Saturday, 29 December 2012

Kundapur Calling

Kundapur Calling….

Date of Journey- 23/12/2012
Service- KSRTC Ambaari (Corona A/C) Sleeper.
Distance- 480kms(appox)

The day began with lots of confusion on whether to undertake this journey. Though my travel plans to Kundapur was scheduled almost a week ago, I hadn’t booked tickets and was confident enough of getting a seat to Kundapur (A big mistake..!!!)

I decided to try my chances this time by boarding the bus at Navrang as I was still not sure of which operator I would be undertaking the journey with. My friend dropped me at Navrang and the moment I arrived there, I realized I had committed a big mistake. There were scores of people waiting for buses heading to different destinations and the busy road was jammed with buses from different operators.  Myself and my friend decided to split up and hunt for tickets. My first stop was Durgamba Travels, sadly not tickets (as expected), next stop VRL travels, though seats were available the bus had already crossed Yeswanthpur(tough luck). My friend called up and said all Mangalore bound operators had their buses running full.

A sense of despair slowly started to sink in. I slowly started walking back when I saw a string of KSRTC buses heading down the road. The first was a Dharmasthala bound Rajahamsa, followed by a Mangalore bound Rajahamsa and right behind was an Ambaari Sleeper (Corona A/C) heading towards Kundapur..!!!
The bus was moving at a slow pace in the middle of the road. I immediately shouted out at the conductor if there was a seat available to Kundapur and the conductor replied 644Rs… The bus stopped right in the middle of the busy main road and picked me up.

I boarded the bus and asked the conductor by any chance if there was a single sleeper berth available, the conductor said yes… (Score)  Asked him what were the berth numbers… Conductor replies 16 and 32… Did a quick thinking and replied back telling him that I would take Berth no 16. My conductor puts a smile on his face now and says both the berths 16 and 32 are located one above the other, at the ‘LAST ROW’. I stood there helplessly..!!!
I took the upper berth, while the conductor handed me over a bottle of water and a blanket. I asked him what time the bus would reach Kundapur and he said it would reach around 6:45am. This was my second journey in a Corona; needless to say the bus has an awesome suspension however I had experienced difficulties with the A/C vent and the engine noise during my first journey. Also my main concern was Shiradi ghat and how the bus would handle this rough stretch. However the last row berths have their own advantage, the leg space is more and there is an ample amount of space between the rear glass and the berth where store your luggage (light weight only)

The bus was being driven exceptionally well and in no time we covered the elevated toll way and took a left turn towards the Bangalore-Mangalore highway. My bus was overtaking every vehicle which came in its path and when I checked the speed on my GPS speed tracker, it showed the bus doing speeds close to 90kmph. 

Tried to sleep for sometime however the rock solid pillow was giving a tough time. We reached Channarayapattana at exactly 11:45pm. We had covered around 146kms(appox) in 2hrs 15mins. We stopped for a break at the bus stand. We were the first bus which came into the bus stand at this point to time from Bangalore. I decided to go clicking and just when I was about to take the picture of my bus, a Volvo bound to Mangalore came in and parked right next to our bus. A couple of minutes passed by and another Airavat joined us and this time it was a Kundapur bound Volvo. Needless to say that I would have been delighted if I had got the Volvo in Bangalore, however all the seats in this bus was full. 

Kundapur bound Corona A/C sleeper

Mangalore bound Airavat posing next to  Kundapur bound Ambaari

We departed from Channarayapattana at 00:05am after a good 20mins break and headed towards Hassan. A couple of minutes later, I saw the speeding Kundapur Volvo trailing our bus, and within no time it overtook us. I finally decided to get some shut eyes but I was finding it very difficult to sleep as every time the bus went on a rough patch or when it swayed from left to right and back(while overtaking) I was either sliding off from my pillow or slamming my head towards my pillow. Finally I was able to get some sleep. A couple of hours went by and all of a sudden I was thrown up and came down crashing on my bed. No guesses as to where the bus was traveling, we had entered the Shiradi Ghat. The roads showed no mercy on the bus and the bus in-turn showed no mercy to me. We slowly crossed the Shiradi ghat and I continued my sleep.

