Around 20,000 people live in the mining town of Chiatura, located in a manganese-rich valley in the west Georgian region of Imereti. Back in the mid-1950s, when the mining industry was more prosperous and the population much higher, and Georgia was part of the USSR, the Soviet government installed a network of cable cars to transport manganese production workers more efficiently.
Though the hammer-and-sickle crowd has long since departed, many of these cable car lines continue to operate. The rusty, creaking cabins are the main form of transport for miners and factory workers traveling up the mountain. Some Chiatura kids also use the cable cars to get to school.
The ride up the mountain is less scary than it looks, but the odd incident does occur. During an interview for Chiatura, My Pride, a 2011 short film, a cable car rider says she was in mid-journey in 2007 when one of the cables tore. Despite initial screams, all 17 passengers calmed down enough to joke around and were rescued one by one by mountain climbers dispatched from the capital, Tbilisi.
Day to day, the greater issue seems to be dealing with drunk miners. Another cable operator interviewed in the film says that, while the official policy is to not let intoxicated people onto the cars, miners are often impervious to such requests. In those instances, she says, “we just hug drunk people so they cannot fall down.”
Other harrowing ways to travel across a valley: