Sunday, 28 April 2013

Mumbai to Mangalore by Canara Pinto


Date of Journey- 29/03/2013
Service- Canara Pinto Travels
Distance- 930kms(appox)

After a quick visit to Pune, it was time to head back to my home away from home, Mangalore. Having tried VRL on this route, this time I decided to try the pioneer on this route, Canara Pinto.

The name Canara Pinto represents safety and comfort among its passengers. Carrying people since 1952, they are one of the trusted operators on this route. When they launched their own B9R service more than a year ago, they became the talk of the town. 
Ever since I laid my eyes on the bus, I always wanted to try their service and after waiting for so long, it was time to board this service. After enjoying a lovely drive on the Mumbai-Pune expressway and having a yummy lunch it was time to say good bye to Mumbai. I had decided to board the bus at Chembur and reached the place, a good one hour early. This place is a gold mine for any bus fan. Buses heading to Pune and beyond have a pick up point here. Every 5minutes, I would end up spotting a Neeta Volvo or Mercedes buses heading towards Pune. My pick up time was at 14:30 from this place this place and exactly at 14:00hrs, I received a call from the bus stating the bus will be reaching in 15minutes.

One thing that I have learnt from my past experiences is that operators from Mangalore strictly follow scheduled timings and this is something which was expected from a niche operator like CPT. Finally at 14:15hrs I could spot my beauty rolling towards me. She was the 'Little Flower' B9R.  Since, I knew the crew very well the moment the cleaner saw me, he had a smile on his face and welcomed me in. The driver Mr Ravi was also surprised to see me and welcomed me in and I took my seat.

I was the only person who boarded from this point and we moved along. Our next stop was at Deonar, next to HP Petrol Bunk. Here we were joined by the newbie 'Mark'. Both the buses stopped for around 20mins for a bio break. We moved along passing through Vashi Toll Naka, CBD-Belapur and Kalamboli picking up passengers along the route. The bus was running full. I finally sunk into a deep sleep while the bus hit the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

When I woke we had exited the expressway and were cruising towards Wakad. The traffic was thin as we moved along the pickup point in Pune. Very soon we exited Pune and kept on rolling. We crossed Hotel Natraj and moved further. At this point of time I wanted to know where the bus would stop for a tea break. We headed into a petrol bunk before Satara. I asked the crew where there would be stopping for a tea break, they said they would stop only for dinner.

While the bus gulped in fuel, passengers took a bio break. We had a brief stop of around 15minutes, enough to give passengers a small break. We resumed our journey further and finally at around 7:30pm pulled over for Dinner at Hotel Navami. As expected a Sheetal non a/c seater welcomed us.

The dinner break was again brief; however there was ample amount of time for passengers to have food. Just as we started boarding, Vishal B9R arrived. We finally resumed our journey at around 8:15pm. I finally decided to head up in the front and accompany Mr Ravi at the wheels. We reached Belgaum bypass at around 10:30pm and picked up few more passengers.

We continued on and just before reaching Hubli, we took the right turn and headed towards Ankola. We still maintained a constant speed of 100kmph. I was eagerly waiting to see the bus handling the ghat roads. We entered the ghat roads and Mr Ravi showed his skills in negotiating the roads. Finally I decided to get some sleep and asked Ravi, what time we would reach Mangalore, he said depending on the traffic up ahead, we would reach by 6:30am. I finally headed to my seat and slept.

I remember waking up at around 5am with the lights turned on in the bus. We had reached Udupi and were dropping off passengers. I tried to stay awake however, I was too sleepy and finally I woke up when the bus was near Lady Hill. I quickly grabbed my bag and headed up ahead. I was dropped off at Lalbagh junction at 5:45am.

Will I take this service again?

I would not only try this service again but would recommend this service. This service is ideally for people who emphasize on time management. Both the crew was experienced and they were very polite to passengers. I would give a 4.5/5 rating for this service.

Bangalore to Pune in Kallada National

Bangalore to Pune in Kallada National

Date of Journey- 24/03/2013
Service- Kallada National
Distance- 840kms(appox)

This travel plan was decided during my previous visit to Mumbai however, I was trying to avoid this journey due to various reasons. Yet on the day of journey my friend called up and insisted to visit him. I finally decided to pay him a visit and was all set to head out to Pune. Since I work a little late into evening, I decided not to board the bus at KBS. However, the operator to travel with was yet to be decided. Checked on Redbus and immediately one operator grabbed my attention, Kallada-National.

