Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mysore to Bangalore in Airavat Club Class

September 09, 2014:
The first thing on my mind as I walked out of the conference hall in JSS Hospital was to reach Bangalore as soon as possible. I took an auto to the Suburban Bus Station. I had to collect my bag from the hotel I was put up in Mysore - so collected my baggage and headed back to the bus station. As I walked into the bus station, I saw an Airavat Club Class of Bangalore Depot-4 rushing towards the Bangalore Platform. The bus was the first Multi-axle bus of Karnataka RTC - KA-01-F-9133. I walked as fast as I could with the baggage towards the platform. As I reached the platform, the conductor was busy shouting Bengaloor Bengaloor Bengaloor!
KA-01-F-9133 (photo from archives)
The bus was working Kozhikode-Bangalore day service schedule that day - I guess the regular bus had gone for maintenance. The bus wasn't very crowded - just about 20 passengers or so. I headed towards the rear and took a seat in the rear half of the bus. The interiors seemed worn out - the bus was about 4 years old, and the light shade of upholstery had born the brunt of continuous usage. The bus missed its rear LCD screen as well.

We started from Mysore Suburban Bus Station at 1630hrs with around 24 passengers on board. The conductor came around and issued tickets - it set me poorer by Rs. 300. I confirmed with the conductor that the bus would drop me at Shantinagar - he replied positive. The driving was typical Bangalore division style - lug the engine as much as possible, and stick to the same gear irrespective of speed. The bus maintained constant pace as far as possible. A Bollywood movie was played in the AV System. I left my phone to charge for sometime, and dozed off.
The ticket - Rs. 300 for about 144kms
The driving was stable throughout - except for the lugging, the style was good. There was nothing specific to mention through the journey. We passed NICE Road Junction around 1859hrs. We made a stop at Kengeri to drop a passenger (1905hrs) and continued towards Bangalore. The typical evening traffic in Bangalore made us crawl into the city - it was bumper-to-bumper traffic and we could reach Satellite Bus Station only by 1934hrs. The bus did not enter the bus station - just stopped on the main road to drop passengers. The bus took the flyover straight to Corporation circle, and finally dropped me at Shantinagar bus station at 1954hrs. 3h24m end-to-end (only 3h04m till Satellite bus station). I took a BMTC Volvo from Shantinagar and headed home,

End Notes: The bus was KA-01-F-9133 from Bangalore Central Division, Depot-4. The old lady had clocked about 9.56 Lakh kms - she has been on almost all the routes that KSRTC operates on. The maintenance was above average - there was a bit of rattling from the rear suspension set-up. The interiors weren't very clean - lots of spots on the upholstery and the roofing. The rear LCD screen was missing as well. The driving was above average - the driver lugged the engine at a lot of instances. The driving was very controlled though - a stable speed with no attempts to overspeed.

Amenities:
Blanket: No
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Yes (On throughout)
Entertainment: Yes (A movie played)

Ratings:
Maintenance: 3.5/5
Cleanliness: 4/5
Driving: 4/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: No Ratings

Overall: 4.5/5

Will I take this service again? There is no better option in this route than KSRTC!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bangalore to Thrissur by Kerala RTC Volvo B9R - again!

It was time for another trip to Kerala – another short vacation. This time the mood wasn’t upbeat since I had to attend the post funeral rites of my Grandmother, who passed away the previous week. My office was kind to approve my vacation. All the buses on Friday were going full, and I did not have any bookings – I decided to start on Saturday afternoon instead – because I badly wanted to sleep without the fear of an alarm.

October 18, 2014:
I had a nice leisurely sleep and woke up very late in the morning. Being a weekend before a long Diwali week, even the day bus was running full that day. Many colleges too were closing that week, and a lot of students were heading to their home towns. Of late, the airline bug has bitten me as well, and I was checking for any last minute deals – almost clinched one, but a power failure and the associated loss of internet connection made me lose the deal. I left home sometime towards noon, and headed straight to a restaurant and had a brunch. The start of a long weekend meant heavy traffic snarls, and the 15 km ride to Majestic BS took no less than 2 hours! I headed straight to the Kerala RTC booking counter there to get a ticket for my ride home. I had the option of choosing one of the three Volvos that evening – but for some reason decided to take the last one i.e., the 2000hrs Ernakulam Volvo.

The reservation system was in a mess due to an internet connectivity failure (an issue from the provider’s side) – it took about an hour to solve the issue. Later, I headed to Satellite Bus Station in a shuttle bus. I reached the bus station by around 1815 hours – and it was a Cadbury Shots moment when I saw the bus that would ferry me – really Mann mein laddoo moment (See this video to know what is a Shots moment) – it was RS784 that night. I always get its pairing bus, and was really excited to see this guy waiting there. In the meantime the Kottayam bound Multi came to the platform for departure – loads weren’t great for this bus. After spending some time at the bus station, I headed to Hotel Kadamba at the bus station for a light dinner. My bus was brought in at 1930hrs – so RS784 was all set to take me home that night.
The bus: RS784 of Ernakulam (Photo from Archives)
The bus was very clean inside – blankets were all folded and kept on the conductor seat. The exteriors had the effect of the previous night’s rain. We had to wait for some time for a reserved passenger to turn up and this delayed our departure a bit. We started only at 2010hrs instead of the scheduled 2000hrs. The bus station had very bad traffic, and we came out of the bus station only at 2016hrs – a good 6 minutes from the platform to the exit gate – a distance of about 150 metres! An FM station was being played, which broadcasted some recent Bollywood tracks. Soon after we were on the main road, the conductor came around distributing blankets to all the passengers. Traffic was not as bad I had experienced during the day – we could reach Shantinagar bus station by 2042hrs. The pick-up point here is still not standardized – passengers stand through the length of Platform 3 (where this bus has a pick-up). This confusion, along with the fact that the conductor had to record the timings at the Kerala RTC office there, meant that we could leave from there only at 2047hrs. By now, almost all the reserved passengers had boarded. A movie was played on the TV now – it was a fairly recent Malayalam movie. 

I expected some traffic blocks around Dairy Circle – but there was no blocks. A small snarl at Forum was all we had to face. We reached Madiwala at 2110 – picked up a passenger and got moving. Now we had about 25 passengers on board. The driver picked up pace quite soon – surprisingly there was absolutely no traffic at Madiwala market. We passed Bommanahalli at 2120hrs. There was a bit of traffic around Singasandra – but nothing major. We passed Electronic City at 2131hrs – there were no pick-ups here. After Electronic City, the driver picked pace and we were crusing at fairly decent speeds. Attibele toll was passed at 2148hrs – no traffic here as well. Just a few metres after the toll gate, a traffic hold-up started. It was bumper-to-bumper here onwards. A lot of fire-cracker shops mushroom around this area during Diwali – and the scene was no different this time. These stalls attract a lot of buyers from Bangalore and this causes a lot of traffic blocks – and this was what was happening. It was 2211hrs by the time we passed the Zuzuwadi incoming RTO Check-post – that is about 23 minutes to cover a km from Attibele toll gate!

