Living on the Edge in Bolivia
If you’re the daredevil type who lives for thrills, you might be interested in an adventurous bike ride down El Camino de la Muerte. Yes, that translates to “Death Road” which is a pretty apt description. Technically, it’s called North Yungus Road and it’s located in Bolivia about 35 miles northeast of La Paz. Why such a grim nickname? Well, up until 2008, it claimed about 300 deaths per year. The roadway is marked with crosses at almost every hairpin turn in memory of those who met their doom down these sheer cliff faces, some which are 2000 feet tall. Today, it’s mostly traversed by backpackers on bike tours, where safety is the main concern (it’s not good for business if tourists keep dropping off the edge). However, trucks and vehicles still brave the perilous journey from time to time. Check out this quick video and see if you’d have the cajones to ride the Death Road.
Learn More About the World’s Most Dangerous Road
Why would anyone in their right mind dare to mountain bike or drive down these treacherous switchbacks? For starters, the views are incredible. The road descends almost 12,000 feet, passing through snow-dusted high-altitude Andean plains down into the sweltering Amazon jungle. Many of the accidents were no doubt caused by people gobsmacked by the views.
The road was cut into the Cordillera Oriental Mountain range in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners of war. It winds some 40 miles between the capital, La Paz, and the Amazonian town of Coroico. It used to be the only route available, so the one lane guardrail-free track was filled with buses, cars and trucks going in both directions. Passing was nearly impossible.
In 1983, a jam-packed bus toppled over the cliff, killing 100 passengers. Even as recently as 1994, there were cars dropping off the edge at a reported rate of one every two weeks or so.
Today, there’s a new road that serves most vehicular traffic, so it’s mostly traveled by motorcyclists and mountain-bikers wanting the rush and bragging rights of “surviving the Death Road.”
Tour operators claim the Death Road is suitable for anyone, from confident beginners to expert mountain bikers. Cyclists start the journey in a chilly high-altitude climate and end in the humid heat of the Amazon.
Popular Death Road tour operators include Gravity Bolivia, Vertigo Biking Bolivia, Mayhem Biking Adventures Bolivia, Barracuda Biking Bolivia.
Would you risk a ride down the Death Road?
If you live to tell the tale, let us know all about it!