Monday, 30 July 2012

Inauguration of KSRTC Airavata Superia and Airavata Bliss

KSRTC recently launched 6 brand new Airavata Volvo buses. These buses equipped with state of the art chemical toilets, pantry, Wi-fi connectivity, individual LCD screens behind every seat. These buses which are name as Airavata Bliss and Airavata Superia is all set to change the way we travel.

Here are few pictures taken during inauguration ceremony of these buses.

Airavata Superia

Airavata Bliss

My First Journey in VRL B9R

Date: 23/6/2012
Route: Mumbai to Mangalore
Operator : VRL
Regn Number: KA 25 D1400

About a month ago my friend invited me to Mangalore to attend his bachelor's party however, two weeks ago I was informed at my office to visit Mumbai to undergo a training session. I'd to do a lot of thinking on whether to visit Mangalore or to cancel my visit as my last day of work in Mumbai was on 22nd June and the party scheduled on 24th June. I discussed the same with my friend's and upon lot of insistence from my friends I decided to visit Mangalore from Mumbai. Thus began my bus hunting session. I knew there were many reputed operators such as Canara Pinto, Anand, VRL, Neeta, Southern Tourist, KSRTC who operate regular buses to Mangalore.

Initially I thought of taking Canara Pinto which leaves Mumbai around 12:30pm on Saturday. However i was also meeting a friend in Mumbai and he asked me to spend a day with him at Mumbai. Finally with all the confusion I was left with either Neeta, Southern Tourist and VRL which by the way departs 2:30pm, 3pm and 5:30pm respectively. I have heard some real bad reviews about Neeta and did not want to risk booking my tickets on it. Tried booking for Southern but only the last row seats were available. Checked in VRL and finally got lucky and booked a window seat.

An hour before my pickup from Dahisar, I got a message from VRL informing me about the regn number of the bus. Reached the boarding point just minutes before the departure. All thanks to the autowallahs in Mumbai. I was refused by almost 10 guys before getting lucky. Anyways I waited for almost 10minutes and finally she showed up.

The bus was brand new, could see the covers still on few seats, leather seats with a combination of maroon and white, pleasant interiors and the temp inside the bus was also very cool. The bus had done around 40000kms on the odo. The crew including the cleaner were uniformed. I was carrying a heavy backpack which had my laptop, camera to name a few. I was worried to stash my luggage at the belly hence got it on board and was thinking whether she would make it inside the overhead carrier and to my surprise she did it with ease.

I was the only pick up at that point and my friend had come to see me off. I got inside and requested the driver if he could drop my friend off to Kandivali, which by the way is just few stops from Dahisar. The driver strictly refused and started to drive. The bus had come in from Borivali (W) and had around 5 passengers sitting at their seats. I settled down and looked outside the window while the bus was crawling near Andheri and fell into a power nap. When I woke up the bus was still in Sion and had stopped to pick up few passengers. A lady at the door was arguing with the driver for coming in late and she had to wait for almost 30mins. The crew were very polite and apologized to the lady saying they were caught up in traffic. Again I slipped back into a nap and when I woke up the bus was in Chembur and was going around in circles.The bus had to pickup some parcels and passengers here but since it's a busy junctions, cops wont allow any pvt operators to pick up passengers at the point. Though the passengers boarded the bus, the parcels had not arrived yet. Hence the bus was being driven around a circle for almost 5 times wasting fuel and time by the time we completed the 5th round of circling the parcels had arrived and the bus pulled over at the side and the parcels were loaded. A traffic cop was noticing this all the while came running and warned our bus driver to move.

Finally the bus crawled out of Mumbai and reached Navi Mumbai where a checking agent from VRL came inside the bus with the passenger list, ensured if everyone was on board and got off the bus. The bus took the expressway and stopped at a food mall for dinner at 8:30pm The dinner halt was brief and after the dinner the bus which was crawling on Mumbai's crowded streets unleashed it's power. The driving was very sedate, no risky maneuvers, no harsh braking or overspeeding. The bus was constantly driven at 95kmph and very occasionally touched a three figure mark. The fastest being 117kmph showed by the GPS on my cellphone. After a couple of minutes we caught up with a Neeta Multi Axle Merc Benz and she was trying her best to stay ahead but our monster showed no respite and overtook her after which I never saw her again. We reached Pune by 11:30pm while few passengers got down and few more boarded the bus. An old bollywood flick was being shown on the screens and the moment it got over the cleaner came over closed down the screen and I slipped into a deep sleep.

The next thing I remember was when the cleaner came back and woke us all up stating the bus will be stopping for refreshment and Breakfast. I woke up and saw the time and it was 7:30am. Got down from the bus and asked the watchman about our whereabouts. He told me that we were in Ankola. The bus had covered around 540kms in 8hrs and that was some impressive driving. It was also my longest sleep in a bus. The bus was halted for almost 30mins while the passengers got freshened up and had breakfast.

The bus again departed by 8:05am and was driven amazingly well on the highway with speeds of 60-65kmph on a two lane highway. I got up and walked over to the front to enjoy the beautiful view of the Marvanthe Beach on the right and the back waters on the left. Soon after this the bus reached Kundapur followed by Udupi where almost all the passengers got down. The bus dropped me off at Lalbagh junction at 12:30pm. Overall an amazing journey and the best part of it was I never felt tired and headed out to my friend's place to enjoy a great party.

