Airavat Club Class: Ooty to Bengaluru

We were quite tired after the long travel from Kodaikanal to Ooty. There weren't a lot of plans to travel around Ooty - but we did shortlist some spots to visit. I had held on the booking of our return ticket till we were half way through the first day at Ooty. We had to depart post noon from Ooty - coinciding with our check-out time at the hotel. Two buses showed up when I searched for afternoon departures from Ooty - one was a summer special service departing immediately post noon, while the second bus was a regular service departing at 1530hrs. I didn't want to rush with our return departure, hence reserved tickets on the 1530hrs departure.

June 02, 2018:
We checked out of our hotel just past noon - we remained at the lobby for some more time, searching for a good place to have our lunch. I finally picked Nahar Nilgiris - for some sumptuous vegetarian food. We headed to the bus station around 2pm, after a very relaxed meal. The bus station was crowded, and I had to struggle a bit to find some space to leave our baggage and some seat for us to rest. Our bus hadn't arrived yet from Bangalore. The bus working our service starts off at 0615hrs from Bengaluru, comes to Ooty, and returns back to Bengaluru after a short break. The clock ticked past 1500hrs, but there was no sign of our bus yet. An SMS with the details of the bus arrived a little past 1505hrs - the message just read the bus number as "714" - no further details.

The bus hadn't come yet. The clock ticked past 1530hrs - no sign of the bus yet. The guy manning the KSRTC counter at Ooty had disappeared by now. A little before 1540hrs, a KSRTC Airavat Club Class bus was brought out of the depot (TNSTC's Ooty-2 depot) - a lot of Bangalore bound passengers ran to this bus - but alas! That was a bus to Mangalore! As all the passengers returned to the waiting shed dejected, I spotted another Airavat Club Class coming in - this was came in from the Gudalur road. That was Bangalore-4 depot's KA-57-F-'714'- the very bus that would take us back to Bengaluru - the bus came in a little before 1545hrs, for a 1530hrs departure!!
The bus arriving at Ooty..

As soon as the inbound passengers got off the bus, the crew closed the doors, and quickly embarked on a housekeeping drive. They cleared all the seats, collected all the refuse and prepared the bus for the next trip. They commenced boarding by 1555hrs - the driver handled the baggage hold, while the conductor quickly cross checked tickets and allowed passengers inside. Soon after the boarding was "almost" over, the crew headed out for a quick tea break. They were back a little after 1600hrs, and we started off from Ooty at 1604hrs. They were apologetic about the delay - there was too much of uphill traffic it seems, and they got delayed crawling up hill.

The driver seemed like an expert in lugging - the engine could be heard crying for mercy as its stuttered, struggled, shook violenty and puttered out some output. The driver had no mercy on the engine, even as it struggled to climb grades - he was adamant about not downshifting. He honked like this was his last opportunity to honk. He was frustrated due to the delays, and appeared very tired from the inbound drive. The crew were busy discussing about taking a break near Naduvattam instead of stopping at Gudalur. From their discussion, I could make out that they hadn't eaten their lunch yet. The bus pulled in for a lunch break at a hotel a little before Naduvattam - at 1654hrs. The crew called out a 15 minute break and left the bus. We didn't want to have food, but used the time to stretch a bit.

The journey resumed at 1713hrs - a 19 minute halt. The driver continued lugging the bus after we resumed the journey. We commenced our descend soon later. He was careful at hairpin bends, but the lugging continued. The bus almost switched off at some places due to improper application of clutch. After all the struggles on the ghat, we made it to Gudalur by 1807hrs. A couple of passengers joined, and the driver hurried to get going. We got off by 1808hrs. The driver continued lugging as we progressed. The journey was getting monotonous and boring - the terrible driving style complicated matters. We passed Thorappalli Check post by 1820hrs, and entered Bandipur forest.

The ride through the forest was even more terrible. The driver didn't slow for even a single speed breaker, nor does he down shift and to compound our woes, was honking throughout the ride. Absolute lack of driving manners while being inside a forest was in full show here. The painful ride even worse as we entered Karnataka - the number of speed breakers increased, and the number of wild animals spotted also increased. He honked without any limits to scare away car drivers who stopped on spotting animals.We finally exited the forest at 1910hrs. The ride got a little better when we left the forest - partly because the roads were wider, number of speed breakers were less and the driver could maintain pace.
When the bus stopped for a break near Naduvattam..

We pulled into Nijaguna Resort & Spa, past Gundlupet, at 1927hrs - the crew announced a break and walked away! We were quite hungry, so were most other passengers. We had a fairly sumptuous meal, that also doubled as our dinner. We were back in the bus after about 15 minutes. Most passengers were back as well - but the crew weren't ready to start for a while. Another Airavat Club Class, this one heading to Ooty, arrived at the hotel - the crew exchanged some words, and then started off (1949hrs). The monotonous journey had got the better of me by now - I dozed off soon after we started. I woke up only as the bus as entering Mysore bus station (2058hrs).

The schedule we were traveling on was actually scheduled to go all the way to Bengaluru International Airport - but we had hardly 5 passengers going to the airport. The crew were concerned about the fuel wastage if the bus had to go all the way to the airport - they contacted the crew of another bus that was heading to the airport - but they weren't ready to accept the passengers from this bus. Our crew then called up the depot officials, got an official order to transfer the passengers and then settled the scene. We then headed to the Bengaluru platform, got some passengers, and took off at 2119hrs.

The driver as still at the wheels - he continued lugging. The conductor was busy issuing tickets at this point of time. He returned to the cabin as the bus passed Columbia Asia Hospital, near the Outer Ring road. Soon after the bus passed the signal, the crew changed, and the conductor took over the steering wheel. This guy too lugged initially, then turned ballistic. He put all the 340 horses to work, and maintained very good pace on the highway. I dozed off soon after we passed Srirangapatna, and woke up just as the lights in the cabin were turned on and the conductor called out for passengers alighting at Satellite bus station. The bus stopped outside the bus station, dropped passengers and resumed journey (2357hrs). The driver as back at the wheels now, and was back to lugging the bus. We finally made it to Majestic (Kempegowda Bus Station) by 0008hrs - we actually stopped outside Bangalore City Railway station than the bus station.

Summary: The bus, KA-57-F-714, homed at Bengaluru Central Division-Depot-4, had clocked a little over 11.07 Lakh kilometres. The bus works a very tight schedule, leaving its depot by 6AM, and returning by around 1AM the next day - the entire schedule is worked by a single set of crew - ending up with a steering duty of close to 19~20hours! A terrible schedule for the crew - their fatigue was evident. They were frustrated often. Despite these, the crew were very soft spoken (to the passengers) and did a great job with handling passengers. The driving was terrible - the excessive focus on mileage reflects very badly on punctuality. Although we started only 34 minutes late, we completed the trip 1 hour 23 minutes late! I would understand traffic issues, but the driving style did contribute heavily to the delay. The last leg from Mysore to Satellite bus station took only 2h38m - true reflection of how a good driver can meet time expectations! Both of us were tired from this monotonous journey - a very eminently forgettable trip!

Blanket: No
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, worked
Entertainment: Available, not used.

Maintenance: 4/5
Cleanliness: 5/5 (The crew cleaned the bus, even with such a tight turn around)
Driving: 2.5/5 (Yeah! I am being very liberal. Extra points for the conductor's driving)
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 3.5/5

Overall: 4/5

Pros: I am seriously confused - may be fare, value for money?
Cons: Terrible driving, lack of time sense

Will I take this service again? There aren't too many options here - infact, KSRTC is the sole operator offering day buses on this route. NO options to choose from!