There was no traffic beyond Zuzuwadi CP, and we could pass Hosur at 2216hrs. The driver maintained good pace after Hosur. We passed the normal set of hotels where other operators stop – and we finally turned off the road and got into Hotel Uthaiya (now Hotel Nandhini) – at 2251hrs. I dread being at this place – I was a bit hungry and decided to try out something from this place – the interiors of the restaurant had changed a lot and is now much cleaner. The food was served hot and it actually tasted good. I had ordered for Parotta and Green Peas Masala – the bill gave me a good jolt though – ₹120! The first thing I noticed when I came out of the restaurant was that the driver had locked the bus before he went for dinner – now that was a great move – really appreciate it! The driver came back and opened the bus – he switched on the engine and the AC. We started from the place at 2321hrs. Once back on the highway, I pushed back my backrest and prepared to sleep – the driving style changed totally now, and the speeds were stable now. 

I had a nice sleep afterwards – vaguely remember the bus stopping somewhere for a tea break – not sure where it was or what time it was. I woke up only when the conductor called out “Coimbatore” – we were standing outside the Gandhipuram bus station now – and my watch read 0342hrs. A couple of passengers got in (they had a reservation!) and we started off at 0347hrs. I got back to sleep and had another round of undisturbed sleep till we stopped at Palakkad – this time, the bus went inside the bus station and stopped near the fuel station (0506hrs). The conductor went to record the timings, and we started again at 0509hrs. About a couple of minutes after we started, the conductor received a call from a passenger who was left behind at Palakkad BS! We had to wait for this passenger to turn up – since we were only at a walking distance from the bus station, there wasn’t much of a scene – the bus started again at 0517hrs – after this passenger came to the bus. 

I dozed off for some more time – but the poor condition of the road did not let me sleep for long. I was awake by the time we passed Kuthiran pass. I dozed off again after Kuthiran, and woke up just as we were passing Mannuthy (0634hrs). I was finally dropped outside Sakthan Nagar Municipal Bus Station at 0641hrs – about 10 hours and 25 minutes after I set off from Bangalore. 

End Notes: The bus was KL-15-A-282, RS784 from Ernakulam depot. The bus had clocked about 88000kms on the odo. There were two crew members – one driver and a conductor. The driver was carrying a thermos flask to stock enough hot beverage to last the night. Both the drivers were well behaved – they spoke to the passengers decently. I thing I did not like was missing a passenger behind – the conductor should’ve taken a headcount before signaling the driver to start. The bus was maintained well – no rattles. The driving was excellent – he maintained constant pace – no drag races or hard brakes. In fact, even on the two-laned sections in Kerala, the driving was very composed. The end-to-end running time was high – but I loved the fact that the driving was very sleep friendly. Overall a good experience.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Yes (On throughout)
Entertainment: Yes (A movie played)

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 4/5 (-1 for missing a passenger)
Punctuality: 4.75/5

Overall: 4.75/5

Will I take this service again? Certainly, and recommended!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

COK to BLR by Indigo A320

I just got the sanction for a 10 day vacation and wanted to make the most of it – and returning by air was the only way to optimize my days at home. I spent time pondering on various travel websites looking for cheap options to return from home. Airfares were quite over the roof for the date I wanted, and had almost decided to book a bus. I was shocked seeing bus fares around the same range as air-tickets. After spending some more time searching for tickets, I zeroed in on Indigo 412 – which had a late evening departure (2050hrs) and was selling for ₹2399 (the lowest for that date). I selected a free seat and option for the advance check-in option as well. Days flew by, and I was on the last date of my vacation – like everybody, I had a heavy heart and longed to spend some more days at home. Sometime around 11AM, my paternal grandmother passed away, and I had to cancel the trip. The funeral got over late in the night, and I planned to take a day-time bus for my return.

Since I slept quite late in the night, I woke up only by around 10AM. The day buses were gone. I was pondering on “what next” by now. I wanted to reach Bangalore by 5-5.30AM max. The options were quite limited for my requirements, and the ones which did that were awfully priced. An evening Kerala RTC Super Deluxe had some seats available – and that bus normally reaches before 5AM as well – but then I thought twice if I should take the risk of taking a Super Deluxe again (the memories of my last Super Deluxe ride wasn’t very pleasant). I desperately checked for air fares – and all of them were selling above 4.5-5K, which was way beyond my budget. Sometime in the afternoon, I was finalizing on a late evening bus which goes to Hyderabad via Bangalore, when I thought of checking the Indigo website once again – I was bowled over to see a ticket for Rs. 1999 for flight #412, which leaves at 2050hrs. Without much thoughts, I just hit the book button and confirmed my journey. Interestingly, I got the same seat (#8A) as my cancelled trip.

September 13, 2014:
I had an early “dinner” and left home sometime around 1900hrs. My brother was at the wheels – traffic was a bit heavy in the initial few kilometres, giving me a bit of tension. Traffic eased up after Parur and my brother let the beast loose. I was dropped at the airport at around 1945hrs. The domestic terminal of Cochin Airport is always sleepy – all the action lies at the international terminal, thanks to the middle-east boom in Kerala. Once inside the Terminal, it looked like I walked into an airport at peak hour – there were lots of people around baggage screening and even more people waiting outside the check-in gates. There were 6 check-in counters open for Indigo – I hadn’t done a web-check-in this time, and hence headed to the last counter – which had absolutely no queue. The agent at the counter smiled as she took my ticket printout and politely asked for my ID proof. She printed out my boarding pass – and I got the same seat that I selected online.

This time, the security check wasn’t empty – there were a couple of people ahead of me. The guards there were very friendly – they assisted people in getting trays and putting their laptops on it. I cleared security check quite fast, and was in the terminal area by 2005 hrs! The seating area was quite full this time. An Air India flight to Delhi was just departing, while a Jet Airways flight was boarding (that was an international departure). Sometime around 2007hrs, just after the AirIndia to Delhi was pushed back, I saw my aircraft taxiing into the apron. The aircraft parked right outside our boarding gate, and passengers were de-boarding very quick. The first boarding call was made at 2015hrs – but they did not let the passengers move to the aircraft until around 2020hrs. I was inside the aircraft by 2022hrs.
VT-IFS, the craft which did the honours (Photo courtesy: Girish B @ Jetphotos.net)
The aircraft was VT-IFS, an Airbus 320 with sharklets delivered in August 2013. I am a fan of Indigo’s livery, and love their simplicity. Me and my family has had very positive experiences with Indigo, and was actually looking forward to fly with them again. And, Indigo doesn’t seem to indulge in the cut-throat fare wars and still have fairly good loads. Coming back to the trip, the purser was at the door welcoming all the guests with a smile. There were three other attendants who were standing along the gangway equally spaced from each other – they assisted passengers in leaving their hand-baggage in overhead bins and directing passengers to their seats. The aircraft was flying to Hyderabad via Bangalore and hence there were two sets of passengers – one bound to Bengaluru and another to Hyderabad.

