Pune to Bengaluru: Orange Travels Volvo B11R Celeste!

Orange was my first choice as I searched for tickets for our (I and my gang) return from Pune, after the conference. I did look at the alternatives, but found Orange the most convenient. The tickets were booked about two weeks before the trip - we booked lower double berths towards the middle of the bus. The remained empty till about two days before the trip - I was a little tensed seeing the bus remain empty, since I didn't want to get stranded.

November 18, 2019:
It was a lazy day, punctuated with a really heavy lunch, from Raaga. The bus, Orange Travels, is usually parked only a few kilometres away from our hotel accommodation. However, while booking the tickets, I had selected a different point (since our hotel wasn't booked yet, then). I wanted to know if we could change the boarding point - and waited for the message containing the bus details to arrive. The message came, and the GPS tracking showed the bus was quite far - at the Volvo service centre to be accurate. The bus showed no signed of movement even as the departure time from the origin came closer. I tried calling the phone numbers provided - the first one was that of their Pune office, which never connected. The second one, which I received a little closer to departure time, rang, but nobody ever picked-up. This continued for quite a while. In the meantime, we checked out of our hotel room, settled the accounts and walked towards the nearest bus stop.

While walking towards the bus stop, I called up the Orange Travels helpline number - who verified my details, and provided me with another phone number to contact the crew. Unfortunately, this one also didn't work. However, I received a call from an unknown number asking our whereabouts. The guy at the other end was the guy handling our pick-up - he gave the pick-up points landmark, and requested that we reach there soon. We had to rush now - we managed to get an autorickshaw from our place to the pick-up point. We got to the pick-up point well before the scheduled pick-up time. I receive another call from the guy who called earlier, and checked if we had already reached. It turned out that the guy calling me was an autorickshaw driver, and he was sent to bring us to their office in Wakad.

Two autos turned up - there were only 5 of us boarding from this point. It was a long drive to Wakad - the driver dropped us a small yard near Wakad Flyover - there was a waiting room for passengers as well, along with the office of Orange Travels. A bus to Ahmedabad was ready to depart at that time - it started off later, without any passengers! There was no sign of the bus starting from the service station even at this point - it started from there around 1800hrs, and turned up at the boarding point at about 1820hrs. Boarding started soon later - the bags were received by the attendant, properly tagged and stowed in the baggage hold according to the destination of the passenger. We started off from Wakad at 1828hrs - about 28 minutes behind scheduled time.
The bus: KA-15-AD-1713 (Archives)

The initial few kilometres were quick. We reached Balewadi, picked a couple of passengers and started off by 1831hrs. We hit a block after that, and we began the crawl. It was more of  crawl till we got to Katraj (1923hrs) - all pick-ups were completed here, and we got moving by 1926hrs. Everybody in the gang were dead drop tired by now. A little after we completed all pick-ups, the attendant came around to distribute water bottles and snack boxes. I tried watching a movie on the onboard entertainment system - but couldn't find any movies worth watching. I tuned to a movie on my phone instead. As the bus got to the ghat, body roll got very pronounced - in fact, the driver was throwing the buses around curves.

We pulled in for dinner break at a hotel (Hotel Raigad), at a place called Joshi-Wihir, near Satara (2051hrs). We were quite tired - and not in a mood for heavy dinner, but decided to have something light. The guy at the restaurant suggested taking Dal Khichdi along with the Curd Rice we had ordered - his suggestion was not bad. We ended up repeating the order for Dal Khichdi! The restaurant was not posh - more like a dhaba, but was clean and the service was good. Food was good, and not very pricey either. The restrooms were clean as well. We started off from the restaurant at 2129hrs - I had noticed only then that we were on the opposite side of the road, and the bus had to take a U-turn to head towards Bengaluru.

I slept off soon after the break. One major revelation I had at this point was that the berth wasn't very long. I am only 5'7", but I was hitting both the ends! I slept fairly well - but not the best sleep I had in a bus. My colleague had left an alarm on his phone - but I woke up much before the alarm went off. My GPS pin-pointed us at Tumkur then. A small delay was imminent - this was a cause for worry since we all had to head to office soon after reaching. We got set to get off the bus as we passed Nelamangala. The attendant came around calling for passengers alighting at "8th Mile & Jalahalli Cross" - we finally got off the bus at Parle Toll, at 0745hrs - about 45 minutes behind schedule.

Remarks: The bus, KA-51-AD-1713, had clocked about 1.87 Lakh kilometres and was kept in pristine shape. The interiors were chic - although it was an overdose of FRPs, it looked awesome and very functional. The lighting was awesome and the interiors looked class! The crew were awesome - the attendant helped everybody with their baggage - both loading and unloading. The drivers were good - he did throw the bus around curves, but the ride after the ghat was really comfortable. With a ride time of about 13h14m, it was a great journey, and a journey that ended well!

Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: Yes
Charging Point: Available, worked
Entertainment: Available, worked

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

Overall: 4.5/5

Pros: Comfortable, VFM
Cons: Berth is not long enough, Timings - could leave a little earlier

Will I take this service again? Its a good option. Worth trying again!