It was another weekend in the month of March 2021. I had planned to visit Madikeri by KSRTC's Airawata, an air-conditioned inter-city shuttle bus service.
I was very excited to perform this journey as this was my first trip to Madikeri. Madikeri or Coorg as know in popular culture is located between Mysuru and Kerala State border and is home to coffee beans.
The same is aptly known as Scotland of Karnataka for its lush green plantations surrounded by hills. Madikeri town itself is nestled within the hill range and has a cool temperature.
I had booked my e-tickets on KSRTC's AWATAR portal (AWATAR refers to Anywhere Any Time Advanced Reservations) for a journey a week ago. As usual, I had booked the front row seats to get a glimpse of the road network and enjoy the beauty during the journey. I woke up early at 5 am to be on time for a 7.30 am departure from Kengeri TTMC. My bus was to depart from Mysuru Road Satellite Bus Station at 7 am and en-route had pick-up points at Kengeri TTMC bus station, which is near to my home. After sipping a freshly brewed coffee I left home on my TVS Jupotior very early at 5.30 am. I reached the Kengeri TTMC bus stand at 6 am. I quickly found a parking slot in the parking area of the bus stand and headed to the bus terminus. The reason to arrive early was to be on time to board the bus and to catch a glimpse of other buses moving towards Mysuru.
Coorg or Madikeri is approachable only by road via Bidadi-Ramanagaram-Channapatna-Maddur-Mandya-Mysuru-Hunsur-Kushalnagara-Suntikoppa. My bus's original destination was Mangaluru which was a 3-4 hour journey from Coorg. My bus had no stops en route except at Mysuru and Kushalnagara.
As I arrived very early at 6 am at the Kengeri bus stand, not many buses were spotted heading to Mysuru. However, I could spot only 5 Karnataka Sarige buses of KSRTC making a scheduled halt at Kengeri to pick up passengers. I could also spot the early morning service to Ooty via Mysuru operated by KSRTC's multi-axle Airawata club class service which arrived at 6.30 am.
Apart from KSRTC buses, I could also spot Kerala SRTC, Tamil Nadu's SETC, and a couple of private sleeper buses bound towards Mysuru. The other observation I made was of the late arrival of the Seunderabad-Mysusru Ambari air-conditioned sleeper bus making a late entry into the bus stand to pick up the passengers. As per KSRTC's website, the bus had the usual arrival time of about 4.30 am at Bengaluru. Soon even the shuttles of the BMTC bus fleet also began to commence their inter-city operations from Kengeri. I was able to spot at least 10 BMTC buses originating from Kengeri and heading to various destinations across South and West Bengaluru.
Soon it was 7 am, and I received a call from the bus crew and they enquired about my availability at Kengeri for a pick-up. I confirmed my presence and the crew informed me that they would arrive at Kengeri within a short span of 10 minutes. I was excited to commence my journey onboard KSRTC's Airavata air-conditioned inter-city shuttle service to the coffee town of Coorg. My bus soon arrived at the designated pick-up time at 7.25 am. The crew quickly verified my e-ticket and let me in on the bus.
I was a bit disappointed at the class of service of the bus. The bus was very old as I had otherwise expected a brand new multi-axle Airwavata bus. Around four other passengers also boarded the buses at Kengeri bound towards Mysuru. My bus soon started off from Kengeri and halted at the old bus stand to pick up yet another bus passenger.
The bus then started to proceed towards Mysuru on the National Highway 275 leading all the way up to Bantwala. It was a cloudy day while I had expected a bright sunny morning. We crossed Bidadi and Ramanagaram as we also witnessed the ongoing construction of a ten-lane highway up to Mysuru. The construction of the road was taken up a few years ago with a view to upgrading the existing four-lane highway into a ten-lane highway. Hence due to the construction of the expressway the road traffic was high and very slow owing to certain route deviations all the way up to Mysuru. After departing from Ramanagaram, we arrived at our first rest-stop near Maddur.
Our bus crew informed us about taking a rest-stop at the New Krishna Bhavan restaurant. I quickly got off the bus and headed to the majestic restaurant located on the expressway. I could also spot another Airawata service that I spotted at the Kengeri bus stand. The Airwata belonged to the Mysuru-Ooty route and had made a brief halt over here for a rest-stop. I grabbed hot piping Idly-Vada for breakfast along with a strong cup of filter coffee. The breakfast was sumptuous and very refreshing to have in the early morning.
As we were ready to leave the restaurant, I spotted yet another KSRTC's Airawata air-conditioned club class bus parked at the hotel. The exteriors of the bus had a refreshing look and the bus was heading towards Mysuru as well. Soon all the passengers along with the crew were ready to leave from the restaurant after a quick twenty-minute rest-stop near Maddur.
Arrival at Mysuru
After departing from Maddur, we crossed Maddur town and then quickly made our way to reach Mysuru via Mandya, Srirangapatna, and Mysore's Columbia Asia Hospital. The journey to Mysuru was smooth with the exception of heavy traffic at Mandya owing to the weekend holiday. Our bus soon arrived at the Mysuru city bus stand after dropping off some passengers at the Columbia Hospital bus stop. I had traveled on Bengaluru-Mysuru road several times and this was not a new route to me. However, the stretch between Mysuru and Coorg was unexplored and I was looking forward to this maiden trip to Coorg.
As the bus arrived at the Mysuru bus stand, several passengers got off at Mysuru. Our bus then parked at Madikeri departing the platform at the Mysuru bus stand. Some of the passengers bound to Kushalnagara, Madikeri, and Mangaluru boarded the bus at Mysuru. The crew boarded the bus after getting a sign-off from the traffic inspector at the bus stand. We slowly made our way to reach Ilavala main road via Ramaswamy Circle and University road. After Ilavala circle the main road leads to Hunsur-Kushalnagara-Madikeri-Mangaluru.
Reaching Coorg Town
Our bus made its way to the highway connecting Mangaluru. This was the first time that I was traveling to Madikeri on this road. It was an enthralling experience as I was seated in the front row of the bus. The bus did not have any stops till Kushalnagar but halted for few minutes at Hunusur to drop a passenger. Soon we reached the Kushalnagar KSRTC bus stand. The bus had a designated halt over here for up to ten minutes. One passenger boarded the bus to head to Mangaluru and two of the passengers from Bengaluru got off at this bus stand.
After leaving Kushalnagar, the scenery shifted from the urban dwellings to cool hilly coffee plantations. The bus also began to take curved roads indicating our arrival at the district. The road leading to Coorg from Kushalanagar had many steep curves and was only a two-lane highway. One could get a sight of several coffee plantations and coffee estates en route to Coorg. Also, a couple of passengers got off at one of the resorts located on the outskirts of Coorg town. Coorg also has many coffee plantation-based resorts for leisure and family gatherings.
We arrived at Coorg town at around 1 pm. A road construction project was underway just before entering the Coorg town which delayed our usual arrival time otherwise at 12.30 pm. As soon as we entered Coorg town the roads were narrow, making it challenging to drive but the crew brilliantly managed to drive through the narrow roads. We reached the town's KSRTC bus stand at 1.15 pm.
As soon as I got down from the bus, I sensed a fresh and refreshingly cool air, which I never experienced otherwise as I was staying in a busy city like Bengaluru. The trip to Coorg town ended on a happy and joyous note as I was able to enjoy the bus journey on board KSRTC's Airawata air-conditioned inter-city shuttle service.