Kozhikode to Bangalore: Garuda King Class!

I had written in my previous post about booking this journey. I had been planning a trip on this bus for a long long time. I had two reasons for this plan - this would be me first time ascending the Thamarassery Ghat in a Volvo bus during the day, and second, this would be the first day trip in a Kerala RTC Volvo Multi-axle bus. I first checked tickets for this bus, and found that the left side window seat on the first row was available - perfectly what I wanted. I booked this seat first, before booking the Muvattupuzha-Kozhikode ticket (read about that trip here).

June 18, 2016:
I had reached Kozhikode at 0300hrs. I spent time roaming around the bus station till 0400hrs. It was raining for most of the time, and I waited till the rain subsided a bit. I walked out of the bus station sometime around 0415 and headed to a lodge outside and took a room - I wanted to stretch a bit and then get fresh. I checked out of the room by 0600hrs and walked back to the bus station. While walking back to the bus station, I noticed that the Bangalore-Kozhikode buses of both the KSRTC were arriving together, and both headed into the bus station. The Kerala State RTC bus (RS785) which had just arrived would take me to Bangalore at 0830hrs - in effect, the bus gets less than two hours at its home depot for any check-up or cleaning.
My bus: RS785. Its seen returning to its depot after arriving from Bangalore.
I headed out of the bus station sometime around 0730 for breakfast, and came back around 0800hrs. Kozhikode bus station is, honestly, not the best design around. The bus station has serious design flaws and drivers find it really difficult to get to the boarding bays. The buses park at the same level where passengers stand - so passengers need to take quite an effort to get into the buses. Since the multi-axle buses are longer than regular buses, they've allotted the first bay for Multi-axle buses - so they could directly reverse out of the bus station and take the entry route for their exit.

My bus, RS785, was brought in by 0809hrs. Boarding started almost immediately. The driver opened the luggage bay to allow passengers leave their bags there. I waited outside for sometime. I got in soon after the bus was switched on and AC turned on. The bus was around 40% full and a few walk-in passengers (mostly to Kalpetta and Sulthan Bathery) joined. We started off at 0833hrs - about three minutes late. The driver was fairly fast right from the beginning. They took the mini-bypass road, before entering the Wayanad road and then the National Highway. I had a terrible hangover from the sleepless night earlier and I fell asleep soon after we entered the highway.
Garuda King Class. The Chariot of Kerala.
I slept for quite sometime - I vaguely remember the bus starting off from Thamarassery. I was too sleepy to note the time - but I guess it was sometime around 0915 or so. I continued sleeping for sometime. I woke up just as we were leaving Adivaram. I pulled up the backrest and got ready to enjoy the ghats. The driver was quite fast even as we commenced ascending the ghat. The first hairpin bend itself was tight - private vehicles jump in between and make matters worse for the big vehicles. Out of the 9 hairpin bends in the ghat section, we had to reverse at two, stop and turn slowly at two. At one hairpin bend, one car guy came and stopped quite close forcing the driver to reverse and turn - these car drivers never learn to respect bigger vehicles on ghats.
Climbing the Ghats...
The climb was really good - but I felt the driver was bit too fast on the ghats. A little slower driving would've made life easier for passengers - the constant swings made a couple of people puke. We entered Wayanad district at 1004hrs. We slowed a little after we entered Wayanad since the traffic increased. Our next stop was at Kalpetta (1022hrs). Since the bus does not enter the bus station, he drove till the town and stopped on the road side. Quite a lot of reserved passengers joined here, along with a few more walk-in passengers. We started from Kalpetta at 1024hrs. In the meantime, the conductor was getting calls from passengers boarding at Sulthan Bathery - since the scheduled departure there was 1020hrs - a terribly impractical timing. They've allotted less than two hours for the bus to cover close to 100 kms through a two-lane road and a nice ghat section thrown in between.
A little before we entered Wayanad...
The conductor called every passenger boarding from Sulthan Bathery and intimated them that the bus would not reach the bus station and the pick-up point is at Chungam/Kottakkunnu. We first stopped at Chungam bus stop in Sulthan Bathery at 1056hrs - half of the reserved passengers boarded here, and we left at 1058hrs. We travelled a little forward and stopped at Kottakkunnu - just past the turn towards the KSRTC Bus Station - at 1101hrs. The rest of the reserved passengers joined here. We started from here at 1104hrs. An elderly couple who boarded here seemed really worried and spoke to the conductor a big concern they had - they had to catch a train from Mysore at 1415hrs! They had booked this bus since it had a scheduled departure at 1020hrs and the website claimed the bus reaches Mysore at 1255hrs! While the running time given here was possible, but the departure time was impossible!