There was one huge family from Andhra – who had their seats strewn around – the attendants had quite a task to settle them down – and to add to the confusion, there were three kids, who cried all the way from Kochi to Bengaluru! Some confusion between the ground staff and the onboard crew about the number of passengers delayed our departure – it was later solved, and we were finally pushed back at 2053hrs – three minutes delayed. After being pushed back, we had to wait for the taxiway to be vacated by another Indigo aircraft which had just arrived from Mumbai (and would head to Chennai later). By now the safety demo had commenced – they were playing a pre-recorded announcement, which was quite clear and audible. They also gave an introduction to their “Hello 6E” on-board catalogue, which listed a lot of buy-on-board stuff including stuff like aircraft replicas, toys and snacks. We started taxiing at 2059hrs – we were to take off from the distant Runway #27. The taxiing take quite some time to the holding area. We had to wait until a SpiceJet Q400 (coming in from Hyderabad) landed (at 2107hrs).

We finally took off at 2109hrs, from Runway 27. Daytime take-offs from Runway 27 are marvelous – my first flight journey was from this very airport, and we had taken off from Rwy27 as well! The aircraft took off straight to the west, and banked to the right, slowly executed a “U” turn and flew towards the North-East. The sky was quite clear, and there was no turbulence through-out. The seat-belt sign was turned off soon, and the buy-on-board service began. They first prioritized passengers who had pre-booked a meal. A lot of passengers had booked their meal, and the progress was quite slow. I did not buy anything, and decided to grab a sub after landing at Bengaluru. Landing was announced at 2141hrs. By now, the marvelous city of Bengaluru was visible – we passed over a couple of major roads which had traffic blocks (this confirmed we were flying over Bengaluru). We flew to the east, turned around and approached Bangalore from the east. We touched down at 2149hrs on Rwy27. Sadly, we were delayed!

As we taxied to the apron, I saw a flurry of activity on the ground – a lot of 6E ground buses and crew vehicles were running around – I saw an Ashok Leyland terminal bus rushing towards a gate – the busfan in me hoped we get that Leyland bus. But, Alas! The aircraft went and stood near an aerobridge – and we got a gate with an aerobridge!! By the time the aircraft stopped, there was a mad queue inside the aircraft with people hurrying to get off. I remained seated till most of the crowd got off – my co-passenger was continuing to Hyderabad. I joined the alighting queue as the crowd thinned. 6E agents standing on the aerobridge welcome us with a smile. It was a long walk from there to the exit gate. The first lot of bags from our aircraft reached the belts just as I reached there – I had only hand-baggage.

Once out of the airport, I headed straight to Subway, grabbed a sub and headed to the intra-city bus terminal. BMTC needs to be commended for the great job they are doing with the bus service.  Albeit expensive, the buses do a great job in taking passenger to the city without burning a very big hole in their pocket. I was confused about which bus to take – but later decided to take the first one that leaves. I got into KIAS-9 – which was leaving first. This bus goes to Majestic. I got a seat towards the back of the bus – and I got a 2 seater all of myself. I was dropped in Majestic a minutes before midnight – and had pre-booked a cab from there to home. I was at home by about 25 minutes past midnight.

Ratings:
Check-in: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.9/5
Crew: 5/5
Overall: 5/5 (I’d give them full marks despite the minor delay)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bangalore to Thrissur - Kerala RTC Volvo B9R

A four day weekend in October - coinciding with Gandhi Jayanti - was an indication for yet another trip home. I had decided to book on either of the KSRTCs for my trip. KaSRTC opened tickets one month in advance - the tickets in regular buses itself were overpriced on the opening day itself. I did not feel like booking an overpriced ticket knowing very well that they'd not stick to the schedule. So the next option was Kerala RTC. I decided to stay awake at night and book a ticket on the opening day. But my experience during opening day for Onam sent shivers down my spine - I had two back-to-back failed transactions that time. I did not want a repeat of that. I checked for tickets at 00:00hrs on 11-September-2014. The site did not open at all - forget booking a ticket. Since the next day was working, I set an alarm for 5.30am and slept off. Woke up in the morning, and found 4 unsold seats in the 2000hrs Ernakulam Multi-axle. I tried booking one of them, but continuously got an error message saying the seat was "already selected" by someone else. Knowing how the system works, I got ready quickly and rushed to the nearest reservation counter - at Majestic BS. The friendly counter person quickly verified the seats and issued Seat #23 to me. So I had "won" a ticket for the long weekend, in a government multi-axle bus at normal rates!

October 01, 2014:
I had to leave office exactly at 1700hrs in-order to reach home on time, pack my baggage and leave home in time to catch my bus. Although the scheduled pick-up time at Bommanahalli (my pick-up point) was 2025hrs, the bus would in no-way reach before 2100hrs. Sometime around 2030hrs, I called up the conductor on the new official number - I was told that they were yet to reach Shantinagar then. I left home around 2100hrs, and my brother dropped me at Bommanahalli around 2120hrs. Just after reaching there, I called up the conductor once again - now the bus had just departed from Shantinagar BS! That meant I had a lot of time to spend on the road side!!

In the meantime, my friend Gokul called up - he was on board the 1930hrs Thrissur Super Deluxe - and they were just leaving Madiwala. His bus turned up at Bommanahalli around 2145hrs - we exchanged a hi. In the meantime, a lot of Kerala bound passengers started turning up at Bommanahalli - they were for the Deluxe buses to Palakkad (2100hrs) and Thrissur (2200hrs). A couple of Karnataka RTC Airavats passed by as well. My bus turned up at Bommanahalli at 2224hrs - I was the only one to board from here. Mr Sandeep was the conductor and he welcome me with a very warm smile - he was the very same person who worked the inaugural trip of the same service. Interestingly, it was the same bus - RS782 - as well! This was my third trip in the same bus!
The bus: RS782 (An old image)
The bus left Bommanahalli in under a minute - since I was the only one to board. The bus was almost full already - my co-passenger was also seated. I got into my seat - #23, and settled down quick. In the meantime, the conductor came around and checked if I got my blanket. A movie was being played on TV. By now, roads got emptier and this helped us reach Electronic city at 2234 - all the seats filled up here, and we got moving at 2235hrs. We overtook the Thrissur bound Airavat Club Class here (2111hrs from Shantinagar). Attibele toll gate was a mess as usual - we took about 8 minutes to pass this toll gate (passed at 2258hrs). Thankfully, there was no traffic block at the Zuzuwadi checkpost and we could pass Hosur by 2307hrs.

