Bengaluru to Vijayapura: on VRL Volvo B9R

The commencement of the examination season of Summer 2018 was heralded by a call I received from the co-ordinator of a college in Mangalore. Calls followed in quick succession over the days that followed. 2018 seemed to be a good year for the travel-loving examiner in me. First among the line of examinations was at Vijayapura (Bijapur) in the north eastern part of Karnataka. Trains were not an option for this route - it had to be buses in any case. The government operator didn't seem to have AC buses on this route. My attention turned to private operators - matters got easy there. It was a tough choice between VRL and Orange travels (both had good reviews on redBus). I finally picked up VRL for the outbound and Orange for the return. Reservation was done through their own websites.

June 10, 2018:
I had some work over the day, and it was quite late by the time I returned home. My bus to Vijayapura (Vijayanand Travels Volvo B9R Multi-Axle semi-sleeper coach) was to depart from Yeshwantpur (Govardhan Hotel) at 2120hrs. It was almost 1930hrs by the time I left home - I hurried to the nearest metro station and then took a train to Yeshwantpur. I was at Yeshwantpur by about 2015hrs or so - the first stop was at Hotel Hallimane for dinner. I was done by 2100hrs, and rushed towards the pick-up point. The GPS tracking portal showed that my bus was already at the pick-up point, and by now, the crew called up to confirm my location. I was in the bus by 2110hrs - a few more passengers were to come in. We got moving by 2113hrs. Two young chaps were in the driving cabin today - one of them was a punjabi.

We next stopped at Goreguntepalya VRL pick-up point (2124hrs). This seemed to be their "sign-off" point - it took quite some time before the bus was cleared for departure from here. We got moving by 2132hrs - the bus had to take a circuitous route from there to get back to the highway - some recent traffic restrictions restricted movement of private buses along Tumkur road, and they had to compulsorily use the elevated highway. The driver let the beast loose as we got onto the elevated highway. We had a few more pick-ups past Parle toll - at Madavara. We got moving from there at 2145hrs. The attendant did a quick head count before the curtains were drawn and the lights turned off. We had 48/48 bookings on this day - a 100% load factor. Interstingly, most bookings happened on the day of travel.
The bus, after dropping at Vijayapura

The driver got into the 'cruise' mode by now, and was quickly zipping through traffic on the highway. There was a bit of traffic at Nelamangala toll - was smooth sailing post that. A few passengers requested a toilet break - for which the crew decently replied that the bus would pull in for refueling shortly. We got into Dabbaspete VRL facility at 2218hrs - heading straight to their fueling point. Most passengers got off to use the washrooms here. The bus took in 181 litres of fuel. A sticker on the dashboard claimed that the bus had a 350lt fuel tank - down from the 600lts fuel capacity provided by Volvo (this was a modification done pursuant to the government requirements of safety). We got off at 2225hrs - the driver meant business once we were back on the highway.

The bus turned off the highway at Tumkur, heading to the town for a pick up - all seats filled hear - we left Tumkur at 2254hrs. We entered the highway soon after, only to exit the highway again to take a break - at VRL Hotel past Tumkur (2312hrs). Not many passengers went to the hotel, but almost everyone headed to the snack bar right outside the hotel - all the products there were sold at MRP (thumbs up for that). I stocked up some snacks and picked a cold drink as well. We started off from the hotel at 2347hrs - a 35 minute break.

I slept soon after the bus returned to the highway. I felt the recline angle of the seat was low - but that helped with the legroom. The rexin seat cover was uncomfortable. I had a fairly nice sleep though. I vaguely remember the bus stopped enroute for a break - the driver changed here, and the punjabi guy took over. He was a ripper - quite fast, and maintained great pace! I slept for some more time, and woke up just as the bus reached Bijapur. I do not recollect the first drop point. The bus reached the Marathi Vidyalaya drop point (the last stop according to the VRL website) at 0658hrs - most passengers got off here. I checked with my co-passenger whether I must get off there, or carry on - since my accommodation seemed far from this place. He suggested that I got off near the bus station instead. We started from there at 0701hrs. The bus ran about a kilometre or so, and the crew called out "last stop" - I got off the bus near the bus station, at 0702hrs - about 15 minutes late.

Summary: The bus, KA-25-C-8321, had clocked a little over 15.75 Lakh kilometres, but was maintained like it was fresh out of the factory. Absolutely no rattles inside the bus, and the bus rode really well. The bus took a little less than 10 hours to complete the 590-odd kilometre journey. Both the drivers were great - perfect combination of skill and level-headedness. Absolutely no honking at night, appropriate use of lights to signal overtakes and lane changes were done. They did not lug the engine, ensured perfect gearing and maintained pace. I loved the journey, and my respect for VRL grew after this trip.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, did not use
Entertainment: Available, not used.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5 (Awesome driving - both of them)
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

Pros: Well maintained bus, value for money, Amazing driving, Professional crew
Cons: Nothing specific

Will I take this service again? Absolutely. But then there aren't any other options here!

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