Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Mumbai to Bangalore in Sharma I-Shift.

Mumbai to Bangalore in Sharma I-Shift.

Date of Journey- 06/01/2013
Service- Sharma B9R I-Shift
Distance- 1020kms(appox)

With my brief visit to Mumbai coming to an end, it was time to say good bye to ‘Aamchi Mumbai’ and head back to ‘Namma Bangalooru’. However with tickets to Bangalore yet to be booked, Saurabh and me embarked upon the ticket hunting journey. First stop VRL. Though VRL was an outright choice, the timings were a little off beat and I was a little skeptical to try their service. Next stop a veteran on this route, Sharma Transports. Saw their Multi Axle I-shift resting outside their office and needless to say, I almost made up my mind at that very moment to book my tickets on this service. However I still tried for tickets at SRS travels, but their next service was at 8pm. Finally after running around the streets of Mumbai, I booked my ticket on Sharma’s I-shift multi Axle.

My tryst with Sharma’s Multi axle I-shift buses goes a long way. I was amongst the lucky guys who were present at the right place at the right time when their second batch of I-shift multis were delivered last year in Bangalore. Ever since then I always wanted to travel in an I-shift and finally the time had come to travel in this bus.

I booked a window seat (No 36) and decided to board the bus at National Park, Borivali. While booking my tickets, I was told that the departure time at Borivali National park was at 19:00hrs and the driver’s number was given to co-ordinate (if required). Saurabh ensured to drop me before the scheduled time of departure and we waited for the beauty to show up. Finally at 19:15pm she showed up. This bus was from their first batch of I-shift Volvo bus. The exteriors looked a little faded however the interiors looked brand new. For some reason the carpet inside the bus was missing.

No sooner I boarded the bus, she began to move. Since my cellphone’s battery was very low, I plugged in the charger in the socket however it was not working.  I went ahead and requested to driver to switch on the charger controls as I had to make some urgent calls back home. The driver said he would do the same in a little while. The bus reached Sion and stood for a couple of minutes to load up parcels. At this point of time, I received a call from home and while I was on the call my cellphone switched off.  Finally, I went up to the driver and asked him to switch on the controls or handover his cellphone as I had to make an important call back home. The driver gave me an angry look while the cleaner switched on the charger socket controls. Not the start I was expecting..!!!

After rubbing the shoulders with the crew, I took my seat and started settling down. The leg space was little less than expected.  Though the bus was a B9R I felt the engine noise was slightly different however, the ride quality was same as any other B9R. One could easily sense the smooth shift of engine noise when the bus automatically changed the gears.

Fortunately, the Sunday evening traffic at Mumbai was less and the bus made its way to Kalamboli. We picked up most of the passengers here. The bus was full with a small amount of passengers getting down in Pune. The cleaner came over and handed 1ltr water bottles to all Bangalore bound passengers. A Japanese/Korean movie (not very sure) dubbed in Hindi was loudly being played on the entertainment system. Though it was an action movie, it more or less sounded like a comedy movie to me  We entered Mumbai-Pune Expressway and the driver finally flexed his muscle. The bus was constantly doing speeds close to 104kmph and at one point it reached top speeds of 110kmph. The bus was driven exceptionally well in the ghats. Just before we exited Mumbai-Pune Expressway, we pulled over for our Dinner. The place looked a little shabby from the outside however it was better inside. The service was commendable and food was quite ok but not over priced.

After the break we resumed our journey and we reached Wakad at around 00:15hrs. Most of the Pune bound passengers got down here. Few more passengers bound for Bangalore got in here and we continued on. Finally I decided to get some sleep and while I slept I could still feel the bus doing great speeds.

When I woke up the bus was cruising near Chitradurga. We overtook a VRL B9R, not sure from where it was coming from and finally pulled over for our breakfast break at 7:30am. A Neeta B9R and National’s ‘Saawariya’ was already at this place. ‘Saawariya’ was the first one to depart towards Bangalore followed by Neeta. Our bus stopped for 45mins and during this time a Rajahamsa bound for Davangere joined us followed by a VRL’s Ashley.

We finally departed at 8:15am and as usual the bus maintained great speeds. We entered Tumkur to drop some parcels and few passengers. We finally reached the Yeswanthpur- Nelamangala toll way. Since the bus goes to Anand Rao circle via Kaveri junction, I decided to get down at Gorguntepalya. We reached Gorguntepalya at exactly 12:15pm.  

