board my bus. The bus was parked right in the middle of a slushy ground - they had laid cartons to create a kind of bridge for people to board the bus without dirtying their feet or the bus! I got into the bus, and left my baggage - the AC was yet to be switched on. I decided to stay outside till the driver gets in. The driver got in at around 2125 - about 5 minutes to go for departure. The engine was switched on, and the AC was running at full force. I got in and occupied my seat - we had around 14 passengers on board.
A guy from the travel agency confirmed if all were on board and signalled the driver to start - but they were still loading parcels. The driver was getting upset at the delay - we finally started off at 2134. He was very cautious - and did not exceed 80kmph anywhere till we got into TN. We had a pick up near Chandapura. The driver meant business soon after we crossed Attibele - he picked pace swiftly. We stopped at Shoolagiri for refueling - the bus took in a good 460lts of diesel. The driver said that they pick up fuel only in one direction, which helps in maintaining schedule. We left after refueling at 2249. The movie was awful, and I slept most of the time.

The bus stopped for tea near Salem - a very short one. About two minutes into the break, a traffic cop came and asked the driver to start off. Just as we started, I noticed that the Shama Big Bus (Bangalore-Ernakulam) which left about 30 minutes after us was also there. Shama too started off right behind us - both buses gave company to each other all the way. I slept soon after we crossed Salem - was woken up only when the bus stopped at KG Chavadi Check post, on the TN-Kerala border. The cleaner went to the check post and got the papers checked. We moved a bit forward and stopped on the road side.

The bus backed into a small cut road, and kept waiting for someone. In the meantime, the Shama Big Bus came from the Kerala side! It was the same bus that gave us company from Bangalore to Salem! It turned out that there was a heavy traffic block at Walayar - the Shama bus turned back, and came to Chavadi. Both the buses - mine and the Big Bus - took the Velanthavalam route from here on - the road was narrow and not in great shape. Both buses ran one behind the other. A while into the run, the Shama guy asked us to go ahead (he called up our driver), since he was not very sure of the route, while our driver knew the route better.

We ran through Kozhinjampara, and reached a bridge - the bridge was closed. They had built a wall across - but the wall was broken in the middle - wide enough to let buses through. It was tight though - the cleaner of our bus got off to guide the driver through the gap. The bus still hit a stone and we got a small scratch. At the other end of the bridge, the cleaner had to move some stones to make way. As we exit the bridge, I saw there was two multi-axles behind us! Not just the Shama! The other bus looked like a Merc-Multi to be, especially due to the positioning of the lamps. We stopped near Palakkad bypass - the driver wanted to see how big was the scratch. The Shama driver too joined us in the inspection.

The Third bus was indeed a Merc-Multi: Was the Bharathi Multi running to Changanassery. We over took the Shama and the Bharathi soon after Palakkad bypass and we got rushing towards Thrissur. I slept off again - I woke up only when the bus stopped at Mannuthy bypass - even the worst of roads did not wake me up! A passenger got off at Mannuthy - and we headed towards the town. The cabin lights were switched on - too bad, since other passengers too were woken up. The cleaner came about to wake up those who were alighting at Thrissur. I asked him if the bus would be going towards the bus station - no came the reply. So I had to get off at Thrissur Round - I was dropped there at 0558. The Shama Big Bus came right behind. It was a tough task getting a rick from there at that time - but I did manage one - the rest of the journey on my favourite KSRTC. It was RNC170 that took me from Thrissur to my home in Kodungallur.

Concluding remarks: The service was good. The cleaner and the drivers were well behaved. The cleaner responded to passengers' requirements. The sad part was playing a movie well until midnight - this could've been avoided since the bus leaves at 2130! They did stick to the timetable, and the driver did not drive rash - no overspeeding or harsh braking. I'd surely try the service again!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The ocean of milk..

Warning: Very long post. Might not be suitable for the general audience.

It was chilling cold – sending shivers through my spine – I get off the train. Armed with a flashlight, I find my way to level ground. In the mean time, the locos let off a long horn, and starts off with a jerk. Jayasankar and me walk on to the other line to let the train clear off. Behind is the station building, which was well lit at that hour. The clears off, and we walk towards our shelter for the next two hours. It is a small chapel – with a couple of low height walls which serve as a bench. We settle down on one of them, rest our bags, and try to catch a few winks. 

