The Miami Herald
September 17, 1998
World's highest cable car going higher
New stop is planned atop tallest mountain in Venezuela

             MERIDA, Venezuela -- (AFP) -- Merida's cable car, the highest and longest in
             the world, will get higher and longer this year when a new stop is completed on
             Pico Bolivar, Venezuela's highest peak.

             The new stop will bring tourists to a snowy Andean summit towering 16,411 feet,
             far above the tropical vegetation below.

             The cable car, listed as the longest and highest in the world by the Guinness Book
             of Records, was begun in 1957. It carries tourists in four stages.

             Florencio Fernandez, who began working on the cable car at 17, is now director
             of operations in charge of building the new station at the peak.

             Fernandez said the station was closed in 1991 after a snapped cable hurled a
             gondola into space, killing two people on board. Since it resumed operation, the
             cable car has become a ``must experience'' for the annual flood of 1.2 million
             people visiting Merida, 300 miles southwest of Caracas, according to Marvia
             Armas, head of Merida's tourist bureau. She recommends reservations, if possible.

             At the entrance, Nelson, 14, recommends that passengers buy his coffee to ward
             off the freezing temperatures at the top.

             ``Going up! A trip leaves in five minutes,'' announces the controller, telling
             passengers to take their seats as the noise of the motors revs up for the rise to
             Espejo Peak.

             Stomachs of passengers uneasy about heights may also churn.

             As the car climbs, temperatures begin to drop and vegetation changes dramatically
             from the lush green tropics to the tiny wildflowers of a plateau at 11,000 feet to the
             barren, windy mountain slopes at 13,200 feet.

             On the plateau, many passengers get off to take a four-hour trip by mule to visit
             the picturesque colonial town of Los Nevados, with its stone houses and narrow

             Looming above the plateau is Pico Bolivar, the highest peak in Venezuela, with its
             majestic snow-capped blanket, the last stop on the trip.

             ``It's a magnificent experience to see natural beauty,'' exclaims a couple from
             Colombia, visiting Merida for the first time.

             ``I got a little dizzy, especially above 13,200 feet because of the lack of oxygen,''
             said a British passenger.

             In just half a day, passengers can scale the heights of the Andes, something it takes
             hikers days to do.

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