Bangalore to Thrissur: KSRTC Airavat

Ticket hunting is one thing where I spend a lot of time. The other thing I spend time on is our holiday list. During these process, I came across this long weekend in mid-October - the Dusshera weekend. The holiday calender showed three continuous days of holidays. Flights were already prohibitively expensive, and I booked tickets by bus - over a month in advance. I always have a jinx about early planning - I was scared this time as well. My jinx came true as my office decided to play around the holiday dates. I usually end up losing holidays, but this time, the office decided to give a day additionally off. I had to reschedule my tickets now - the announcement came a little late, and I had not many options now. The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation had some special buses, priced at way beyond what they are worth - but the saviour was the 1501BNGTRC Airavat, via Mysore. Thankfully, seats at the front were available.

October 07, 2016:
I hurried out of office to have a quick lunch sometime around 1300hrs. My phones were busy hunting for cabs on different apps - one finally turned up around 1345hrs. Although I did not have a lot of distance to travel, I had to take precautions since I was heading to Mysore road on a pre-Dussehra weekend. I was a little wary of traffic - but things weren't as bad as I expected, and I could reach the Mysore Road Satellite bus station by 1415hrs. The bus station was packed with Mysore bound buses - all specials for Dussehra. I had to meet some people at the bus station before I got into my bus.

The bus that would work my schedule came in only around 1450hrs - this particular schedule is operated by Mysore division - so the bus arrives just before the departure time. I stayed away from the bus for some time - atleast till the AC was switched on. The bus was more than half occupied already. Most of the bookings on the day were from Bangalore itself - that is unusual for this bus. The bus pulled out of the platform by 1515hrs - about 15 minutes behind schedule. But the bus station was really crowded and we had a tough task getting out of the bus station. We finally left the bus station at 1525hrs - 25 minutes late now.

The driver was fast from the word go. The city traffic kept us a little slow as we progressed towards Mysore. Metro construction activities meant some rough roads. We passed Kengeri by 1541hrs. We had to pick-up passengers from Kumbalagodu, outside Christ University - this isn't an official pick-up point, but is provided on request. We picked up passengers from Christ university, and started off by 1556hrs. I was quite sleepy - and dozed off for sometime. I woke up just as the bus pulled in for a break - I though we were in Mysore already - but we were just short of Maddur then. We pulled into Kamat Upachar for a break at 1650. I really felt this break could've been avoided. We remained there till 1707 hours. Most passengers just used the washrooms and kept strolling around, while quite some passengers were fast asleep inside the bus.
The bus, KA-01-F-8541 during the tea break
Traffic was not as bad as expected, and the driver was fairly fast. I slept for some more time and woke up only as  the crew called out for passengers alighting at Mysore Ring Road - aka Columbia Asia. The time was 1819hrs. I guess the roads were crowded post Mandya - I remember the bus was stuck at a traffic block, I think, at Mandya. City roads in Mysore were all decorated for Dussehra- majority of the buildings were illuminated. We pulled into the heavily crowded Mysore Suburban bus station at 1832hrs - some 12 minutes behind time. The Bangalore-Mysore run took 3h07m including a 17 minute break - really not bad considering the time.

The bus station was terribly crowded - hardly any place for people or buses to move around. After some struggle, we got a platform - boarding was quick. We finally started at 1853hrs - whole 33 minutes late. After starting from the bus station, they wasted another 5 minutes to load parcels! The driver took the Narsipura road, then turned to the ring road and reached Gundlupet road. I kept dozing off time and again - since we were quite late, I thought we'd be passing the forest and then stopping somewhere for dinner. I was quite shocked when the bus pulled over for dinner break at Hotel Coffe Stoppe, outside Gundlupet - the time was already 2016hrs. The crew called for a 10 minute, repeat, 10 minute, dinner break and ran out of the bus. The hotel was hell crowded already - no less than 6 buses were parked for dinner there.

The hotel serves terrible food - and there was no veg item on the day.  The staff were rude, as usual. I had to make do with some bun and a puff pastry. I was back to the bus in less than 10 minutes - so were most passengers. All the buses that had stopped for dinner had left or were leaving by then. We started off at 2036hrs - we had exactly 24 minutes to cover some 18 kilometres to the forest gate. The gate closes at 2100hrs, and we had to pass before then, failing which we'd be detained till 0600hrs the next morning! The driver pushed the bus as he sped towards the gate. We had some hurdles on the way - like wrongly parked trucks, under-construction culverts, to name a few. We finally pass the forest gate at 2057hrs - three minutes before it closed!

The driver slowed down after entering the forest. He was very cautious inside the forest - no honking at all. There were lots of elephant herds on the way - most of them right next to the road. I didn't spot anything else. We passed the state border at 2121hrs - I slept off soon after that. I had a really nice sleep - the AC was comfortable, and quite unusually (compared to my previous experiences), Blankets were given as well. I woke up when the bus was stuck in some traffic block - which I later realised was near Vazhikadavu check-post. We stopped at Edakkara to drop some passengers - the crew also took a tea break (2326hrs). I had another round of sleep. Vaguely remember another tea break near Perumbilavu and passing Kunnamkulam. I woke up just as the bus passed the railway overbridge - we reached Thrissur bus station at 0220hrs - 02h21m late!

Remarks: The bus, KA-01-F-8541, of Mysore Rural Depot-2 was maintained in fairly great condition. The bus did not have too many damages outside, and the inside was very clean. Unlike most Airavats, this one did not squeal or squeak, and no rattles from the suspension, either. I was in for some real shock when I saw the odometer - it read 14.2 Lakh kms! Now, that was a lot of kilometres for the bus! The driver, Mr TV Balu, deserves appreciation - he was fast, had amazing control on the bus. He slowed down after the forest - I'd assume its fatigue, since they generally start their shift around 11 in the morning, then hunt for passengers in Mysore, drive down the maniac Mysore-Bangalore highway, spend time battling blocks in Bangalore, take their next trip at 1500 - he gets rest well past midnight - thats over 12 hours at the wheels. The roads after Vazhikadavu is winding and is quite tiring as well - but he was very controlled on the road, and let passengers sleep really well. Overall, the crew were great. The end-to-end running time of 10h55m seemed quite high - but acceptable for a majority two-laned sector.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available on alternative rows, Did not check if it worked.
Entertainment: Available - but not used.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 2.5/5

Overall: 3.5/5

Pros: Easy ticket availability, Reliable
Cons: Late night arrival, odd timings

Will I take this service again? Its a great back-up option. Amazing option if you are heading to Nilambur or Perinthalmanna or even Thrissur town. 

Comments

Sunup said…
The dinner break at Gundlupet was a classic case of testing lady luck! Good that you managed to scrape through. They could have given that a miss and taken the break at some outlet in Gudalur.

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