We barely manage to sleep, while the chugging sound of the DG3As reverberates across the Ghats. The loco pilot kept blowing the horn to break the eerie silence of that hour – silence is not an apt word here. The roar from the waterfall nearby filled the atmosphere. All of a sudden, we see some flashlights across the line – a group of about 20 people from Maharashtra too had gotten off the train. They too entered the same shelter as we were in – flashing their lamps, they ensured we could not sleep. They talked aloud, and made a mess of the entire area. Jay somehow managed to sleep, while I struggled to sleep.

Bonggggggg..... jing jing jing jing jing jing..... bboonnngggggggg! WDG4 twins crawl in, and stop at the starter, a few metres away from our camp. The guys sitting there joke: “Why are they ‘timepassing’??” The locos go away – only to remind us about their presence with the reverberating noise. They kept honking as well. I struggle again to sleep – only to be disturbed by the chaos created by the reckless guys.
My watch ticks past 6 AM... Another honk. I woke up Jay, and alert him of the diggies coming in. Jay, who was asleep, jumps up in excitement. We head towards the tracks to take some pictures. It was a triple consist – I did not notice their numbers. The locos came in and stopped right in front of us. The headlamps gave us the picture of what lay ahead – the yellow board beside the tracks read “Dudhsagar”!!! It was a dream come true for me – I had been planning to come here for three years now. I had to abandon my plan every time – but this time, I was determined to make it.  Jayasankar has been visiting Dudhsagar like an annual pilgrimage for the past three years – this was my first trip to this place. (Not exactly the first – had travelled through the place by train two times in the past).
It took me real long time to sink into reality – it was still cold around, but the excitement of having made it to the place at last kept me running in high spirits. I and Jay had drawn up a plan to trek down the ghats – 12 kilometres to Kulem. Our first priority now was to have our breakfast – we had packed biscuits and cakes from home – we topped it up with flavoured milk (from Nandini!). After breakfast, we slowly set off. I stopped every 20-30 metres to take a photo – while Jay meant business. Jay kept firing on all cylinders – he was brisk. Tagging along a three digit load, my speed was much slower. Intermittent showers meant that we had to always hold the umbrella.
 It couldn’t have been more foolish of me – I had left my weather coat at home! I was at the risk of getting wet – plus the cold environment kept me slightly tensed. On starting from Dudhsagar, one crosses the old Dudhsagar cabin, which is located right at the mouth of a tunnel! This was my first ever experience walking through a tunnel – it was chilling cold inside, and there was water dropping off at the portals. A good flashlight ensured that I did not trip anywhere. The roar from the waterfall was getting louder as we exit the tunnel – we walk past a curve. I see Jay standing in the middle of no-where, pointing his fingers upwards – Wow! That is the first sight of the waterfall!
We walk closer to the waterfall – In the meantime, I take more snaps. As we near the falls, sprays get stronger – the entire air is misty, saturated with fine droplets of water. We finally reach the bridge – the one across the falls. I take a couple of quick snaps – it was very windy, and the water sprays were too strong. I got wet in hardly a minute! Just as we walk past the falls, it starts pouring down – Jay asks if we should take a break or continue – I chose to continue. The tracks were slippery – thanks to the heavy tree cover, which keeps water dripping all the time. We continued our slow progress. We cross another tunnel, and reach a signal - this was a Warner signal – its unique in its appearance. It has two light units placed one above the other – the one of top was green, and the one at the bottom was red. This signal indicates “Caution” – and is used in 2-Aspect signal territory.
We stood around looking at the beauty of the environs – that served as a break for us. A few metres ahead, I get the first proper view of the massive falls. Dudhsagar – literally translated to an “Ocean of Milk” – kept its name today. It surely was an ocean of sea – from far it felt as if milk was flowing down a gorge. We continued walking – another tunnel later, we reach the “View point”. It is here that one can see Dudhsagar in all its beauty – the stone bridge that carries the railway line appears miniature when compared to the majesty of the waterfall. We take a 10 minute break – we covered 2 kilometres in about an hour including umpteen breaks.
After the viewpoint, my camera was safely packed in a waterproof packet and left in my bag. It started raining heavier by now. The tracks got even more slippery as we proceeded towards Sonalium (the only station between Dudhsagar and Kulem). It was getting tougher to walk – heavy rain, plus slippery nature of tracks made the walk difficult. We were, however, determined to accomplish our task. The line passes through dense forest from here on – the tracks have very little space to its sides. Another hour later, we slowly approach Sonalium. Sonalium Home signal came as a sigh of relief for me – that meant another break was in sight.

