My first experience with APSRTC's Garuda

As the Coromandel express to Howrah was rushing past Guntur, I received a call from my home, breaking the sad news of the death of my cousin. I had to discontinue my journey at Vijayawada and head to Bangalore and then home. I was in a state of confusion was we neared Vijayawada - I had absolutely no guess about the City. I was sure that I wouldn't get any trains to head back home (in Kerala) or to Bangalore at that time - the busfan in me led me to the obvious conclusion of taking a bus. The train got into Vijayawada a while past 3. I bid adieu to the rest of the gang heading to Kolkata (for the IRFCA Convention), and headed towards the exit. I enquired at the exit if I can get a refund on the untraveled portion of my ticket - the lady just said you apply on IRCTC. Since I did not have time to go behind the refunds, I headed out of the station.

I wanted to take a bus to the bus station (I had seen the bus station while coming by train) - but I had no idea where would I get a bus from! An auto driver approached and asked in Hindi if I wanted an auto - he asked for Rs. 35 or so (I don't remember the exact sum) - I got in the rick and headed to the bus station. The rick driver dropped me at a place that looked like the rear end of the bus station - I directly entered a dark corridor, which had one of APSRTC's old buses plinted. That was the arrival block, if my memory serves me right. From there, I kept walking, searching for an enquiry counter. Almost all the signages in the bus station were in Telugu - with not a single word of English anywhere.

I suddenly saw a desk with a few RTC staff sitting, and many people rushing around. I guessed it would be enquiry counter - headed straight there and asked for the reservation counter. The lady at the counter wasn't interested in answering to a question in Hindi - but a good samaritan, a conductor with APSRTC, quickly directed me to the counter. I headed straight in the direction the gentleman had pointed his fingers to - there the counter was. A small kiosk kind of thing, with grilles all around - resembling the teller's counter in a Bank. There was a huge board with the timings of services that had reservation facility - but the entire board was in Telugu! I asked the gentleman at the counter - thankfully he responded in English! I asked for a ticket to Bangalore - "5 'O Clock - Garuda" came the answer. I quickly asked for a ticket, with a request for a window seat. He issued a ticket quickly - the cost was Rs. 994. (Private buses on the route would've been cheaper). The ticket had a surprise for me - the bus was heading to Electronic City, Bangalore! That was a bumper for me, since I can get off at Bomanahalli directly from this bus!
Vijayawada's Pandit Nehru Bus Station.
Once I got a ticket, I headed out to find a cloak room - there was one very close to the ticket counter. Left my baggage there, and headed out to explore the vast bus station - "Pandit Nehru Bus Station, Vijayawada". One thing that struck me was - there were two blocks in the bus station. One called an "Arrival  Block", while the other was called "Departure Block". I did see passengers getting into buses at the arrival block - so not really sure what is the significance of an Arrival block. The city bus station was just outside the Departure block. I got busy taking some pictures - setting myself a target of 1615hrs to wind up exploration, and to head to the restaurant for some food. I roamed across the bus station, and stumbled on a very unique liveried bus - that was one from Odisha! After capturing a couple of shots (by now, the clock ticked past 1620hrs), I headed straight to a restaurant in the bus station premises. I did not want to wander outside the bus station - for the fear of getting lost in an alien city.

The restaurant had a huge menu card - printed as a banner, pasted on the wall. Sadly, this one was also in Telugu! I was sure there would be Dosa - so asked for one. Like in most bus stations, this one was also a self-service restaurant. The dosa was served with a deep red chutney - it looked spicy and it surely was. After downing the dosa, I headed straight to the platform where my bus would depart from. I decided to take a photo of the bus as it comes from the depot, and remained near the gate - the bus (AP-29-Z-1800) came out at 1640hrs. Interestingly, the bus went straight and parked next to a KSRTC Airavat, also heading to Bangalore! I now rushed to the cloak room and retrieve my baggage. Got a bottle of cold drink on my way back, and headed straight to the bus. The baggage was left in the baggage hold, and I got into the bus.
My bus - AP-29-Z-1800 - being brought out of the depot at Vijayawada.
APSRTC has an inspector who would check your tickets as you get into the bus - the conductor would not check your tickets. He would only issue tickets to unreserved passengers. The Inspector checked my ticket at the doorway, and guided me to my seat - #29. The interiors of the bus surprised me - it had only 10 rows of seats. 41 seats in all, in a B7R - that gave humungous leg space to every passenger! The seat was very comfortable - the leg space was huge. The draw back of the huge legspace was that one had to stretch his/her legs to reach the leg-rest! Water bottles (1 ltr bottles) were kept in a plastic crate - passengers could take the bottles from there. The bus had a driver, a driver-cum-conductor and an attendant. The attendant did not seem like an APSRTC employee - he did not wear a uniform. This chap was responsible for handling passenger baggage, distributing water bottles, blankets, playing the movie, etc.

