Bangalore to Pathanamthitta by Shama B9R

This time, its trip to Pathanamthitta to join a group of like-minded bus enthusiasts heading on a two day bus fanning trip through some scenic routes in central Kerala, and I was in a quandary about what bus to take. I had lots of options to take, and all of them were equally inviting as well. The main confusion was between taking a bus via the AC road or the one via MC road. After a lot of thoughts, I decided to book on Bharathi – so called up my good friend DJ to get a seat. He confirmed one. But things were awry later, and the service was cancelled for reasons beyond their control. He got me a seat on Shama for the journey. So I was travelling through MC road!

July 19, 2013
The confirmation about my ticket came only a couple of hours before I left office.  I was on a university assignment, and there was heavy work all through the day – it took me some time to settle the work and leave the place. Heavy traffic on the way meant that I reached home quite late. I had to rush through packing my bag. My brother was busy with his work, and I had to find an auto – it was quite late already and it was raining as well. I got a rickshaw from outside my home – for the first time. The rick guy asked for a fortune – I had no option. I was dropped outside the Shama office in Madiwala at 1950 – just 10 minutes to go for my bus. I had to first withdraw money – the ATM played some tricks with me, and I lost more time. I finally walked into the Shama office at 2000hrs – exactly at the departure time of the bus. Manoj was all smiles as he wrote a boarding pass for me, and told that the bus was parked at the “pump”.
My bus: KA-01-AA-13
It was the oldest bus of Shama for me that day. I wasn’t very happy at that. I got into the bus, left my bag inside. DJ was there – we stood outside talking till the driver got in and blowing the horn. We finally started from pump at 2022hrs – 22 minutes late. We stopped near Kallada office for a pickup, and we finally left Madiwala at 2029hrs. Like every Friday, this day was no different – roads were jammed, and we had to wade through traffic. We passed Silk Board at 2042hrs. Despite being a Friday, we had about 6 vacant seats – a lot of passengers cancelled their trip due to the torrential rain in Kerala, while some of them couldn’t make it to Madiwala due to traffic. We stopped at Electronic City toll gate to pick one passenger (2057hrs). The bus stopped to pick-up flowers at Attibele (2120/2123hrs). We picked a few more passengers and some parcels at Hosur (2136/2144hrs).

A recent Tamil movie was played in the bus. I was feeling hungry, but my food was in the bag on the luggage rack – I decided to hold on till the bus stopped for dinner. I was expecting the bus to stop at a good place – but like most buses in the route, we too pulled into that dreaded Hotel Uthaiyah near Krishnagiri (2226hrs). The cleaner announced a 20 minute break, while the driver switched off the AC, but left the engine running and went off. I had my dinner sitting in the bus and then went around for a stroll. The entire parking area has been levelled and asphalted. The place was much cleaner than it used to be – signs of an improvement? The attendant was back in exactly 20 minutes – after a few rounds of honking, all passengers were inside, and we started moving from there at 2251hrs. I always felt these buses should start from Bangalore around 2030hrs and eliminate this dinner break.
My bus during Dinner at Hotel Utaiyah.
The movie got over soon after started from the hotel. I slept off a while after the movie got over. One thing I like of Shama is the full sized blanket, and fairly sleep-friendly driving. I had a nice sleep, fairly undisturbed. I vaguely remember a stop at Walayar (it was around 4AM then). We were in the midst of a traffic block then. I slept off again – but I remember the bus literally rocking side-to-side. The road is inexistent. I woke up again around 5.45AM – rather, I was forcefully woken up by the alarm of my co-passenger. He was sound asleep, while the alarm cried at the top of its voice waking up the entire bus. It was still dark outside, and I had no idea of where we were – after some time, I realised that we were yet to reach Thrissur! We reached Thrissur at 0613hrs! The bus stopped to unload some parcel. By now all my hopes of an early arrival at Pathanamthitta were dashed – I was now prepared for a late arrival, but expected to reach by around 11AM – did that happen?

We left Thrissur at 0616hrs. Instead of heading to Mannuthy and joining the highway there, the driver preferred to take the Ollur route and join the highway at Thalore. It took us about 15 minutes to get on to the highway – but after that, the driver let the machine lose, and he tried to make up some time. We dropped a couple of passengers at Chalakudy (0648), and then at Ankamaly (0700hrs). We veered off to MC road from Ankamaly – the road got narrower and traffic started thickening. We reached Perumbavoor at 0722hrs. After Perumbavoor, the bus kept stopping every 5-10kms to drop a passenger – everyone wanted to be dropped outside their homes! We reached Muvattupuzha at 0743hrs. My co-passenger got off, and I had both the seats for me now. This was my first trip beyond Muvattupuzha on MC Road. I decided to pull up my back, and watch the road.

The road got even narrower, and we started going through a ghat kind-of section. The bus swayed left-right throughout the route. After sometime of swaying, I started feeling sleepy again – I decided to catch up some sleep again. In the meantime, we reached Koothattukulam (0818hrs). I slept off after Koothattukulam. I remember passing Kuravilangad (did not notice timings). I woke up just as we were nearing Ettumanoor. We dropped some passengers outside the temple (0859hrs) and continued our run. After Ettumanoor, there was absolutely no road – only stones strewn in puddles of water anywhere. We waded through the inexistent roads and finally got held up in heavy traffic block near Nagambadom. We passenger Nagambadom only at 0941hrs – almost an hour from Ettumanoor! We passed Kottayam KSRTC stand at 0943hrs – a couple of passengers got off, and we stated again at 0945hrs. The bus was more or less empty by now – the number of passengers was in single digits now.

The bus stopped for a leak break near Chingavanam. There was no road here as well. We reached Changanassery at 1028hrs – it was just stop-and-go there. We continued our crawl through bad roads. I never expected such a condition of Kerala SH1. A part of this road was relaid under KSTP, but the portion I was travelling through wasn’t – here roads were inexistent. After crawling for about 20 painful minutes, we reached Thiruvalla (1051hrs). By now the driver had lost all his patience – he was honking madly, and drove quite rash now. The bus was stopped at Eraviperoor by a RTO Squad – they ate about 10 minutes. We reached Kumbanad at 1121hrs. Our next stop was at Kozhencherry – 1132hrs. There a small block after the town – the road was very narrow, and our troubles were compounded by wrongly parked vehicles on the road. The driver was very upset – he was mumbling all the time and kept ranting about the delay. I was finally dropped at Pathanamthitta at 1202hrs – a good 3 hours after the scheduled arrival time. All I remember was, I got off the bus, got into an auto there and rushed to the KSRTC bus station – the rest comes later.

End remarks: The bus, KA-01-AA-13, had about 6.6 Lakh kms. The bus was delivered sometime in June 2009. Maintenance was just about average – the AC vent above my seat did not have a regulator – so it was always on and it kept blowing cold air all the time. The front axle kept rattling all the time as well. The bus had poor pick-up as well – time for it to head for a full overhaul. The end-to-end ride took 15h40m. We had a grand 3hr block at Walayar (as informed by the crew and a co-passenger), and that delayed us heavily. The delay while entering Kerala made things worse for us.

Blankets: Yes
Water Bottle: No
Snacks: No

Maintenance (including cleanliness): 3/5
Punctuality: 2.5/5
Staff Behaviour: 4.5/5
Overall: 3/5

Will I take this service again? I am not a regular passenger on that route – but if I’d have to travel again, I’d prefer taking a bus via Alappuzha instead.