Attached are few pics I took when the bus stopped for breakfast at Kamat Restaurant.

My first journey in KSRTC's Corona 'Ambaari' Sleeper

My day had actually began at 7:30am at Kamat restaurant in Ankola. I had boarded a VRL B9R from Mumbai the last evening and as my journey progressed towards Mangalore, the rains showed no respite all along and by the time I landed up in Mangalore it was at 12:30pm. As planned I headed straight to my friend's place and attended a crazy party till 9PM.

When my trip was initially being planned few weeks back, I had decided to try the KSRTC Corona 'Ambaari' Sleeper(A/C) for my return trip to Bangalore. The bus was scheduled to depart from Mangalore Bus Stand at 21:52. Since this was my first ride in a Corona I was very excited and reached the bus stand at 21:30 and was expecting the bus would reach the platform late. There are many extra buses that run between Mangalore and Bangalore and vice-versa during weekends to clear the extra rush. However, to my surprise the bus was already at the platform and was waiting for passengers. The bus was fairly new with around 80000kms on the odo. Showed my ticket to the conductor and he checked me in, in his reservation chart. He noticed my heavy backpack and asked me whether I would like to stash it in the belly. I politely declined and boarded the bus. Well as usual the A/C was not running. I checked my berth and found a Blanket and a 500ml Water Bottle already placed in the holder.

I de-boarded the bus and decided to take a look around the bus and tried taking some pics. However it was raining and I did not want to risk my friend's SLR camera and hence decided not to take any pics. There was a line of buses with almost all the buses heading towards Bangalore. I noticed for any dent marks towards the bottom of the bus as that would indicate the condition of the roads up ahead but to my surprise did not find any. While I was on the inspection tour, i heard the bus engine suddenly roaring to life and I noticed the conductor going towards the office to finish the entry formalities. I could no longer hold my excitement and boarded the bus. The driver again noticing my backpack asked if I would like to keep the luggage in the belly. (I really liked the crew's behavior as they were very friendly towards the passengers.) I again declined and headed to my berth and was sure I would have a 'comfortable' journey or was I mistaken...?

The bus departed exactly at 22:15hrs, a good 23mins late. I had booked a Single Upper Berth (Seat number 26) and the moment I got in, I started feeling claustrophobic. I have traveled in sleeper buses before but never felt this way and I knew something was wrong. The bus was slowly making its way out of the bus stand along with a Bangalore bound Airavat Mark lll. I had read few reviews about this bus before and there was lot of talks about the pillow they provide in the berths. Well to sum it up 'it was hard as a rock..!!!' Luckily I had come prepared and my shawl came to my rescue. The bus slowly made its way passing by PVC, Jyothi, Kankannady and finally passed by Mahaveer circle. The bus reached State Bank and picked up few passengers and finally we bid adieu to Mangalore. The bus was seriously
underpowered and the regular sleeper buses of Durgamba and Sugama Travels were overtaking this bus from Left, Right and Center. Since I had a tiring day, I decided to catch up with some sleep as I had to attend work the next morning. The 'U' shaped design of the bed was proving to be more of a pain than comfort. However something was still not going right. It did not take a while for me to realize that it was the A/C. I tried to wiggle around with the knob but there was hardly any air coming out of vent. Though it was raining heavily outside, it was relatively warmer inside. The knob was so hard to turn and I tried my best but it would not budge. I tried with all the strength I had and finally a blast of cold air started to come out of the vents. Again struggled hard to control the air flow and finally tried to get some sleep. The suspension of the bus was appreciable but the engine noise inside the bus was not..!!! The noise could be heard inside the bus and it was very annoying. There was one more row behind my berth and finally a lower and an upper berth on top of the engine. If I was getting annoyed because of the engine noise, think about the poor souls sleeping at the last row above the engine.

Finally, I slept with all these hassles only to be woken up by the conductor at Sakleshpur Bus Stop at 1:30am. It was a routine 15min stop and buses from Bangalore and Mangalore joined us. Got down from the bus and was wondering, for an fairly underpowered bus, it has indeed covered the distance very well climbing the Shiradi ghat. I had a pep talk with the driver and mentioned the same for which he smiled and replied back stating that he was driving a Rajahamsa before he got trained to drive a Corona and he would the same stretch in a Rajahamsa and reach this place exactly in 3hrs. I thought he was exaggerating a bit too much and went on to locate the Mark lll Airavath which departed along with us but it was no where in picture. I realized that he would have been long gone and came back to my berth and tried to get some sleep. The bus finally departed by 2:00am from Sakleshpur. I forgot to tell the conductor to wake me up at Navrang Bus Stop in Bangalore, my alighting point. Hence, I kept an alarm on my cellphone for 6am in the morning expecting the bus to reach a little late considering the traffic it encounters once it enters Bangalore. I immediately fell asleep and the next thing I remember was the conductor waking me up saying 'Last Stop Majestic Bus Stop.!!!'

I got up with a severe neck pain all thanks to the pillow and looked at the time and it was 5:30AM. I immediately grabbed my luggage and got out of the bus and was shocked to come into terms that an underpowered Corona bus did a 360kms journey in 7hrs and 15mins.

Just when I was coming into terms with these figures, I saw the same Mark lll Volvo just making its making its way into the bus stand.!!!!