After crossing the Shiradi ghat, I was able to sleep peacefully without any further disturbance. However, I could feel the bus hitting rough patches here and there, but I was too tired to get out from my sleep. Finally at 5:15am, the lights inside the bus were switched on and the conductor shouted out Manipal. I woke up and started guessing how the bus reached Manipal before Udupi. It is then when I realized the bus came via Karkala and not via Mangalore. We reached Udupi by 5:30am and slowly made our way towards Kundapur. I was dropped off at Shastri circle at exactly 6:15am.

Overall the journey with respect to time management was very good. We did not make any unscheduled stops and since the bus was full, we did not stop at Hassan or at Sakleshpur bus stand.. I was expecting the bus to reach Kundapur by 7am however; the bus was driven very well to maintain time. Will I take this service again? Absolutely yes, however not the last row berths. The journey was back breaking but given the situation I was in, I am happy to say KSRTC saved my day.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A memorable weekend with NWKRTC’s Airavat Gold Class.

                            A memorable weekend with NWKRTC’s Airavat Gold Class.

My return journey to Bangalore was fixed and this time there was no doubt about which bus I was taking.  The sensuous NWKRTC’s Airavat Gold Class.
My tryst with Gold Class started almost a year ago when one of my pictures of Gold Class landed up in the NWKRTC website. Needless to say that I was disappointed on the website developers for removing the watermark on my picture and using the same without my consent however, I was equally happy to see my picture on our state transport’s website. After this episode, I have seen pictures of this particular service on different social networking platforms, heard great things about this service, even got an opportunity to take took few more pictures of this service but finally the time had come to try this service.

Even before I reached Belgaum, almost a week ago, it was decided that I would be making few stops in Belgaum and Hubli to meet few ardent bus fans (Biswajit Baruah, Santhosh , Nagesh Vannur ). I reached Belgaum by around 7:30am, thanks to some impressive driving by my friends. Though the previous night’s journey had taken a light toll on my body, I was all excited to meet these members and make the most of our meet. So my first stop was at Ramdev, Belgaum.

After meeting the gang and having breakfast, I was at Ramdev, with Biswajit and Nagesh when I spotted the Belgaum-Tirupati Gold Class. She stood at the side waiting to pick up passengers. The bus was gleaming under the shinning sun and it was very hard to take my eyes off the bus. I immediately headed out towards the bus and started taking few pictures and decided to take the same bus to Hubli to meet another bus fan, Prashant Kallimath. Elaborate plans were made almost a week ago and Prashant had invited me for lunch at his place. I bid good bye to my friend Biswajit at Belgaum and boarded the Gold Class.

Gold Class Part 1
Date of Journey- 9/12/2012
Service- NWKRTC Airavat Gold Class
Distance- 90kms (appox)

It was a brand new bus with around 1.5lakh kilometer done on the Odo. The bus had two crew members, a driver and a driver/conductor. The interiors were maintained very well. The bus when compared with Club Class has 53seats without calf support. I was the only passenger to board at Ramdev and the bus slowly made its way to Belgaum Central bus stand. Here around 15passengers boarded the bus, few traveling to Bangalore and few more traveling to Tirupati. Both the crew was fairly new and the driver who was driving the bus had finished his training a couple of months ago. We departed from Belgaum at around 11:45pm. The driver was struggling to negotiate the bus on the crowded streets. Slowly we made our way to the highway and I was expecting the driver to shun his fears here and drive the bus as he is supposed to.  However, I was wrong the driver was lugging the bus and was scared to overtake trucks on the highway. Finally on an empty stretch, he touched the speeds of 70kmph and then slowed down.  After crawling all the way, the bus entered the 2-lane which leads to Hubli Airport. Here my driver did something which he hadn’t done till now. At a steep curve, he tried to overtake 3 trucks at one go which were trailing one behind the other. He made the move and passed the first truck and then everything went wrong. A car carrier came in from the opposite lane and the driver panicked. The car carrier coming from the opposite lane had little space to his left and he went off the road and the truck on our left side went off the road as well to ensure our bus avoid a head on collision. I witnessed all of this sitting at the front row and my faith with the driver was shaken. Finally my drop off point had arrived; saw my friend waiting to pick me up. Got down and bid adieu to the bus.

