The city of La Paz is one of the most unusual places I’ve ever been simply given its unimaginable geography. Built within the deep walls of a canyon La Paz snakes and sprawls down preposterously steep, narrow and congested streets making mass transit an absolute nightmare. The only way to get around is on foot, by cab (which is expensive for most Bolivians) or to ride in one of the city’s 40,000 over-packed minibuses.
High above Zona Sur and central La Paz, lies El Alto, a city within itself that has exploded over the years as Bolivians migrate from the countryside into the city. Today, El Alto has over a million people and getting from El Alto to the center of La Paz and Zona Sur (way down below at the bottom of the canyon) can prove to be a long affair especially at rush hour.
Understanding the great need for a better mass transit system, the Bolivian government set their hopes high on a rather unusual solution: The construction and implementation of one of the largest urban cable car systems in the world to be used for transportation.
As an avid skier, I have experienced the luxury and ease of riding a Swiss-made gondola high above the snow-covered peaks of the Alps. But I had never in my wildest dreams imagined the same kind of gondola would be used in a huge, chaotic city like La Paz.
When I first saw the cable cars in the sky I was stunned. Little dots were everywhere floating graciously up the mountains. I asked the cab driver if they were for sightseeing but he said no. They were for transportation. Instantly I knew I had to take a ride for myself and experience an urban gondola. I grabbed my camera knowing there would be many amazing views from above, and was off.