Talaimannar old railway bridge

Exploring Talaimannar Island: Forgotten Bridges & Faded Memories

Talaimannar Island and Dhanushkodi Island are quite similar in a few ways. However, one of the most fascinating facets of the two places is that they both have an intriguing past. Ever since I visited Dhanushkodi, the deserted island, I had been yearning to set foot on Talaimannar. The latter is a place shrouded in mystery and riddled with several stories that make the place enigmatic.

Talaimannar Island, Sri Lanka

I finally had the opportunity to Talaimannar during my trip to Sri Lanka. With a bag filled with snacks and water, I set off on my new adventure. I hopped onto a bus from Jaffna Bus Stand to Mannar. After a three-hour ride, I was only halfway there. So I hopped onto another bus that would take me to Talaimannar Island. That’s right, despite being an island, there are no ferries. Buses and road transportation are the way in and out. The island is situated on the Northwestern coast of Sri Lanka and is quite close to the renowned Rameshwaram island in India.

Talaimannar pier beach

As the bus made its way, memories of my journey to Dhanushkodi flooded my mind. The white sands and old huts reappeared, but this time I knew I was in for something new and different. The anticipation was less about the place and more about the people I would meet and the stories they would tell. Stepping off at the Talaimannar Pier bus stop, I strolled for about 500 meters until I reached the beach. The shoreline of Talaimannar was adorned with a myriad of colorful boats while graceful white cranes soared through the air.

Talaimannar pier railway bridge

Approaching an elderly man engrossed in untangling his fishing net, I initiated a conversation by inquiring about the broken railway bridge nearby. He informed me that it wasn’t a railway bridge but a spot where boats from India used to be anchored. Intrigued, I asked about the existence of a railway-ferry-railway route that was used in the past and the cyclone ravaging the area in 1964.

The old man seemed unaware of such events, dismissing them as mere figments of people’s imagination. Soon, our conversation shifted to the more recent devastation caused by the 2005 Tsunami. We engaged in a pleasant chat, exchanging our thoughts and experiences.

Talaimannar pier new light house

Later, I made my way to the new lighthouse and approached the railway bridge to examine it closely. Unfortunately, the bridge was heavily damaged, and access to the area was restricted by the Sri Lankan Navy. They stopped me from approaching any closer, but I stood at a distance, observing it from the side.

Returning to the bus stop near the New Pier railway station, I tried to engage in another conversation, hoping that someone there might know the railway-ferry-railway line or the cyclone that had claimed numerous lives. Some were vaguely aware of the incident at Dhanushkodi, but the railway line and the cyclone remained unfamiliar. 

My heart sank, realizing that these significant aspects of history seemed to have been forgotten or overlooked by the local community. I boarded the bus again, bound for the village near the Ram Setu or Adam’s Bridge. Unlike the name, it is not an actual bridge; the sandbanks and the floating stones in the area on the sea seem to appear like a bridge. 

The villagers, although friendly, were not well-informed about how to reach Adam’s bridge. So I turned to my favorite companion, Google Maps, and followed the directions. When I reached the place, I found that the sandbanks in the middle of the sea were hardly visible from the shore. Locals shared that before the COVID-19 pandemic, boats would take people to witness the sandbanks up close. However, due to strict regulations imposed by the Sri Lankan Navy, this activity has been completely halted, with checkpoints established along the route to monitor passing boats. 

Talaimannar old lighthouse - abandoned

While exploring, I stumbled upon an old abandoned lighthouse, where I took a moment to relax by the beach before returning to Jaffna. I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of sadness upon realizing that the people in the region seemed unaware of the cyclone or the railway-ferry-railway route that once connected Sri Lanka and India.

Since you can’t explore Ram Setu by taking a boat ride, there isn’t much to do apart from relaxing by the beaches on the Talaimanar pier. Sri Lanka has numerous beaches along the shore. I would suggest Kite Surfing in Kalpitiya and Jaffna in Northern Sri Lanka.

 

Important Things To Know 

  • There are only limited tourists in the region. Hence, few accommodations. It’s advisable to double-check your bookings and confirm with the property before starting your journey.
  • There are shops spread over the region where you can grab snacks, water, and quick bites. I saw only very few sit-in restaurants.
  • The buses are not very frequent and run from time to time. So, it’s wise to inquire about the last bus timings in advance.
  • Dialog and Mobitel networks offer good signal reception in the area. Not sure about the other network providers.
  • The local people predominantly speak Singalam Tamil, and if you’re familiar with the language, it will greatly facilitate communication with the locals. Very few people speak Sinhala or English.

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