Sunday, February 9, 2014

A day in bus - Bangalore to Surat (Feb 1, 2014)

I had travelled to Malegaon via Shirdi in bus (18-20 hours in total) for my room mate Prakash's marriage. So it wasn't difficult decision to make to travel in bus to Surat for my colleague Yatin's marriage. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to visit Gujarat.

It is difficult to imagine that we have option to journey long distances in bus, but perhaps it is inevitable given the lack of adequate train options (in terms of seat availability, timings, as well as bus journey saving half a day). SRS has even introduced service from Bangalore to Jodhpur!

Some last minute answering to office mails, cooking Kichadi, packing, etc had me hurrying to catch a bus to Majestic. When the not-so-surprising traffic in Ulsoor around 2:30PM seemed to be jammed forever, worry gnawed me insistently. I forgot my headphones in hurry to make it worse. I had a novel (Xenocide) with me, but that was for 'real' bus journey (only 100-odd pages were left to be read, I was actually trying to finish it that Saturday morning so that I could take a new book :D) It turned out to be unnecessary fidgeting - I reached Majestic before 3PM, while my bus was 'scheduled' to depart at 3:30PM.

I had general idea of direction from google maps, but I had to ask multiple times to reach Anand Rao circle - had sugarcane juice after long time on the way. I was going in the direction of circle when I had the first confusion - two SRS booking office on opposite side of road. I chose the larger one, but that turned out to be parcel service and the guy told me to take right from circle ahead. I still had plenty of time and walked forward. On the corner was another booking office and one opposite the road again. Common sense was telling me both weren't the place I was to go(no place for bus to park) but I was at unease again and asked for direction. I was told to go further. I passed VRL travels having a large open parking lot, so I guessed SRS must be having one similar ahead. Was finally right and saw passengers getting into a bus. Bus being early surprise was short-lived, it was going to Mumbai, not Ahmedabad.

Good to see restroom facility here. While I waited, I got to see a guy with military crew-cut as well as a bag indicating military. He was coming in our bus too (overheard him inquiring at the Mumbai bus). He had a weird habit - carried a water bottle, gulp and spit often - like every 5-10 minutes. Saw him doing that almost everytime bus stopped during our journey.

Oh well, I have written so much and I haven't got into bus itself yet - my own weird habit :D Devang, Yatin's room mate joined me around 3:30PM. The bus finally arrived and left few minutes past 4PM. Half-an-hour behind schedule already. Getting out of Bangalore proved herculean task of more than one-and-half hours. There were passengers getting in at various pick-up points, it seemed like SRS booking office was located every 2-3km.

At 5:50PM, we got our first break. Conductor announced a 10 minute break, which turned out to be more than 20 minutes. The hotel employed two people outside - their task being guiding for parking as well as whistling loudly to attract attention of passing cars and buses. Have I mentioned that world is a weird place yet?

 Sunset on the way
After the break, movie procession started - Awara Paagal Deewana, Phir Hera Pheri, Deewane Huye Paagal, OMG, Khiladi 786 (didn't finish by the time we got down next day). Thankfully, volume wasn't too high like I experienced in KSRTC Airavat (to Shirdi). There were two screens, one just behind driver (only curtains separated passengers) and another in middle of bus to entertain the 44 of us. I mostly watched the comedy scenes and spent rest of the time watching the scenery go by (sunset, speeding cars on highway, numerous toll booths, oil tankers longer than our bus, village lights, etc) or brooding about life. After dinner around 10PM (decent food in Punjabi hotel, very crowded due to multiple buses and cars, waiter assuring repeatedly to calm down angry passengers) I somehow slept while the 2nd movie was on (I put on thermocot plus used the warm bedsheet provided by SRS). But then, it would have been miracle if I had peaceful sleep the whole night. Once the movie finished, I woke up due to change in ambient noise. And then it was fitful sleep for rest of night.
We were woken up early next morning (few minutes after 6) at a large complex housing petrol bunk, refreshment and hotel. Village/town was Taje, approximately halfway in the Mumbai-Pune Expressway (not the NH). Devang and me had tea (not bad, but cost Rs 15!). First rays of dawn were still some time away, but I could see mountain range to the left as we started again. We passed through tunnels, hair-pin bends and past some very scary cuttings through mountains (protected just by rope nets against landslide, can't imagine the scene during monsoon).

Houses in hills were very good looking and seemed systematic - or perhaps constructed to be sold as getaway villas. As we neared Mumbai, tall towers started showing up. Like getting out of Bangalore, getting in and out of Mumbai seemed to take forever. Not sure of the boundaries, but must have taken atleast 2-3 hours. There was small hold-up in traffic initially but otherwise we weren't stuck in jam. After 8AM, 3rd movie was on (also means that charging plug points were active - another luxury). I was bored of movies by now. I thought I would get to see hustle-bustle of Mumbai, but wasn't to be. Did see DY Patil cricket stadium, local trains, most taxi being Santro (didn't see even a single normal santro :D), a slogan "Non-smoking is bridge to good health" on one of the bridges (lots  of water bodies and mountains in Mumbai).

Near Mumbai

We had some snacks I had got just in case we were hungry beyond the frequent stops I knew would be made. Around 10:30AM, we finally stopped for breakfast (we were still in Maharastra though) at Decent Hotel (food was decent too). Perhaps, due to buses like we traveled, South Indian food was as prominent as local food. To be on safer side, we skipped oily poori-bhajji and ordered idlis. While waiting for everyone to finish, front glass of the bus was being washed with water. Devang informed me that there were two drivers for the trip. Nice policy. The speed was pedestrian compared to SUVs zooming past in highway - but better safe than thrill ;) It was pretty hot for February morning, wondered how dry and hot it would be in peak summer.

I got out Xenocide to read, but it was slow going and I was frequently looking out the window (blocked slightly by large ad letters of or watching movie. Soon I gave up altogether. I hadn't seen OMG before, so it was better time pass. It was getting a bit irritating too that our destination was still long way to go.

Around 1:20PM, we got bonus break in form of diesel fill up. We bought palak khakra thinking that we might get dropped at Kosamba before lunch. Devang informed the conductor of the place we needed to get down showing map on smart phone. As we crossed Surat, Yatin called me to get status. He told that only 20-30 minute travel was left but then around 2:30PM we stopped for lunch :D We weren't that hungry, but thought better to have something than disturbing our hosts at an odd time. Roti, aalu-mutter, onion, cabbage salad were good (Gujarati taste ;) ) The hotel had a large fountain inside as well as mini garden behind with some birds cages too.

Finally, at 3:30PM, we were dropped before a flyover near Kosamba (but had to actually get down few kilometers further ahead). We were sent a car (Santro if I remember correctly) and we finally reached Kantva (Yatin's village) more than a day after the multi axle volvo had picked us up at Anand rao circle - just about 4 hours delay than scheduled ;)

Except for little less sleep, I didn't feel tired because of the journey. Good leg space and semi-sleeper recline plus the rarely feeling bump in ride on good highways in volvo definitely helps. Long distance travel is no more exclusive to trains and planes.

Village, marriage programs, etc in next post :) - Here it is


dee said...

As usual! Great :) (Just half way through, hoping to finish reading on another night :-D)

Sundeep said...

Uh oh, this one is not even 1500 words and there is a follow up post pending :P
Thanks :)

Sayli Deshpande said...

Hey sundeep, nice post. I like the way you have mentioned every aspect of your journey. It is informative, especially to people like me who are planning a road trip from Surat to Bangalore. Great blog , thanks for sharing it with us.

sundeep agarwal said...

Hey Sayli, thanks a lot, I feel very happy to know that the post has been helpful :)

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