Jay walked past the Home signal and directly entered the loop line – but he reverted to the main line soon after. I too entered the loop line, and understood why he switched lines! The area around the points of the loop line had wooden sleepers! They were very badly slippery – walking on the ballast bed was the only way out. Jay paused mid way to the station – I caught up with him. He was exhausted – I was partially exhausted, but was not very sure if I could make it to Kulem – that was 8 kms ahead. Jay took shelted outside one staff quarter – I unloaded my baggage and stood in the shelter.
Jay was badly exhausted – a combination of inadequate sleep and some other factors made this veteran accept defeat very early – being a novice, I too thought it was perfect for me too to stop. The rain worsened now – there was no sign of the rain even reducing! The staffs on duty at the station were relaxing – chatting aloud. Off-duty staffs were just waking up. About 30 minutes after we stopped, the station staff announced the arrival of the Howrah bound Amaravati Express. Just as the pointsman came out, he asked us which direction were we headed to – when we replied “Kulem”, he said the next movement to that side would be at 1100 hrs – it was just past 0920 hrs then.

A couple of minutes later, WDM3A #14031 coupled to #14041 of Gooty came in with the Amaravati Express. The train took a 4 minute break at LIM (Sonalium). The train headed out at 0929 hrs – the bankers were WDM3A #14057 and #14032 of Gooty. I was back in our “shelter” – by now Jay was fast asleep. I had a small chat with the pointsman, who said a “freighter” was expected soon, followed by the Poorna Express – both heading towards Kulem. The pointsman came and alerted us soon as the clearance for the incoming freighter was given – I woke up Jay, and we quickly grabbed out belongings and rushed towards the starter.
 In the mean time, an Up-going freight – a loaded BOXN rake hauled by twin WDG4s and banked by triple WDG4s came in. Just as we reached the starter – we saw that it was already set to proceed. The down-going freighter – a Penta WDG4 consist, running light – went past without stopping! Both of us were dead tired to walk back to the station building, and decided to sit on a pile of sleepers kept there. It drizzled on and off, but thankfully did not pour. Around 1100 hrs, we heard a horn and the characteristic ALCO engine noise – Hurrah! Our train to Kulem was approaching! The horn got louder – we though the train was already in Sonalium. But the train was no where in sight..
We turn back – the rake is still at Dudhsagar! A blue speck was clearly visible up in the ghats – Dudhsagar station is visible from Sonalium station. The train took a good 16 minutes to reach Sonalium from Dudhsagar – a distance of 4.11 kms! Sharp at 1118hrs, a triple loco consist appear around a marvellous ‘S’ curve at Sonalium. Out of the three, two were the breakers and one was the main power – The breakers were WDG3A #14552 and #14587, both from Gooty – and the main power was WDM3D #11348 of Pune. We got into the coach that stopped near us – it was a sleeper coach. Jay chose to doorplate, while I got on to the TTEs seat. The rest of the run was uneventful – the train crawled the next 7.98 kms to Kulem. We got off at Kulem, rushed to the ticket counter, took a ticket and we boarded the passenger bound to Vasco – we were joined by some more guys from IRFCA (thats a secret!). There ended a trip that I was longing for since long!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

On the day-night multi to Bengaluru..

For long, I've always been wondering why there aren't any day time bus services from Southern Kerala to Bangalore. Day buses always ran from Coimbatore, Madurai, etc to Bangalore. There is a day time train from Bangalore to Ernakulam. About a month back, a friend called me and said, Kallada was running a "day time special B9R" to Kerala. I was left awestruck - a quick glance at the Kallada website clarified that it was NOT a special, but a regular service!