Initially while booking my tickets at Mumbai, I was told the ETA in Bangalore would be at 13:30hrs depending on the traffic. But I reached home by 13:00hrs, such was the service provided by Sharma Transports. The time management was exceptional. The bus took exactly 12hrs to reach Bangalore from Pune. Though I had a sour time with the crew during the initial phase of the journey, the crew was extremely helpful and courteous all along the journey. Thanks to Sharma Transports my desire for traveling in an I-shift was quenched.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Pune to Mumbai by Purple Metrolink


Date of Journey- 6/01/2013
Service- Purple Metrolink.
Distance- 160kms(appox)

Since my visit to Mumbai was cut short, thanks to KSRTC’s ‘truck’ class ride from Bangalore, I decided to return back to Bangalore on Sunday morning from Pune. However, a visit to Mumbai was still on the cards and I decided to meet up Saurabh who was insisting to meet him up. I had to reach Borivali and with tons of buses available to Mumbai from Pune, it was always a difficult choice to select a particular operator. I had tried Shivneri service before (twice) from Pune to Mumbai and both the times the service was very average. However when it comes to time management, they are the number one operator on this route.  Anyways, I wanted to try a different operator this time and with few suggestions (thanks to bus fans on FB) the only other name that was on the menu was Purple.

Purple Metrolink has a bus to Mumbai –Pune-Mumbai at an interval of every one hour and I had observed the same during my last visit to Mumbai in July 2012. They operate Volvo and Mercedes Multi axle buses from Pune-Mumbai-Pune and also have services to Ahmadabad, Baroda, Indore etc. 

My friend dropped me at Purple’s office near Swargate. I went ahead and booked a window seat at the second row.  The scheduled time of departure was at 11:30pm and I was told that the boarding was at Wakdewadi, at their main office. A pick up van dropped me and another passenger to Wakdewadi at 11:25pm. Here my bus was waiting for her passengers. The driver opened the door and asked the passengers to board the bus. I noticed a board put up in the bus stating, all Luxury buses are prohibited to enter Pune city and the last point for these buses are at Kothrud (by Pune Traffic police).

The bus was almost full and we finally departed at 11:50pm. The cleaner came in and checked our tickets as the bus slowly moved out of the city. We stopped at Wakad and few more passengers boarded the bus. There was a line of Shivneri and Neeta buses waiting here. As soon as the remaining passengers boarded our bus, we began to move. The cleaner announced that the bus won’t be stopping for a lunch break on the highway. Few passengers were not happy however there was one passenger, who was extremely happy hearing this news, (MEJ). Since I was already running late, a lunch break was the last thing I wanted.

We took the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and the driver meant business. Our bus was constantly doing speeds close to 90-95kmph. However MSRTC’s Shivneri services showed no mercy as they overtook our bus at regular intervals.  A recent bollywood flick was being played on the entertainment system.We stopped for a 5min bio break near a food mall on the highway. At the end of the 5th minute, the driver was back in the bus and started honking. (Now that’s what I call time management). 

 Traffic was relatively moderate when we reached Panvel and it continued the same way all along. I called up Saurabh when I reached Sion and he had a discussion with our cleaner regarding my drop off point at Kandivali.  I was dropped off at Kandivali at around 3:45pm.

Overall, I was very satisfied by the operator. The crew was well behaved and was courteous and helpful to passengers, especially while loading and unloading the luggage from the luggage bay. Even the driving was sedate, no risky overtaking or over speeding anywhere along the highway. Though I am not a frequent traveler on this route, I would still give a 4/5 rating for this operator.

Bangalore to Pune in Airavat ‘Truck’ Class…!!!!

Bangalore to Pune in Airavat ‘Truck’ Class…!!!!

Service- KSRTC Airavat Club Class.
Distance- 850kms(appox)
Fare- 1290/-

Almost a week ago my plans for a packed weekend were done. A visit to Mumbai for a personal work, followed by a visit back to Pune to attend my friend's engagement and finally back to Mumbai to visit my friend was on the cards. I was very much looking forward for this trip as it was going to be my first trip of this year. And given the work timings, Airavat Club Class was the order of the day. I was rest ensured, this was indeed going to be a fun filled ride but little did I know there were surprises waiting to unfold throughout the journey.

According to my plans, I was to take the 17:30hrs Airavat club class to Pune (Mysore-Bangalore-Pune) service and then later catch a Shivneri to Mumbai. With all plans set and done, I arrived at KBS straight from work at 17:35hrs and headed out in search of my bus. I reached the platform to see my bus backing up towards the platform. The bus had around 5 passengers who were traveling from Mysore to Pune and rest all were boarding from Bangalore. Being a Friday, I was expecting the bus to be full, however it was relatively empty. The conductor allotted seat no 2 to me and with all passengers onboard we were all set to depart. However a passenger was yet to turn up. The conductor called up the passenger and the passenger said he needs another 30mins to reach KBS. The conductor replied back stating the bus was already running late and he can't wait that long. He suggested him to board the bus along the way near Navrang signal.

