Monday, 2 February 2015

Mumbai to Bangalore in National B9R

Mumbai to Bangalore in  National B9R

Travelling is fun..!!!

Date of Journey: 2/2/2015
Service: National Travels (Paalki)
Distance:  1020kms(appox)
Fare: 1100/-

It was almost time to say good bye to Mumbai. After enjoying a scrumptious meal, it was time to eagerly wait for my ride back home. This ride was very special as I had planned for quite some time to try this operator. While booking the tickets, I had made a rookie mistake of choosing an incorrect boarding point. Probably it may be because I always board the bus from Borivali, I forgot to select the correct boarding point as Chembur.  I got a call at around 3:15pm asking if I was at Gokul hotel in Borivali, I apologized and informed the pickup man that I was at Chembur. The pickup man acknowledged and stated to stay there and it would take almost an hour to reach. Knowing Mumbai and its traffic very well, I doubted his claim however I was not going anywhere.

Waiting time

Time passed by and I was eager to know which amongst their buses will be showing up. A couple of their buses passed by however, these were not the ones that I had booked my seat. I waited for another hour and finally curiosity got the better of me. I called up the pickup man on the pretext of knowing where the bus had reached and then asked the very important question. What was the name of the bus which was on its way to pick me up. The pickup man laughed and said ‘Paalki’

pic from archives

National travels is a veteran operator on this sector and their operations to Mumbai goes a long way back. Their buses are always a talk of the town and their livery and upkeep always grabs the attention of both the passengers and the people on the streets. Time flew by quickly and at around 17:15hrs, the bus honked and pulled over at Chembur. The very sight of the bus was appealing and was all set to begin my journey.

Journey begins
I bid good bye to my friend and took my seat (#1) and settled down. Since this was my first journey in National, I did not want to miss any moment of the journey. Around 6 passengers were boarding at this point and no sooner we boarded the bus, the pickup man signaled the driver to move the bus. The cleaner handed out 1ltr water bottles for all Bangalore bound passengers. Very few operators apart from KSRTC hand out water bottles on their buses. I remember Sharma and Kallada National giving out water bottles when I traveled with them a year ago.

We reached Vashi and pulled over for a Bio break. I glanced at the trip sheet and found around 26 passengers had boarded the bus from different points in Mumbai which started from Mira Road and the rest from Pune. The bus was already half full. We moved towards Panvel and picked up few Pune bound passengers. We joined the Expressway and I was waiting for the driver to unleash the power of B9R. However, the bus continuously maintained speeds of 90-95kmpl. The driver let the quick moving cars and went in for gaps with caution. While we cruised on, a Mangalore bound Anand Sleeper joined us. He quickly overtook us only to be chased down after a couple of miles. Both the drivers exchanged smiles and honked before my guy overtook him.

A fairly new Bollywood movie was played on the entertainment set. The volume was kept low ensure no disturbance was created for passengers who wanted enjoy a quiet nap. We reached Pune and as always traffic greeted us. After dropping few passengers at Hinjewadi, we headed to their office at Katraj. We waited for almost 25minutes for the pickup van to show up. I spoke to the crew and they said that he has spotted people clicking pictures on the highway and initially they were not sure why. However, now most of their crew are aware of our hobby and are happy to know that we respect their profession. Yet, he was equally disappointed that not many respect them as their profession is still looked down upon in our country. While we discussed about National and its future ventures, the pickup van showed up.

After checking in the new set of passengers we were all set to join back the highway. We moved out of Katraj and barely traveled for few mtrs when a passenger from the rear hurriedly made his way to the front and requested the driver to stop the bus. Upon inquiring, he said that he might have dropped his cellphone in the pickup van. We pulled over and called up the pickup van driver and the search was on. After 10minutes, the pickup van driver called up and said he was unable to find the mobile. The passenger was quizzed again and later he realized that he must have left it in his office and got off the bus saying the cellphone has all his contacts and can’t afford to lose it. After losing around 20minutes in the confusion we resumed our journey. The crew was a little miffed as a lot of time was wasted because of all the confusion. We resumed our journey and I was eager to see the bus pull over for the Dinner break as hunger had crept in.

Dinner Break

After 30minutes into the journey the bus pulled over at the usual Hotel Natraj. Here a Depot 4 beauty of KSRTC welcomed us. This was the same bus which I had traveled in the recent past. After enjoying my dinner, I met the crew of the D4 beauty who were surprised at me for not booking seats on their bus. The crew knew that I was aware that they will be available on the particular trip. They pulled back from the parking and watching the bus leave made me realize how much I adore these D4 beauties.

pic from archives
Back on the Highway

Few minutes later it was our turn to join back the highway. The crew was again courteous and checked if everyone had their stomachs filled. While we began to pull out, a Sharma B9R sleeper pulled in. We resumed the journey and finally it was time to bring the curtain down of what seemed to be a long and tiring day. The comfort and sedate driving put me to sleep in no time. I woke up only once to find the bus in Hubli toll and slept off again.

Day break

It was around 7:30am when I woke up to find the bus in Hiriyur. The bus pulled over for a breakfast stop and the crew called out loud stating ‘15minutes for fresh up and Breakfast’. With great difficulty I got down and enjoyed a cup of tea. Since, Bangalore was another 2-3 hours away, I was in no mood to miss the Brunch at home. A couple of minutes later, we were joined by the same Sharma Sleeper and soon the place was crowded.

