Its been almost a year and a half since Covid hit the country. Kerala has been under terrible COVID stress since early this year. The state went through a series of lockdowns - the last one lasting over two months. Localised locked downs extended this duration to another month more. The last time I traveled out of my house was some time in April and its been really long without traveling. In fact, it reached a point where I hadn't even traveled outside the boundaries of the local self-government (the Municipality).
While life dragged on high and dry, one fine day, this message arrives signalling my next opportunity to travel. This was a short and quick trip to Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) - I decided to travel by train both ways - for two reasons: this trip was to be quick, and I had to be back in my hometown before too late in the night. Road traffic seemed to be on an all-time high, and I did not want to spend a tiring evening wading traffic. Without much thoughts, I headed straight to the IRCTC website to book my ticket. I had a confusion here - if I should travel the previous evening and stay overnight in Trivandrum or travel overnight to Trivandrum. I opted for the latter since I was really unsure of getting an accommodation at Trivandrum.
I had two options for traveling overnight - the Guruvayur-Chennai Egmore special and the Madurai-Trivandrum "Amrita" Special. The latter would mean I arrive a little late in to Trivandrum, while the former would get into Trivandrum quite early. However, the former had very little chances of being delayed enroute - this sealed the decision. I decided to redeem my IRCTC points for this booking - the redemption process was simple and quick. I was traveling by an AC Coach again after 17 months!
August 24, 2021:
The train was to depart at 2258hrs - I had reached Thrissur railway station by around 2200hrs. I had driven my car to the station, and I was now busy hunting for a parking spot. I missed the entrance to the parking, and ended up driving around for a while before getting in to the parking. The parking charges for overnight parking was Rs. 150. A walk-through tunnel with an IR-thermometer was installed at the entrance. The device screens all passengers at entry. Limited access to platforms has certainly made platforms emptier and finding a place to wait has become easier. I really hope IR continues this process of controlling access - it makes it easier for passengers.
There was a steady stream of departure towards Shoranur - trains to Bengaluru, Silchar, Chennai, etc. There were a lot of people waiting for the train I was to travel in. Most people seemed to be headed to Tamilnadu. More stores on the platform had opened this time around, compared to my last journey. I picked up a coffee and some bite to go along. My train pulled in by 2302hrs with WAP #30378 of Royapuram doing the honours. I knew that this was to be a very short halt, and had to hurry with getting in to the train - there were a few people to join the coach here, as well. I was traveling in a 2014 Integral Coach factory built AC 3-tier coach (WGACCN #14126) based at Chennai Egmore. The coach was in fairly great shape, and very clean as well.
|Railway Coffee.. That is an emotion!!|
We got moving by 2304hrs, and quickly sped out of Thrissur. I was just settling down - the bedrolls were gone, so were the curtains. Its quite a hassle travelling without bedrolls - the lack of curtains let all the light in as well. Air-conditioning was maintained at bearable temperature, thankfully. We rolled in to Irinjalakuda by 2327hrs and departed a minute later. Meanwhile, I was preparing to sleep - I had carried a bedsheet along with me. I tried sleeping - but couldn't sleep for some reason.
We stopped next at Chalakudy (2337hrs) and then at Ankamaly for Kalady (2356hrs). This train makes plenty of stops on the way. I was slowly drifting asleep as the train made its next stop, at Aluva (0009hrs). I finally slept when the train was stationary at Ernakulam Town station (0029hrs). It wasn't the kind of sleep I wanted - it was very disrupted and I kept waking up multiple times. I had a sense of insecurity - a fear of my bag being stolen (something I usually do not have, when traveling in AC coaches - I avoid night journeys in Non-AC coaches for the fear of being robbed).
I kept waking up time and again through the night. I was dead tired by morning due theo the lack of sleep. I was fully awake by the time the train reached Kochuveli. I finally alighted at Thiruvananthapuram Central station at 0431 - 4 minutes before scheduled time. I was really tired after the journey, and badly wanted to crash on to a bed. It was raining heavily at the time, and I had to wait at the station for a while, before I could walk out and hunt for a room to sleep for a while!
Do watch this small mash-up of video clips from this journey as well:
Journey in a Nutshell:Train Number: 06128 Guruvayur Chennai Egmore 'Covid' Special Express
Loco link: WAP7 #30378 of Royapuram
Punctuality: 10/10 (Departed minutes delayed, Arrived before time!)
Cleanliness: 10/10 (Absolutely clean)
Bedroll: Not Available.
Catering: Not Available.