Finally, the bus moved out at 18:15pm. The bus had around 5.5lac kms done on the odo. The conductor came out to issue ticket and handed me a ticket worth 1010rs. I was perplexed as the ticket to Pune costs Rs 1290/- The conductor realized his mistake and handed out the manual tickets for the remaining amount saying there was a glitch in the ticket vending machine. The bus slowly made its way through the traffic and was nearing Navrang signal however, there was no sign of the passenger. The driver who was coordinating with the passenger got irate and asked him to board the bus before it reached the next signal. To ensure the passenger could board the bus in the next signal, the driver drove the bus very slowly blocking the traffic behind. Finally he stopped the bus outside Orion mall for 15mins.

The passenger showed up and we finally departed. The bus took the Yeshwanthpur-Nelamangala toll way and headed out of Bangalore. As the bus reached the Nelamangala toll gate, the crew started discussing their parcel pick up points. The crew was very concerned about the parcels and the rates to levy for the same. We were yet to reach Tumkur when the traffic on the highway came to a standstill. An accident on the highway ensured we wasted close to an hour. At this point of time, I got an opportunity to speak to the driver. I asked him if there was a need to wait for more than an hour for one passenger to board the bus when there were other Airavat buses for Pune. The driver said he was just trying to ensure he left no one behind. Finally the traffic cleared and we headed for our dinner break at Sira.

Already running late by 2hrs, the last thing I wanted was a slow driver at the wheel. However the second driver took the wheel and ensured he drove the slowest bus on the highway. We went inside Sira town to pick up parcels. The parcel van was yet to arrive, they finally showed up and we moved on after wasting 20minutes. The bus slowly crawled back on the highway, and we kept on crawling. The bus did not even cross 75kmph on my GPS speed tracker in my cellphone. Somewhere near Chitradurga, an NWKRTC express bus overtook from the left and disappeared into the night. We finally overtook it after 20mins when it had stopped to drop some passengers.

I finally decided to sleep, but the crew still went on loudly discussing about the parcel pick up point. The bus stopped near Davangere for yet another parcel pick up. We continued on and somewhere near Haveri, the 19:00pm Bangalore-Pune Airavat Club Class overtook and we still crawled on.
We reached Nippani at around 5:00am and headed inside the depot for diesel.  Finally our slow driver made way to the other driver. We came back on the highway and we started to speed up while I sunk into a deep sleep. When I woke up we were near hotel Natraj on the outskirts of Pune and the time was 9am, and within no time we pulled inside the parking lot of the hotel. While backing up the driver did not gauge the distance between the fence and the bus. Backed in a little too much and ended up cracking the rear bumper.

After wasting a good 30mins at the hotel, we finally headed towards Pune with the slow driver at the wheel. Again the crew started their parcel discussions on their return journey while we went through the traffic filled streets of Pune. I felt I was traveling in a ‘Truck’ with the parcel discussions going on. After a grueling 16hrs, I was dropped off at Pune outside Swargate. The delay ensured I miss my appointments and cancelling my plans of visiting Mumbai and staying back at Pune.

Will I take this service again..?? NEVER...!!!

Right from the word go, the crew were never bothered about time maintenance. Was there a need to wait for a passenger for more than an hour when there were other Airavat buses heading to Pune..? I was once left back by the same KSRTC, when I turned up late by 8mins in Kundapur.

What was the crew more concerned about..? Parcels or reaching Pune on time. Needless to say every operator emphasizes on parcel pickups along any given route however emphasizing on parcel pickup when you are already running late by 2hrs is ridiculous.

Finally, why stop for a 30mins break when your destination is not even an hour way.

After such an experience, I will now think ‘thrice’ before taking ksrtc services on this route again.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The 'D' day.

                                                               The ‘D’ day…….!!!

Date of Journey- 24/12/2012
Service- Durgamba non a/c Sleeper.
Distance- 480kms(appox)

After spending a scintillating day in Mangalore hunting buses and doing some nature photography, it was time to say good bye to Mangalore. After having a heavy meal, thanks to Mr Yeshwanth Kadri and his family I was all set to return back to Bangalore in a Durgamba Travels bus. 

