First of the many trips together: Bengaluru to Kodaikanal on KSRTC Airavat

It didn't take a lot of time for us to discover that we both loved to travel! As we were taking baby steps in our long journey of life, we thought of having a quick trip together before I get back to my busy office life. A lot of options were considered, and we finally picked up two hill stations in Tamil Nadu - Kodaikanal and Ooty. I was a bit confused whether I pick one of the two, or do a quick trip of both places - a package tour offered by a tourism corporation was my inspiration. We decided to take the plunge, and do a quick trip to both the places - was that a good decision - time tells!

The next confusion - Kodai first, or Ooty first! After some googling around, I took the call to head to Kodai first. Next stop was online booking portals - private operators were ruled out, since both of us did not fancy traveling up the ghats in a sleeper bus. So, it was KSRTC! KSRTC operates an Airavat on the Bengaluru - Kodaikanal route. I booked tickets on this bus, and our stay at Kodaikanal a few hours before our journey was to begin. I hadn't book the rest of the trip - not even the hotels!

May 29, 2018:
We set off from home around 2000hrs to the nearest metro station, from where we took a train to Lalbagh - which happens to be the nearest station to Shantinagar bus station, from where our bus would depart. The bus was to depart only at 2215hrs, hence had a lot of time. We headed to the Andhra restaurant at the bus station for dinner, and then headed towards the bus. I had received information about the bus by 2145hrs, and the crew called me up by 2200hrs enquiring our whereabouts. The bus, KA-01-F-8497, of Bangalore Central Division, Depot-4, was parked admist a lot of other buses departing to Tamilnadu. The conductor hurried a bit with getting us on board - he did not open the baggage hold, but suggested we leave it inside the bus itself - there were hardly over 15 passengers!

The bus got moving by 2210hrs, 5 minutes before time - quite a rarity for KSRTC. The AC wasn't cooling a lot, but kept varying with the speed of the bus. The conductor came around to distribute water bottles and blankets a little after we started. The bus was quite tired - the interiors were dim and bore marks of ageing. The rear suspension rattled everytime we went over a bad patch. Interestingly, the passengers in the bus were all families. There were no pick-ups anywhere until Electronic City - where we reached by 2254hrs. Once passengers were picked up, the lights were all turned off, and the driver got to the long trip mode. He did lug the engine, but maintained fairly good pace. I doze off a while after we passed Chandapura.
The bus: After dropping us at Kodaikanal

I woke up just as the bus pulled into Hotel Saravana Bhavan, Kurubarappalli (near Krishnagiri) at 0005hrs - still beyond me why we need to take a break at this hour. We used the time to use the restrooms, and returned to the bus. We didn't board till the AC was back on - it was quite hot outside, but was better than the steam sauna inside the bus. We got moving by 0023hrs. It was a long sleep after that, which lasting all the way till about 0630 or so. We were past Dindigul by then. The crew were trying to take a break, and they almost pulled into a hotel near Bathlagundu - but for some reason didn't stop. They began ascending the ghats soon later - the bus handled the grades quite well, despite her age. The bus stopped at a toll gate a little before Kodaikanal, where the ticket booking agent (Kodaikanal) got into the bus and started marketing his package tours, luring customers with the offer of free drops to their hotels if they took his package.

The stopped once near the lake - our hotel was close to this stop, but we didn't know that, and carried on to the bus station. We got off at the bus station at 0802hrs - about 13 minutes before time. I wa sa bit shocked to realise that there were no autorickshaws in Kodaikanal, and the cabs around charged a hefty fare for every ride.

Summary: The bus, KA-01-F-8497, homed at Bengaluru-4 depot was quite aged, and had clocked a little over 15.15 Lakh kilometres. The bus was maintained fairly well - she did have rattles, and showed her age. The AC took quite a while to cool and the engine was quite audible inside. The crew were great - minimal lugging, and fairly steady pace. I felt the break at the middle of the night could've been replaced with a break around day break - which would've been more meaningful and helpful. The bus left before time, and arrived well before time - thunbs up to that.

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

Ratings:
Maintenance: 3.5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5

Overall: 4/5

Pros: Value for Money, Timings
Cons: Nothing to point - may be the maintenance of the bus!

Will I take this service again? Its a good option. Seemed to be a peak time special though!

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