Kallada B9R: Bangalore to Kodungallur

It was a dull Monday evening in office – stinging headache and an all time high level of irritability. I walk into my boss’ office – to find out if I could get a “vacation”. Being a probationer, I did not have eligibility to demand one. My boss was kind enough to allow a short vacation – I was excited as I drove home that day. Spent quite some time searching on the internet to find a bus for my trip – I had some interesting offers on line, but decided to take my loved operator – Kallada Tours & Travels, that too the bus to Kodungallur. Booking was done through their website, and I chose a seat towards the back. I was very excited about this journey – since that route gets the oldest buses of Kallada – and I was very interested to find how their maintenance was.

March 05, 2013:
The day was somewhat relaxed – at one point, my vacation itself was at risk, but I pulled through without trouble. In the evening, my friend in Kallada was online, and I chatted for some time – came to know from him that it was KA-01-D-4186 that was coming that night – I was excited – had never been so excited. But, why was I excited? Read on...

I left home around 2115hrs – my ticket said that my boarding point was the new “Check post” office – so headed there first. On reaching there, I saw that the shutters were partially down – so went in to enquire while my brother waited for me. I was told that the bus would depart from the “other” office. My brother dropped me there and he left. The time was only 2155hrs – my bus was only at 2230hrs. I decided to stay at their office itself. The 10pm Ernakulam B9R was waiting outside the office for departure – boarding was on. The bus was the regular EKM-Bangalore day bus (KA-01-AA-7638) – the red one. The load looked fairly good. The bus was bruised and looked tired running continuously day and night. The bus left late from there.

By around 2220hrs, more passengers trickled into the office – the only departure at that time was the Kodungallur B9R – their last departure for the day. The office staffs there were busy preparing accounts. Sometime later, they started the process of calling up passengers booked in the Kozhikode-Hyderabad service – the bus was being cancelled there, and merged with the Ernakulam-Hyderabad service – only two passengers were booked. The passengers were informed of the change, and their seats were adjusted. The clock ticked past 2230hrs, and there was no sign of my bus turning up. The Madiwala area slowly started shutting down – with most buses gone. Hindusthan buses were coming in now – two AC Sleepers (one to Coimbatore and another to Pollachi) and one B9R (to Ernakulam) came in. There were some SPS buses also around.
The bus: KA-01-D-4186. Taken after reaching Thrissur.
My bus – KA-01-D-4186 – turned up at 2249hrs – a whole 19 minutes late. Boarding commenced immediately. The attendant was busy loading parcels and helping passengers with their baggage. I boarded the bus and kept all my baggage on the overhead rack itself. The interiors did show age – the seats were in amazing shape, though. The seat number stickers had faded out – they had written numbers on it using a marker pen – that too had faded off in many places. I actually had to go counting the rows to get to my seat – I was in H4. Checking of tickets started at 2255hrs – 25 minutes past departure time. There were 12 passengers on board. The bus started off at 2301hrs, took a U-turn at St.Johns, and then stopped on the opposite side of the road. We finally started off from Madiwala at 2304hrs.

Why was I so excited to travel in this bus? This bus was the very same in which I made my first ever multi-axle bus journey – way back in June 2009. I was in K1 for that journey – this time in H4. I was travelling in the same bus after almost four years now – it was a nostalgic moment for me.

As the bus got moving, I was enjoying the old lady handling the roads – there was a bit of noise coming in from the rear suspension – but that wasn’t very annoying. The driver picked pace as we entered BETL – the bus was riding confidently. We stopped just past Narayana Hrudayalaya for a pickup (2318hrs). Now we had 13 passengers, two off-duty crew and two working crew in the bus! I was just about hoping to sleep comfortably, when the LCD came alive, and they played a movie on it! OMG! It was almost midnight! But, that was a recent movie (a legitimate copy) – one I hadn’t seen. I decided to watch the movie. Traffic was light at Attibelle as well as Zuzuwadi. We took the Hosur flyover (no pickup). Past the flyover, the driver took a right and entered the road towards Rayakkottai. The first few kms was bad – the road got better after that.

