The first Soviet cable roads

At long, long last I’m in Georgia! I meant to get here last year, but my Landy had some issues which were “fixed” in remote parts of Turkey. The incredible work of those mechanics meant that I had to fix what was “fixed” at an official Landrover workshop in Izmir. Then, I ran out of time and didn’t make it to Georgia. 

Rather than post images of beautiful scenery that Georgia is world-famous for, I’m posting from one of the stranger places I’d been to. Chiatura – a mining town famous for it’s cable roads. Chiatura probably has the highest amount of dilapidated buildings I’ve seen in a town which is still fully functional. 

The cable roads were built in the 50s and 60s and though the cabins certainly look their age, some of them function even today.

I found out about Chiatura the evening before, at hotel in Kutaisi. Such are the benefits of speaking a language that locals understand (Russian). You can chat and get great info on the area. I decided to drive through Chiatura on my way to Tbilisi, to research, to see if it’s worth coming back and shooting more. 

The cable roads were built in the 50s and 60s and though the cabins certainly look their age, some of them function even today.

I managed to visit one station during my short stay. There I met a great character named Anzo. He's the smiling man in the photo below. Anzo was pretty drunk when we met and... he was extremely friendly. 

Anzor: Where are you from? 

Me: I'm from Australia, but I was born in Belarus. 

Anzor: Oooh, Belarus! (ignoring the Australia part) You are my brother! 

Anzor quickly made sure to state his dislike (to put it lightly) of Putin. He was glad I was not Russian, but, he also noted that he didn't dislike Russians, just the government. 

Anzor: This one is to our friendship! 

Me: Is it lemonade?

I thought it was strange to offer a toast to lemonade. The liquid looked like lemonade and came from a lemonade bottle. But, lemonade it wasn't, as I found out after one sniff. It was cha cha – Georgian home-made 60° alcohol.

Me: Sorry. As I said, I'm driving. But, I would have loved to.

Anzor: Aaah. Ok! Ok! (Drinking both his glass and mine)

Soon Tanya and Mia joined and as you can see from the above photo Anzor and his colleague were very happy. Georgians adore kids. I'm not sure if we've met any people who were quite as excited to meet my two-and-a-half-year-old Mia. 

Even in a pretty inebriated state Anzor did not for a second forget his hospitality and love for children. He disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a little bag of food for Mia. Mia, as usual was pretty freaked out by an over-excited man doing baby talk. 

Anzor and his colleague told me that this particular station was the first one of it’s kind in the entire USSR.

Between the drinks Anzor operated the cable road. A ringing sound signalled that people from above wanted to come down. Anzor would press the button and the cabin decended. When people gathered below Anzor would send the cabin up.

Anzor and his colleague told me that this particular station was the first one of it's kind in the entire USSR. The work was started by captive Germans a few years after WWII and was finished in 1954, apparently, just after Stalin's death. 

There are two cable roads at this station. Both going to different mountain tops. The passengers are: miners who take the cabins to get to work, locals who live up there and school kids who go up for the view. 

Above Anzor looks at the ascending cabin, while a passenger awaits a cabin on the other cable road to come down.

Rush hour for the cable road, is from 5pm onwards, much like it is on a regular road. There's something strangely photogenic in the decaying station and golden afternoon light.

As you can see, the cabins are not in the best shape. Yet, I was told that there haven't been any accidents. Of course I'm not sure whether that's the truth, since it was Anzor who gave me the information, while drunk, gesticulating that he has a firm grip on the whole operation. 

The sun was going down and I wanted to keep driving while there was still at least a little daylight remaining. I asked Anzor if I could take a photo of him in a place where the light was nice. 

Anzor: I'm drunk. Look into my eyes. I don't want a photo of me looking drunk.

Me: I would not have even known if you didn't tell me.

Anzor: Ok, wait, wait. Come here!

Anzor goes out of the station and climbs up one of the columns outside. He strikes a pose. I say he looks like Lenin from the podium. He says "Yes, like Lenin!"

Me: Well, thanks for everything. I'll be back in a few months. 

Anzor: Yes, come again. Any time!

On the way out of Chiatura I passed several large, abandoned buildings. I couldn't resist getting out and seeing this one a little more up-close. There was no one around except for street dogs who didn't let me get any closer.

I've spent a week in Georgia so far. What a strangely wonderful country. The people are some of the warmest and humorous you'll ever meet, the food is exquisite and the landscapes vary from breathtaking beautiful to Armageddon-like (also interesting... for some). I'm glad I finally came here. I promise I'll share some of the breathtaking natural beauty soon too.