Mangalore to Kodungallur: KSRTC Super Deluxe

It had been a long time since I went home. TW had headed to my place as well. Selecting a bus to head home was a task in itself. I was confused between the two RTCs - Both Kerala and Karnataka offered AC services. The Kerala one left very early - was, hence, ruled out. Kerala also offered a Deluxe bus going straight to my home town, while Karnataka offered a new Volvo B11R, which would drop me at Thrissur. It was a tough decision, and I finally picked the Kerala RTC Super Deluxe bus that would drop me at my home town! I decided to try our redBus, which has been offering bookings for Kerala SRTC off late. A coupon code helped me earn some cash back as well.

June 22, 2018:
I returned to my hotel room a little past afternoon - spent some time spotting some buses, then headed to Ideal Cafe for some fingerlicking good Neer Dose and equally awesome Smoothie. I returned to my hotel room by evening, and slept for a while. I checked out of the hotel, and headed to the bus station (Bejai) by around 1930hrs. The next stop was Hotel Rasaprakash for dinner. While having my dinner, I received a call from the conductor of the bus enquiring my whereabouts - I said I was near the bus station - he requested me to be there before 2030hrs. I replied in affirmative.

I headed to the bus station by around 2015hrs after my dinner. I took some time to reach the platform where buses to Kerala are parked - I was quite shocked to see my bus already parked there! It seems the bus had already arrived when the conductor called me - and they took just a shade over 2 hours and 30 minutes to travel from Kollur to Mangalore. The bus, ATC155, works a Kollur Mookambika-Kodungallur service, via Mangalore, Kannur, Kozhikode, Guruvayoor. This is the sole interstate schedule operated by Kodungallur, and is also the longest service operated by the depot. The bus already had fairly good occupancy - largely familes, most of whom traveled to Kodungallur or Guruvayur!
The bus: ATC155. Picture from Archives

The bus started from Mangalore at 2023hrs - about 7 minutes before time. Kerala RTC long distance buses directly take a right after the bus station, and join the National highway at Kadri, instead of going via PVS and Kankanadi. They avoid the entire city while doing this, and hence makes a great inconvenience to travelers from the city areas. We had a pick-up at Pumpwell (2033hrs) and then at Thokkuttu (2048hrs). Traffic along the bypass road around Mangalore was terribly - literally bumper-to-bumper traffic. I was fairly tired - it had been over 5 days since I slept on a bed! I kept dozing off over and over - the road was very bumpy, and the driver was ripping the bus in order to maintain time.

The road narrowed and got worse as we entered Kerala. Truck traffic was also on the higher side. The driver maintained pace despite the poor road condition. The bus pulled into Hotel Thalassery, near Kumble at 2132hrs for dinner. The hotel was really crowded - there were two other buses at the hotel already. I had already taken my dinner - so stopped by for a juice and returned to the bus. We started after dinner break at 2206hrs. I was very sleepy by now, and slept soon after the bus started. The size of the headrest was small (narrow, actually) and my head kept slipping off repeatedly. We pulled into Kasaragod bus station by 2221hrs - picked up reserved passengers and resumed journey at 2222hrs.

It was raining quite heavily by now - pouring to be more accurate. The bus had stopped at Kanhangad to pick some passengers (did not notice the time). Ticket checkers got in here - for some reason, they woke up every passenger to check tickets. Can't they just take a head count and verify with the passenger manifest? I lost my sleep at this point - the lights were on to help the checkers as well. We pulled in to Payyannur bus station by 2334hrs - the conductor was quite active, and managed to get walk-in passengers quite easily. We started off by 2335hrs.

I slept really well after Payyannur. It was still raining well outside. My co-passenger had boarded at Payyannur - the bus had over 70% occupancy as well, and over 15 passengers were traveling all the way to Kodungallur. I woke up again as the bus was at Kannur bus station (0025hrs) - they picked up passengers and then moved to the fuel station to refuel. The "driver" handed over charged to the "conductor" now (both of them were "Driver-cum-Conductors"). We started from Kannur at 0030hrs. I slept soon later. The driver was ripping - the new guy had just taken charge and he was ballistic from the word go.

I slept quite well, and woke up just as the bus was entering Kozhikode bus station (0221hrs) - I got off the bus to use the restroom (informed the crew before I left). The crew were waiting for us (a few more passengers had got off along with me) - they started soon after we boarded (0230hrs). It seems the bus lost quite some time between Kannur and Kozhikode. I slept well after Kozhikode as well. The bus takes a "by-route" after Kozhikode University - it takes the Parappanangadi-Tirur-Chamravattom-Ponnani-Chavakkad-Guruvayur route to go to Kodungallur. This route was in bad state when I last traveled in 2017 - but the condition seemed better this time around. We passed Ponnani at 0405hrs - not actually passed, but went to the bus station, the crew got the time entered in the control sheet.

The bus pulled into Guruvayur at 0428hrs - about 10 passengers got off here - the cordial crew actually helped passengers by showing the way to the temple. We started off at 0429hrs. I slept again, and woke up hearing the crew calling out of passengers connecting to Ernakulam. We had arrived at Kodungallur already! The time was 0522hrs - about 7 minutes late. I was shocked to see the bus already at Kodungallur - I hadn't expected to arrive before 0600hrs. Still groggy, I hurriedly pulled my bag out and rushed out of the bus - to hire an Autorickshaw to travel home.

Summary: The bus, ATC155, KL-15-A-2119 of Kodungallur depot was built on a Tata LPO 1512c Chassis by KSRTC's Central Workshop, Pappanamcode, Trivandrum. The body quality was quite poor - the bus rattled like crazy. The seats, of Harita make, were fairly comfortable. May be the Volvo/Scania seats have spoilt me - the headrest felt took small for me. The recline and leg room were unmatched. The overall ride was very comfortable. The climate added to the comfort. The drivers, both of them, were excellent. The maintained great pace, did not waste time anywhere, used the horn minimally after the dinner break. Some overtakes were rash - but not very risky. The bus took a little less than 9 hours to cover a distance of about 373kms from Mangalore to Kodungallur amidst rains in 2 lane roads! Overall, a great ride - one that I would like to repeat.

Amenities:
Blanket: No
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Not in working order.
Entertainment: Available, not used

Ratings:
Maintenance: 3.5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5 (Overall, good driving)
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Pros: Value for money, excellent service
Cons: Not very comfortable

Will I take this service again? Absolutely! Its the best choice for the route, and absolutely value-for-money as well. 

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