For people who are not aware of this service, Durgamba Travels is one of the oldest and amongst the best service in Mangalore operating since 1975.They are considered as the ‘master’ on Bangalore-Mangalore sector. Known for their quick, customer friendly and safe service getting a ticket even on a weekday is a daunting task as their buses always run full. After my fiasco during my journey from Bangalore-Kundapur, I decided to book my return tickets and requested Mr Yeshwanth Kadri if he could get a ticket on this service. He got a ticket on a bus which had a drop service in Vijayanagar.

The departure time of my bus was at 10:40pm from Durgamba Travels head office at PVS. Mr Kadri who is a frequent traveler on this service dropped me at the bus stop at 10pm, got my tickets checked in and was all set to set foot on this service after more than a decade. I was a frequent traveler on this service and used this service when I visited Mangalore during my college days but after KSRTC rapidly expanded their service to Mangalore and the unavailability of tickets on Durgamba travels ensured that I had to wait all these years before trying their service again.

I decided to do some Bus fanning (as always) as this place is a gold mine for bus fans filled with buses on either side of the roads. The entire stretch was lined up with Durgamba buses and went ahead clicking pictures. During this time most of KSRTC services bound to Bangalore passed by this lane.
10:20pm- The new Durgamba B9R bound to Bangalore (BIAL) from Kundapur arrived, since the lane was already crowded, I crossed over to the other side of the road to take pictures of this new bus. Just as I was taking the pictures, my bus to Bangalore, route number 28 arrived. The bus which was supposed to arrive at 10:40pm was early by 20minutes. I took a couple of pictures of my bus and crossed the bus road again to take a couple more pictures of the B9R before boarding my bus as I was under a perception that though my bus was early, it would only depart around 10:40pm. I went on clicking the pictures of the B9R while the passengers started boarding my bus and no sooner the passengers boarded, the cleaner closed the door and the driver started to move the bus..!!!

I immediately crossed the road and stopped my bus and boarded the same. It was a brand new bus (Ashley) built my Prakash body builders and the interiors of the bus were very pleasing.

 The cleaner checked my tickets and I made my way towards my berth. The gangway was spacious and not cramped.  Climbed into my berth and started to settle down. Though mine was a single berth, the space was humongous. As I was settling down, the bus slowly made its way out towards Padil circle. It picked up few more passengers here and then the action started. The bus just ‘flew’ on the highway. The bus overtook every vehicle which was infront of us which included an Airavat bound to Bangalore. As I saw this action unfold infront of my eyes, I immediately grabbed by cellphone and switched on the GPS speed tracker and it showed our speed close to 105kmph..!!! Though I was seated at the back, the suspension was just too good for an Ashley. We reached Farangipete and stopped for a couple of minutes. Again we resumed our journey and as usual the speed the bus was doing was phenomenal.

The scheduled time of arrival on this bus at Vijayanagar is at 6am; hence I called up my friend and asked him to pick me up. I finally sunk into deep sleep while the bus just kept on doing great speeds. The bus finally reached the foot of Shiradi ghat and went ahead climbing the same. The bus was so powerful that it overtook an SRS bus which was struggling to make its way around a hair-pin bend in the ghat. While our bus overtook the SRS bus, I could hear the engine noise of both my bus and that of the SRS. I remember Mr Kadri telling me that the new Durgamba buses come fitted with a 245bhp CRDi  Ashley engines. I am not sure if this bus was fitted with the same but the way it went about flying on the roads and climbing the ghat, it gave me no choice but to believe the same. As the bus made its way through the ghat roads, I slipped back into sleep. When I woke up around 2:00am, the bus had stopped for a break. However I decided to continue my sleep. The bus again resumed its journey and at around 5:15am the lights in the bus came on and the cleaner came in shouting ‘Gorguntepalya’ (in a typical Mangalorean accent :)) I woke up with half of my eyes still closed while the empty roads of Bangalore welcomed me. The bus slowly made its way towards Navrang, dropped passengers and headed towards Swati restaurant. There were few passengers who wanted to go towards KBS and beyond, the cleaner asked the passengers to board a Jayanagar bound Durgamba bus which was parked infront of us. He advised the passengers to co-ordinate with the cleaner of that bus with regards to their respective drop point along the way. The bus made its way towards Vijayanagar and I was dropped off at Vijayanagar bus stand at 5:35am.

Will I take this service again…?? Of course I will. Though the bus reached almost 25mins before its scheduled time in Bangalore, the bus all along the way was driven exceptionally well. No rash driving, no harsh breaking, no risking overtaking maneuvers or swaying the bus around. This service is ideal for office goers who usually travel to Mangalore and beyond on weekends and return back to Bangalore on Monday mornings.