The bus pulled in for dinner at the dreaded Hotel Uthaiya (now Hotel Nandhini) at 2342hrs - this is a messy place with overpriced food. Almost every item sold at the stalls here are overpriced. This place is a favourite for almost every bus driver - thanks to the free food they are served. Since I had already taken my dinner from home, I had nothing to do but roam around. We started off after the break at 0013hrs. The conductor was professional in approach - he did a headcount before starting. He came around and checked if anyone had any request as well. Once the bus was back on the highway, the driver liberally used the cruise control - the engine sounded really calm and relaxed. Since the bus kept constant pace, it aided in a very nice sleep. I slept from Krishnagiri toll upto Coimbatore Athupalam toll - I woke up when the bus was passing through this toll gate (approximately 0425hrs).

I slept again, and was woken only when the bus stopped at Palakkad Bus Station, and the conductor called out for passengers alighting there - the time was 0528hrs. The bus started towards Ernakulam at 0529hrs itself - they did not waste time trying for getting passengers from there. I tried sleeping again - but the rough road after Palakkad made the bus sway a lot and it disturbed my sleep. I slept on-and-off through the stretch. We stopped at Vadakkencherry (0607) and Pattikkad (0630) to drop passengers. The driver actually felt "at home" on two-lane stretches, since he was calculating his overtakes perfectly well, and did not make any rash or dangerous cuts anywhere in this stretch.

We finally passed Mannuthy at 0640hrs. I did not get off at Sakthan stand (as is my norm usually), but continued to the KSRTC bus station. We reached there at 0650hrs. We were perfectly on schedule even though the bus left quite delayed from Bangalore. The travelling time from Bommanahalli to Thrissur turned out to 8h26m including a 31 minute dinner break. The bus did not overspeed anywhere - the driving was absolutely sleep friendly as well. What surprised me was that the Bangalore-Trivandrum Special bus (Multi-axle) which left Bangalore at 1800hrs, was still standing at Thrissur!! This clearly meant that our bus had performed excellently that night.

End Notes: The bus was RS782, KL-15-A-280, of Ernakulam Depot. I did not check the odometer reading, but it should've clocked somewhere around 90K kms. The bus was in excellent condition - inside out. The interiors were clean and smelt fresh. Blankets were neatly folded and kept on the overhead rack, instead of keeping them on seats. The conductor checked if all the passengers got blankets as well. The driving was absolutely sleep friendly - no honking, rash cuts or hard brakes anywhere. The driver did not waste time on unnecessary tea breaks either - which is often a norm with Airavats. Overall, that was one Garuda Multi-Axle journey that I'd cherish forever.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Yes (On throughout)
Entertainment: Yes (A movie played)

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

Will I take this service again? Absolutely! Its a bit expensive compared to Airavat Club Classes - but its perfect on timings. Hasn't disappointed me yet.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

COK to BLR by JetKonnect ATR72

After getting a cheap ticket to fly to Kochi, I was on the hunt for the return ticket. I checked various reservation websites, and also different airline sites. On one portal, I found a JetKonnect flight for 1400-odd. I quickly checked with the official website which had fares slightly higher than the other portal. Since low fares often do not last long, I quickly booked the ticket with the 3rd party portal. Applied a coupon code and saved a little more money on the booking.

September 21, 2014:
The flight was to depart at 2215hrs. Sometime in the morning, I remembered about the web-check-in option, and checked in using the Jet Airways website. I used the mBoarding pass option, and got an image file on my phone. One needs to print the boarding pass at the self check-in counters in the Airport. I left home around 8pm - my dad was dropping me at the airport. I reached the airport around 9pm. The domestic terminal was quite deserted at the time - a few passengers were at the check-in counters. I headed to a self check-in counter and printed my boarding pass. From there I headed for security check - I was quite surprised to see that there were no passengers there! I was the lone passenger passing through check - passed through in under 3 minutes.

The terminal area wasn't very empty though - about 3 departures (including mine) were scheduled around the time. Two were to Chennai, and their boarding was on. Cochin airport looks very 'out-dated' compared to the swanky terminals of the newer greenfield airports. Wooden sofa-sets were lined in the seating area - the official capacity of the domestic terminal is only 400 pax! The two aircrafts to Chennai left one behind the other (an Indigo and a SpiceJet). In the meantime, I noticed my flight arriving at the airport. My flight was S2-3614 (9W-2614).

Boarding was announced at 2130hrs. They called passengers by the seat numbers - they initially called for the first 6 rows and then so on. I was in 3F - so quickly joined the queue. The agent at the gate quickly checked seat numbers and let passengers into the bus waiting outside. It was an old Ashok Leyland Avion. They called only as much passengers as they could seat in the bus. The aircraft was parked near the arrival gate - the ride to the aircraft was very short. The aircraft was VT-JCQ, an ATR72-500 commissioned in 2008. This was my first experience in a turbo-prop aircraft, and I was a bit curious of how it goes about. The Purser, or the chief flight attendant was at the aircraft door verifying the boarding passes and directing passengers to their seats. There were two flight attendants. In the meantime, the crew came in - a Lady captain was at command along a male First Officer. Boarding completed at 2155.
The aircraft: VT-JCQ (Photo courtesy: Arjun Sarup @ Airliners.net)
The aircraft was pushed back at 2158. The safety demo was conducted quickly as we prepared to taxi. Taxiing staring at 2202 and we were cleared for take-off without having to wait. We quickly aligned for take-off from Runway 09, and took off at 2205hrs. Turbo-prop aircrafts are too noisy. The seatbelt signs weren't switched off for some time. After about 5 minutes of take-off, the on board service - named "SkyCafe" started off. The attendant came around with the food trolley - I had taken a heavy dinner from home, and all I wanted was some water. After the service was over, the attendant came around once again with drinking water.

The first office (Mr. Nilesh) came on-line and announced that we were starting out descent. He announced that Capt. Vandana was in charge, and we were flying at 17K feet. Landing was finally announced at 2257hrs. In the meantime, I was busy trying to figure out where we were. We finally landed on Runway 27 at 2306hrs. We had a long run to the remote stand afterwards. The craft finally parked for the day, and deboarding started at 2312hrs. Two buses were waiting for us - I got into the second one. The bus ride was quite long. Getting out of the airport was quick - especially since I had only hand baggage with me. Once out of the airport, I headed straight to the BMTC bus station there - I enquired at the enquiry office if there were buses to Bannerghatta road - the guy there said there is KIAS-12, but suggested I get into KIAS-5 (which goes to JP Nagar).

