Coimbatore to Bengaluru: Dwaraka Travels BharatBenz GliderZ

This was an interesting booking. I was originally booked to take a bus from Palakkad at night of October 08, 2019. In the run up to the travel, a lot of things happened, and I grew a little apprehensive of taking a night bus, since I had to be in office on time the next morning. Peak day night travels are quite risky and the odds of a delay are quite high. To add to my misery, the service that I had to travel in saw a lot of cancellations as well. As the date for my travel came closer, I took the decision to book on a day service instead - redbus threw up some interesting options, two of which were on my to-try list. Among them, I chose Dwaraka tours and travels, who operate a pair of MG built GliderZ AC Sleeper coaches on the Coimbatore-Bengaluru route. They operate day buses only during peak days, though.

October 08, 2019:
It was a very heavy feeling as I got ready to begin my day long journey to Bengaluru - I had estimated a 14 hours journey door-to-door (including all waiting time). My kid was in deep sleep, as I bid bye to her, and started walking to the nearest bus stop. I had a very heavy backpack, and did not want risking traveling in crowded buses, and decided to start off quite early. It was Vijayadasami day, and people were busy thronging the temple near TW's place - while I was standing outside with a huge backpack waiting for the bus - the next one, if I missed this one, was an hour and 40 minutes away! While that would be 'sufficient' - it would be cutting in too close for comfort.

The bus to Palakkad, a TVR Coach Karur built blue coloured ordinary service, rolled in a couple of minutes past the scheduled time. The bus was decorated on the occasion of Vijayadasami and appeared to be fresh out of fitness test. The driver kept it slow - the roads were deserted and there were very few passengers as well. There was no hurry - we slowly rolled in to Palakkad municipal bus station about an hour and 20 minutes after we started from TW's place - slow for usual standards. As I got off the bus, a private bus to Coimbatore (which I wanted to try) rolled out of the bus station - it was too far for me to signal the driver to stop. Next time, I thought to myself.

I took an auto to the KSRTC bus station - there were no less than 4 buses to Coimbatore lined up there. One among them was to Gandhipuram bus station, while the rest were the routing shuttles to Ukkadam. Boarding the bus to Gandhipuram was a no-brainer, and it made all sense due to  the heavy bag that I was carrying. The bus, ATM284 of Ponnani depot, started a little later. The driver was ballistic - so much that I thanked my decision not to sit in the last row a while into the ride. The driver didn't know the route - and the conductor sat at the front advising him the route. We got to Ukkadam in a little over 75 minutes from Palakkad, and to Gandhipuram by around 1120hrs - about an hour and 40 minutes or so. Interestingly, I received a call from Dwaraka Travels as my bus was traveling from Ukkadam to Gandhipuram - the guy at the other end gave fairly detailed information of where their office was, and requested me to reach by 1315hrs.

I had over 2 hours to spend in the city - I headed to the omni bus station first, to click some pictures and then headed to my favorite restaurant - Shree Gowrishankar on Cross Cut Road - for a sumptuous lunch. I make it a point to head to this place whenever I can. After a full meal, began my walk to the boarding point of my bus. Coimbatore was quite hot on the day - the heat did have its effect on me, plus the weight on the back pack - I was tired by the time I got to the boarding point. Dwaraka has its own office in the GP Hospital complex near the Omni bus stand, in Coimbatore. It was a small place - with waiting room for about 10 passengers or so. The guy who called me was at this office - he was patiently giving turn-by-turn advice to passengers who were to board from there - really liked their service.
The bus, during 'lunch' break

The bus turned up at 1325hrs - five minutes to go for departure. Since the office was located at a junction on a crowded road - it was really difficult for them to park the bus there for long. Coimbatore badly needs an integrated bus station somewhere on the outskirts of the city, that can afford enough space for buses and passengers. Boarding commenced soon later - they were quick. They quickly helped passengers with their baggage - they offered to keep my bad in the boot, but I couldn't let it be placed there. The bus was fresh inside - a very pleasant room freshener was used, and the berths were clean. While there were no bedsheets, they provided a soft pillow and a properly sized blanket.

The bus was noisy - the engine sound was loud and clear. The AC compressor added to the racket, and it too uncomfortable. The berth, as such, was comfortable. There was no entertainment system - which, I felt, would have added to the comfort of the journey. The bus started from the office at 1335hrs - about five minutes late. A guy from the office quickly checked tickets and welcomed each passenger on board. We got to Gandhipuram (outside Hotel Tamil Nadu) by 1341hrs - quickly took in passengers and started off at 1345hrs. Soon after we turned towards Avinashi road, the attendant (in a white T-shirt, with the Dwaraka name printed on it) came around distributing water bottles and snack boxes - interestingly, he asked for excuse before opening the curtain, saluted each passenger with sir/madam, and said "welcome to dwaraka travels" before handing out the water bottle and the snack box.

We rolled in to Lakshmi mill bus stop by 1353hrs - picked passengers and moved forward. We had pick-ups at PSG Tech (1402hrs), Hope College (1406hrs) and Airport (1412hrs) - and we got into cruise mode on the highway. The crew were noticing an air-leak in the door actuator assembly - they tried fixing it at one point, but couldn't. The bus was stopped outside the BharatBenz workshop near Neelambur (on the highway) - the crew went to get something from there - but it looked like they couldn't get the part they wanted. We got moving at 1437hrs from there, after an over 10-minute break. The sun was on my side - I had to keep the curtains tightly closed. The AC was blowing out cold air at the highest fan speed.

