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International Railroad Discussion > Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car

Date: 12/05/18 02:23
Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: gobbl3gook

I've always been a fan of paper maps, and have dragged my feet on adapting to GPS navigation.  On this trip I really had no choice, as detailed paper maps aren't readily available for most of the places I went.  I used the iPhone app "Pocket Earth", which allows you to download maps an topography ahead of time, and have it saved on your phone for offline use.  The map interface is much better than Google Maps, which seems to put major roads, minor roads and background all a very pale shade of yellow or grey.  

One advantage that Pocket Earth has over both paper maps and Google Maps is that rail lines, tram lines, and areal trams are very clearly marked and easy to locate and follow.  

The route from Goderdzi Pass to the Black Sea followed a river the whole way, from the headwaters in the mountains down to the sea.  About 1/4 of the way down there was a little town called Khulo, set high up on one side of the canyon.  And they had built an aerial cable car to get to Tago, a village on the other side of the canyon.  I saw this on my GPS map, and looked forward to investigating.  (I prefer not to Google things ahead of time, instead I just mosey along and see what I find).  

I rolled into Khulo, and sure enough, there was a terminus in the town center, with a cute little aerial tram, with operator, ready to go.  

The distance to the far terminus was 1.7 km, or a little over 1 mile.  With no intermediary towers.  Just one LOOOONG cable loop.  

I was a little apprehensive, but I figured it was a regular operation, and probably wouldn't suffer any catastrophic failures with me on it.  So I paid a nominal fee and climbed aboard.  

1) Cable car, Khulo terminus
2) Cable car on Pocket Earth map -- note the 500m scale bar in the lower left hand corner.  And you can see that the road between Khulo and Tago is pretty windy, this warranting the construction of the cable car.  
3) View looking up-canyon from the ride.  The windows made it feel a bit like a PCC car.  

Photos taken Nov 8, 2017

Ted in OR


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/27/18 00:43 by gobbl3gook.

Date: 12/05/18 02:36
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: gobbl3gook

The ride was smooth and pleasant.  There was no wind that day.  I only felt a little queasy.  It would be more exciting in a storm, as an east or west wind would probably blow the cable car 50' or 100' side to side...  

It took about 8 minutes to make the crossing, which would put it at 8 mph.  It was a pretty casual affair, I don't recall if the other riders were tourists or if they were going home to the other side.    

I stayed on the other side when the cable car went back, the operator indicated that they'd be back in a half hour or so.  

4) View from the south terminus, looking west, down-canyon.  

5) View across the canyon, with the cable car coming back.  Black arrow is pointing at the cable car.  

6) Zoomed in version of pic 5.  Travelling from the village in the background.  With no intermediary supports...  

Date: 12/05/18 02:52
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: gobbl3gook

My travels were 9 weeks long, I stayed in 20 different hostels or hotels, wandered through many major cities, through both tourist sites and back alleys.  Rode trains for 1000s of kilometers.   And I only encountered Americans on 8 ocassions.  Turns out Americans don't get out on the Silk Road very often.  

One of the encounters was right here.  There was a group of wide-eyed ladies on the tram, and as they got off I heard English spoken with an American accent.  

They posed for the obligatory photo at the terminus, and looked around for a few minutes.  I introduced myself "Hi, I'm Ted from Portland, Oregon" and they were a group of church ladies from Philadelphia.  Visiting, if I recall correctly, a social service program that their church was sponsoring in Georgia. They had a guide and an interpreter, and were clearly enjoying their adventure.  

When it came time to board for the return trip, I saw that it was pretty crowded and said I'd just wait until the next one.  (It was a nice afternoon for walking around in the mountains, after all).  The ladies said that the next run wouldn't be for an hour and a half, so I should come now.  And, there was no reason to worry, they'd been told that the cable car could carry a cow.  Or two sheep.  So it certainly wouldn't have trouble with a dozen or so adults.  

So I climbed aboard, and off we went.  

7) Church ladies posing for a photo.  
8) Black arrow points to the other terminus. 
9) Riding back with the church ladies.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/05/18 09:17 by gobbl3gook.

Date: 12/05/18 03:23
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: gobbl3gook

Bonus photos -- old men

Old men in Georgia are a stoic lot.  Like elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, they have seen hardship and autrocities.  

An 80 year old man in Georgia would have been born in 1937 in the Soviet Union.  From age 4 to age 8, over 20,000,000 Soviet citizens were killed in WWII.  About 1 in 8 people in the country.  (By contrast, 400,000 Americans were killed, about 1 in 300 Americans)

A 70 year old man would have experienced decades of cleansing under Stalin and Krushev.  Probably plenty of famine also.  Then the economies suffering in the 1980s, followed by uncertainty and independence in the 1990s.  

Men all look pretty stoic.  They're a stern lot.  But also pretty mellow, I found.  And remarkably unconcerned.  People didn't really give me a second look most of the time, as I'd wobble into their villages on my loaded bicycle, buy something in the grocery store, eat it in a park or a churchyard.  I've been through 8 of the former Soviet Republics this way, and the whole mood of the place is much more chill than most of rural America.  

