Road trips became a regular part of my life after I moved to Bangalore. In a distant relationship at that time and very broke most of the time, KSRTC buses became my favoured mode of travel. My first experience with bus travel was when we moved to Pune. Even though I moved with family, Pune was never home. Home for the longest time was Bombay and I yearned for the city and its (in)famous pace of life. Constantly home-sick, I went back every month, hopping on to the MSRTC bus or one of the private operators. It used to be a 2.5 hour journey, which I did in 2.5 hours as opposed to most people who would get stuck in traffic or be held up due to accidents on the expressway and spend as much as 6 hours in the bus. I was lucky with the buses. And so, I came to accept buses as a cost-effective and rather convenient way to travel, especially since it allowed me to travel so frequently to Bombay.
Bangalore-Pune, of course is a much longer journey and I soon realized that private operators weren’t very professional on this route. And thus ksrtc.in was added to my bookmarks. Why? Let’s start with punctuality. Private operators almost never left on time, leading to delays in reaching Pune, which after a 14 hour journey in a bus can be rather annoying. Cleanliness of the buses was another big factor. Most of the buses run by Neeta et compagnie were more often than not, filthy. The buses weren’t cleaned, the seats carried reminders of the previous passengers, the air-conditioning mal-functioned and the blankets provided were fit only for dogs. But the biggest and most important reason: the en-route shops. While KSRTC stops only at the Kamat Utsav points, which meant decent food and usable washrooms, private bus operators stop at any random shack that offers them a cut.
Three years of KSRTC bus trips made Kamat Utsav my best friend. I looked forward to stopping at a Kamat for a quick coffee, before getting back into the bus for the next leg of the journey…till 2012, when we made our first road trip to Balur and I discovered that there aren’t that many Kamat Utsav points on the other highways. Kamat got replaced by Café Coffee Day on our first trip to Chikmanglur. A CCD that has become part of our Balur experience, since we always stop there for a coffee and more.
Exploring the South by road has been a revelation of sorts…well-laid out roads and efficient highways cutting through picturesque landscapes and quaint towns and villages with regular pit stops at Café Coffee Days! As long as we are in Karnataka, we know we are never far from good coffee and a clean washroom! The CCD stops to and from Balur are a welcome break, but the CCD we spotted on our way on our way back home from a disastrous experience in Wayanad, after a particularly bad stretch of road felt like a gift from the heavens. We were so relieved when we saw that (now) familiar board announcing a CCD coming up in 1 km, it seemed like the best thing we’d seen all day. Needless to say, we swung into the parking lot and trooped into the café for a much needed shot of espresso. Mass urbanisation of the Indian countryside does have its advantages!
Then there was that time when Google decided that the national highway wasn’t the fastest way back to Bangalore (even though that was the way we’d reached our destination). Adventure and breaking away from the beaten path are a part of road trips, so though the route seemed slightly longer and took us away from the national highway through villages and state highways, we followed Google. In Tamil Nadu on our way back to Karnataka, you can imagine our surprise when we started spotting number plates with AH! It struck us then that we seemed to be skirting the Andhra Pradesh border! We drove on through the plateau, delighting at the change in landscape, till the caffeine pang hit us.
Drooping, we had just started wondering if we should stop at one of the coffee stalls when…hallelujah! A CCD was coming up in 11 kms! A smile lit up our faces and even Phryne perked up, racing toward the café! We were back in Karnataka – home didn’t seem so far with an espresso in our hands!
Our road trips have been thrilling, but CCD has made them so much more fun by ensuring we get refuelled just when we were starting to droop. While some CCD stops were planned, others appeared like oasis in deserts. Driving through Karnataka has been a pleasure, not just because of the wonderful roads and the beautiful landscape, but also because of the CCD stops! Now if only the chain could take over the highways of the entire country, I think Phryne is quite ready to take us across the country!