From Mountain to Mountain

Transport, The Road, School

If you lived in a mountainous Colombian town, chances are you'd live on one hill and go to school on another, 50 kilometers away. To attend your lessons, you would have two choices: walk several hours or jump into the void, suspended from a cable that links one mountain to another.

The tarabita is a mode of transport designed to save time when crossing a valley. Enter the canopy made out of cabuya, a local type of rope, and carefully travel along the stretched cable using the pulley system. The seat is equipped with a costal, a bag made of fibers in which you can store books, groceries or your little brother. Use a Y-shaped stick for the brakes, and if this fails, use your fingers. Be careful: a painful maneuver can burn them or amputate them in just one blow.

Thousands of people use the tarabita every day to get to school, work or to visit relatives. It's an extremely dangerous way to travel, but construction in the Colombian mountains is a quixotic task: the terrain is steep, the soil unstable, and the roads often collapse, making Colombia's transport infrastructure one of the worst in Latin America.

Despite the risks involved, the tarabita is often people's preferred mode of transport. As one Colombian photographer puts it, “Who would say no to transforming hours of rambling into a few minutes of a bird's-eye view trip?”