The conductor replied that the bus regularly reaches before 1400hrs and they'll help them get an auto which would take a short cut to get to the railway station. The bus was now entering the forest section. We passed Muthanga checkpost at 1116hrs - this is where vehicles are detained during the night travel embargo. The driver slowed down a bit after we entered the forest. The roads till the Karnataka border was well paved - roads got a little bad after that (not very bad though). Speed breakers became more common after we crossed into Karnataka. The driver had a very peculiar style - he brakes for the speed breaker, brings the speed down to around 20kmph, and then releases the break - the bus jumps over the speed breaker, and he picks speed. He honked quite a bit inside the forest - which I absolutely disliked.

We reached Gundlupet at 1203hrs - a couple of passengers got off here. We sped towards Mysore - I really hoped they stopped for lunch after Mysore - but that wasn't the case. We pulled into the routine Hotel Coffe Stoppe for lunch at 1208hrs. This is a place I absolutely prefer to avoid - the food isn't great and is expensive (I changed this opinion the very next day though). I quickly had something for lunch - the food was terrible, as usual. I took off sometime taking some photos of the beast that was taking me to Bangalore. The crew hurried with their food, much to the relief of the elderly couple who had to get a train from Mysore. We started off at 1235hrs. The driver maintained pace on the highway - the bus was locked at 80kmph and the driver remained at that speed all the time.
The bus: RS785, taken during the lunch break.. 
It was getting boring to crawl at that speed on the empty highway. After a little bit, road got bad - Four laning works were in progress and hence a lot of diversions were enforced. We did a bit of off roading on the way. We stopped at Nanjangud (1303hrs) to drop a couple of passengers on the way. The driver maintained the pace wherever he could - but then some vehicles did play hurdle by not letting him overtake. They do the typical mallu style of increasing speed the moment someone tries to overtake, and slowing down the moment the other vehicle aborts the attempt - repeat again during the next overtake attempt. This is the worst form of driving on road.

We stopped briefly near the Mysore palace to let the elderly couple get an auto to the railway station and we continued to the Suburban.. er! Central Bus Station in Mysore. We got to the bus station by 1340hrs. As usual, the crew did not enter the bus station - they stopped on the road side, but near the Bangalore platform. They managed to get a couple of passengers to Bangalore and we started off at 1341hrs. I was quite sleepy and slowly tried to sleep for sometime - the sun was on my side and I moved to the aisle seat (which was empty throughout) instead. I remember seeing the bus pass the outer ring road junction - I dozed off after that. I woke up just as the conductor shouted out a tea break - the time was 1443hrs and we were somewhere near Maddur. The smell of Maddur Vada being fried swept through the bus - but I was too tired and sleepy to get off the bus. I continued dozing for a while. We started off at 1453hrs.

I dozed off for some more time and woke up as we pulled over at Kengeri to drop a passenger - the time was 1621hrs. Traffic ahead was a bit heavy. The driver seemed a little drowsy - he badly needed some rest. We crawled past traffic and finally entered Mysore road Satellite Bus Station at 1641hrs - some 51 minutes behind the advertised schedule. The end-to-end running time turned to 8h08m - which is very impressive for covering a little over 350kms during the day, in a predominantly two laned stretch with quite a bit of ghat in between. The time schedule displayed on the KSRTC website is terribly over-estimated.

The bus, RS785, KL-15-A-283, of Kozhikode depot, had covered over 4.9 lakh kms and was kept in fairly great shape. The exteriors did bear scars of the regular trips it makes through the ghats - dents and scratches. The interiors appeared worn - this particular service is operated using a single bus and has the best revenue among all the Volvo buses operated by KSRTC. It earns the most money per revenue kilometre operated - the best among all KSRTC services. It badly deserves a pairing bus. The bus, even after all the torture it undergoes, was kept in great shape. No rattles from the suspension were heard, nor did the bus show signs of poor maintenance. The crew were good as well - the driver appeared to have been overworked - a severe point of worry for KSRTC. Overall - a service I liked a lot.

Amenities:
Blanket: Available on request
Water: Yes - 500ml bottles, given only on request
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Yes - On throughout
Entertainment: Available - Songs played

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5 [was delayed compared to schedule, but the schedule is impractical]

Overall: 5/5 [Absolute Value for money]

Will I take this service again? I don't travel this route often - but will surely recommend.  

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