I was glued to the TV screen – the movie was engrossing – the second half was overly predictable though. Sify had rated this movie to the below average – but that was just another nail on their coffin of biased reviews. I liked the movie – so much that I overcame sleep and remained glued to the movie. I was seeing the Rayakkottai-Dharmapuri route for the first time – I’d normally be fast asleep when we pass this section. The route has a railway crossing as well – it was closed when we reached there. A freight train went past. I saw the place where the bus gets back on the highway as well – for the first time. Once on the highway, the driver meant business – he kept hitting three digit speeds and constantly maintaining pace. The max speed was 103kmph. We passed Thoppur toll at 0113hrs, and Salem somewhere around 0145hrs. By now the movie was over, and the screens were closed.
The seats..
I slept past Salem – woke up when the bus had stopped at Bhavani – did not notice the time. We did not enter the Perundurai fuel station that day. I woke up again as the bus entered the two-lane road at Chengampalli. I had a nice sleep then, and woke up when the attendant came around shouting “Coimbatore... Gandhipuram...” I rubbed my eyes as I looked at my watch – it read 0411hrs. I searched my pockets only to find my phone missing – oh! The last time I took this bus, I lost my spectacles – got it back as I searched for it though. But this time, my phone? It quickly rushed through my mind, and I put in my hand into the gap between the seat and the side wall – the phone was safely lying there. Some passengers got off at Gandhipuram. The bus moved a bit ahead after passengers got off, and remained parked on the road side. We started off at 0424hrs. The driver took just over 5 hours to do Bangalore (Madiwala) to Coimbatore (Gandhipuram)!! I slept off by the time the bus reached Ukkadam.

I woke up just as the bus stopped at Palakkad (0525hrs) – a couple of passengers got off, and we started moving again. We were on the bypass itself – did not go into the town. I dozed off again – woke up just as the bus hit a rough patch near Kuthiran. The suspension was doing a great job in this bus – the ride was better than the newer B9Rs. We reached Mannuthy (Thrissur bypass) at 0651hrs. A couple of passengers got off – parcels were unloaded, and a whole lot of blankets (for washing) were loaded. The stop was quite long – we started off at 0656hrs. The roads were getting crowded as we neared the town. The bus directly headed to Sakthan nagar – did not go towards the round. We reached the Kallada office at Sakthan nagar at 0705hrs. Now started parcel unloading again – lots of blankets were loaded here as well.

Kallada has a fully equipped blanket washing unit at their Head office – and this bus collects blankets from all over and brings it to their HQ for washing. We started from Thrissur at 0721hrs. The bus got on to the narrow winding state highway from there – on the last leg of its run. I loved the way the bus took the curves and sharp turns. The bus directly headed to their head office in Irinjalakuda – we reached there at 0749hrs. All the blankets loaded till now were dumped out here. Some parcels were also unloaded. The driver went in to settle accounts. All these took quite some time – we started off only at 0800hrs. One passenger was dropped at Tana (the main junction of Irinjalakuda on the state highway) – at 0802hrs. Now 4 passengers remained in the bus. I finally got off near my house, at 0818hrs – that was about 3kms before the end point of the service.
The interiors..
End remarks:  The bus, KA-01-D-4186, had 8.08lakh kms on the odo. It was close to 4 years old. The maintenance was above average – not the usual Kallada standards though. The interiors did look a bit tired – especially the roof panels. The seats were in brilliant shape – the reclining angle was very comfortable as well. The interior lights were very dim – the standard problem with older Volvos. The night lamps were replaced with LEDs – it gave a nice look at night. The engine was silent – the only sound I was getting was thud-thud sound from the rear axle – the suspension gets some adjustment. End-to-end timings – at 9:14hrs – was excellent. The sectional speed too was great – 5:06hrs for Bangalore-Coimbatore and 8:01hrs for Bangalore-Thrissur. The crew were great – the attendant was very jovial and answered passenger queries in a polite manner. I liked the service a lot – will surely love to try it again.

Blankets: Yes
Water Bottle: No
Snacks: No

Maintenance (including cleanliness): 4/5
Punctuality: 4.5/5
Staff Behaviour: 5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Will I take this service again: Sure... why not? It drops me right outside my house, and the running time is excellent.