Another journey by KPN: Bangalore to Coimbatore

My office decided to pull out a last minute clean sweep by declaring a long weekend off. This short notice declaration came on a Wednesday afternoon that the office (college) would remain closed on Friday and Saturday, in addition to Monday, which is a holiday for Independence day. As soon as the mail arrived, I began hunting for tickets. Since it was very long weekend, majority of the folks in Bangalore seemed to be travelling home. Government buses to Kerala were sold out, and private operators were making the most of the opportunity. I did not want spend a big sum on travel and decided to take a bus to Coimbatore instead. My colleague was also traveling, and we both booked on the last KPN bus to Coimbatore. So 11PM Coimbatore Scania, it was. After bagging our seats in the last row (only 4 seats remained), we started looking for options to travel after Coimbatore. We, later, decided to go bus hopping from Coimbatore.

August 11, 2016:
For some reason, I did not encounter much traffic and reached home quite fast from office. My colleague wasn't so lucky - he encountered traffic for most part of his drive. Since we both had opted to board from Madiwala (he stays in the opposite side of Bangalore), and since the bus had a scheduled pick-up time of 2315hrs from Madiwala, I decided to leave home past 2200. After a relaxed dinner, I was casually reading messages on WhatsApp, when a friend alerted about heavy traffic around Madiwala, and the fact that he missed his bus!

The time was around 2130hrs then. I quickly fire up the Ola App, and hunted for cabs. I finally found one, with an ETA of 6 minutes. Quickly confirmed my booking and began the wait for my cab. For some reason, my mobile network decided not to work, and had zero network. I called the driver from another number and confirmed his intentions of picking me from home. He replied in affirmative and confirmed that he'd be around in 5 minutes. He took a little longer than 5 minutes, probably because he lost his way, and landed up at the wrong gate of my apartment complex. Not an issue, since I was already on the road waiting for the cab - so just walked to the place where the cab was parked.

We left from my place by around 2200hrs (exactly as I planned). The driver was dependent on gps for the route, and we ended up reaching a dead-end road near Madiwala. I was dropped at Madiwala sometime around 2230hrs - delayed thanks to the traffic cops deciding to check for drunken driving on narrow roads in peak hour traffic and the GPS taking us to a dead-end. Madiwala resembled a war-zone - buses fighting for every inch of space on the road side, and passengers jostling for every millimetre of space on the pavements. To add to the chaos were private vehicles being parked haphazardly. My colleague turned up around 2245 - all thanks to traffic.

KPN had shocked me with a message containing the tracking details of my bus - KA51C9919. I checked the status of the bus at 2300hrs, and was actually shocked to see the bus still travelling towards Kalasipalya. I was now sure that we'd have a delayed departure. We never went to the KPN office and were on the pavement all the time. We managed to find a place to sit outside a defunct tea shop and remained there until the tracker showed the bus nearby. The bus turned up at Madiwala sometime around 2330hrs (a little earlier than that). There was a long line of buses waiting for passengers and our bus had joined that queue. We walked along the pavement, to see our bus parked. The crew were waiting for passengers (the attendant had gone to the office to intimate that the bus had arrived). They checked our mTicket, and noted down the "PIN" number that is sent with the message.
Screenshots of the track. The first one (left) is when the bus was at their garage. On the right is when the bus turned up at Madiwala. 

On getting into the bus, I was quite surprised to see hardly 10 passengers on board. The interiors were clean and smelled very fresh. Our seats were in the last row - we booked windows on both sides of the bus. I took the left side window and my colleague took the right side. Boarding was very slow - since the passengers had to walk all the way from the office to the bus - but the driver kept moving forward as buses in the queue departed. The last pick-up was right outside the KPN office in Madiwala - where a final head count was taken, and the waybill was signed off, allowing the driver to depart. The time was 2351hrs - a good 36 minutes late. The bus had just 6 empty seats now! The bus took a left at the Madiwala temple underpass and headed towards Watertank, and thence towards Market. Soon after we started off, the attendant came around to distribute shawls - at this point, I requested him to switch on the mobile charger plug point - he did that soon after he reached back in the cabin after distributing the shawls.

I was very tired and badly wanted to sleep. Since KPN has only 48 seats, the leg space in these buses are very good. For some reason, the traffic on the road was not very high, and we made it to Bommanahalli by 0010hrs. Boarding was completed real quick, followed by quick head count and we started off at 0012hrs. Traffic below BETL had thinned out already and we progressed very fast from Bommanahalli. The toll gate at the end of BETL was jammed - we were lucky since we travelled below BETL. We reached our last pick-up point, Bommasandra, (Bommachandra, according to the KPN website) at 0024hrs. A couple of passengers got in here - and the final headcount was done. We had 47 passengers in the 48 seater bus - one passenger did not turn up. We started off from there at 0026hrs.

I dozed off for a while - but woke up as we joined the long queue at Attibele toll gate. It took over 15 minutes to clear the toll gate - but it was fun watching a long line of Scania buses at the nearby lane. There was another traffic snarl at Zuzuwadi (TN State incoming checkpost). We picked pace after Zuzuwadi and rushed towards Salem. I slept for some time, and woke up just as we entered KPN's check point at Chinnar - another headcount was performed and the bus was signed off. I slept even before we left from there - the sleep wasn't continuous and I kept waking up time and again. I was woken up as my alarm rang - I had forgotten to switch off the alarm, which is set to ring on all working days at 0515hrs. We were at the toll gate before Coimbatore. The driver was putting all the 410 horses to work and he was picking pace quickly. I was enjoying the engine notes - Scania sounds bland compared to the clattery Volvo, but nevertheless was music to my ears.
The bus: KA-51-C-9919. Pic from archives.
I slept for some more time and woke up just as the bus was turning off the highway towards Coimbatore town (~0610hrs). I slept on-and-off for some more time. We kept stopping again and again to drop passengers across the town. We reached Hope college by 0616hrs. We turned right from Avinashi road and proceeded towards Gandhipuram. Unlike like time, the lights inside the cabin weren't turned on till this point. We finally reached Gandhipuram at 0624hrs - the attendant shouted out only after the bus stopped. This was another comfortable journey with KPN - absolutely no-nonsense. The AC was at perfect temperature - it didn't bite me cold or make me sweat. The bus had clocked about 2 lakh kms (I had traveled in the same bus in December 2015 - it had about 32K at that time). KPN kept giving me surprises even after the trip - I received an SMS from them asking for feedback and later a call from them as well! Way to go KPN!

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes (Shawl)
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, On throughout night
Entertainment: Available, Not used

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.5/5 (Delayed at both ends)

Overall: 4.75/5

Will I take this service again?  I liked the experience this time as well - surely recommended. 

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