Hyderabad Calling.. Garuda Plus this time..

While aimlessly staring at my mailbox on a fine wednesday afternoon, a mail comes in, with an invite to Hyderabad. I was required to be in Hyderabad that Sunday. That day was spend in dilemma whether to go or not - but I made a decision on Thursday to head to Hyderabad. Getting tickets to go there was easy - every bus departing from Bangalore on Saturday night had two-digit vacancies. I wanted to be in Hyderabad before 0630hrs, and hence was looking at buses that leave early - APSRTC had two Garuda Plus buses at 2030hrs (one heading to Nizamabad, and one working Mysore-Hyderabad). I knew that the Nizamabad service gets Mercedes Multi-Axles, while I had no idea of the other one - so decided to book on the Mysore-Hyderabad bus. I did not really want to travel in a Mercedes Multi-Axle, so was hoping to get a Volvo on the other service.

Getting the return ticket was an issue - I had to return on a Sunday, that too Sunday after Ugadi (which meant people got three days of leave together). Almost all buses on Sunday night were sold off - the ones which had tickets were selling above Rs. 2000! I wasn't ready to pay that big an amount for an 8-9hrs journey - so decided to spend that night in a hotel room and take the day service of KSRTC. I quickly checked tickets, and found that only the last two rows were remaining - quickly took a left side window seat in the last-but-one row. Days rushed past very quickly...

..March 24, 2012. 2000hrs.. my cousin brother dropped me at Shantinagar Bus Station in his Royal Enfield Bullet. I still had 30 minutes to go. The bus station was chocked - Shantinagar would earn the title of the messiest bus station very soon. The bus station was crowded - the very design of the bus station makes it unfit for long distance buses. The bus station is built for city buses, which would just run through, and not keep waiting for passengers. Half of the bus station is now used for long distance buses, and the remaining by city buses. They have allocated two platforms for long distance buses - Platform 1 being used by premium buses of KaSRTC and TNSTC/SETC (and PRTC) running towards Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala , while Platform 2 is used by premium buses of KaSRTC (and NEKRTC) and APSRTC running towards Andhra Pradesh. Buses to Chennai are handled on Platform 5 (a makeshift facility made on the road side outside the bus station).

The Platforms at Shantinagar can take in maximum of two buses standing parallel - the recent renovation has increased the 'shaded' area in the bus station and about 7-8 buses can now stand one behind other. One line is dedicated to KSRTC/NEKRTC buses, while the other line is for APSRTC buses. APSRTC outnumbered KSRTC/NEKRTC in the platform - the APSRTC platform was continuously inching forward. The buses are not switched off at the platform, since they need to inch forward as the bus ahead moves out. The KSRTC/NEKRTC was slower - their buses would be switched off, since the number of buses were on the lower side. NEKRTC buses were rarely entering the platform - they prefered to stay outside the bus station itself, while KSRTC's Rajahamsas too were parked outside. APSRTC sends all its buses to the platform.
Two mercs strike a pose! The APSRTC one was heading to Nizamabad, while the KSRTC was heading to Vijayawada.
The clock ticked past 2030 - the Nizamabad bus left more or less on time. There was no sign of my bus though. Around 2035, an inspector of APSRTC spotted me wandering around with a bag, in suspicious manner - he called me and asked me in Telugu what was I upto (I hope that was what he asked me). I showed my ticket - he quickly replied (again in Telugu) that the bus has left started from Mysore and will be here soon (thats what I made out with my negligible knowledge of Telugu). I took some more pics and later headed to the Nandini stall for a sip of cold milk. I just returned to the "APSRTC" platform, and saw my bus crawling in... That was a Mercedes Multi-Axle (naah! Not again...). I was somehow happy that I had played safe by selecting a seat in the middle - which are thankfully devoid of those ugly window facing AC vents.
My bus coming in, at Shantinagar BS. That KSRTC was heading to Secundrabad.
As the conductor saw me walking towards the bus, he asked me if I had reservation - he just asked me to get in. The driver asked me to leave the luggage inside the bus itself - It was a struggle to get my bag into the horribly narrow overhead rack in the bus. I settled on my seat - #24. This seat was incidentally a left side window seat according to the seat map, but it turned out to be a window seat on the right side! The bus was not switched off, and the bus kept inching forward every minute or so. My bus finally started off from Shantinagar at 2112hrs with a grand total of 3 passengers on board! We were late by 42 minutes at the starting point - not a great start, I thought! Although APSRTC promised a 0500hrs arrival at Hyderabad, I was hoping the bus turn up there atleast by 7AM.
My bus: AP-29-Z-2680 of Picket Depot, working 1083 Mysore-Secunderabad.
We stopped near Kanteerava stadium to load parcels (from 2120 to 2128 hrs) - that was quite unbelievable for a government bus! After filling the luggage hold, the bus headed towards MG Road, then towards Mekhri Circle. They played a Telugu movie (Baava) after the bus entered MG Road. The movie was interesting - a comedy movie. Traffic on the road was heavy even for a long weekend. The crew tried their luck at Hebbal (2149hrs) and Yelahanka (2203hrs) for more passengers - but no luck. The guy at the wheel (Driver-cum-Conductor) meant business as the bus picked speed on the highway. The bus did a top speed of around 115kmph. The bus pulled in to a road-side motel at 2305hrs for dinner - the place was near the Karnataka-AP Border (at Bagepalli).
The seat.. the legspace was poor compared to a Volvo Multi-axle.
We started off after Dinner break at 2329hrs. The conductor was still at the wheels - this guy was really fast. He was overtaking vehicles quickly - thankfully no horns or rash braking. The run was smooth, and I slept off soon after starting from the break. I vaguely remember seeing the bus stopped at Kurnool - they were unloading parcels at this time. I slept off soon before the bus started moving again. I remember that the driver was now at the wheels - this guy was slower than the conductor. I slept straight until about 0510hrs - the bus was in Hyderabad now. They were unloading parcels yet again! The bus dropped me outside Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station in Hyderabad exactly at 0529hrs. The scheduled arrival at 0500hrs - so a 29 minute delay. That was 570kms in 8 hours and 17 minutes - averaging around 69kmph! Now, that was mind-boggling for APSRTC!
Interiors of the bus. The curtains do not match the colour of the seat, which does not match the colour of the mat! Poor color combination.
Remarks: The bus was absolutely clean. It had about 19000kms on the odo - fairly new. The ticket fare was Rs. 958 (Rs . 900 base fare + Rs. 10 for reservation + Rs. 24 Toll Fee and Rs. 24 Service Fee!). The ticket was booked online - they immediately send an SMS to the registered mobile number. I carried a print out with me - did not try if the SMS works as a ticket. The conductor did ask for my Identity proof. The driving was decent - the first driver was very quick, while the second one crawled most of the time lugging the engine badly. The seats were not as comfortable as the ones in Volvos - they were congested. Since the bus was empty, I could manage to sleep for a good part of the journey. Punctuality wise, we left late by 42 minutes, but reached only 29 minutes late. The scheduled running time was 8:30hrs, but the bus made it there in 8:17hrs.

Ratings: Cleanliness: 5/5. Punctuality: 4/5. Staff Behaviour: 5/5. Overall: 4.67/5.
Verdict: Suggested!