A step too far: Without tourists, Chile's Valparaiso faces an uphill struggle

Urban lifts in the rainbow-coloured port town have stopped functioning, forcing residents to climb thousands of steps a day

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Life's ups and downs have taken on a new meaning of late as the world battles the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.

But in Chile's port city of Valparaiso, people are perhaps facing more ups and downs than almost anywhere else as the city's funiculars have been turned off.

With no tourists in town because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, the city's unique public transport system has ground to a halt. A lack of ticket sales to fund their operation has lead officials to close these urban lifts, which typically whisk travellers and residents through the steep, hilly terrain of Valparaiso. This means residents are having to tackle the city's unforgiving terrain on foot.

The unique cable car funiculars are designed to make travel between Valparaiso's upper town in the hills and its port side region by the sea easier.

The first lift was put in place back in 1911 and many more came after, in an effort to connect all of the city's isolated neighbourhoods. In its prime, there were 31 working funiculars. More recently, only 14 of the cable car systems in the Unesco-listed region have been operational.

They are usually the cheapest way to ascend the hills, with fares typically costing around Dh1.

Today, none of Valparaiso’s funiculars are turned on, which means residents have to climb and descend thousands of steps any time they want to go and buy groceries, travel to work or visit family.

Known for its creative street art, Valparaiso offers them a colourful canvas to look at as they navigate the hilly region.

However, closure of this means of transportation has cut off many people, including senior citizens and those with reduced mobility, who depend on it as their only means of getting around.