A sleepless night - was turning all around the bed trying to find a cozy spot to sleep. It was fairly hot outside, and the fan in my room turned very slowly. Mosquitoes provided some background noise to an otherwise eerie night. As if the sun broke out of the horizon, I suddenly develop an idea - why don't I visit the Kollur Mookambika Temple on Sunday! These thoughts came about on Saturday morning - roughly 0100hrs on Saturday! I fired up the IRCTC Connect mobile application - tickets were waitlisted. I decided to take a risk and book a waitlisted ticket - my intuition said this could get confirmed. But the payment failed, and the booking didn't go through. Tried again - same result.
June 04, 2022:
I was quite groggy during the day - the last night was spent almost completely sleepless. I had decided to check current reservations once the train's chart is prepared - and if tickets were still available, I'd go ahead with my plan. The train I was looking for was 16312 Kochuveli-Sriganganagar Express. The plan was to travel till Byndoor in this train, and then take a bus from there to Kollur. That would be a visit to Kollur after over 2 decades!
A little past 1145hrs: Charting done. Current Availability of over 100 berths!!
I am a strong believer of fate! I strongly believe that only things that are intended for me come my way - and would come to me what may! I always believe that visits to temples happen only when its time for me - only when the lord sanctions an appointment for me! So this was surely my time! The train was heavily waitlisted when I checked first - it had moved to regret status by early morning - and turned to available by noon!!
I finally booked a ticket - a side lower berth in S9 - at a discounted price than what I'd have paid if I booked a waitlisted ticket! Now comes the next problem - the train departs at 0250hrs on June 05, 2022. Public transportation at that hour is questionable in any part of Kerala, more so in Kasaragod! I had to leave my residence by 2100hrs at the most to get some form of public transport that would get me to the railway station. What do I do after that?
I finally decided to leave home by 2100hrs, head straight to a restaurant for dinner and then head to a movie. Movies are a great way of spending time, especially when having to wait! I headed to a Kamal Haasan starer tamil flick - the movie finished by 0130hrs - reducing my waiting time to a little over an hour now! There were no autos outside the movie hall - had to walk for some distance to get an auto. I finally got an auto from the KSRTC bus station - there were at least two police check points in the way ahead to the railway station.
I was at the railway station by around 0200hrs. I had some more time left for the train - headed straight to the sole tea stall at the station to get a tea (Misnomer! Its a loosely dispersed solution of dairy whitener with loads of sugar and a tea bag). I remained on Platform 1 until about 0230hrs - the platform on which my train arrives (platform 2) was quite dark and deserted. I moved there only by around 0240hrs - just as more passengers headed there, and lights were turned on. The train was to arrive at 0248hrs, but arrived well ahead of its scheduled time. WAP7 #37389 of Erode was the power. There weren't many people to board - I was the only one to board S9. The TTE was waiting near the door itself, and marked me present as I got in. My coach was built by Integral Coach Factory Chennai in March 2019 (LWSCN #192086) - based at Kochuveli Coaching depot.
The coach was quite empty - I quickly settled on to my Side lower berth. We started off from Kasaragod at 0250hrs, perfectly on time. I only remember seeing the train leave the platform - dozed off in no time. I woke up as rain water splashed on my face - we had arrived Mangalore Junction station already! It was drizzling a bit - I wanted to check the loco change. I understood that we had arrived well ahead of schedule - I walked towards the loco as the rain took a brief pause. The incoming WAP7 was just disconnected as I reached there - loco change operations at Mangalore Junction is a very slow affair. Their take their sweet pace to complete the entire process. Twin WDM3As of Ernakulam were waiting nearby, to take charge of our train. I couldn't wait till the loco attachment was done, since it started drizzling again.
I slept again, before we started from Mangalore Junction (I vaguely remember seeing the train moving, but I hadn't recorded the time). I slept quite well - until we reached Innanje, just before day break. We were looped for a crossing - I was expecting the Mathsyaganda express, but it was a freighter that went. The freighter was hauled by a WAG9 - making it my first spotting of an electric loco on Konkan Railway, and the consist was made up of NMG wagons (NMG - often expanded as "New Modified Goods" are old passenger coaches converted in goods carriages. They are often used to ferry passenger vehicles, and for 'valuable' freight like vegetables and fruits, or even electronic goods).
