Lumding to Silchar ... by Barak Valley Express

5th Dec 2011: 
Today we leave Kohima and head for Lumding via Dimapur. We finished breakfast at Cimorb, checked out and left by 9:00AM in Binod's Taxi to catch a share-taxi to Dimapur. 

Our original plan was to go to Imphal from Kohima; but the current road blockade situation made us skip Manipur and head directly to Agartala, Tripura via Silchar. We had planned to take MG Barak Valley Express (a day train) for its scenic ride through North Cachar Hills.  

We reached Dimapur by 11:30 and paid some extra to our taxi to stop for 5-10 minutes near the Kachari Ruins on the way. The ruins were in a sad state. The remaining pieces of pillars and stone works of palace were locked up in a cage-like enclosure. Most of it was already stolen and gone it seems.  

We reached the Dimapur station by Noon and had a long wait in the Waiting Room till 4:15 PM  to catch Jan-Shatabdi for short ride to Lumding. 

It was pretty dark by the time (5:45PM) we got off at Lumding Station; and luckily as we were getting off the train we met a gentleman, Amar Jyoti, a local manager of IOL, also getting off that train. We asked him for Hotel suggestions and he promptly advised Global Hotel, as the best in town and he normally put his visiting IOL Managers there. He was kind of enough to call the Hotel, on his cell, booked a DBL room for us and put us in an Auto with suitable directions to the driver. 

The Global Hotel turned out to be pretty nice at Rs 1500/- per night. It was located in a very interesting market area, with many criss-cross narrow lanes with single-story shops and hawker stalls; so typical of a Bengal or Assam small town. With crowds of people, mostly men in shawls with 'jholas' for shopping or just 'adda-ing' in street-corner paan shops. It was fun walking around that market area in the evening before dinner.

We had a pretty nice Veg dinner at our hotel room and went to bed early as we had to catch the early morning Barak Valley Exp at 6:15AM.

6th Dec 2011: 
Next morning Shankar, the Auto guy, came on time at 5:30AM and we reached station by 5:45, but the train started 1 hour late at 7:15AM for no known reason. We were told it always reaches Silchar late by 3 to 5 hours!

There is a page about this train in Wikipedia: "Barak Valley Express is a daily express train that connects Silchar (the south Assam town) to Lumding (the nearest BG rail head). 
It stops at almost all the stations on the route on its up-down journey. It passes through the beautiful scenario of Barail Range and Jatinga river and by 36 tunnels made during the British era. It is the only option for tourists to travel in this route to enjoy the scenery - as it is the only day-time operating train in this route."   

There is detailed useful information on Barak Valley region on Wikipedia here: Barak_Valley 

The ride on this slow-moving MG train was memorable and it was a very scenic ride. It went through some dense forests and quite a hilly terrain. It stopped at every station and sometimes for over 30-40 minutes to let some other trains pass. The coaches on the train were rusted and dilapated conditions and overhaed water tanks were leaking all over the coaches. NFR had probably stopped maintaining these rakes as the route convertion to BG work has been going on. Still we got a 'heritage feeling' of travelling in a train of 1950s and at an average speed of 15 KMPH! The station names we passed also sounded exotic; never heard before names. 

NH-44 was along the rail route in some parts

A Silchar-based family with a small baby was in our cubicle in the train and we got lots of local information from that gentleman who was in the travel business in Silchar. He suggested Borail Hotel for stay in Silchar.

The Silchar family with us on the train

Before reaching Lower Halflong station our train went over a high curving bridge over a Diryang river. I shot that on my camera's video below:

Train over Dayang Bridge before tunnel

SK has created a wonderful and detailed write-up on this train journey on his blog. Please read that here: A Scenic Train Journey

We reached Badarpur Junction at 6:15PM late by 1.5hours. We got news of a 'curfew' in Silchar because of some local disturbances and arrests and so we were not sure. We lost another 1 hour at Katkhal station maybe due to a train crossing. We finally reached Silchar at 10:00PM nearly 4 hours late. Luckily we got an auto to take us to Borail Hotel where we got a decent DBL room at Rs 1500/- per night. After dinner in room we went to bed.

After returning home to Mumbai, I went over the entire train route on Google Earth. Was surprised to find most of the the route in Hi-Res Images - The Track and Stations visible clearly in most places. The route is complicated and circuitous because of the terrain. Especially so  around the Halflong Hills region. Building this railway line must have been quite a challenge for the Engineers during the British times. I place-marked many of the stations and a KMZ file of that is uploaded in "Files D/L" page of this blog-site; anybody interested can download and see that on Google Earth. 

Kachari reign ruins, in Dimapur

Kachari reign ruins, in Dimapur

Entry gate of Kachari 'Rajabari' ruins, Dimapur

Manderdisa - the 1st station after Lumding
Mupa Station - SK surveys the scenery

Armed guards at all stations due to insurgencies

Passing views from the BVExp train
Lower Halflong Station at Noon

At Mailongdisa Stn these bamboo bundles were waiting to be latched on to the window bars.

Bamboo bundles hitched-up!

Click above for slideshow of all BV Express Pics