The World's Most Dangerous Road

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But, erm, well it's a matter of debate if it is anymore. But it is terrific fun and very beautiful. Here's a quick timeline.
-It was built by Paraguyan prisoners in the 1930s. I would imagine a fair few copped it.
-In 1983, 100 people were killed in one go when a bus slid off the edge.
-Back in the mid-nineties, 200-300 people were killed each year.
-By 2006 an alternative route had been modernised to the extent that the North Yungas Road gets very little traffic now. Except from bikes.
-A few years ago 12 Israili cyclists, a whole tour group, were killed. A bus slid and forced all of them over the edge.
-Two weeks ago a girl on a bike was killed. She slid over the edge. Her boyfriend, who had decided not to do the tour, was waiting for her in La Paz. Dorothee had served her breakfast that morning.
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The road, known variously as "The Death Road", "Grove's Road", "Coroico Road", "Camino de las Yungas", "El Camino de la Muerte", "Road of Death" or "Death Road", sees around 150 cyclists tackle the 1200m decsent daily. Mostly they sign up with a tour operator for between $30 and $80. For that they get a 20-something guide a pair of brightly coloured overalls and an all-singing-all-dancing mountain bike.
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Dot and I took the thing on in a slightly different way.
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Yesterday morning I got up early. I had agreed to meet up with Dot, in the quirky cafe where she stays and is working, at 6am. My alarm beeped at 5.50am. I'd packed my bags by 5.57am. I got everything down to the front door by 5.58am. All I needed to do was get my bike from the locked diposito and get out the, locked, front door. I found the nightwatchman. He was passed out on the sofa. Vommit covered his shirt, the table and the floor. Porn blared from the TV. My attempts to wake him failed. Even violent shaking and loud shouting produced no results. He rolled over on to his back and I saw that he had the keys clipped to his belt. I took them and got on fetching my bike and opening the door. I switched off the telly and put some newspapers over the worst of his vom. Then, when I heard him retching, I went back and put him in the recovery position, so he doesn't choke on his own sick. He might loose his job but hopefully not his life. I got to the cafe and ate a good breakfast while Dot served a bunch of guys headed for the Death Road.
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We took our touring bikes and cycled up to Villa Fatima where we caught a bus for La Cumbre. This is the high point of the road from La Paz to Coroico. We jumped off the bus and headed down "The Ghost Road" a scenic, exciting and equally well named precursor to "The Death Road". With a yell of "Whahoo", Dorothee scooted down a pile of land-slide gravel. We popped out on the asphalt and found an old lady selling choripan.

Later, we turned off on to the Death Road proper. Imediately it was obvious what the fuss is about. The drops are sheer and deep. There would be no coming back from a slip.

"I think I will stick to the right-hand-side," said Dorothee. Think I will too, I thought.

But the danger only requires that you are not complacent. Otherwise you are left to enjoy a relaxing trip on a reasonable quality dirt road. In spectacular forested-mountain scenery. We took photos on the most photogenic bends, zoomed through waterfalls that fell in the road and splashed through streams.
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Eventually we go to the bottom, Yolosa. This is where the tour companies would scoop you up into a minivan and drive you up to Coroico. But not us hard-as-nails cycle tourists. No. We cycled all the way up ourselves. Why? Because we are mugs.

I thought the uncomfortable uphill ride on punishing cobble stones would never end. We were rewarded by arriving in a delightful small town which provided me with pizza and beer. Two components of a chemical formula that results in a Happy Pete.
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Today we returned in a hot sweaty minivan on the new road up to La Cumbre and quickly whizzed down to a checkpoint for pollo y papas and then, minutes later, the crazy traffic of La Paz.

Guess for another road like this I will have to visit China's Guoliang Tunnel.

I wrote this post during my bike trip in South America in 2010.
I now offer guided walks and walking holidays in the UK in Northumberland, the Pennines, the Lake District, Scotland and further afield.

I'm always keen for outdoor adventures to help people learn the skills to explore! My particular focus is mountain skills such as navigating with a map and compass and wild camping for expeditions.



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