I quickly took a seat in the KIAS-5 bus standing there - that bus was not to leave before 0000hrs! So another long wait there. The bus started exactly at 0000hrs - the bus was full. No standees though. The fare was Rs. 230 to JP Nagar. The ride took exactly an hour - I was dropped in JP Nagar at 0100hrs. The 6km auto ride from there to home set me poorer by Rs. 250 though!

This was another cheap flight trip - the actual end-to-end traveling time worked out to around 5:30hrs - including the waiting at the airports. This flight was a bit late for comfort - but still saves a lot of time! 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

BLR to COK by SpiceJet B738

One night in the last week of August. Quite a lot of advertisements on newspapers about cheap airtickets made me a bit curious. The last time I flew was in the pre-recession period - back in 2008. I was curious if the fares advertised was all-inclusive or the old trick of announcing only the base fares. I got busy browsing some prominent travel portals. To test how cheap flying could be, I checked tickets for Onam - with a September 05 departure from Bangalore. Bus fares for the same date were in the 1.8~2.6K range. The air fares were in the 2.0~2.4K range! I was a bit surprised, and toyed with the idea of booking a ticket if I could get tickets for my return. I put off the idea and decided to fly two weeks later, and managed to get tickets for Rs. 1430 on an evening departure of SpiceJet to Kochi. Then the hunt for the return ticket began, and managed a cheap ticket on JetKonnect.

September 19, 2014:
I left my office in the after lunch. I was taking a bus to the airport for the first time. I reached Hebbal Bus stop around 1430hrs - there was more than 2hrs to go for my flight. There was no boards indicating the bus stop for Airport buses at Hebbal - there were people standing around the entrance to the Subway, and I also joined them. A bus on KIA-9 turned up at around 1445hrs - the bus was almost full. The ticket made my purse lighter by Rs. 180. I initially took a seat in the rear half of the bus - but later shifted to the seat right behind the driver. Unlike the harsh sounds the city Volvos make, this bus sounded very calm and relaxed. The driver was maintaining constant pace on the highway, and used light signals before lane changes. I was dropped at the airport by around 1505hrs - my flight was close to 2 hours away now! I made a visit to Subway before entering the terminal. The security guys at the entrance gave me a weird face when I walked in at 1530 for a 1655hrs flight!

I had checked in through the website the previous night and hence directly proceeded to security check. Being in an airport after a good 6 years, I was a bit confused about the procedure. Security check was quick and I was in the waiting area by around 1600hrs. As I walked into the terminal, I noticed that my flight's departure gate had already been announced - and the gate was at the lower level. After a quick visit to the washroom, I headed towards the assigned gate (gate 6 IIRC). The boarding gate was already open, and boarding was on - I joined the queue, and got into the bus that was waiting to ferry us to the aircraft. It was a Cobus3000 doing the honours. About 15 minutes was spent in filling the bus itself - we were dropped near the aircraft at 1635hrs. It was VT-SPK "Fennel" doing the honours for this trip - a Boeing 737-800 commissioned in 2006.
The Aircraft: VT-SPK "Fennel" of SpiceJet. (Photo Courtesy: Vishal Jolapara @ Airliners.net)
Since my seat was closer to the rear exit, I headed straight to the rear gate. The ground agent welcome with a warm smile, cut out the counterfoil of my boarding pass and let me into the aircraft. The first thing that caught my attention was the tight seating - there was absolutely no leg space. The seating was perfect for a maximum flying time of an hour. It was just impossible for anyone on the window seat or the middle seat to get to the gangway without the others in the row getting off their seats. We were having 100% loads, and it looked like most of them were flying for the first time. Boarding completed in about 5 minutes, and the aircraft was pushed back at 1650hrs. We started the taxi roll soon afterwards. There were 4 attendant - 1 female and 3 male. All of them wore T-shirts and a denim pant. Even as the safety demonstration commenced, many passengers were busy taking group photos and selfies - the crew had a tough time asking passengers to settle down. We did not have to queue up, and we directly put on the runway. We took off at 1656hrs - perfectly on time. The aircraft climbed quite steep. The seatbelt sign was switched off in about 10 minutes and the in-flight service began.

I had a nice sub before takeoff, and hence preferred only a serving of water. The flying time in this sector is too short for elaborate in-flight service. After the service was over, the attendant came for a round of clearing - they collected the trash. This was my first experience in the sector and hence I spent most of the time trying to identifying things I saw below. I could see Coimbatore airport and the umpteen windmills around the Pollachi area. Soon the terrain changed and got greener - hills appeared in sight, and I could see a couple of damns across the horizon. The captain came on line and announced landing at 1722hrs. We were over Kerala by now for sure - since it was green all around. Cochin Airport was visible - The aircraft flew past the airport, and then turned around and aligned for landing. It took about 10 minutes from the time the Airport was first spotted to Landing. We finally touched down at 1743hrs.

As soon as the aircraft vacated the runway, passengers were busy getting off their seats and collecting their overhead baggage. The captain announced our before-time arrival and gave away information about outside temperature and thanked all passengers for flying SpiceJet. The gangway had a long queue and was crowded by the time the aircraft arrived at the terminal. I remained in my seat till most of the crowd got off. I was out of the airport by 1755 - all thanks to having only hand baggage. A KSRTC Volvo parked right outside the arrival terminal took me to Aluva later. I was at home by 1930hrs!

Long back Air Deccan had introduced a lot of Indians to flying - the fare war that followed bled almost all the airlines, and some of them do not exist anymore. But the breed of LCC which were born then still fly, and SpiceJet is one of them. This was my second flight with Spice Jet - and I truly enjoyed it. With Flights getting cheaper than buses, I wonder why would people want to spend 8-10hrs in a bus, when you can fly down in an hour? With this journey, my preferences slowly moved to flying, and I am busy searching for cheap flights for my upcoming trips as well!

Note: I am not an aviation freak - so pardon wrong terms or the too simple writing.

Trivandrum to Mysore by Airavat Club Class

There are very few options from Trivandrum to Mysore - and taking a decision was fairly simple. Once I got into the booking process, it turned to be not so simple as thought to be. There were three options - one Kerala RTC Multi-Axle, one Karnataka RTC Airavat Club Class and one Kallada Multi-Axle, arranged in the order of increasing costs. I wanted to try the Kerala RTC bus, but it was already sold out. The next was the Airavat Club Class - it had two rows available at the back, and I quickly bought a seat on this bus. I got seat #44.