The racket from the engine settled down as the bus picked speed - the sound from the compressor also disappeared as the bus shifted to higher gears. The bus turned off from the highway a little past Chengampalli - and stopped at Hotel Anandas, at 1508hrs. The attendance announced a 'five-minute' break and got off the bus. A lot of passengers quickly used the washrooms, bought some snacks and returned to the bus - the crew didn't return until a while. The driver came around, and informed passengers could have lunch if they hadn't taken yet - now, this is not a 5 minutes break! The break lasted 20 minutes, and we got moving at 1528hrs.

As the bus returned to the highway, I tuned in to a movie on my phone, that kept me engaged for the rest of the journey. Since the sun was still on my side, I couldn't keep the window curtains open - with closed curtains and silence (ignore the racket from the engine) in the bus, it was perfect atmosphere to sleep. I did lay down, but didn't sleep. The pillow made it convenient to sit if I wanted to. The journey really comfortable - the body roll was under control. There was no vibrations form the engine, either. The bus pulled over at the BharatBenz workshop in Salem, again - at around 1700hrs. This halt was slightly longer, since the crew managed to purchase the part they were looking for. They quickly fixed the fault and we managed to start off at 1721hrs. I decided to open the snack box - it was almost 5 hours since my lunch now. The snack box was heavy - it had a pack of Masala Moong Dal, a small pack of Good Day cookies and a tetrapak serving of Frooti. A filling snack box - I must say.
The driver fixing the air leak in the door actuator

It was no sure that we'd have a delayed arrival at Bengaluru - it was impossible to get to Bengaluru in 3 hours, considering the higher than normal traffic on the highway. Toll gate after toll gate was jammed - the one at Omalur had a long queue, while the one at Thoppur had an even longer queue. The bus pulled over at a restaurant right after the toll gate (1831hrs) on request from passengers for a restroom break. The crew requested passengers to return early - but then, the queue at the restroom was quite long. I returned quickly - checked if there was something to grab at the shop there, but they had only the packets of air and some other miscellaneous branded snacks. While at the hotel, a passenger in our bus got into a fight with the crew over the delay - he said he was promised at 2030hrs arrival in Bengaluru, and had a train to catch at 2130hrs - the driver profusely apologised and informed that the bus wouldn't reach by then. The traffic was much higher and the crew cordially accepted passengers' requests for stops. It was impossible to get to Bengaluru at the scheduled time on such a peak day.
The snack box..

We started off from the hotel at 1850hrs. Traffic was high - really high. Overtakes were kinda impossible since trucks tended to drive parallel to each other, and at slow speeds! Plus there were the rash, senseless, weekend 'long distance' drivers on cars trying to nudge traffic like they do in the city! The driver tried his best to maintain pace - this meant a lot of downshifts. It started raining as we neared Hosur - the rain got really heavier as we neared Bengaluru. We passed Hosur at 2043hrs - already an hour behind our scheduled arrival time at Bengaluru! I was expecting a gridlock at Attibele toll - we entered the queue at the toll gate at 2052hrs - we were out of the queue by 2055hrs - too fast for the day! Road were wet, there was minor water logging at places as we rushed towards the city. I had an apprehension if they would terminate the trip at Madiwala instead of carrying on towards Kalasipalya.

We got to Electronic city toll gate by 2119hrs - quickly dropped passengers, got on to the elevated highway and rushed towards the city. We got to Silk Board by 2133hrs - dropped passengers and started off at 2135hrs. We had to wade through traffic after Silk Board - got to Madiwala by 2139hrs, dropped passengers and quickly started off. The bus was getting delayed for its return journey - it had to pick-up passengers from across the city, and every minute of delay could be very expensive for the bus! The attendant now went around cleaning the berths that were vacated - all thrash was cleaned, the berth was wiped, the blankets were folded and kept ready for the next set of passengers. The second driver went around check alighting point of each passenger and cross checked their next pick-up chart and making sure the berths were ready.

I quickly checked if we would go to Majestic - the guy said the bus would first go to Kalasipalya, and then to Majestic. Kalasipalya made sense for me - I fired up cab hailing apps and checked for vehicles - availability was poor. It was still raining, and there was water logging at places. The bus stopped outside KIMS hospital (which is their pick-up point), took in passengers and continued towards Kalasipalya. I knew it would be foolish to wait for a cab - the bus dropped me out side the KR Market metro station, at around 2209hrs - About an hour and half behind schedule (the bus being a special service doesn't have a schedule, as such). A running time of 8 hours and 34 minutes, including about 70 minutes lost in breaks and repair work - meaning, its possible to get to Bengaluru at scheduled time if not for the heavier than usual traffic.

Remarks: Delivered in April 2019, the bus - NL-01-B-1431 - had about 84000 kilometres on the odo. The bus, built on a BharatBenz OF1623 chassis, had a body built by MG Bus and Coach - a model they call "GliderZ". The bus had 30 berths. The bus was kept in fairly good shape - the exteriors did have dents, a cracked windshield (looked like a stone hit) and some scratches. The interiors were clean and in good shape. The berths were soft and comfortable, with an adjustable 'pillow' - the operator provided an additional pillow. MG coaches have always been fascinating in terms of their fit and finish - the placement of air vents is also perfect. The engine sound insulation seemed poor - all the noise was clearly audible inside. The snack box was perfect - could easily substitute for an evening snack break. I think they could've stopped at tollgate restrooms, this could've cut down the break times. Excellent crew - very friendly and polite. They accepted every request from passengers - made sure the passengers were comfortable. Absolutely great journey! Yeah - I got to my home only around 2330hrs - a journey that took 15 hours and about 40 minutes door-to-door!

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: Yes
Charging Point: Available, Worked throughout.
Entertainment: Not available.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4/5 [Irrelevant]

Overall: 4.5/5

Pros: Great Service, Excellent crew, Value for Money.
Cons: Time lost in breaks, may be. 

Will I take this service again? Will surely love to travel by Dwaraka again!

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