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Andes Cable Car Gets a Leg Up on World

November 10, 1996|ASSOCIATED PRESS

Five years after the longest and highest cable-car system in the world closed down because of a broken cable, the first two legs of the tram system in Venezuela's Sierra Nevada National Park are back in operation.

The third stage should be running again early next year. And visitors will be able to reach the final terminal, on 15,720-foot-high Pico Espejo (Mirror Peak) by fall 1997.

The ride starts in the mile-high city of Merida, 420 miles southwest of the capital, Caracas, and extends 7.8 miles across the Venezuelan Andes. Sightseers glide hundreds of feet above green forests, lonely streams, gaping canyons and sheer rock faces up to wind-swept plains above the timber line.

Temperatures may dip to the 50s at the second station as the car rises through fog and thick clouds. Stations are painted bright colors so that the cable-car operators don't lose sight of them in the mist.

When the third stage opens, passengers on clear days will be able to see the highest point in Venezuela, Bolivar Peak, which soars up 16,273 feet.

Four cars are operating now, heading up from Merida between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets are about $6 per station or about $20 round-trip to the top. The full ascent takes about an hour.

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