September 14, 2014:
I checked out my room and slowly walked out of the hotel around 6pm. It was drizzling a bit then. As I walked, the rain slowly strengthened. By the time I reached the KSRTC bus station, it turned into a downpour - I got a bit wet by the time I entered the terminal building. This was my first visit to the new terminal building after it was opened. The terminal building seemed incomplete - no shops were opened yet. While I was waiting there, a super deluxe to Kannur turned up. My bus, KA-09-F-4920 turned up right after the Kannur deluxe left. The bus did not seem to be in great shape - boarding commenced immediately. I got into the bus only after the crowd subsided. Interiors were clean and appeared well kept. The first thing that caught my attention was the lack of the rear LCD screen - so there was just one TV for the 49 passengers in the bus - it was impossible for the passengers at the back to watch the sole tv.
The bus: KA-09-F-4920 (Image from Archives)
The crew called up the remaining passengers on the phone, and ensured that all the passengers who had advance reservation were on board. We started off at 1845hrs - a full five minutes before time. Quite a lot of seats were yet to be taken - but I understood that Karnataka RTC offers a lot of pick-up points along the highway. The bus directly headed to Chackai and then turned towards Kazhakkoottam. We started from Kazhakkoottam at 1922hrs after picking up a couple of passengers. By now they had started playing a Hindi movie on the sole TV upfront - I couldn't see what was happening, but from the audio understood it was a record breaking bollywood SRK-Kajol starrer. I spent my time fiddling with my phone. It rained a bit and the bus wasn't able to keep great speeds due to the traffic.

The next pick-up was at Kallambalam (2002) and then Parippally (2013). The bus pulled into Kollam Bus Station at 2052hrs - more than 2 hours after we left from Trivandrum. A few passengers got in, and we continued our journey at 2053hrs. By now I was desperately hungry and was wondering why were did not pull in for dinner yet. Our Dinner break was at a hotel near Krishnapuram (before Kayamkulam) at 2139hrs - the crew announced a 20 minute break and walked out. The restaurant was very lousy - they took a lot of time to serve food. By the time my bill came, the driver was already honking to call back passengers. I rushed to the bus after paying for food - we started at 2209hrs - exactly 30 minutes lost for break. I was tired and sleepy by now. We stopped for a pick-up at Kayamkulam (2211hrs) - the bus did not enter into the bus station, but stopped by at Ananda Travels on the highway.

I had a very nice sleep after this. I woke up briefly when my co-passenger got in (I later realised that that was at Ernakulam). True to the name, the driving was very sleep friendly, and I truely slept "like a baby". I woke up sometime around 0500hrs when the bus was climbing the Wayanad Ghats (aka Thamarassery pass). I continued sleeping, and woke up only when the bus stopped at Kalpetta to drop a passenger (0539hrs). I continued sleeping again, and woke up when the bus was just passing the Karnataka forest checkpost just past the Bandipur forest stretch. We passed Gundlupet at 0722hrs. The driver was showing signs of hurry now. Although the ticket claimed we had a tea break at Gundlupet, I prayed we did not waste time for tea - as if my prayers were answered, the driver skipped the break and continued towards Mysore. We passed Nanjangud at 0756hrs. It generally takes an hour from Nanjangud to Mysore, and by now I was sure we'd reach at the scheduled time.

We stopped by at the Outer Ring road jn before Mysore at 0822, and a lot of passengers got off. We overtook the 1630hrs Trivandrum-Mysore Airavat just before the palace - this bus is supposed to reach Mysore at 0430 hrs - but doesn't have a forest pass. Its high time KSRTC updated its website with the actual arrival time. We finally pulled in to Mysore Bus Station at 0835hrs - about 20 minutes before scheduled time.

End Notes: The bus was KA-09-F-4920, of Mysore Rural Depot-2. The bus had about 3.2 Lakh kms on the odo. The maintenance wasn't really great - the body had a lot of damages. Although the interiors were clean, the interior lights were not working at the rear half and the rear LCD panel was missing. The driving was good - he did lug at times. Being on one of the last rows, I had to bear with the lugging at time. As usual, Mysore crew have a sense of time, and this driver was no different - he managed time really well and did not waste time anywhere. The running time of 13h50m was good for the distance, considering the fact that its mostly a two-lane road with a ghat in between. What shocked me really was that the Kerala RTC Multiaxle reached only at 0930 - even after departing a good 1h45m before us!

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Yes
Entertainment: Yes

Ratings:
Maintenance: 3.5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5

Overall: 4/5

Will I take this service again? Its a good option for the route - a bit pricey though.

Monday, October 06, 2014

On Kallada G4, Bangalore to Trivandrum via Nagercoil

A message on Whatsapp on a normal Friday evening. An invitation for a new bus launch even in Trivandrum. That was an invitation I couldn't refuse. I was in a quandry - I was supposed to attend a training program in Mysore starting that Monday. However, I wasn't yet confirmed for the Mysore event. On Saturday, I received a confirmation that I should be going to Mysore for the program. Soon after the confirmation came, I called up Friends Travels Madiwala and asked for the status of Trivandrum buses that evening - I was told that all of them were available. I did not block a seat and decided to walk in to Friends travels that evening.

September 13, 2014:
The paperwork for the training program that I had to attend in Mysore was taking up a lot of time - it was almost 1730hrs by the time I left home. I had to hurry once I was at home - packed my baggage, got fresh and had my dinner. My brother dropped me at Madiwala - I was in Madiwala to board a bus after a really long time. The last time I took a bus from Madiwala was in February! I had been either driving down since, or had been taking government buses. Boarding in Madiwala has turned messy ever since the defunct fuel station in Madiwala was demolished and the site closed for construction. All the buses spill over to the road and traffic becomes a mess. Its high time they build a dedicated bus station for private operators. I headed straight to Friends and got a ticket in the first Kallada G4 via Nagercoil -2045hrs was told as the scheduled departure time.

In the meantime, the SRM B9R to Trivandrum left. I spent some time chatting with friends in Madiwala, visited the ATM and came back to Friends. By now my bus was parked on the roadside - the ever familiar Sabu was the cleaner for my bus! I got in to the bus and occupied my seat - #I4. I always prefer seats towards the back - for some reason love hearing the grunt of the 9 litre engine. The bus was getting loaded with luggage, and passengers were taking their sweet time to turn up. Unlike the past, there was no sign of the bus departing at the scheduled time - quite unusual for Friends Travels who were known for punctual departures. The bus finally started at 2110hrs. A movie was played soon after the bus took off. The driver was sane - he did not push the bus at all. We took a U-turn at St. Johns signal and continued towards Hosur. Even on the BETL, the bus was keeping sane speeds. Off late, I heard that G4 has been focusing on safer driving and they often end up reaching late.
The bus: KA-01-AA-7723 (Image from Archives)
We stopped at Bommasandra for a pick-up - at 2135hrs. It took some time, and we left only at 2138hrs. I concentrated on the movie for sometime. There was no traffic at Attibele, and we reached Hosur at 2200hrs itself - we lost quite some time here in loading luggage and started again only at 2207hrs. I watched the movie till it got over. As soon as the movie got over, the cleaner came around and closed the rear screen. I slept off sometime around midnight. The driver was maintaining constant speed - the engine sounded very calm and relaxed. I had a fairly nice sleep. I vaguely remember seeing the bus running through a town somewhere in TN - but I was too sleepy to realise where we were.