The bus had decent patronage as it slowly backed out of the platform - at 1705hrs. That was a delay of 5 minutes at the starting point. I was traveling in a B7R after almost a year - the engine sounded very silent to me, after being used to the rather harsh tone from the B9R. The bus headed out of the city, straight to the bridge over River Krishna, and headed straight to the highway. The driver was really well mannered - he wasn't using the horn unnecessarily, or did not attempt rash overtakes. The top speed our bus did was only 95kmph - that too in brief bursts. The bus stopped in the middle of no-where - ticket checkers got in! They checked all passengers while the bus continued its journey. We turned off the highway, and headed into Guntur town. I was feeling very tired by now - I hadn't slept properly the previous night, plus the news of the death of my cousin - I was totally drained out. I called the attendent and asked for a blanket - he quickly fetched one for me. The blanket was properly packed in a plastic cover - and it was a proper fleece blanket, not the typical shawls provided by other operators.
Inside the bus. The legspace was humongous.
Our bus got into Guntur at 1800hrs - the ticket checkers checked the baggage hold as well (may be to check for unaccounted parcels). A few passengers got in here. We got moving at 1815hrs. I slowly reclined my seat and got into a power nap. Meanwhile, the AV system was playing an Allu Arjun starring Telugu movie (I had seen this movie dubbed in Malayalam earlier). I slept intermittently - while the driver maintained decent pace. Road widening was in progress and hence there were very frequent diversions. Just as I woke up from a short nap, our bus was pulling into Ongole bus station - 2025hrs. The bus was parked in the yard - they were still playing a movie (the first one got over, and this was another one). The crew just got off the bus and walked away, leaving the engine and AC running all the time. The bus did not move well upto 2045hrs, and I wondered if this was a dinner break - by now, many passengers had brought food from the stall outside and we having their food. I got off the bus and got some biscuits and packed lemon rice for dinner.

By now the bus was brought to the platform, and the driver was busy washing the windshield. The bus got moving at 2108hrs. Our bus was surely wasting a lot of time getting into bus stations. I was back to sleep soon after the bus resumed its journey. I woke up briefly around 0215~0220 - the bus was stationary at Tirupati bus station at that time. The guy at the ticket counter had promised a 0500hrs arrival at Bangalore - that seemed doubtful to me by now. I fell asleep even before the bus started off from Tirupati. I woke up at 0530hrs - we were still running! A private operator's B9R overtook soon after I woke up - I do not remember the name of the operator. We stopped at Hoskote to drop a passenger - at 0542hrs. We stopped at Krishnarajapuram again, at 0555. Then again at Tin Factory, at 0601hrs. This halt was fairly long - a lot of passengers got off here. We reached Shantinagar at 0623hrs. We were an hour and 38 minutes late now! The halt at Shantinagar was really long - the conductor had to get his waybill signed, and there were a lot of conductors at the control office.

In the meantime, a Volvo on 356C headed to Electronic city - I could've changed buses.. We started off from Shantinagar at 0630hrs. There were just three passengers in the bus now - a lady, another gentleman and me! The lady got off at Madiwala (0643hrs). I headed to the front seats now, and asked the driver if he would be taking the elevated highway. He quickly replied that the corporation does not pay for the toll! The driver asked where I wanted to get off - He stopped at Bommanahalli for me. The attendant got into the baggage hold to retrieve my baggage, which was now lying in one corner of the huge boot. I was in Bommanahalli at 0653hrs! That was 13hours 48 minutes in an APSRTC Volvo!

Remarks: The bus was well-maintained. I did not see the mileage readings - but it did not make any noises. I was traveling by a B7R after a very long time, and was really enjoying the engine notes as compared to the harsher tone of the B9R. I loved the extra legspace - I slept well since the seating was not at all cramped - it was really spacious. The service was too good - the attendant responded to individual requests very well. The blanket provided was big, and that made for a comfortable journey. The blanket was fresh, and was provided in sealed plastic covers. I loved the service - overall. Will give it a 3.5 on 5. (marks deducted for the delay and the lack of a dinner break!)

Comments

Karthik Prince said…
Please Like this page....Your experience with our APSRTC is good....

https://www.facebook.com/pages/APSRTC-Buses/336356219723945i
Aloke Bose said…
I would be taking the Bus from Vijayawada to Bangalore on 3rd October and your experience was very very interesting.I too cannot read Telegu and lets see if any good samaritan comes my way to show me the direction to the ticket reservation office.I really wonder how I will correctly determine the correct departure platform.
Bruceelee said…
Fare hikes up by 10% .......serious shit i don't what our goverment is doing ......may be this is die to special status effect .......

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