I was quite sleepy, but didn't want to sleep through the journey. We pulled into our next halt, Udupi, very soon - by 0603hrs. We were ahead of schedule. I decided to check out the loco using this opportunity - my coach was towards the rear end of the train, and I had to walk quite some distance to get to the locomotive. In charge of my train that day were twin WDM3As, #14080 & #16802, from Ernakulam Diesel loco shed. I quickly snapped a couple of pictures on my phone, and rushed back towards my coach. The starter was taken off well before the scheduled time, and the loco pilots even blew the horn well ahead of time - I rushed into a coach that was nearby and decided to walk through the vestibule instead. We started off only at the scheduled time of 0612hrs.
|Our train waiting at Udupi!|
We made another unscheduled halt at Barkur, right after Udupi for a crossing. We had a longish wait here, for the Mangalore bound Mathsyagandha express to go by. We started off from Barkur at 0638hrs after the crossing. Except the rain while we were at Mangalore, it largely remained clear for the rest of the run. A good number of passengers in my coach seemed to be alighting at Byndoor - most of them were checking out each station in order to identify Byndoor. We had a scheduled stop at Kundapura, where we also crossed a terribly delayed Jabalpur-Coimbatore "holiday special" train. This train has been operating as a holiday special since ages - wonder what is stopping the railways from converting this to a regular daily service.
Preparation to alight began as we started from Kundapura. We slowed down at Senapura - didn't stop there though. We rolled in to Byndoor station by 0719hrs. Byndoor was initially a halt station (it still is) - was later upgraded with more facilities and renamed as "Byndoor - Mookambika Road". This station is the closest railhead for pilgrims headed to the temple town of "Kollur". There are fairly frequent bus services from the bus station located about half-a-kilometre away from the station. Quite a lot of passengers alighted at this station - I rushed outside the station seeing the crowd, since the bus station could also get crowded! Interestingly, quite a lot of the passengers seemed to be families, who might prefer hiring a cab instead!
|The vast platform at Byndoor Road station|
I had initially planned to walk down to the bus station - dodging auto/cab drivers outside the station wasn't easy. I walked a few metres away from the station, and then flagged down an autorickshaw that was coming towards the station. The short ride to the bus station cost me around Rs 40 (from a vague memory). Speaking in Kannada helps in such situations, I guess. A bus to Kollur was ready to depart as I reached the bus station. There were a few vacant seats as I well - reach earlier than the crowd helped!
Coming to the bus, that was an ACGL built TATA Midi bus owned by Sri Durgamba, operated under Canara Combined Transport (Canara Bus Operator's Association's brand). The bus got crowded soon after it departed from Byndoor. The road up to Kollur was winding and went through dense plantations, and later through the reserve forest. The bus fare was Rs. 42. The ride to Kollur was about an hour long. I reached Kollur roughly by 0835hrs or so.
|This was my bus!|
Do check out my video from this trip on YouTube!
Journey in a Nutshell:
Train Number: 16320 Kochuveli - Sriganganagar Express
Loco link: WAP7 #37389 of Erode until Mangalore Junction, and then WDM3A #14080 + #16802 of Ernakulam
Coach: S9, LWSCN #192086, built by ICF Chennai in March 2019
Punctuality: 10/10 (Perfectly on time at either ends)
Cleanliness: 10/10 (Very clean)
Coach Maintenance: 10/10 (Very well kept)
Bedroll: Not Applicable
Catering: Did not use.
Overall: 9/10 (Was a great journey)
A trip to Kollur was on the planning board for almost a decade now! It would've been terrible if I hadn't visited Kollur despite staying at Kasaragod - hardly 4 hours from the temple! Traveling by train is a great way of getting to the temple, but is a major effort for people from Kasaragod - its easier to take a bus all the way instead! This was overall, a great experience!