The bus stopped for a loo break somewhere on Madurai bypass at around 0335 - it was a short break lasting a couple of minutes. I slept off soon after we started from there. I slept quite well, and woke up only when the bus was approaching Nagercoil. We stopped outside the bus station in Vadassery, Nagercoil, at 0639. A couple of people got off, and a whole lot of luggage was unloaded - we started off again at 0640. I was a bit afaid if we'd make it to Trivandrum before 9, given the fact that its a high traffic two-lane road ahead. The bus stopped at Marthandam (0723) and Parassala (0738) to drop passengers and luggage. Once into Kerala, the road were surprisingly empty. Another video was being played on the TV now - it was a recent comedy skit. As we neared Trivandrum, we overtook the SRM B9R which left more than 30 minutes before us from Bangalore. I was finally dropped at Thampanoor, at 0823, just a little over 11 hours after we started from Bangalore!

End notes: The bus was KA-01-AA-7723, from the first pair of Multi-Axles owned by Kallada G4. This yellow coloured bus had about 7.27 Lakh kms on the odo. The maintenance was above average - there were rattles from the suspension and the body did not seem well kept. The driving was great - no rash cuts or overspeeding - infact, the bus kept constant pace most of the time. The crew were well behaved and they did not show signs of hurry. Although the bus left late from Bangalore, we still reached Trivandrum in just 11h13m - reinforcing why a lot of passengers to Trivandrum have moved over to this route from the conventional route via Palakkad.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Yes
Entertainment: Yes. Two movies played.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 3.5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

Will I take this service again? Certainly! I'd love travelling by them again if I'd have to travel on this route again!

Friday, October 03, 2014

A long journey from Thrissur to Bangalore by a KSRTC Airavat

I made a calculation mistake, and I ended up not booking any ticket for that long weekend in August. That long Independence day weekend. I realised it quite late, and was shocked to see that all the buses were sold out. The few private buses remaining had seats at astronomical rates. I was sure that I did not want to spend large amounts on a bus ticket. I had two options - one cancel the trip, or make a break-journey. While searching the Awatar website of Karnataka RTC, I found that the 1535hrs Thrissur-Bangalore Airavat (via Gudalur) had some seats available - I grabbed a seat without much delay. The ticket was priced higher than normal days, but was still in the affordable range. For some vague reason, I chose a seat at the first row. I've never been comfortable sitting in the first row in a Volvo, especially for night runs. I hardly had time at home in this trip - most of the time was spent sleeping at home, and the rest roaming around.

August 17, 2014:
My brother dropped me at Thrissur KSRTC Bus Station sometime around 1510hrs. As I walked into the bus station, I noticed a badly kept Airavat from Mysore Rural Depot-2 parked. I was sure this would be my bus - there was no board at the front. Later, I noticed a badly scribbled paper kept on the board holder - it read Bengaluru-Thrissur. In the meantime, my mobile beeped to intimate me the arrival of an SMS - with the advent of free messaging apps, SMSs are a rarity, rather, they seem quite of the bygone era. I still get excited everytime I receive a message - but these days the messages only tell you about the cash balance in your bank account going down, or telling you that you just got indebted to your credit card provider.

This message was the usual reminder message from KSRTC - the crew phone number, and the bus number was right there - it read "KA-09-F-4695". And that was the bus parked in front of the Karnataka RTC Reservation counter at Thrissur. I left my bag in the bus and headed to the washroom. On my way back, I checked the other buses parked there. The driver had left the AC running in the bus - so all the passengers were inside the bus. In the meantime, I noticed that both the crew did not have the characteristic White "Airavat" Uniform - but they wore the drab khakhi. There was one special Airavat in the very same route as us, but that was to leave only in the night. The driver of that bus was asking our driver to hurry, lest we get blocked at the forest checkpost past Gudalur. I felt uneasy hearing that "blocked" word. Just then, a passenger sitting in the next seat asked me if we'd clear the forest in time - more uneasiness for me!
The bus, KA-09-F-4695, before starting from Thrissur
The driver was by now pushing the conductor to call up the remaining passengers and ask them to hurry up. We started off at 1536hrs - a minute late. We had left a passenger behind (not reported) and a passenger decided not to travel (declined to travel when the crew called him/her). The driver was fast from the word go. He had a very unusual sense of time - I used the word unusual because very often the crew on Airavat (especially those from Bangalore depots) hardly respect time. This guy was very different - he did not waste time waiting the bus to pick speed on top gears - he geared the bus right, and kept it in the right power bands. The engine sounded a bit strained - it wasn't at ease. Maintenance was poor as well - it was rattles from everywhere. The TV was playing a Hindi movie to keep the passengers engaged.

In the meantime, the conductor was trying to call a passenger who was supposed to board from Guruvayur - but the number was switched off. Sometime later, the passenger calls back the conductor - the conductor made a routine "where are you.. u wait near the KSRTC bus station" dialogue and hung up. The conductor was actually calling the passenger to ask him come down to Kunnamkulam so that we need not go to Guruvayur, and this could save us some time. But the passenger responded too late, and we had already turned off the Kunnamkulam road, and were on the way to Guruvayur. The level cross at Guruvayur was closed, and it gave the driver a few jitters. We lost precious 5 minutes there. The passenger was waiting outside the KSRTC bus station for us - we pick him (and his family) up and continued the run (1627hrs). The driver pushed the beast on the narrow Guruvayur-Kunnamkulam road - he wanted to maintain pace.

Things got tight after Kunnamkulam (passed at 1641hrs) - the road was narrow and the traffic quite heavy. We had a couple of the typical Kerala drivers - who just stick to the middle of the road at a leisurely pace, and never ever bother giving way if the vehicle behind honks. Our driver made a few rash cuts to overtake such tortoises on the road. As it got darker, the task became tighter. The driver was firing on all the guns all the time. I was enjoying such a run on the Airavat - which is quite unusual. The driver just proved that driver from Mysore are a different breed all-together - not like the lug happy top gear specialists from Bangalore depots. Since we were racing against time, the crew did not try attracting passengers enroute. We passed Nilambur at 1847hrs. Things were slowly getting tight for us - but the driver was oozing confidence that we'd make it.