Wow! That was a long time dream come true for me! I love traveling over the day, and this was the perfect service for me. There comes a trip to Bangalore - like a god sent gift! For the first time, I'd also be traveling without luggage! I mulled by long term desire to travel bus-hopping, but somehow, I wasn't very ready to do it this time. Booking on the Day Volvo came as a no-brainer to me! The ticket was booked online, seat on the first row. The bus was absolutely empty when I made the reservation.

On the day of journey - August 25, 2011, I started off from home at about 7:00. Got into RAC977 of my home depot (Kodungallur), heading to Alappuzha via Aluva, Vyttila. Its a roundabout route, but the fact that I need not change buses to reach my destination was a big positive. The bus left at 0720, and dropped me at Vyttila around 0850. Had I changed buses, I'd surely have reached earlier, but it would have been a hellish ride. No worries - I still had a good 40 minutes to go for my next bus.

The pick up point of Kallada is a bit away from the bus stop - towards Thycoodam underpass - about a 200 metre walk. Just as I began my walk, a gleaming red Volvo pulls in - KA01AA7638, of Suresh Kallada Travels. I was sure this is the bus that works the day service - the incoming bus came in only at 9 AM! I was left wondering about how would they manage to have it return at 9:30AM! The bus remained at the bus stop until 9:15 - while the cleaned the bus. The bus was taken towards the underpass, and they parked it on the road side. The drivers had their food, and took a bit of rest.
The bus was brought in to the pick up point at 9:41 - late by 11 minutes even before departure! Boarding began only by 9:45. We started off at 10:00 - with a grand total of 5 passengers on board. We were welcomed by crawling traffic, all the way upto Edappally. We picked up another passenger at Edappally, and two more at Kalamassery. We picked another two at Ankamaly. The driver clipped after Ankamaly - we hit a top speed of 105kmph (on my GPS) before Mannuthy.

The cleaner was adamant not to let me have the curtains open - the one that separates the crew area from the passenger cabin. This meant that I had to pass time watching the horrible movie that they played on TV. I caught up some sleep in the meantime. We reached Mannuthy at 1128, picked up two more passengers, and continued our journey. The road ahead was inexistent, and made for a very bouncy journey. Our driver was very careful not to ground the bus anywhere, and in the process was overtaken left right and centre by private route buses. The roads upto Vadakkenchery very in horrible shape - it was better after that.

We stopped at Hotel Sre Aaryas at Chandranagar, Palakkad bypass for lunch. While we stopped for lunch, we picked up two more passengers. We stopped at 1250. I had a very quick lunch, and got back to the bus. It was now that I had a very detailed look at the bus - the bus had about 14000kms on the odo. It was installed with a Volvo Speed Limiter, with a speed limit of 100kmph. The bus had absolutely no scratches or dents anywhere on its body - in very fresh condition. The bus underwent a service at 12000kms, at Volvo Kochi. The interiors had a Red and Cream combination - although very "on the face", the contrasts were too good.
We started off from Palakkad at 1321. We had 14 passengers on board now. The driver got faster now - maintaining 80kmph all the time. We stopped briefly near KG Chavadi, when the cleaner went and got the papers checked. The traffic was a bit slow near Madukkarai, and go slower as we near Athupalam. Ukkadam was a mess. The driver had a tough time taking a 90-deg curve near Town Hall - mostly due to traffic. We finally stopped at Coimbatore Omni Bus Station at 1440. Entering the bus station was a big circus due to the haphazard parking of buses. We had to get one bus moved so that we could come out of the bus station. We were out at 1448. Only one passenger got in here - we had dropped three passengers near Gandhipuram bus stand. We picked up three more passengers from Nanjappa road, and made swift progress towards Avinashi road. We now had 15 passengers on board.

The ride ahead was uneventful. The cleaner was adamant not to play a movie - and passengers were left to the mercy of some horribly boring songs being played on the music system. My observations about the bus continued - I've always seen operators installing speakers on the hatrack - they install 8 of them. I always thought this happened because the OEM speakers were bad - but I was proven wrong. The AC Vent unit did not have speakers at all - the operator chose to have speakers on the hatrack instead! The bus has 12 rows - which means there would've been 24 speakers. But by have speakers on the hatrack, the operator has to spend only on 8 speakers, saving the cost of 16 speakers!!