Kallada is a renowned name in South India. Their service to Kerala from the southern states is well known. Operating Volvo B9R, B11R (India’s first operator) seater and sleeper services, they are one of the niche operators in South India. They started their services to Mumbai along with National as a joint venture. Since I had never tried their service, this was a perfect opportunity to try this niche operator from South India.

I finished my work and headed straight to Madiwala. I'd checked the website before leaving work and found most of the seats were empty, since it was in the mid of the week. Madiwala as usual was buzzing with activity and at a distance the B9R was parked. Went to their office and booked a window seat and rest assured I was all set to board the much acclaimed operator.

The bus was their Chennai-Mumbai 9pm service. There were already few passengers on board the bus and the bus was running late by 10mins as they were waiting for a passenger to show up. Finally at 9:15pm the bus departed. The bus had around 3lac kms on the odo. Leather seats, better leg space but what caught my attention was the gangway. Traffic was thin as the bus passed Forum Mall however intensified near Lalbagh. The bus entered JC road and the traffic however thinned out again and the driver showed a sneak peak of what was in store for the journey. The bus topped an 80kmph on the speedo before reaching the Town Hall junction. We picked up few passengers infront of the bus stand (Amar Hotel) and made our way towards Anand Rao circle. The stop here was brief and after 10mins we began to move. The cleaner was very polite to passengers as he came out to distribute water bottles.

The bus slowly made it to Yeswanthpur and stopped infront of Govardan theatre to pick up few passengers. The bus moved on and reach Jalahalli signal to pick up few more passengers. The bus slowly began to fill and with all passengers on board the bus finally took the elevated toll way and began to unleash the power. The bus constantly kept doing speeds on 108-110kmph on the odo. We reached Nelmangala toll booth in no time. The bus crossed the toll booth and entered fuel bunk to take in Diesel. The pit stop was brief and we moved along, when the bus crossed Inchara, the regular stop for all Mumbai bound buses i thought the bus would be doing a 'No-dinner break' service. How I wish I was true.

A few kilometers from Inchara was Hotel 'Anand Bihar'. The place looked very filthy and the moment i got down from the bus, the stench was enough to kill my appetite. Spotted 3 VRL sleepers however they all left in a short span leaving behind the lone standing B9R. I walked towards the highway to escape the stench as it was getting very difficult to stay near the bus. The action on the highway was just amazing, Club class, VRL, Konduskar, Neeta all running in a hurry to reach their destinations.

After an unbearable 30mins stop, we finally moved. The moment we came back on the highway, the driver pushed the pedal to the metal and quickly we overtook most of the vehicles which I saw on the highway during the break. We did a top speed of 121kmph as the bus just flew on the highway. For a person who is used to some sedate driving, this was something very different yet equally enjoyable. I finally decided to get some shut eyes. The lights in the bus came on the cleaner came in shouting 'Belgaum' at 5am. I hardly remember getting up and finally when I woke up we were cruising near Satara. Checked my clock and the time said 7:30am...!!!

The bus had just flown on the highway. With sleepy eyes, i moved the curtains over to see the 6:30pm Sharma's Luxura Sleeper being overtaken. The bus looked like it was standing still when our bus overtook the same. We crossed Hotel Natraj, a regular place for Mumbai and Bangalore bound buses. We finally pulled over at an under construction motel, a few kilometers from Natraj. The place looked better when compared with our dinner break stop but nothing when compared with hotel Natraj. 
Since my destination was just an hour away, I did not try anything here. We were the lone B9R and the bus was being washed by the cleaner. After 30mins we began to move.

Again from the word go, we began to speed up and was finally dropped at Katraj at exactly 9am. My friend who came to pick me up was surprised to see me come this early. The bus took a whopping 11.5hrs to reach from Madiwala to Katraj.

Will I try this service again?

While alighting, I asked the crew what time they reach Pune and they said they take exactly 11hrs and was running late today. I am not sure what time the bus reached Mumbai but going by the speed they should have reached by 2pm to Borivali, making them one of the fastest operators on this route. The bus is not for people who like sedate riding. The only suggestion is their breaks. I am not aware of their Dinner and breakfast halts when they depart from Mumbai but if it is equally bad, then they should up the service in this department.

