Bolivia and the “Death Road”

Posted: February 25, 2012 by Ben Weber in English, The Journey
Tags: , , , , , ,

The Yungas Road, or the “Death Road” as it is also fondly called, looks to be one amazingly scary stretch of highway and, after leaving Brazil at Corumbá, we will be taking a slight detour at Santa Cruz de la Sierra in order to take it to La Paz.

I remember one of my brothers after having gone travelling through Bolivia and Peru telling tales of going along this road by bus and that it had been one hair-raising journey with the bus tearing along the highway which has a sheer drop on one side and a vertical climb on the other. I was pretty much captivated by the stories and have since long wanted to travel along it.

The 61 kilometre (43 miles), incredibly narrow (at parts, it is only three metres wide) road passes up over altitudes of  over 4,500 metres, and has been described by the Inter American Development Bank and reported by the BBC some time ago as “The world’s most dangerous road”, as apparently 300 or so people are killed along there each year.

Extreme weather conditions along the high altitudes of the road make it even more treacherous and just looking at images of the road from groups that have travelled along it makes one shiver. Reports from media showing busses crashing along it; landslides reported blocking the path for hours; near-death accidents with cyclists… don’t help too much!

As well as helping us get to grips with higher altitude conditions, it will be an amazing experience to go along it. Fortunately (though perhaps more tiring) we will be going up rather than down (downhill drivers never have rights of way and must go to the outside of the road), so we will try our best to keep to the inside: whilst I am working on my fear of heights and still have quite a lot of time to work on this, I still wouldn’t feel too comfortable riding so close to such a perilous drop!!

The website, from where the photos (thanks Rick!) here were provided, has some great stories and further terrifying images of the road.

  1. Jonathan Weber says:

    Hmmm….. wonder which brother that was 🙂
    An absolutely unforgettable experience. I believe that the worst (most exciting) stretch of this ‘death road’ is no longer used for general traffic as since we were there (over 15 years ago) a new road has been built. Now it’s used by cyclists for a bit of exotic adventure (downhill only I’m afraid). The good side is that there are now much fewer buses tumbling down the steep Yungas. Most hair-raising section was between the pass shortly after leaving La Paz and Coroico – though the road further on, from Coroico to Rurrenebaque, did it’s best to keep the adrenalin going (especially with the landslide that blocked the way for over half a day and then our bus scrambling across the hastily cleared road hoping to avoid the boulders still bouncing down – luckily only a small one hit our vehicle, nobody hurt). Several other gringos who travelled the same road opted to fly back to La Paz – but we chose the bus, certain that having lived through it once, the second time could only be easier. If only that were true…

  2. munchow says:

    Biking the Death Road is an amazing experience. Your post reminds me of doing the trip some six or seven years ago. The view is amazing – as is the landscape. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ben Weber says:

      Hi Otto – hope you are well; was just going back through the old posts here on the site and sorry I didn’t reply. We did the trip ourselves in June while were were in Bolivia – absolutely incredible, and definitely well worth it. As you say, the view and landscape are amazing!

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