After 30minutes, we joined back on the highway and the driving again was very sedate. No honking or sedate braking. We coasted smoothly on the highway and reached Tumkur. We pulled over to drop off a passenger. My eyes were now battling a heavy sleep and soon I gave up. When I woke up, we were just lining up behind a KSRTC saarige at Nelamangala toll. I resumed my sleep again though I knew my alighting point was another 15-20minutes away. When I woke up, the bus was getting down the flyover. I quickly grabbed my luggage and got ready to get down at Yeswanthpur. At 10:32 am my first journey with National travels‎ ended. The driver gave a warm smile and asked me to try their service again.

Will I try their service again?

Since I had read few reviews of National, I knew what was in the offering. Friendly crews, a superbly maintained bus, sedate and comfortable ride is the perfect recipe for any bus journey and National had it all. I will certainly try their service again.

Few pics taken during breakfast

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Bangalore to Mumbai in VRL travels

Bangalore to Mumbai in VRL travels

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Service: VRL Travels
Distance: 1020kms(appox)
Fare: 997/-

The travel plan was made at the last hour and as always I was left with a tons of operator to choose from. The search began immediately and finally the most veteran operator on the route was chosen, VRL.

I booked the tickets on the 19:30hrs service on the day of the journey and ensured to finish all the work before boarding the bus. Since, I was traveling light took a bus to KBS and later walked towards Anand Rao circle.

VRL’s Anand rao terminus was looking almost empty with a couple of Isuzu and sleeper buses waiting for their departure. At around 19:15hrs, a B9R honked her way into the terminal. I knew it was my ride and was all excited to board the bus. The bus was running full and a major chunk of passengers were boarding from Anand rao circle.

pic from archives
19:32hrs-Departure vs Wait time

As passengers began to settle down in their seats, the crew member checked in if all the passengers who were board and we finally honked our way out of the bus stand. Our next stop was at Navrang. Traffic as always was playing a spoilsport however we made it to Navrang on time and we picked up a couple of passengers and moved out immediately. We headed towards Yeswanthpur to pick up our next set of passengers. The passengers boarded the bus however we did not move. In the meantime SRS Scania and a Club Cass passed by us. Our wait continued further and after 25minutes, we started rolling.
We pulled over at the last pickup point after Jalahalli signal. Here again our wait continued and after 20minutes a couple of passengers showed up. Finally, I thought we were moving but I was in for a surprise. The engine was switched off and both the crews were at the booking office discussing something. Finally, few frustrated passengers got down and starting fuming at the crew. The crew came back and after 30minutes of waiting, we finally moved. After almost 75minutes into the journey, we took the expressway and began to speed up as we headed out of Bangalore. I decided to get a quick nap and slept as the bus crossed the Nelamangala tollway.

21:45hrs Dinner time

The bus pulled over at the dedicated pit stop off Tumkur. The place was filled with sleeper buses when we checked in. Needless to say but VRL get a full marks for maintaining this place in a top notch condition. Since the place was full, it was taking time to get the food delivered however the quality of the food and the pricing was just perfect. Since, the place was crowded the crew gave ample amount of time for passengers to fill up their empty stomachs. After 30minutes, we resumed our journey and within no time I resumed my sleep.

I vaguely remember waking up at 3am to find the bus filling up diesel. I woke up again and it was around 4:25am as we were zipping passed the empty lanes of Belgaum. We immediately pulled over at a VRL travels booking office near Sangoli Rayanna Circle and we were back to our waiting times. Suddenly out of the blue, I saw a flash. Before I could realize what was happening, it happened again and again. A group of people were busy clicking pictures of the bus. In the meantime I noticed there were no passengers getting down or boarding, I suspected we were loading or unloading parcels, however I was wrong. I saw the crew run back and forth from the bus to the office with a piece of paper. After losing another 20minutes, we moved from Belgaum. All this waiting made me a little anxious as I did not want to miss my appointment. Went back to sleep again hoping we make up for the lost time

8:40am- Good Morning time

I woke up to find we were between Karad and Satara and it was certainly not a good sight. We were hopelessly beyond schedule and was not was happy about the same. We pulled over for breakfast and were welcomed by an SRS Sleeper which had departed at 08:30pm and a Sharma B9R. The SRS sleeper left immediately and another 20minutes into the break, the Sharma B9R departed. After 5minutes, we began to move out and began to speed up to make up for some lost time. After 14.5hrs into the journey, we reached Katraj. We dropped few passengers and immediately reached back the highway. Enroute to the expressway, we tried to pick up few Mumbai bound passengers however none responded.

The awesomeness of the expressway has no word to be described. The crew was is in no mood to waste any more time and floored the bus towards Mumbai. We were also joined by two Lamborghini cars which raced past us. We reached Panvel and with that the drop off points at Mumbai had begun. The newly setup Sion-Panvel toll way had blocked traffic for almost a mile on the other end. I was hoping it was not the same case on this side and my prayers were answered. We cleared the toll and headed straight towards Vashi. Finally, it was my time to get down and was dropped off at Chembur at 12:50pm.

Will I try this service again?

I have a mixed response with VRL this time. The bus constantly did 90-95kmph which I have no complaints about. However the long breaks and unnecessary waiting is what I am not a fan of. Indeed, not many would agree with me here however it is just my personal opinion. Full marks to maintenance and crew behavior. Also the best part about VRL is the CCTV cameras installed inside the bus. It gives a passenger a sense of security for his luggage when he is fast asleep. I will be wrong to mark them down on Time management with a one off journey. I may try this service again if the need arises