Bengaluru to Kalaburagi on Vijayanand Volvo B9R

I had to go to Gulbarga, aka Kalaburagi, for an exam duty. I had a duty at Gulbarga last year, and I had taken a train then. The train was not an option this time due to some time restrictions. I looked at option, and found only two AC options - one was a Volvo seater by Vijayanand and another was AC Sleeper from NEKRTC. I didn't want to take the sleeper, and without another thought, booked a seat on the Vijayanand Volvo B9R. They gave a "pickup" option from Jayanagar as well, which was very convenient for me.

December 12, 2016:
I left a little earlier from office - I had landed from Trivandrum just that morning, and hadn't gone home. I hurried with packing, and got ready by around 1830 or so. The pickup from Jayanagar 9th Block was at 1930hrs. After a quick dinner, I checked various cab operators, and finally got one on the Ola app. I received this message from VRL around the same time:
Binai K Sankar, Your Journey Bus No. is KA 25/C7745 Boarding From : JAYANAGAR 9TH BLOCK -PICK UP VECHICLE 8884443472 At : 12-12-2016 19:30:00, While Boarding Please Carry your Photo ID Proof, Tracking URL :: [Link]
It was 1900hrs when the cab left from my place. There was heavy traffic on the way as well - we ended up having to choose alternate routes to escape traffic. I was finally dropped outside the VRL office in Jayanagar 9th Block at 1929hrs - with just a minute to spare for my pick-up. It was drizzing, and office was in darkness owing to a power failure.

I rushed into the office, to see the office boy sitting in darkess, using a torch to read pick-up charts. As I showed my ticket, he appeared flummoxed - I had to clarify that I had a pick-up bus from here. He looked at the pick-up chart and asked me to get into 1319 (PY05-A-1319). As I walked out of the office, I saw 1319 departing, and the crew did not stop even after calling out to them. I returned to the office to inform the same. The office boy quickly asked me to get into the next bus and he gave out a number (which I didn't note, since the driver of that bus was standing there, and he asked me to accompany him), and he called up the driver of 1319 and asked him to wait at the next pickup point, which is Jayanagar 4th block.

The first pick-up bus left with me from Jayanagar 9th block at 1933, and he dropped me at Jayanagar 4th block at 1944hrs. This bus was a Veera built non-ac Sleeper, with the Leymatic Automated Manual transmission system - my first experience in one. At Jayanagar 4th block, I changed to 1319, which was a Prakash built Ashok Leyland non-ac seater+sleeper. I was in one such bus for the first time as well - the low roof due the sleeper made the seats a bit claustrophobic. The bus dropped me at the VRL Bus Station in Anand Rao Circle at 2019hrs. My bus to Kalaburagi would depart at 2030hrs, and I saw it parked deep inside the bus station as well. I headed straight to the restrooms - hats off to VRL for maintaining such a facility for the passengers.
The bus, KA-25-C-7745, as it prepares to depart from Bengaluru
My bus, KA-25-C-7745, was all set for its long journey to Bidar, via Gulbarga. The crew were searching for the remaining passengers. I got into the bus and occupied my seat, #19, and got ready for the ride ahead. We started from the bus station at 2027hrs - three minutes ahead of schedule. The bus crawled out of the bus station and joined the long traffic queue outside. The bus was quite empty - maybe around 40% occupancy. We headed towards Sampige road, and then turned left at 5th cross, to head towards Rajaji Nagar. We had a pick-up at Rajaji Nagar (2052hrs) and then headed to Yeswantpur. We stopped at Govardhan (Yeshwantpur) at 2100hrs. There weren't too many pick-ups. We were about 45% full as we left Govardhan. The aisle seat next to me was empty throughout the journey. While passing Goreguntepalya, I noticed a new pick-up point for VRL on the left - a rather big property with a huge waiting area.

The last pick-up was at the VRL office in 8th mile (212hrs) - the wait here was a little long. VRL office staffers did a headcount, signed off their waybill and cleared for departure. Rain outside delayed the process a little. We finally departed from there at 2129hrs. I slowly drifted asleep as we picked pace on the highway. I woke up just at the bus exited the highway and entered a VRL maintenance facility near Dabbaspet (I presume)  - the time was 2215hrs. They refueled here, and it also served as a leak break for passengers. A set of clean toilets were available here, as well. We started off after refueling at 2222hrs. I continued to be at awe with the scale of VRL's infrastructure.

I dozed off after this break. It was raining quite heavily through the time, and the driver seemed to be really cautious with their driving. I slept for some more time. I was woken up by the lights coming on, and the crew calling out a Dinner break. The time was just past 2300hrs. I was flummoxed with a dinner break at this time. I was a little hungry, though. They switched off the engine (and the AC) soon after parking, forcing most passengers to get off the bus. The bus had stopped at another VRL facility! It had a hotel, a large parking area and a set of toilets. I headed to the hotel, and had light food - the food was good, but was relatively on the pricier side. I liked the quality of the food, but VRL shouldn't have resorted to higher pricing, like the wayside motels. We started off again at 2326hrs. It was still raining.

Once back on the highway, the driver picked pace - and maintained fairly good pace on the highway. The driving was stable, with zero usage of horn. I had a nice, long sleep after that. I vaguely remember feeling bad roads. I slept straight till 6am - as I woke up, I found that we were on a two lane road, with frequent speed breakers. I opened Google Maps and realised that we were approximately 100kms away from Gulbarga - the app suggested a run time of about 1:30hrs. I was quite disappointed - their website had suggested a 0715hrs arrival at Gulbarga aka Kalaburagi. I dozed off again - only to wake up as the driver missed a speedbreaker and the bus had a violent jump. We were in Gulbarga town already! I opened the map again, to realise that we were nearing Gulbarga bus station, or rather, the VRL drop off point. I got off the bus at 0739hrs - some 25 minutes late! A 25 minute delay for a 600kms ride, a fair part of that in heavy rain, with almost an hour lost to breaks, is acceptable, imo.

Remarks: The bus, KA-25-C-7745, had clocked over 10 Lakh kms. The bus was in great shape - not a single rattle or squeak from the body or from the mechanicals. Both the drivers were well behaved, in full uniform, and drove really well. Driving was just amazing - no hard brakes, no honking at night, no rash moves and no careless driving. The interiors were really clean and well kept. A run time of about 11 hours - averaging about 56kmph, for the 612kms journey. The time we lost in breaks was 32 minutes (excluding any breaks the bus might have taken when I was asleep). The route taken was Bangalore-Tumkur-Sira-Hiriyur-Challakere-Ballari-Sidhanur-Lingasugur-Gulbarga (based on the tracking recorded by my phone). This was my third trip with VRL, and I liked the experience this time as well.

Blanket: Yes
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Did not check if it worked.
Entertainment: Available - Not used.

Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

Pros: Reliable, Punctual, Sole Option, Infrastructure support
Cons: Too many checkpoints, time lost in breaks

Will I take this service again? Sure. They seem to be a monopoly on the route, as well. 


rahulvijayev said…
I wonder why you selected VRL over 22134 (your previous time choice)as 22134 has ETA at GR at 0630hrs. I have a few colleagues from Gulbarga and I have seen them always travelling in non AC sleepers. Couple if times I have suggested this service to them, but they seemed to like sleepers. Maybe this is the reason why your occupancy was less. Plus, it was a Monday also.

Binai K Sankar said…
There was no way I could make it to YPR in time for 22134 - plus I am not a great fan of taking the train, these days.