10) I looked for a place to camp one night, and there was hardly a flat spot anywhere (see photo 4).  I managed to locate a road construction staging area that had a patch of clear ground almost as big as my tent.  So I settled in.  It was already after dark, I didn't think anyone would notice me).  

But, a half hour later, someone was walking on the gravel and saying something, so I said "hello" and popped out of my tent.  

It was a chill 30-ish man, carrying a 2 year old kid.  And he indicated that it was too cold to sleep out, and I would be much better staying in his house.  (He probably said something like "come to house."  

I prefer to stay in my tent, since it's awkward and a little tiresome to have people try to talk to me that only speak a few words of English, and I really like my tent.  

But, I couldn't turn down a request like that, so I took down my tent, followed him to his house (only 150' away) and met his wife, his other child, and his wife's grandparents.  They were delighted to have me around the house for the night.  He dug up his elementary school English Reader and tried to put sentences together.  They gave me food and tea, I shared my almonds and dried apricots.  And grandpa's expression never changed once the whole time.  Nor did he say much of anything to anyone.  But, nobody really minded him either.  

In the morning we posed for a photo before I headed off.  And he still didn't change expression.  I still can't quite put my finger on why it was unusual.  Most old men weren't grumpy.  Which is remarkable in and of itself.  And, he didn't *act* grumpy.  Just looked grumpy.  Acted introverted.  

11) This fellow was walking up the road carrying a bundle of something.  We leapfrogged a few times as I stopped to enjoy the view.  He had a very nice jacket on.  As did most of the older men.  

12) This is the cable car operator.  Also a man of few words. 

I suspect life in Georgia is better now that at any previous time in these mens' lives.  The economy is good.  There's plenty of water, electricity, etc.  Nobody is getting shipped off to Siberia.  No wars.  I hope that the kids growing up today have it better than their grandparents.  

Date: 12/05/18 03:36
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: gobbl3gook

More bonus pics -- bridges.  

13) and 14) Ancient bridges -- built around 1200 a.d. 
15) Modern bridge

Questions?  Comments?  Corrections?  

Date: 12/05/18 04:23
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: Milepost_130

I have really enjoyed all your posts from the Silk Road.  Thanks for sharing.

Date: 12/05/18 07:16
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: zfan

Great pics and commentary!

Date: 12/05/18 09:44
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: DLM

Great story and photos.  Thanks for posting.

Date: 12/05/18 14:49
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: DKay

Wonderful photos.That stone arch bridge is a thing of beauty.

Date: 12/05/18 19:11
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: cabsignaldrop

I've greatly enjoyed your photos and stories.  Truely eye opening and well done!

Date: 12/05/18 19:43
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: SD9

Wonderful slice of distant life. Thanks for your efforts.

Date: 12/06/18 09:13
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: GPutz

Thanks for all your pictures and stories.  Gerry

Date: 12/08/18 12:18
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: GettingShort

Always enjoy your pictures and the stories. 

Date: 12/10/18 20:58
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: Duna

Great stuff, thanks for posting! Looks like it was a fun trip.

Date: 12/27/18 00:39
Re: Georgia, part 7. Aerial cable car
Author: gobbl3gook

Thanks for all the words of appreciation.  

I'm switching to a new computer, haven't moved the photos, but will resume posting soon.  

I've googled the Khulo cable car to see how it compares with other long-distance cable car spans of the world,  It looks like the information is not well-compiled -- no lists on Wikipedia -- but there is some terminology and definitely some longer single spans.    

* The Kholu cable car was built in 1985. So, even though the style of the gondola is like an American PCC car, it is quite a bit newer. 
It doesn't have its own web page, other internet presence, or wikipedia page. 
Capacity 12 persons. 
Georgia has a lot of cable cars.  (Quite a few in the city of Tbilisi alone).    

* The term for the longest span between supporting points is "longest free span between ropeway towers".  At 1.7 kms, the Khulo cable car is long, probably among the longest in the world, but definitely not *the* longest in the world.  

* The "longest free span between ropeway towers" is the "Peak to Peak Tramway" in Whistler, British Columbia Canada  It is 3.03 kms.  Nearly twice as long as the Khulo cable car.  

* The Sandia Cable Car in Albuquerque, New Mexico claims to be the third longest "free span between ropeway towers" at 2353 meters.  
So, at 1700 meters, the Khulo cable car is probably among the longest in the world.  

* A cable car under construction in Germany, the =12pxZugspitze-Eibsee Cable Car, will soon have a new record for the longest free span between ropeway towers, 3213 meters, surpassing the Whistler tram by 210 meters.  

* However, looking at the three cited cable cars above, the Khulo cable car may set some sort of a record for being the "longest free span between ropeway towers for a miniscule cable car"  The others look like a very solid ride in something the size of a smallish bus.  The Khulo cable car looks like a precarious ride in something the size of a minivan.  There's probably some terms for this, regarding the number of pull cables, the number of support cables, the number of emergency braking systems, the rated gross weight, etc.  I'm thinking that the Khulo cable car would rank very high if you were to put togeher a "flimsiness" scoring system based on these parameters.  

More photos soon, 

Ted in OR 

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