It begins up in the mountains at 15,400 feet and for an estimated 300 people a year ends in the loss of their life. Yet, Bolivia’s North Yungus Road – better known as ‘The Death Road’ – is among one of the nation’s biggest draws for thrill-seeking tourists.
A narrow 12-foot strip of muddy road is all that separates you from a 2,000 foot abyss. Further compounding the danger, cars coming up the mountain have the right of way, forcing those careening down the mountain to the left hand side and precariously close to the all too distracting – and for some terrifying – sheer drop. There are also numerous mudslides, tumbling rocks, and small waterfalls that occasionally rain down the cliff sides onto riders. These conditions explain why hundreds of people are killed on the road each year.
The locals have dubbed this notorious stretch of road ‘El Camino de la Muerte’ (The Death Road) and it’s considered by many to be the most dangerous stretch of road in the world. The 40-mile journey entices in excess of 25,000 mountain bikers annually. And yes, I was one of them.
Sound crazy? Maybe a little… I have to admit I was a bit terrified. I love adventure and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but when it comes to real extreme sports, I tend to draw the line short of “lots of people die here”. I’m not all that interested in trying to see how close I can come to death! However, as terrifying as this ride seems, it really is “relatively” safe if you are careful and take it easy. I might add that it was also SUPER fun! I would actually love to do it again! We had a rainy and foggy day, so I would love to see how different it is on a clear day. I imagine the drop would look much more terrifying… although the fog did provide a mysterious thrill.
If you’re up for an adventure (know how to ride a bike fairly well) and want to have a blast, I would totally recommend you take a “cautious” ride down Death Road!
Check out Vertigo Biking Co. They rock! They have top notch equipment and guides, both of which made us feel very safe. Just be prepared, along your ride they like to tell stories of some of the ill-fated riders, which in my opinion was helpful… just don’t do what they did and you’ll survive.