Hop, skip and jump: Bandipur to Bangalore in 5.5 hours…

So we left Bangalore on a Good Friday morning. The bus was boarded at the Satellite station near Bapujinagar for Mysore at 10:30 AM. It took an hour to reach Kengeri and from there after multiple stops which came in just as we got hopeful of reaching Mysore by 2:00 PM, we reached Mysore by 2:45 PM. The bus to Ooty left at 3:00 PM and deposited us in front of the resort at close to 5:30 PM. So that was a good 7 hours to get there from Bangalore, with one hour spent getting out of Bangalore itself, of which close to 40 minutes were spent negotiating the Nayandahalli junction. (You should have seen that coming! I hate that place, positively hate it!!)

Either way, given all this from the previous day, when we left Bandipur after a futile safari where most beasts eluded us, where we went up Gopalaswamy Betta, and got ticked off by a forest ranger for trespassing in unprotected elephant-frequented areas (though we saw no elephants there, barring something from the road, in a different hill!), and a hasty half-lunch, the time was close to 12:30 in the afternoon. Given that, and some GPRS in forest regions I figured that if we could make it to Mysore by 3:45 PM, a train would take us to Kengeri by 6:00 PM and we could be home by 6:30 PM!

So, at 12:30 we walked along the highway, and asked a tender coconut vendor when we could expect a bus in that vicinity. He was pretty confident that it would be 1 PM. We decided to walk along to the bus stop which was another 5 minutes walk away. While walking, we looked at all the vehicles whizzing by, and lamented that most of them are going half empty and they should be accommodating us in the name of national interest and global fuel utilization. So after much deliberation, 3 Iyer lads decided that they’ll hitch-hike their way to Gundlupet at least and take the Mysore bus from there.

The first vehicle we decided to flag down was a Tata Ace mini truck(which looks something like this) driven by someone with a Veerappan moustache with some Maariaththa music playing loudly. We were surprised to see that he stopped immediately! Me and Anand hitched on to the back, while Anush went on ahead to sit with the driver. The back was open, so we ended up standing in front taking in the wind, holding on to our caps. One of the most fun rides ever!

Gundlupet came in 20 minutes and we found ourselves waiting for the bus at platform number 1 which said all buses to Mysore would go through there. But after 5 minutes of waiting and not seeing a single bus come by, we decided to ask the first Khaki-clad guy we could see. On being told that we had to wait outside for Mysore buses we walked out to see a KSRTC (where the K is for Kerala) bus from Sultan Bathery headed for Mysore. We boarded that to find no sitting space, and just as we were resigning ourselves to standing all the way to Mysore (60 Kms), the bus stopped. Apparently, it was lunch time. I figured since we hadn’t bought any tickets, it might be a good idea to get down and scout for any other buses heading to Mysore which might have finished lunch. Right next was a yellow TNSTC bus heading to Bangalore!

The TNSTC bus left at close to 1:30 PM and we were hopeful of reaching Mysore by 2:30. And we decided not to buy tickets all the way to Bangalore, as we hadn’t had lunch, plus we didn’t want to risk the traffic on Mysore Road. Either way, the bus reached Mysore at 2:45 PM and on getting out, we were promptly hassled by touts telling us what’s a good place to stay and as always, I lost my temper with them. For the record, touts and tractors are two things I loathe from the bottom of my heart on Indian roads.

After some walking around we zeroed in on a place called ‘Vishnu Bhavan’. Entering it was a travel back in time. It was crowded and we were led to the ‘a/c room’ which had 2 A/cs, both broken, and a few ceiling fans working overtime. The place itself had those marble tables with cushioned desks on both sides which could take as many as you can fit in. The walls were all wallpapered and covered with stock photos of most of the well known tourist spots from around the world. The Taj Mahal sat there with the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera house, plus of course some photos of flowers and fruits in a basket. The picture was completed by a couple sharing the table with us, having come out for a ‘nice’ place to eat and ordering North Indian and cringing at the choice of ice creams on offer.

The service was appalling and we got our meals 10 minutes after the order, only at 3:10 PM. I kept signaling the waiter for rice a few minutes before needed so that we could get it on time. We left the place at 3:30 PM to get to the Railway station for our train which was to leave at 3:45 PM. We took an auto who quoted a princely Rs. 20 for the 2 Kms and we got in without a word. The simple joys of a smaller city! He dropped us off at the station at 3:35 PM and I rushed in to buy tickets. Looking at 4 queues I settled on the smallest one, which was considerably smaller than the rest. After a few minutes I realised why! It just wasn’t moving with the lady in the counter taking her own sweet time with everything. As a backup I put Anand on another queue and he got the tickets in a few minutes. It was 3:40 as we ran out and saw the train we needed in the first platform. Considering that ours were unreserved, we asked the guy in Khaki who seemed to be of a higher level from the number of non-Khaki attachments on his uniform, and he happily guided us to Platform 5. After running around to there, we figured we were being misguided and ran all the way back, cursing the man all the time.

After some looking around inside the crowded train we ended up in a compartment, only to be shooed away by the TT saying that it was reserved and we should be going to S4 or something. We got out and ran to S4 and got in, only to realise that it was freakingly crowded with not even a proper place to stand! After much walking through the train while it left I remembered the last words from the TT which were something like “pay Rs. 80 more to get it reserved”. Considering that the ticket in my hand said Rs. 120 I had decided to go prospecting for seats. But now 80 seemed like a good option, and when told, got blasted by my cousins. The 120 on the ticket was for the three of us together. The app that I had checked had told me the ticket rate was 120 exactly for reserved!

So back we went through the train to find empty seats and managed to settle ourselves. The train reached Kengeri at 6:10 PM and on getting out we were greeted by a ferocious downpour just as we got a first-hand live demo of how traffic jams are formed due to lack of common sense among bus drivers. We managed to find an auto guy who braved the rain which was already causing flooded roads and we made our way up the ring road. Closer home we noticed that not a drop of that rain had been seen there! And this was like 4 kms from the station!

We finally reached home close to 7 PM, to hot cups of coffee.

Pics: here.

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