The Dibrugarh – Kanyakumari Vivek Express is the 10th longest train journey in the world. After departing Assam, a state occupying the north-east corner of India, it winds down along the western coast to the most southern tip of the sub-continent.
It’s the longest train ride in India covering 4,273kms during 85 hours.
Toronto-based photographer, writer and musician Ed Hanley travelled the entire length in January, perfectly capturing the essence of Indian train travel in this timelapse video.
This is no easy feat. Although thoroughly rewarding, Indian trains are hot, noisy and chaotic places. Sleep is difficult, and comfort is at a minimum.
Hanley explains “The train itself is 21 cars long, and fully loaded, carries over 1800 people, 3 or 4 times the capacity of a modern jetliner, or perhaps equal to the population of a small town.”
It’s unusual for passengers to travel along the whole route, most jumping on and off at any of the 56 stops along the way. After quizzing the conductor, he discovers he’s the only one.
Travelling in this way does have its advantages though. No other mode of transport offers such connection with the landscapes or the people. The close proximity with fellow passengers and most Indian’s good (or excellent) grasp of English mean conversations are easy to strike up. Heated debates on India’s history, politics, food and cricket are commonplace.
Sweet, caffeinated shots of chai tea play a hugely important role in Indian train travel. They are cheap, satisfy, cure boredom, spark conversation and interaction and provide much needed energy after sleepless nights. Thankfully, there’s never a shortage of chai wallahs on trains. Hanley’s tip, “a wallet full of 10 rupee notes is necessary preparation for adequate caffeination.”