Kannur to Bangalore: KSRTC Airavat

I did not quite realise that it was a very long weekend. I was quite late to start searching for tickets - almost all the good buses were sold out - the private ones were full, barring a few exhorbitantly priced special buses. Even the later buses of KSRTC were sold out. There weren't too many options left, and I chose to book a KSRTC Airavat that leaves very early from Kannur. This particular bus is operated by Mysore division, and operates only upto Mysore Road Satellite Bus Station. With a very early departure (1845hrs) and a very early arrival (0330hrs), this bus finds very few takers and is usually the last to fill. Half the bus was filled when I booked my ticket, and I had to be content with a window seat towards the rear half of the bus.

September 20, 2015
I decided to leave my room a bit early, so that I could have some refreshments before getting into the bus. However, so issues with my booking at the hotel delayed by check-out, and I could leave the hotel only by 1750hrs. I did not have much time left for a hotel visit, and directly took an auto to the KSRTC bus station, from where my bus would depart. I bought some snacks from a bakery outside the bus station - this happened to be a good decision, as I realised later.

Kannur KSRTC bus station is a very sleepy place - only a very few buses come here, and even fewer passengers come here. Being a Sunday after a long weekend, the bus station was a bit crowded today. There were a couple of buses to depart in the next hour or so - both to Bangalore. One operated by Kerala SRTC and the other being my bus. The customary message dropped in soon after I reached there, and it informed my bus would be KA-01-F-8476 of Mysore Rural-2 Depot. "8476" - this kept repeating again and again! A very old bus!!

The clock ticked past 1830, and there was no sign of my bus being brought in. Meanwhile, Kerala SRTC's Super Deluxe to Kannur was brought in, and was ready for departure perfectly at its departure time of 1900hrs. My bus was finally brought to the platform at 1844hrs - just one minute to go for departure. First impressions - a Mark-III Volvo B7R, with Azad body! It looked old - had better days for sure. As soon as the bus came, people mobbed around it - majority of those who mobbed were seat seekers. The conductor had a tough time letting the reserved passengers get in.
The bus: KA-01-F-8476 of Mysore Rural-2 Depot
On getting into the bus, I was in for a big surprise - the entire interiors were redone. Fully new upholstery for seats, flooring changed, roofing garnish changed and what not! A nice air freshener was used as well. My co-passenger was already seated. The bus was filling up quick - real quick. The Kerala RTC bus was already full and ready to go - we had some more passengers to join. I still don't understand why is it so difficult for Karnataka SRTC to stick to their departure time. We finally started off at 1905hrs - 20 minutes late. A waterbottle and blanket was given soon after we left the bus station.

The traffic was fairly high for a Sunday, and we crawled till we got to the bypass. This bus had a pick-up at Thalassery, and we headed towards there. The bus seemed to be in great condition mechanically - the engine did not make any new sounds, and the ride quality was great. The bus picked pace really quick - I guess the engine had undergone a full overhaul. We reached Thalassery by 1946hrs - that was quick thanks to low traffic on the highway. The pick-up took some time - we left at 1951hrs, and most seats were full now. No movie or music was played, and the cabin lights were also off - perfect atmosphere to sleep! I slowly drifted asleep. We passed Koothuparamba at 2016hrs, and Mattannur at 2040hrs.

We stopped briefly at Iritty, at 2106hrs - One passenger joined here, and we started again at 2108hrs. I kept shifting from sleep to wake every now and then. There was a bit of traffic at Koottupuzha, and the driver had to make 4 attempts (forward-reverse cycles) to finally make it through the Koottupuzha bridge, which we passed at 2133hrs. The ghat started then - the driver showed his skills here. Perfectly balanced driving - no throwing around, and I don't remember any passenger puking in the bus. The driver really showed what it is to drive in a ghat - turns were taken slowly, and that really helped. The refurbished suspension setup of the bus also helped.

I slept off soon before we finished ascending the ghat. The bus stopped at Virajpet to pick a passenger (2235hrs) - I had a very nice sleep after that. I wondered why didn't they stop for dinner yet! The bus finally pulled in to a hotel named "New Sagar" a little after Gonikoppa (2325hrs). As usual, the AC was switched off when they stopped, and it got very stuffy inside. I got off the bus, had a stroll, took a tea and some snacks, and then got back into the bus. I waited for the driver to switch on the engine so that I could check the odo reading - but the entire display was jumbled up, and it just displayed some random characters. We finally started off from there at 2344hrs.

I had another long sleep, only to be woken up by the sound of the conductor calling for Mysore passengers - we were standing inside the Mysore bus station - the clock read 0059hrs. I was asleep even before the bus started again from the bus station. A long continuous sleep after that - I woke woken up again with the shrill calls from the cabin.. "Bengalooor... last stop". It was 0318hrs, and we were already at Mysore road Satellite Bus Station! A good 12 minutes before scheduled time, even after departing 20 minutes late from Kannur! The arrival was too early, and we were dropped only at the Satellite bus station. It was a very loonngg journey home after that - there were no cabs available, and had to wait for a long time to get one.

An 8 hour thirteen minute journey for 350kms, with a long ghat section, and mostly two lane roads. That was a great journey. The bus was old (2008 vintage), with an undecipherable odometer reading. The maintenance was a class apart - great interiors, with an average looking exterior. To cut short, I loved it!

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Not Available
Entertainment: Available, not used

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.75/5 (Points cut for the delayed departure, but 5/5 for a before time arrival)

Overall: 4.95/5

Will I take this service again? I am not very sure - the timings are odd, so is the dropping point in Bangalore. It is a good alternative option, though.

Comments

rahulvijayev said…
One reason I prefer to travel in KaSRTC is that they doesnt play movies or songs, unlike the other private buses in that route, where they play movies till midnight. But last Friday, when I travelled from Bangalore to Kannur, I had a really bad experience. As soon as the bus started from Shantinagara, just after 10 minutes, they took the bus back to the depot and asked us to change the bus citing some technical issues. When this second bus reached Mysore, we were asked to change bus again, due to some problems. If I am correct, it was this 8476 which took us from Mysore to Kannur that day!

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