With all the expectations that I had, this was not the start I was looking for…

Gold Class Part 2
Date of Journey- 9/12/2012
Service- NWKRTC Airavat Gold Class
Distance- 430kms (appox)

After having a heavy meal, thanks to Prashant Kallimath and his family, I was eager to get back into the comfort of gold class and sleep all the way till I reached Bangalore. Prashant dropped me at Hubli new bus stand and the Gold class was yet to arrive. We both went on with a quick bus hunting session in the bus stand and while we were at it, the second Gold class showed up. This was the Belgaum-Chennai Gold class. There were already many passengers waiting for this bus. The bus also had around 30passengers in it. Prashant asked me to board the bus immediately to ensure I get a seat. I boarded the bus and took my seat. The bus slowly started to move and I bid good bye to him. I took my seat and was rest assured that my journey to Bangalore was one smooth ride. But again I was wrong…!!!

The bus after picking up passengers from the Hubli Old bus stand made its way to Kamat restaurant near Varur and stopped for Lunch. After the lunch break the bus resumed its journey and I decided to take the conductor’s seat at the front. I switched over my seats and was ready to take some pictures and videos of some high speed action on the highway. However, things went completely wrong when we reached the outskirts of Haveri district.

A political party which had organized a massive rally to showcase its strength had just concluded and the people who had come from different parts of the state emerged on the highway to board their buses. An estimate of over 1lakh people had come to witness this event and the highway was blocked on either side with the both KSRTC, private buses and with all kinds of transport vehicles. The organizers had not made elaborate arrangements and thus people were stranded on the highway searching for their buses which had brought them to the rally. This resulted in a massive Jam on the highway. The crew was asking passengers not to alight from the bus however it was getting very difficult to sit inside the bus since the bus was not moving.  After a pain staking wait for almost 1.5hrs, the traffic began to crawl ahead. However the traffic again came to standstill and finally after 2hrs we were able to cross the Bypass road.

In all it took 2hrs to cross a stretch of 1.5kms and it was time to face the harsh reality. The bus which was supposed to reach Bangalore by 10pm will only be reaching by 12am. The crew informed the same to the passengers and advised the passengers who were getting down in Bangalore to make elaborate arrangements to reach home after alighting from the bus. Though we crossed Haveri, there was heavy traffic on the highway. However our driver was driving exceptionally well to ensure to make up most of the time lost on the highway. We crossed Davangere by around 7:30pm and crossed Sira by around 10:30pm. Few of the Bangalore bound passengers requested the driver to stop the bus for a dinner break and the driver obliged. We stopped at a restaurant near Dabaspet.  The crew was requesting the passengers to hurry up as they were running late. 

At our break, both the Gold class buses coming from Chennai and Tirupati joined us. The place was flooded with multis from VRL, SRS, I-shift from Sharma, Konduskar sleeper to Pune, HKB to name a few. I was completely exhausted to take pictures of these beauties.  We finally departed by 11pm and we were nearing Nelamangala. The conductor started getting calls from passengers who had booked ticket on this bus to Chennai from Bangalore. He went on patiently answering every call, explaining the situation and told them to wait at the bus stand. The bus finally entered the elevated Yeswanthpur toll way and made its way into the city. I was dropped off at Navrang at around 11:45pm. 

Apart from the jam created by the political rally, the journey was very comfortable. The crew was both experienced and courteous and was handling the situation in the best possible way. Despite the fact that we lost a major chunk of time, both the drivers tried their best to cover up for the lost time.. If need arises, I will definitely try this service again.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Bangalore to Hyderabad in Rajahamsa A/C

Bangalore to Hyderabad in Rajahamsa A/C

Date of Journey- 8/12/2012
Service- KSRTC Rajahamsa A/C
Distance- 570kms(appox)

Unlike my previous journeys which are scheduled at the last moment, my trip to Hyderabad was planned almost a month ago. Initially I was supposed to travel to Hyderabad on 1/12/2012 however due to some changes in plan, the trip was postponed to 8/12/2012. As I work late into the night, I had made elaborate plans to take the first KSRTC bus departing to Hyderabad from Bangalore at 6:30am. Going by the plan, at around 7pm the previous day I decided to book my tickets on the 6:30am Airavat service and hence logged onto the KSRTC website. However little did I know, my plans was about to take a beating. The 6:30am service was "Full"

Time was running out and without further delay, I searched the KSRTC website for the next available service and it showed the Rajahamsa A/C service as the next available service which departs at 9:00am in the morning. Immediately checked if the seats were available on this bus and luckily there were around 25seats available. This service was launched more than a year ago but the response for this service was minimal. KSRTC has only 2 of these Prakash built buses however, I always wanted to try this service and the timing was perfect. I called up my friends who were picking me up in Hyderabad and informed them about my change in plans. Though I was little disappointed for missing the Airavat service, I was equally excited and anxious on taking the Rajahamsa A/C service. Equally excited to try this service and anxious about the ride quality and comfort. Hence I ensured not to have high expectation on this service but did the service turn out to be a memorable one..? Read on...