Mumbai to Bangalore in SRS B9R

Date of Journey- 14/03/2013
Service- SRS B9R
Distance- 1020kms (appox)

With my work concluding in Mumbai, it was time to head back home. The availability of so many operators on Mumbai-Bangalore route makes a tough job for a bus fan like me to choose a specific operator.  Finally with lots of thinking, I made up my mind to take the 12pm SRS B9R. Checked for the tickets on my cellphone and found the bus was almost full with the last 3 rows available. My friend helped me out in taking me to the Southern Tourist office in Borivali(W). Since this was my first ever ride in a SRS B9R, I was very curious to try their service, but did the service live up to my expectation?

11:45am: After patiently waiting, the beauty turned up. This was fairly a brand new bus. The bus had done around 2.2Lac done on the Odo. The interiors were still looking fresh but what caught my eye were the blankets that were placed on every seat.

No sooner the bus arrived; the crew began to load the luggage in the belly.  The A/C was turned on and the blast of cool air was a respite considering the hot summer blaze outside the bus.  At this moment my friend Saurabh called up and enquired my pick up point along the route. He wanted to see me off before I left. We decided to meet up at Shantaram Talav, Malad. The parcels were all loaded and we started moving. The traffic was heavy as we slowly made our way towards Dahisar. At this moment, I noticed the sensuous National’s ‘Chandni’ heading for pickup.

Our next pick up point was at Shantaram Talav,Malad. The traffic was heavy however our guy decided to push the bus. We finally reached there beating the traffic along the way but our man, Saurabh was nowhere in sight.  Just as the bus was about to leave he showed up and after a short meeting, the bus left.

The bus slowly made its way to Sion. Here we stopped for another 25mins for parcels and for paperwork. We resumed our journey and finally the traffic towards Vashi was slowly thinning out. We reached Kalmaboli. Here few Pune bound passengers boarded the bus, we crosses Panvel and finally hit the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. No sooner we hit the highway, we began to gain speed and make up for some lost time in traffic. We reached top speeds upto 105Kmph.

We finally pulled over at the Food Mall for lunch. Here a Purple B7R heading to Pune was already resting. We stopped for about 25mins for Lunch and during this time, National’s ‘Chandni’ joined us for lunch.

We started again and made our way towards Pune. A fairly old Bollywood flick was being played to keep the passengers entertained.  We reached Wondercity, Katraj and stopped for passengers and parcels. The stop was for about 20mins and the bus got full at this place. A couple of VRL B9R was also resting at this place.

We resumed our journey and the bus was driven exceptionally well in the ghats. The power of a B9R was clearly illustrated when other vehicles were struggling to climb the steep ghat roads. Due to maintenance work going on along the stretch, the bus was driven at moderate speeds. 

We finally pulled over for Dinner at Hotel Navmi after Satara. Here a Surendra built Sheetal non a/c seater heading to Mangalore greeted us. At this moment National’s ‘Chandni’ overtook us. The dinner halt was for about 30mins. Just as we were getting ready to depart, an Airavat Club Class and Vishal B9R heading to Mangalore joined us.

We resumed our journey and again the bus was driven very well along the highway. We entered Belgaum at around 22:45hrs and headed towards Hotel Ramdev, Belgaum. We picked up few Bangalore bound passengers here thus filling up the bus. I noticed there were few regular passengers for this bus as the passengers were seen greeting the drivers.

We resumed our journey at around 23:00hrs and joined the highway. Finally I decided to get some shut eyes. I vaguely remember passing through a Toll booth near Haveri. When I woke up, the bus was cruising on the Nelamangala-Yeswanthpur expressway. Since the traffic was very less, we quickly made through the busy streets of Bangalore.  I requested the crew to stop the bus at Rajajinagar Entrance for which they obliged. I was dropped off at exactly 6:30am.

Will I try this service again…?

This again was one of the quickest services that I have taken from Mumbai to Bangalore. When I boarded the bus in Mumbai, I asked what time we would reach Bangalore and he was quick to reply stating we will be there by 6:30am. A promised delivered..!!!

There was no difference with the driving style of the crew as they were both driving the bus in an identical manner. Use of headlights while overtaking in the night, no harsh braking, and no blocking traffic on the right lane was few observations I could make out. The cleaner was very polite and was helpful to passengers.  The leg space was also good when compared with other operators and the best part for which I appreciate SRS is the way they take care of their crew. The entire last row is converted into a sleeping berth for the driver. My only suggestion would be is that they provide water bottles to Bangalore bound passengers as it’s a long journey.

Few pics taken during our dinner halt-