Bolivia’s Road of Death

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Cyclists in the fog
Image: Señor Hans

Rain explodes on the windscreen faster than the car’s wipers can push it aside. The driver tightens her grip on the steering wheel, knuckles turning a pale white, and leans as close to the glass as she dares. Up ahead, the road swerves dramatically to the right, giving a spectacular view of the world at nearly three miles above sea level. The driver, though, sees only the cross that tells her what befell the last car whose occupants observed the scenery and not the slippery road – a sheer plunge down at least 1,968 feet of rock face – and pleads to the heavens that she’ll make it through the journey alive. For this route has an alarming if horribly appropriate nickname: “El Camino de la Muerte,” or “The Road of Death.”

Trucks on the death road
Image: Ngaire Hart

The treacherous North Yungas Road runs for less than 44 miles from Bolivia’s foremost city, La Paz, to Coroico in the Yungas. Still, for those drivers who dare to take it, this journey is probably more than long enough.

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World's Most Dangerous Road
Image: The World by Road

Construction on the road itself began in the 1930s, but even before that it had an alarming reputation. Indeed, during the 1800s thieves utilized the passage to waylay traders moving their commodities between La Paz and Coroico. The bandits would steal the traders’ wares and likely murder them as well.

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