January 02, 2022:
After the mountain railway journey, it was another long walk to the bus station - about half a kilometre away. This time I took the right turn, and walked through the shortest path to the bus station. The bus station was quite crowded - I noticed quite a bit of crowd for buses towards Coimbatore. I wanted a bus that went to Gandhipuram bus station (there is a newer bus station on Mettupalayam Road - getting off there would mean having to change a few buses to get to the railway station). Traveling to Gandhipuram has two benefits - one (and the most important one) is that I could visit my favorite Annapoorna restaurant for dinner; and two, there are frequent buses to get to the railway station.
|Mettupalayam station.. and the Nilgiris behind!|
There were about 4 buses in the queue to depart to Coimbatore. The first two were more or less full - the third one had a few window seats towards the rear end. I picked up one and settled down. The board clearly mentioned that the bus went to Gandhipuram, as well. The ticket fare was Rs. 25. The bus started off from the bus station at 1756hrs. I slept soon after the bus entered the highway towards Coimbatore. I slept quite well - this is despite loud music being played in the bus. That said, the songs were melodious hits from the yesteryears - maybe they were lullaby to my ears! I slept so well that I did not realise any stops on the way. I woke up only as the bus stopped at Gandhipuram - that too hearing the conductor shouting at the top of his voice that the bus had arrived at Gandhipuram (1928hrs). It took a couple of minutes to regain senses. I headed straight to Hotel Annapoorna (Gowrishankar, actually) on Cross Cut Road for my dinner.
After my dinner, I returned to the bus station and got into a bus to the Railway station. The conductor said that the bus wouldn't go to the main entrance due to some road work, and would drop me "near" the station. I was okay with that. The bus fare for this short journey was Rs. 13 (it was a newer red bus with the "Deluxe" sticker). The bus actually dropped me at the goods shed road entrance of the railway station. I was a little sleepy - headed straight to the matron's office. The retiring rooms at Coimbatore Junction weren't available for online booking back then (I think they are available now). I had to visit the matron to book the room first. The matron's office is located on the first floor of the main station building - near the reservation centre.
The person at the matron's office took out a form, filled all my details and asked me what kind of room I needed. I opted for a Male Dormitory (air-conditioned) - since I would be spending only around 3.5 hours there. I just needed to place to sleep for a while, and then get fresh and change before continuing my journey. The guy filled the form, and asked me to head to the unreserved ticketing counter to pay the room rent. This was located on the ground floor - room rent is accepted only at the supervisor counter. He updates all these details on the computer, collects the money and prints out a receipt - it looks like a regular unreserved ticket, but contains all our details.
|The Dormitory ticket!|
The next part of the process was to return to the Matron's office - the guy now transfers all the details on to a register, and then issues the key. While issuing the key, he, very gently, requested me to return the key to the same office while checking out. The AC dormitories are located on the building built on the island platform containing platform 1 & 2. So, I had to go down to the main concourse, then go through the underpass and climb up to the Platform 1/2. The rooms are located on the first floor of a building there. The Dormitory is a hall with about 6 beds. Each bed is inside a lockable cabin. The airconditioner is common. Each room had a small fan as well. The cabins weren't as well maintained like the one at Palakkad - but did serve the purpose.
I only remember crashing on to the bed - I woke up only as my alarm went off. I woke up around 0030hrs or so - my train was at 0122hrs. I got fresh, changed and checked out of my room by around 0100hrs. I rushed out to return the keys and returned to Platform 1, where my train was announced. Soon after I reached there, the Kochuveli bound Humsafar express arrived. I headed off for a cup of tea from the platform - while the Humsafar departed to Kochuveli. My train came in at 0118hrs - WAP4 #22340 of Erode was the power for my ride that night.
|My train.. My coach..|
My coach, S5 (WGSCN #13228 based at Chennai Egmore), seemed to be fully booked from Coimbatore. Almost every passenger in this coach alighted at Coimbatore, and an equal number boarded as well. The train departed from Coimbatore at 0125hrs - perfectly at the scheduled departure time. I had a middle berth for this journey. I headed to my berth soon after the train left Coimbatore. Thankfully, the TTE came soon later to check tickets. I slept soon after my ticket was checked. A nice long sleep after that - I woke up just as the train left Thrissur (I had an alarm). A few side berths were no vacant - just moved to one of them so that I could sit comfortably till I alighted at Irinjalakuda. We rolled in to Irinjalakuda by 0501hrs - early by 8 minutes! There ended another memorable journey!