A train journey across the North East India from Guwahatty in Assam to Agartala in Tripura: crossing the southern periphery of Himalayas: hills, valleys giant rivers and a mosaic of people belonging to various ethnic groups belonging to India, Bangladesh and Burma. It takes a total of two days to cover this 500 Kilometer stretch.
This journey starts from Guwahatty, a little dirty chaotic town amidst the lush green paddy fields of Assam, On the narrow gauge rail track, runs a couple of slow moving trains powered with diesel engines. The trains will never be full of passengers, but still: a lot of people will be sitting and traveling on the roof of the train.
Train, mostly passenger trains, stops at every tiny stations: at some places, there will be nothing visible to mark station: a board of passengers gets out and another board gets in, that is all. This train route is the only reliable connectivity between the the state of Tipura to the rest of India. The very long road to Tripura from Guwahatti, through the state of Mehalaya is not maintained at all (The alternative route along Assam is very much longer crossing the full length of Assam and then head south), and lacks proper public transport. There is air connectivity from Agartala to Guwahatty / Kolkotta and the rest of India. Most of the travel agents at Agartala can book your flight tickets with groups, usually called as group tickets which are much cheaper than regular tickets: but only to Kolkotta and Guwahatti.
The conversion of narrow gauge to broad gauge is in progress and is expected to complete within a few years.
With an altitude of mostly 1000 meters above sea level this is one of the most amazing train journeys remaining in India: less exploited by tourism: thanks to the insurgency and conflicts which rules this part of India, limiting access to people from outside.
Driving By Road
Guwahatty>Shillong (Bypass)>Jowai> Khliehriet>Silchar
Driving by road this way can be really really tiring if you are not a first time visitor, due to seriously bad and narrow roads and lack of basic facilities. The road until Jowai is good and beyond that: you may find it very difficult to distinguish between road and river. This road crosses almost half of Mehalaya: Though most of the tourists expect this road to be beautiful with the abode of Mehalayan Clouds, to their surprise, the hills has been scraped through due to coal mining and construction. Many of the towns in western Mehalaya resemble desert cities …looks really sad…to see beautiful hills and forests completely flattened for coal mining.
Most of the people you see on the road may not even know anything beyond the next town: as they don`t need to go beyond that usually. There is a very high chance that, you may find it really difficult to tackle routes: unless you seek help from truck drivers.
Travel by train
There is no direct train between Guwahatti and Agartala. Either you got to have a stopover at Lumding Junction or Silchar.
- Guwahati to Lumding Junction
- Lumding Junction to Silchar
- Silchar ro Agartala
1. Guwahati to Lumding Junction
There are a lot of trains connecting Guwahatty and Lumding Junction: an average of one every hour and takes about three hours. Most of the trains going to east of Guwahatti, like Dimapur or Dibrugarh cross the junction.
2. Lumding Junction to Silchar
From Lumding there are not many trains heading south to Silchar which is 215 Kilometers away:only two one during day and the other during night. The day train, Barak Valley Express starts at morning 4:25 from Lumding Junction and reach Silchar by 17:45.
The route crosses several rivers, which originate from the himalayas, supplying water all around the year. A bridge near Silchar
Silchar is not a very happening town: other than the beautiful valley around the Barak River at one side of the city and the set of a couple of brothels a couple of hundred meters from the city shopping mall… trust me its not a very safe place to visit.
There are only a couple of hotels to stay: the one most prefered is Riya Palace and a couple of shabby ones near the railway station:which is two kilometers away from the main city. There are a lot of cycle rickshaws for local travel. There are many roadside shops near the city shopping mall, selling cheap clothes and house hold items: mostly smuggled from Myanmar or Bangladesh.
A house in a little village near Manu, between Silchar and Agartala. The people here use mostly bamboo for making houses.
3 Silchar to Agartala
There is only one train: a passenger train running between Silchar and Agartala: which starts a 6:45 from Silchar and reach Agartala by 17:25: a 10 hour journey to cover 257 Kilometers.
There will be a lot of empty seats in train, which is mostly local people who wants to travel to their neighbouring villages. There is one air conditioned chair coach: confirmed tickets can be obtained, if you book a couple of days ahead.
Train just comes from tunnel. There are several tunnels on the route, mostly between Silchar and Agartala.
The many fertile land near Agartala is being slowly converted to bricklands, to feed he growing demand in the city of Agartala and other parts of Tripura.
- Sandeep Sandeep Mathew, Federal Bank, Silchar