Bengaluru to Kalaburagi: On the VRL B9R yet again!

Yet another exam season, yet another reason to travel to Gulbarga (Kalaburagi). I was traveling in the middle of the week and assumed that I didn't have to worry about tickets. I found the contrary when I headed to the railway reservation website, though - confirmed tickets weren't available in either directions. I finally decided to book a train for my return journey since I had to be in Bengaluru on time, and couldn't find a bus with reliable arrival timings. I picked up Vijayanand (VRL) for the outbound - for obvious reasons that this was the sole seater service on the route.

June 26, 2019:
It was a lazy day at work. I was back home well on time, and had finished packing my things quite early. I set off towards Yeshwantpur using my favorite mode of transportation - a combination of BMTC bus and Namma Metro. I headed straight to Hallimane for light dinner, then headed to the VRL pick-up point. Quite unusually, I managed to find a seat at their waiting area, and remained seated till my bus turned up. I had been tracking the bus using the tracking link I had received that evening, and I knew that an older Volvo B9R was on duty that day.

My bus turned up at 2106hrs - about 6 minutes late, at the pick-up point. Boarding was completed quickly, and they started off by 2109hrs. However, the pick-up guy informed the crew to wait at the new pick-up point for longer time, since some passenger hadn't turned up yet. The crew slowed down due to this, and got to the next pick-up point, at Goraguntepalya, by 2121hrs. The wait here was quite long, since the missing passenger was still on his way. The bus was parked all the time. Thankfully a fairly interesting bollywood movie was being played - and that kept me engaged. We got moving from there at 2147hrs - a delay of 32 minutes.
The bus

The driver headed through the road below the elevated highway, and stopped at the Peenya pick-up point as well (these passengers are usually transported to the toll gate in pick-up vans) - the office staff here took their time to do a headcount and dispatch the bus - departing at 2159hrs finally. We quickly passed the toll gate (2208hrs) and progressed at good pace towards Tumkur. I was engrossed in the movie for most part of the ride. The bus pulled in to the VRL Hotel near Tumkur at 2318hrs - for a delayed dinner. Although I am not a fan of dinner breaks at this time, but a break to use the restroom is surely appreciated. VRL scores quite high on this aspect that the hotel has clean restrooms. I stocked drinking water from here, and spent the rest of the time just strolling around.

The bus started off at 2345hrs. The driver meant business once he was back on the highway - the driver was quite fast, but stable and controlled. I slept soon after we were back on the highway. I had a nice long sleep - an undisturbed sleep as well. I vaguely remember seeing the bus stopped at their usual break point near Lingasgur - I didn't get off the bus, or note the time. I slept well till about 0630hrs. The bus was departing from Shahapur at that time. I dozed off for a while more - waking up only when the attendant called out for passengers alighting at Ram Mandir (there weren't anybody alighting here). As the bus neared Gulbarga, there was a lot of activity inside the bus - with people retrieving their bags, etc. The bus finally pulled into the Gulbarga VRL Luggage office (which is the dropping point) at 0753hrs - about 38 minutes behind schedule. The bus was surrounded from all the sides by autorickshaw drivers by then - ruling out any possibility of a photo!
I am in awe with that reading on the odo!

Remarks: The bus, KA-25-C-8020, had over 18 lakh kilometres on the odo. Registered in 2011, this 8.5 year old bus was maintained in great shape! It rode like a new bus - I couldn't pick any rattles or squeaks. I am in love with VRL's maintenance team, and they didn't disappoint this time either! Both the drivers were well behaved - I was furious to know they missed a passenger at some pick-up point. But I realised later that their pick-up chart had only the passenger's name, seat number and phone number! No information about where they'd board from - so the crew check if all are on board only after their get to the last pick-up point! I felt bad for the crew - having to deal with missed passengers! Overall another good ride with VRL - the delay was maintained through out though.

Amenities:
Blanket: No
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Did not Use.
Entertainment: Available, movie played

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.5/5

Overall: 4.75/5

Pros: Value for money, fairly punctual
Cons: The bus is getting old!

Will I take this service again? There are no other options on the route. But they do a great job, though. So, surely!

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