8/12/2012, ‘The D-Day’

Reached Shantinagar Bus Stand at 8:30am and saw the Blue color Rajahamsa A/C  bus boarding passengers. Walked up to the bus and saw the crew helping out a senior citizen load the luggage in the luggage bay. Asked the conductor about the seats and he said to take any seats after seat number 25. Boarded the bus and took a window seat (seat no 31). The bus was an Ashley (Ashok Leyland)  which had 44 seats with 2X2 configuration. The interiors were refurbished and the Harita seats looked brand new, not sure if the seats were replaced.

we were still waiting for couple of passengers who had reserved their seats but not showed up yet. Finally they came in and the bus departed at 9:05am. The bus was almost full with couple of seats at the last row being empty. The Saturday morning traffic was showing no respite as our bus slowly crawled its way towards KBS. Here the last row seats were taken and the bus moved on. Needless to say that the bus was powerless when compared with the lights of Volvo and Mercedes however the suspension was top notch. The bus clearly lacked the power however the suspension was doing its job ensuring to provide enough comfort for the passengers sitting inside the bus. The A/C was also set at a proper temperature.  At this point of time I decided to take some shut eyes and slipped into a quick nap.

I was awakened by the conductor who was shouting out at passengers to have their ‘Breakfast’ here as the bus wont to stopping for another break till 3pm. The bus pulled into the Kamat restaurant at Chikkaballapur. The conductor was urging the passengers to hurry up as the bus was already late. I got down and went about taking few pictures of the bus and as always got few weird looks from the people around.  The passengers hurried up and came back having their brunch and bio break, however the crew was nowhere in sight. Since the engine was switched off, it was hot as oven inside the bus and as it was a sunny day, it was equally hot outside the bus. Finally the crew showed up and we departed at 12pm.

We resumed our journey and the lack of power was clearly illustrated on the highway, the bus was being overtaken by cars and other vehicles however our driver ensured not to block the vehicles which were overtaking us. I switched on the GPS on my cellphone and it recorded the max speed of the bus to be around 75kmph, not bad for an AL engine powering both the bus and the A/C. We reached Anantapur by around 2pm. We pulled into the bus stand with great difficulty as the roads leading to the bus stand is dug up and there was no one to manage traffic. Here, few passengers got down and around equal number of passengers boarded the bus. We resumed our journey again and at around 3:30pm the bus pulled into a road side ‘restorent’. The road side eatery was in a terrible condition and the ‘Tai-let’ was horrible. At this point I spotted a VRL B9R heading towards Bangalore doing great speeds. That’s when I realized about the VRL’s morning service to Hyderabad and the fact that I overlooked it. However my journey so far was good expect for the time which was being eaten away.

We resumed our journey again and this time I decided to spend some quality time in the driver’s cabin. Started a conversation about the bus and its performance and he said that this particular bus is slow when compared with its counterpart. He even mentioned that this bus had more breakdowns and many a time KSRTC has replaced this service with a Corona. However, he was quick to mention the fact that this was an Ashley and not TATA and he is happy to drive this bus. When asked why this bus doesn’t have a TV inside the bus, he smiled back at me and said he is happy not to have one. Initially this bus had a TV set however passengers demanded to play Telegu movies while playing a Kannada movie or vice versa. The issue became so serious that it reached the depot manager’s office and the TV set was removed from the bus. We chit chatted through our way and we reached Kurnool at around 5:30pm.

At Kurnool the bus got full and we departed. Again the bus was driven at the same pace, and somewhere near Mahbubnagar  and Jadcherla, I spotted a Kallada B9R speeding on the opposite lane and right behind it was a speeding  KPN B9R and an Airavat Club Class. We crossed Shamshabad and entered the city limits. My friends called me up and asked me to get down at Afzal Gunj. I was dropped off at Afzal Gunj at around 8:25pm. The bus would have reached MGBS by around 8:45pm.

Needles to reiterate the fact that the bus was low on power however, the comfort provided was nothing short of a surprise. I feel KSRTC should deploy this bus on shorter routes as travelling on longer routes as this one is a bit stressful. 

Few pics taken at Kamat restaurant.