In mountainous Colombia, many urban people live in the hills surrounding the cities. That makes it challenging for them to commute to jobs in the city centers.
So cable cars aren't just a pretty tourist attraction either. In Medellín, the Metrocable system is a mass transit system that connects low-income neighborhoods with the bustling downtown.
The Metrocable, opened in 2004, is a fascinating example of public transit that's a bit unorthodox but has managed to connect informal neighborhoods in the hills surrounding Medellín to jobs in the city center.
I visited Bogotá in January, and found out that a low-income locality near the capital city had just launched its own version of public transit via cable car — the TransMiCable.
TransMiCable costs 70 cents per ride and connects a public housing project of about 700,000 to Bogotá's downtown. A local resident said his trip to the city center has gone from 1.5 hours to just ten minutes.
I was excited to take a cable car in Colombia to the famous Monserrate, the locale of a 17th-century church and an excellent spot for overlooking the city and sunset.
But the cable car was out of commission that day — and had been since Christmas 2018 when a cable car mishap left 28 injured. One of the cabin cars, while descending, didn't break in time and ended up hitting the rail wall.
So we planned to take the funicular. Some coworkers who had taken the little train before me said it was a bit frightening. I was a little apprehensive before the trip, but I didn't really want to hike an hour or so uphill.
To get to the funicular, we did have to hike uphill for a little while. My friend, an American who has lived in Colombia for several years, and I could have taken a taxi instead, but the walk wasn't too arduous.
We then had to wait in a rather long line to get our funicular tickets. It seemed like everyone was keen to see the sunset from Monserrate that day. One roundtrip ticket was under $10.
Then, we boarded. I was a little apprehensive, especially considering the recent cable car accident. The fact that the funicular itself was 90 years old didn't help. (My friend, pictured, remained enthusiastic.)
The climb began...
It wasn't as rickety as I thought it would be. For something that opened in 1929, it was pleasantly smooth. The view was great, too.
We did go through a dark tunnel, which added to the slightly frightening feeling. (I obviously didn't photograph that entirely-lightless experience.)
But, we got to the top without a scratch.
The view was beautiful, and the ride down wasn't too scary for this nerd either.
My only problem was breathing on top of Monserrate — you're more than 10,000 feet above sea level.