Bengaluru to Kalaburagi: VRL Volvo B9R

The exam season beckons again - another trip to Kalaburagi (Gulbarga). I was quite confused this time around - I was half minded about taking a train. However, trains were waitlisted, and this kinda reduced my confusion. Coming to buses, there were just two AC options - one is the tried and tested VRL, and the other was Orange. (I did not consider NEKRTC this time around - not a fan of the Corona, and getting a lower berth on the Corona is like a lottery). I did not fancy traveling by Orange - its a fairly old bus, and the fares were quite high. VRL was my call - I did not reserve my ticket until a few days before the journey though. I booked through my favorite booking site - did pocket a fairly good discount as well.

January 28, 2020:
I had been checking the VRL website since quite early in the day trying to find which bus would take me to Kalaburagi that evening. The bus number was updated a little after noon - a fairly older bus was allotted that day. I received messages from VRL with the details of my bus around evening. Redbus also updated me with the tracking link - I really love the redbus tracking system, which gives real time updates and allows passengers to time their travel.

I left home a little past 1945hrs for a 2100 boarding at Yeshwantpur. I tried seeing if I could get a direct bus all the way to Yeshwantpur (Govardhan theatre bus stop) so that I don't have to change to a Metro train and go through the hassles. I waited for a little over 15 minutes, but no buses to Yeshwantpur turned up (although the BMTC mobile app claimed there as a bus during the time). I finally did my usual drill of taking a bus to the nearest metro station, and then a train to Yeshwantpur. I got to Yeshwantpur a little past 2035hrs - my first stop was Hallimane hotel. I ordered a Masala Dosa - a decision I regretted later. I have had better Dose elsewhere - certainly better than what Hallimane served.

I headed to the VRL office soon after. The office was crowded as usual. I remained outside the office - as usual, again. There was a steady stream of VRL buses to various parts of Karnataka - my bus was a few kilometres away. My bus to Kalaburagi turned up at the boarding point at 2107hrs - about 7 minutes behind schedule. Boarding was quick - we got moving by 2109hrs. There was some traffic on the road - usual for a working day, though. We got to Goreguntepalya by 2117hrs - this office eats up a lot of time for most buses. The crew finish all their accounting here and make sure all the reserved passengers are accounted for. This entire process takes a lot of time. We finally got moving at 2129hrs - after a 12 minute long halt.
The bus - KA-25-C-7502

I was expecting the bus to take the elevated highway - but that wasn't the case, since the bus headed below the flyover, straight towards Jalahalli cross. We stopped by after Jalahalli Cross (near T.Dasarahalli) for a passenger pick-up - at 2137hrs. The crew had some confusion about a pick-up, and we lost a little time here. We got moving by 2140hrs. I was dead tired by now - and slowly arranged the seat for the long night ahead. I was awake till we passed the toll gate - I slept soon after that. The driver was taking it slow at this point. I vaguely remember the bus stopped somewhere to pick passengers - I assume this was at Tumkur bypass.

I woke up as the crew announced a break - the lights were all turned on, and the bus was turned off. We were at the Tumkur VRL refreshments place (2256hrs) - I tried remaining inside the bus, but it was getting a little claustrophobic with the AC turned off. I got off the bus for a short walk, and also picked up a bottle of water from the stall there. The restrooms at this place is outstandingly clean, and I really appreciate VRL for maintaining such a facility. We started off from there at 2322hrs. The driver meant business as he reached back on the highway. I slept off in no time - it was by no means a continuous sleep. I did wake up once in a while.

The bus pulled over for a roadside break a little after a toll gate, past Gangavathi (0300hrs). The break was quick - the drivers changed at this point (there were two drivers on board, they just interchanged their roles). There were some stalls nearby for some quick refreshments. We started off at 0308hrs - I was a little concerned if we'd reach late at Gulbarga, since I thought there was quite some distance to go. In fact, we even crossed the pairing bus as we were just about to depart after the break - going by the timings, we surely had over 4 hours to go. I woke up the next morning hearing the attendant calling out for passengers alighting at Ram Mandir in Gulbarga. We stopped near the temple at 0705hrs, and started off at 0707hrs. I was excited - we were perfectly on time! The bus pulled in to VRL's parking yard in Gulbarga at 0714hrs - one minute before scheduled arrival time!

Remarks: The bus, KA-25-C-7502, had about 15.8 Lakh Kilometres on the clock. The bus was kept in great shape. There were some isolated rattles from the body - completely understandable for a bus that is over 9 years old, and has munched a lot of miles for VRL. The crew were good - great driving style. The second driver did a couple of hard braking though - overall very stable driving, though. The overall experience was great!

Blanket: Yes
Pillow: No
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Did not use.
Entertainment: Available, not used.

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

Overall: 5/5

Pros: Punctuality, Awesome ride, great crew.
Cons: Ageing bus

Will I take this service again?  The best option on the route!