Maharaja.. Garuda Maharaja: Muvattupuzha to Kozhikode

I was really confused. I had some official work in a small village near Muvattupuzha, in Ernakulam District of Kerala. My work was expected to be over by around 5pm. I had to return to Bangalore the next day, and had to necessarily reach Bangalore before night. I tried adding up some other work I had in Trivandrum - but the connections to return to Bangalore didn't work out well, and had to drop that plan. I initially thought to taking a bus straight from Muvattupuzha to Bangalore - but only last row seats were available. While casually browsing through the KSRTC Fans Facebook group, it suddenly struck to me that I could realise my long pending dream of travelling in the Kozhikode-Bangalore Volvo this time - and this was the best opportunity for me to accomplish that.

Now comes the next question - How do I get to Kozhikode in time for that bus? Thats when the post on the facebook group about a new Trivandrum-Manipal Scania service of KSRTC struck me. I quickly headed to the KSRTC website and searched for services between Muvattupuzha and Kozhikode - but this Scania did not turn up. I modified the search and looked for Kottayam to Kozhikode. Bingo! The Scania showed up. Before I booked this one, I checked for availability for the Kozhikode-Bangalore bus, and booked a seat on the first row in that bus. I was back again and booked a ticket for Kottayam to Kozhikode on the Garuda Maharaja. Garuda Maharaja is the name given to the new fleet of Scania buses operated by KSRTC.
Garuda Maharaja! (Photo from archives)

June 17, 2016:
I had finished my work well before the anticipated time of 1700hrs. I was at my official counterpart's place after work. Sometime past 1730hrs, I called up the conductor using the number that was provided in the SMS that was sent following charting. A very pleasant and polite voice answered the call. I informed him that I had a booking on the bus with a boarding from Kottayam. He politely replied that the bus would be late, since they suffered a breakdown a while back - the AC Compressor belt broke! What? A breakdown for a brand new bus? He expressed his regret about the delay, and added that the trip might get cancelled if they couldn't set it right. I was bit depressed - but anyway told him that I cannot come down to Kottayam and wished to be picked-up from Muvattupuzha. He replied in affirmative and promised to call me once they reached Kottayam.

He called a little later and informed that a replacement bus will be provided from Kottayam incase they couldn't set this bus right. In the meantime, the KSRTC Bus Tracking website showed up that my bus was still at Pandalam - still quite far from Kottayam. Internet connectivity at my location was really poor. I remained there till around 1945 and decided to leave towards Muvattupuzha. By then, the tracking website showed that the bus was at Kottayam. I reached Muvattupuzha by around 2015hrs. In the meantime, I could speak to the conductor who informed that the technicians to repair the bus were on the way and we would start soon - and he promised to call me once they start from Kottayam and added that I should wait at the bus station itself. It would take atleast 90 minutes for the bus to get to Muvattupuzha from Kottayam and they still hadn't started from there. I stood near the bus station for sometime - since the actual bus station is closed for renovation/rebuilding work, temporary shelters were set up on the road side - there wasn't even any space to sit. I had a lot of time to spend and remained confused about what should be done.

While standing there, it stuck me like a lightening - there were a couple of movie halls nearby. I quickly decided to head to one and watch a movie - I always have the freedom of walking out in case my bus arrived before the movie finishes. I did a quick google search about the movies playing around and selected a Malayalam movie that had a run time of a shade over 2 hours. It was a low budget movie with hardly any star value, but had a nice story with humour right till the end. I like the movie and it was quite an unexpected experience. While the movie was nearing its climax, the bus tracking site showed that the bus had already left Kottayam and was on its way - in the meantime, the conductor too called up to confirm that they were already on the way. The movie finished by around 2315hrs. I walked back fast to the bus station. Sometime after I reached there, the tracking site showed that the bus was just over a km away - and by then, I could see the LED Display boards of the bus.
RP662, after dropping me at Kozhikode.
The bus, RP662 of Trivandrum Depot, finally reached Muvattupuzha by around 2327hrs - one passenger got off, and I boarded. I was requested by the conductor to sit in the first row to help the driver with the route. I obliged and took Seat #48 - the window seat on the left side in the first row. The first thing that struck me was that the seat felt more comfortable than the Volvo - the leg room was appropriate, and I wasn't slipping off the seat when the driver braked. The driver was very quick since they were over 4 hours behind schedule already. He maintained good pace on the highway - absolutely no honking, just flashed lights for all overtakes. The conductor was a very friendly guy, who spoke a lot about what went wrong and about the Scania services, among others. The driver was originally from Kannur depot, and would be working the bus only till there.

We passed Ankamaly at 0005hrs. Once on the four lane highway, the speed slightly went up - and we maintained around 85 kmph for the rest. We overtook the 1700hrs Trivandrum-Bangalore Multi-axle on the way. I was a bit sleepy, but somehow kept myself awake. I was enjoying the drive, to be honest. We pulled into Thrissur bus station by 0042hrs. I got off the bus and went on a stroll. The crew also went out. The bus hardly had any passengers (some 5 passengers including me), and hence the conductor went to the enquiry office and got some announcements made. We started from Thrissur at 0053hrs. The driver made a very cautious exit from the bus station, since the slope was steep and there was a risk of scraping the rear.

I dozed off a bit after we left Thrissur. I woke up as we were passing Kunnamkulam (0114hrs). The driver did some serious driving after Kunnamkulam. I dozed off soon afterwards and woke up only as we were nearing Kozhikode bus station. I was dropped at Kozhikode bus station at 0300hrs - exactly 3h32m after we left Muvattupuzha - now thats some serious speed! We covered a shade over 200kms in about 212minutes!

The bus, RP662, KL-15-A-1425, of Trivandrum depot, had ran somewhere around 2000kms. It was too young to be rated for maintenance - but then the premature failure of AC Belts show some manufacturing defects. The crew were good - the driver had been overworked and had been at the wheels continuously for 5 days with very little rest in between. An absolute safety risk, and I had goosebumps when I heard that. The conductor, on the other hand, was well rested, and utilised time to sleep in the bus instead of giving company to the driver. The only thing the conductor did was play music for the driver - it was bit loud and a disturbance for the other passengers in the bus. I did enjoy the music though. The delay was terrible - had I not watched the movie, I'd have gone bonkers waiting for the bus on the roadside. Overall a decent experience - one that I'd not want to remember, though.

Amenities:
Blanket: No - did not check if they were provided on request.
Water: Yes - 500ml bottles, given only on request
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Yes - On throughout
Entertainment: Available - Movie played (Yes!)

Ratings:
Maintenance: No rating.
Cleanliness: 5/5 [Absolutely clean inside]
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 4.5/5
Punctuality: No rating. But 5/5 for the running time.

Overall: 4.5/5 [Value for money]

Will I take this service again? I don't travel this route. But will surely try the Scania service again. 

Comments

rahulvijayev said…
Four trip reports in a span of 4 days- all in Volvo and Scania, just loving it Binaieta!!

"Maharaja..Garuda Maharaja", is this something borrowed from "Bond..James Bond"?? :)
Binai K Sankar said…
@Rahul.. more on the way. Atleast three more will come-up in the next 3-4 days :)
I've set myself a target of one per day.

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