Bolivia's North Yungas Road, more commonly known as ‘El Camino de la Muerte’ or ‘The Road of Death’, is said to be the most dangerous road in the world.
A bold claim? Possibly. But when you stop and consider the vast number of accidents occuring along this short stretch of road (at the time of writing, some reports suggest it claims the life of at least 1 unfortunate soul every other day) it certainly ain't Clapham High Street.
After reading Neil Woodburn’s article on California’s Second Best Stretch of Road, I couldn’t help but compare it to other highways that aren’t quite in the same league. The clear winner in this particular hall of shame - by a long chalk - must go to the perilous North Yungas Road in Bolivia.
This deadly 35 mile stretch between La Paz and Coroico - rightfully nicknamed El Camino de la Muerte, or The Road of Death - is estimated to claim the lives of 200-300 users every year. It’s easy to see why this highway has been labled ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Road‘.
And it’s even easier to understand why tragedies along this particular Bolivian road are so frequent. The coalescence of 900 meter sheer drop-offs, wickedly tight hairpin bends, narrow gauges, and unsealed roads littered with debris from the hillside above simply compound its inherent treachery. And the rain and thick fog that can swiftly envelop the mountainside doesn’t help much either.
“But what about guardrails?” I hear you holler. Guardrails…? No bastante, amigo.
But where there is danger, so shall you find thrill seekers. In recent years, Bolivia’s road of death has seen a considerable increase in the amount of people that actually traverse it for fun.
Now, if you think the buses sound like suicide in a tin then I urge you to read no further.
The foolhardy, or otherwise charmed individual, can now risk meeting their maker along the road of death in another altogether more novel way. Gravity assisted Mountain Biking. Yep, I’m serious.
Adrenaline junkies can now sign up for this white knuckle extravaganza with one of several adventure companies operating within the area. Further information on this extreme downhill mountain biking can probably be Google up by typing “Bicycle”, “Insane B*stard” and “Death wish”.
As for me, I’d prefer to cross my fingers, stuff my backpack full of four leafed clovers and lucky rabbit’s feet (lucky, of course, unless you happen to be that rabbit) and stick with the bus. Activities along the highway of death are clearly best left to those with nerves as robust as their travel insurance.
I do, however, reserve the right to change my mind. It’s been reported that a new road, also connecting La Paz to Coroico, in almost finished. This latest development will no doubt come as welcome news to those that ply Bolivia’s Road of Death, and, of course, to the growing number of daredevils that fancy their chances on this increasingly popular downhill racetrack.
After a quick toot on the web I have a few links about Bolivia’s Road of Death for you:
Firstly, I would like to thank Marko Petric for the use of his pictures of Bolivia’s Road of Death. These photos, plus others, can be found on his Webpage.
For more information and pictures of the Road of Death, and a fistful of other dangerous highways, read Avi Abrams article on the world’s most dangerous roads here.
Please note: If you are already thinking of hopping on a flight and subsequently hitting the track, you may wish to read this, too.