We passed Vazhikadavu at 1916hrs. As the ghat started, we slowly lost pace - the bus had very poor pickup, and the driver had to compulsorily shift to the first gear at every curve, and pick pace. Somewhere in the ghat, we got held up in a traffic block - a fight between a truck and a bus. We lost another 10 minutes in this snarl. After the snarl, the driver was back to pushing the bus. Small vehicles, especially private cars and the notorious share jeeps on the route made life hell for the driver - they'd never co-operate with the bus on curves, and they ensured we lost time at most curves. Some passengers in the bus requested for a toilet break, and the crew stopped at a small hotel just past the TN-KL border in the ghats - the break lasted 5 minutes. We started off at 2008hrs. There was a small altercation at the place where the road turns towards Gudalur, just past the Nadugani check-post - a wrongly parked car blocked up traffic. The driver rushed past Gudalur town with all his might - at 2037hrs.

A couple of vehicles caused more time loss for us on the way. We finally reached the TN Forest Check post (Thorappalli) at 2050hrs. We headed straight through the middle lane towards the checkpost - when a forest guard jumped in front of the bus and rudely asked "where are you headed to?" He continued, "the gate is closed. now back up and park on the road side". What? Are you joking was the first response our driver had. The conductor got off, and a few of us too joined - we reasoned with the forest guard about the traffic block and requested him to leave us. He did not budge - and spoke even more rude now. I noticed then that there were 4 other Karnataka RTC buses (Rajahamsa) parked there - they were all from Ooty. They too were stuck! There was a lot of vehicles coming from the Karnataka side - so we had to back up to let those vehicles go. We then went back to the checkpost and tried talking to the guards there - but they were horribly rude. In the meantime, a couple of policemen interfered - they spoke very politely, and empathically. They understood us, but replied that they were helpless. He said the TN checkpost closes at 2030hrs, since the Karnataka gate closes at 2100hrs, and they couldn't risk having vehicles waiting inside the forest.

He quickly advised us to rest in the bus - and those who had emergencies could get into one of the six buses that had a forest permission to run through at night - he advised us the timings as well. They spoke to a few families there and suggested they return to Gudalur - since that place wasn't really safe. So we were now stuck - and we had to spend the night at the checkpost! That was the worst dream to come true - and I was left shocked. This strengthened my beliefs in omen. The conductor came around and advised that we have our dinner - since the hotels near the checkpost would close before midnight. Left we no option - I decided to head for Dinner. In the mean time a few Kerala bound buses came up - and some passengers in our bus decided to abandon the trip and they returned by those buses.

The hotel had very lousy service - and I just stuffed down my food and returned to the bus. The bus was now moved closer to the gate. I got back into the bus - it was slightly cold outside. The driver advised the passengers on the front row about the operation of the front door and he went to the dickey to sleep. I opened the exhaust hatch so that some air-circulation is retained. The main door was left open as well. I slept off sometime towards mid-night. Thankfully, there were no mosquitoes! I kept waking up in between - and remember seeing a couple of buses passing the forest check-post. I woke up sometime towards 5.30am. I got off the bus, walked around and got fresh. The driver was now at the wheels all ready to start. All the lanes on the road were now occupied - a Kerala RTC deluxe was parked parallel to us.

The gate opened at 0600hrs, and we started at 0602hrs from there. The forest guards were demanding "tea-money" from cars - they stopped a car guy and threatened to detain his car if he didn't pay - the driver threatened back, and they guards retreated. I felt ashamed of such government staff - they were looting people, and they expected people to co-operate even after witnessing their rude show the previous night. The forest roads were absolutely empty - the driver wasn't fast - but kept pace. Umpteen speed breaks and lunar craters on the road slowed us. There was absolutely no road near Theppakkadu forest offices. The driver slowed down everytime he spotted a deer or an elephant - the wildlife spotting was all about deers and elephants only. We starting meeting vehicles in the opposite direction shortly after Theppakkadu. We entered into Karnataka at 0636. The roads got better as we entered Karnataka - except for the frequent speedbreakers, the ride was just too good. We exited the forest at 0653. Once out of the forest, the driver stood on the accelerator - we were doing good speeds after that.

We passed Gundlupet at 0706hrs. I was expecting heavy traffic after Gundlupet - but thankfully that wasn't the case, and we could maintain pace in this section. The driver was at home on this turf - he planned his overtakes excellently and kept the pace on. We finally pulled into Mysore Bus Station at 0805hrs - in under an hour from Gundlupet! The driver announced a quick break and got off the bus. A lot of passengers got off the bus here - many of them were booked to Mysore, while some passengers announced that they were heading back to Kerala. I headed out of the bus for a stroll and used the washroom. In the meantime, a lot of Kerala RTC buses gave us company - all of them were headed to Bangalore. The Trivandrum-Bangalore Multi-axle also appeared at the bus station - it seemed majority of the passengers were heading to Bangalore that day. That bus left before us. We started from Mysore at 0823. The crew did not try filling the empty seats - they just stopped by at the "Bangalore Platform", called twice and just kept going.

The conductor was at the wheels now - he was actually faster than the driver. The bus was kept in poor shape, and quite often the gear got stuck. We pulled in for a breakfast break at a bus station kinda set up opposite Maddur Bus station, at 0932. There was a hotel and a couple of eateries in that place - and only KSRTC buses were stopping by there. The crew were also hurrying up with the break. We left the place at 0950hrs. The driver took over the wheels now. Another movie was being played on TV now. Traffic thickened as we neared Bangalore. It was often crawling at places. The traffic got thicker as we crossed Kengeri. We finally landed at Satellite Bus Station in Mysore Road at 1125. The bus directly headed towards the "Mysore Platform" instead of dropping passengers at the Arrival platform, as is the norm. The end-to-end running time turned out to 19h49m (for a paltry 439kms)! Of the total time, 9h12m was lost at the check post itself - so the actual running time turns out to 10h37m (including breaks).

End notes: The bus was KA-09-F-4695 of Mysore Rural Depot-2. It had over 9.03 lakh kms on the odo. The maintenance was poor - the bus rattled all the time, the suspensions were all broken. The engine struggled on grades and the gear shift was tight - the driver often struggled to shift gears because it just doesn't engage. There were no screens at the front - all of them were damaged. The exteriors of the bus were also in bad shape. The crew were well behaved though - they had time sense and they tried their best to pass the checkpost before closing - but certain other factors made them fail. This bus needs to be rescheduled - they could skip the Guruvayur pick-up (providing a pick-up in Kunnamkulam instead) and depart early from Thrissur. Else they could simply make this bus leave late in the night from Thrissur and terminate it at Mysore instead.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes - 500 ml bottles
Snacks: No
Charging Point: No
Entertainment: Yes. Three movies played.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 2.5/5
Cleanliness: 4/5
Driving: 4.5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 0/5

Overall: 3/5

Will I take this service again? Hell no! I love take the opposite service, but not this one. Its a good option for those travelling to Mysore. But certainly not for those travelling to Bangalore.