Kannur to Bangalore, by Airavat

Soon after getting the date for the wedding at Kannur, I made sure to set a remainder on my phone to book a ticket for my return journey from there. For some reason, Malabar operators aren't very tech savvy - they don't put many seats online, nor do they sell tickets on phone. This trip being on a Sunday, I did not want to take risk waiting to book a ticket on a private bus, and the fact that I've not tried Airavats on this route made booking a ticket on KSRTC the first option. I had another reason too - that I could park my car at Shantinagar bus station, so that I need not haggle with the auto guys after arriving in the morning. I logged into KSRTC's Awatar website exactly a month before my journey date - I was a bit surprised seeing three Airavats listed! The first one was a bit too early, and the last one appeared a bit late (arrival in Bangalore). I decided to play safe, and booked on the 2031CNRBNG schedule.

February 09, 2014:
On the evening of my journey, I grew eager to find out what bus would I get night. I've always seen old crappy run-down B7Rs working the service to Kannur. There were three B7Rs - one run down bus from Mysore division and two 9400s from Bangalore division. I got consoled now. Headed back to my room. After dinner, I headed back to the KSRTC bus station, reaching there around 1945hrs. I still had 45 minute to go for my bus. A KeSRTC Super Fast to Bangalore was boarding then. While waiting, the Kasaragod-Kottayam Super Express too came in, followed by the Konnakkad-Kottayam Super Fast. I got a message with details of my bus at around 2005hrs and the bus came in at 2015hrs. Boarding did not start immediately. The conductor went out to get the passenger chart. Boarding started around 2020hrs.

KSRTC's m-Tickets are very comfortable and user-friendly - just tell your seat number and read out your PNR number - you are good to go. I got in after getting my ticket checked. I had booked my favorite seat #17 - but I realised my folly only after getting into the bus. The 9400s of KaSRTC has an emergency exit on the right side of the bus - this means that the leg space is poor for the seats on the right side, except the seat with the emergency exit. The moment I sat down, I felt cramped - I could hardly move my legs. This was when the seat ahead of mine was not reclined. We started off at 2034hrs - three minutes late. The bus was about 50% full here. The bus headed straight towards Thalassery - traffic was average, being a Sunday. No movies/songs were played. We reached Thalassery bus station at 2108hrs. The conductor got off shouting "2100 Bengaluru". A lot of passengers got in here - we almost filled here.
The bus: KA-01-F-8526 of Bangalore Depot-4
We started from Thalassery at 2114hrs. After Thalassery we headed towards Mattannur. The seat ahead of me was reclined - leaving very little - I mean very very little - legroom for me to maneuver. Left with no option of sitting straight, I too pushed back my seat and somehow found the comfortable position to sleep. I dozed off slightly - woke up just as we started off from Koothuparamba after a pickup (2140hrs). After this pick-up lights were switched off - I closed the curtains and slept off. I woke up again as we started after another pick-up - at Iritty (2224hrs). I slept off again - with the packed posture that I was in, I slept well afterwards. Did not realise till we hit bad roads - the bus swayed badly waking me up. I somehow tried sleeping through the rocking ride. I continued struggling till the bus pulled in for a break - it was 0053hrs then. We were at a place called Muddanahalli. I fired up my mobile's gps and tried figuring where we were - the map showed that we were between Gonikoppa and Hunsur.

I roamed around the bus for a while - a lot of non AC buses gave us company there. The Kallada B9R to Ernakulam (via Kozhikode) passed through while we were waiting as well. We started off at 0115hrs - I always wonder why these buses need to take a break at these awful hours at places which do not have any facilities! I was back in my seat - and the lady in the seat ahead of mine locked me in position by reclining her seat. Left with no options, I pushed back my seat, shut close my eyes and tried catching a few winks. What followed was an amazing, continuous, undisturbed sleep. I have no idea what all places we went through. I woke up just when the conductor shouted out "Majestic" - the clock read 0454. That meant that we did some 220kms in about 3-and-a-half hours. Very few passengers got off the bus at Majestic. The conductor shouted out a couple of times to make sure nobody missed the stop. We started off at around 0458 or so. I pulled up my back rest now and got prepared to get off. The bus finally pulled in to Shantinagar bus station at 0505hrs - about 25 minutes late. The end-to-end running time worked out to 8h34m - slightly high, but still good enough.

End Remarks: The bus was KA-01-F-8526 of Bangalore Central Depot-4. It had about 10 lakh kms on the odo. The bus did show its age - lots of squeaks and rattles. The suspension set-up made its displeasure heard - the bus runs through places that doesn't have roads at all. The interiors were in good shape - well kept. The seats were awfully tight - I'll never ever book a ticket on the right side in an Airavat, ever. The crew were great - as usual. Clean blankets, water bottle, et al were brilliant as usual. The end-to-end running time was comparable with the other operators on the route - so no complaints on that as well. The only grouse would be that they could've chosen a better place to stop for the break.

Amenities:
Blankets: Yes
Water: Yes - 500 ml bottles
Charger points: Available (Did not use)
Entertainment: Available (Was not used)

Ratings:
Maintenance: 2.5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew Behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.85/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Will I take the service again? Certainly. Its a good, cheap option.

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