Down the nilgiris on the Club Class

I had written about the circumstances that finally led to booking the Airavat Club Class for my trip from Ooty to Bengaluru in my earlier post (read here). It was a simple round trip booking with the routine discount they provide.

June 26, 2016:
Six awesome days had just ended - the ride on the Nilgiris Mountain Railway was an icing on the cake, and it happened perfectly on the last day (read here about that). I was in a confused state as the day began - a bit of sadness that I was leaving Ooty, and oodles of joy that I was returning home! I got up a little late - but then, that was regular in those six days. I hurried with my breakfast and asked the guys at my accomodation to get me a vehicle to travel to the bus station. It took some time to get the vehicle, and I left the place only by around 0945hrs - for a bus departing at 1000hrs. The place was just a couple of kilometres from the bus station and hence I made it there by 0955hrs.

My bus was already parked there, on platform #14. Just as I walked in, the crew called me - I did not pickup the call, but waved my phone at the crew, who understood and disconnected the call. The conductor confirmed my destination while leaving my bag in the luggage bay. I was the last to board - I just got on board and reached my seat, and the bus got moving (1001hrs) - a minute before scheduled time (1002hrs). Soon after the bus started, the conductor came around to distribute water bottles and plastic bags (as vomit bags). He checked if anyone had a special requests and went back to the cabin. The initial run was very slow - thanks to the terrible Sunday morning traffic in Ooty.
As we commenced our descent.. look at the width of the road..
A little into the run, the bus picked up pace. This driver was also the typical BCD-4 styled - he shifts gears quickly to 4th - the bus then cries, struggles, and vibrates as the engine struggles to remain alive. Traffic came to a standstill at TR Bazar, near Naduvattam. The issue was an under-construction culvert - and reckless private cars who don't care for heavy vehicles. The culvert was followed by a fairly sharp left curve immediately afterwards - vehicles lined up here, leaving no space for the bus to take a turn. This made things tight, and we lost about 10 minutes negotiating this curve. A little later, I moved to the first row and sat on the seats meant for the crew - I had informed the conductor earlier about this, and he had permitted.
Eucalyptus plantations on the way..
Approaching a hair-pin bend..
By now, we were fast descending the ghats. The driver maintained fairly good pace through the run. The crew were indicating that multi-axles are tight for these routes - and it was evident. The curves were tight, and the crew had a tough time passing them. Another major problem our crew faced were the reckless TNSTC buses. While our driver was honking before each major curve, TNSTC crew neither honked nor do they slow down - they just enter curves at speed and end up right in front. Sometime around 1130, the conductor started receiving calls from passengers who were boarding at Gudalur - he said we'll be there in another 15 minutes. The roads got narrower as we neared Gudalur town. We reached Gudalur at 1155hrs - the pick-up point is right outside the bus station - three passengers got in, and we started moving by 1157hrs. The road from Gudalur towards Bandipur is quite narrow and has a lot of curves. We reached Thorappalli check-post - the entrance to the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, at 1208. The crew exchanged pleasantries with the check-post staff (forest staff) and entered the forest.
Entering Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary..
Running through the forest..
The driver was very cautious and slow inside the forest - unlike my inbound trip, we did not have any wildlife spottings this time. The run through the forest was uneventful. We crossed into Karnataka at 1234hrs - we also crossed an Ooty bound Club class at the border. Its always fun to see the hand-wave exchanges when they cross another of their ilk. The run inside the forest was eventless here as well. We exit the forest at around 1253hrs. I headed back to my seat now. We passed Gundlupet at 1308hrs, and finally pulled into the same Nijaguna Spa and Resort at 1311hrs for lunch. The crew announced a 15 minute break and disappeared. I did not like this place the last time as well - its expensive and the food is very very average.
Passing another ACC on the way.. and we enter Karnataka here..
I gobbled down what ever I bought and walked out of the hotel. It had been raining heavily when I was having my food - it was drizzling when I came out of the hotel. After clicking some photos, I waited for the crew to come back. We started from there at 1341hrs - exactly 30 minutes break. The driver headed to sleep, and the conductor took to the wheels now. I too pushed back my seat and dozed off. The sun was on my side and it was an hindrance - but I was very sleepy that I just dozed off. I slept fairly well, and woke up only as we were entering Mysore bus station - the conductor was shouting out Mysore Mysore from the driver seat - he parked the bus near the fuel station (1451hrs) and then called out for passengers getting down at Mysore.
The bus: KA-01-F-9148, when we stopped for lunch..
We started off soon from Mysore at 1456hrs. The crew did not waste time trying to attract passengers from there. We rushed out of the city and joined the highway soon. Traffic was on the higher side since it was a Sunday. I slept off for some more time. I woke up just as the bus pulled into the Maddur break point, at 1610hrs. I thought this break was unwanted. Majority of the passengers did not get off the bus - the crew went, had food and came back. We started off at 1621hrs - the driver took to the wheels now (the conductor drove till there). We moved fairly fast till Channapatna - traffic came to a standstill here. We some how managed to pass Channapatna by 1708hrs. The scene repeated again at Ramanagara and again at Bidadi. The ugly face of weekend traffic showed up really well. The driver sped up between the towns, reaching upto 95kmph at times.
The branding...
We reached Kengeri only at 1830hrs - almost 3:30hrs to cover a little over 120kms! I was expecting traffic to get worse after that - but that wasn't the case, thankfully. We passed Deepanjali Nagar depot by 1845 and made it to Satellite BS by 1847hrs. Passengers were dropped outside the bus station, at the traffic signal, and we continued towards Shantinagar. We dropped passengers at Mysore Circle (1853hrs) and Corporation Circle (1859hrs) on the way. We finally reached Shantinagar by 1908hrs - over 9 hours since we left from Ooty, and over 4h10m from Mysore!

The bus, KA-01-F-9148, had clocked over 9.3 Lakh kms. This particular bus was earlier operated on the Bangalore-Ernakulam route, and then on the Bangalore-Thrissur route, before being moved to the Ooty route. The bus did show its age - there were some audible squeaks. The exteriors were in good shape and the interiors were fairly well maintained. The rear LCD panels were missing. The seats were quite tired as well. The crew were the typical BCD-4 styled - lugging experts. The vibration levels were terrible. I somehow don't appreciate this attitude of not keeping time to get fuel efficiency. The crew behaviour was awesome - both of them spoke soft and we really well behaved. Another good journey with the Airavat Crawler Class!

Amenities:
Blanket: No
Water: Yes - 500ml bottles.
Snacks: No
Charging Point: No
Entertainment: Available - Not used

Ratings:
Maintenance: 4/5 [Audible squeaks]
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 4/5 [Too much of lugging, terrible gearing]
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4/5 [Quite delayed]

Overall: 4.5/5 [Value for money]

Will I take this service again? You don't have better options!

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