The bus had a 25" Samsung Series 4 LCD monitor at the front, and a 19" drop down screen (Make: Carbon?) towards the rear. The player was of JVC make. The speakers on the hatrack were installed at Volvo itself - since the boxes had the same covering as that of the floor! In the meantime, we rushed past Avinashi, and we entered the four-lane highway at Chengampalli. I was expected the bus to enter Perundurai for refueling - but nothing happened. We stopped at a wayside tea stall in Bhavani for Tea - at 1710, and started off at 1718. I was disgusted at the kind of place they stopped for a break - there was no toilet facility anywhere in sight.

By now, the drivers realised that we were running very late. They called up their Salem office to enquire if there were any pickups - there were 2 passengers! The cleaner picked up their numbers and called both of them. One of them said he/she was not joining, while the other was coming - the cleaner asked him to wait on the bypass and not at the bus station as mentioned on the ticket - a small argument ensued. But then the passenger agreed. Oh! Forgot to say this - the drivers changed at Bhavani. The new driver was a senior person - with grey hair, wearing the legal white uniform. We were welcomed by a long traffic snarl at Salem - we picked up the passenger at 1810.

The driver was desperate to break free, and speed up his run. We picked pace rapidly after Salem, maintaining 95-100 all the time. Toppur ghats came as a huge roadblock for us - trucks blocked all the lanes, our bus struggled to maintain even 30kmph - we hardly make an overtake, to get stuck behind the next truck. The size of the bus meant that we couldn't cut across lanes very easily. Somehow, the driver managed to dodge most trucks and we approached Dharmapuri Toll Gate - but an RTO guy jumps across and asks us to wait: 1900 hrs. They find some offense, and levy a fine. We start off at 1909 hrs.
We enter the first toll gate line - we had to request a car guy to let us go since the bus was running very late (The official arrival time at Bangalore is 2030 hrs - about 130+ kms to go!). The car guy obliged, and we enter the toll lane - but the driver stops half way through. The Lane is too narrow to let the bus go by without hitting anywhere! Finally, we reach such a stage that the driver had two choices - break the rear-view mirror, or bang the rear grille! Finally, the guys at the till gate intervened, and closed the lane. They cleared the traffic behind, and we pulled fully backwards, and entered the next lane.

We finally exit the toll gate at 1930 - we lost a good 30 minutes here! We had an hour ahead to cover 130+ kms - and impossible task by any expectation. The driver resigned to fate, but kept firing on all cylinders. We had a drop off at Hosur - the passenger was dropped off at the flyover instead of going to the bus station. Another traffic block welcomed us to Bangalore. Attibele was a mess - as usual. The Toll Gate ate more time. We took off after Attibele. Traffic was very heavy on that day - all the way. We took the Elevated highway from Electronic City. I was dropped off at Silk Board junction at 2158 - one and a half hours late! The bus has to return to Bangalore at 2200hrs!!

Side notes: The nationwide Truckers strike had concluded just the day before - all the trucks that were lying idle for few days were now on the road. The roads were chocked everywhere - Ghats were a pain, Traffic signals were long. We reached Bangalore a good 88 minutes late - thanks to the awful road in Kerala, and the horrible traffic in Tamil Nadu (Truck traffic).

Service: The cleaner was clearly misbehaved - not the way he should behave with passengers. He was adamant on not playing a movie - he played one after Dharmapuri, that too after a few passengers gave him a dressing down. I wonder why should the curtains be kept closed on a day service - passengers aren't traveling in the bus to see the beauty of the curtains - are they?

The day service is a good way for many passengers - some people do not like night services and prefer traveling over the day - for them, this service is god sent! Wish Kallada hires better staff - atleast guys who know the basics of dealing with passengers. Cleaners should be told that they do not own the bus - and he is nobody to order what the passenger does.

Will I recommend this service to someone? Yes! Why not! Just because the cleaner was a bad on that day, doesn't mean the service would be bad - but approach the service with a pinch of salt! Kallada doesn't provide water bottles to passengers - but Blankets were provided though. The AC control was awful - perhaps they weren't setting proper temperatures.

Rating: 7 on 10.