Camino de la Muerte... " The road of Death!"
from sweet pave to dusty dirt
I had heard about the famous " Most Dangerous road in the world! " before getting to Bolivia - Original name "Unduavi-Yolosa Highway" A stretch of 65 kms dirt road with cliffs dropping 1000 feet into the Amazon Jungle below in some places. This treacherous stretch of road has gained chilling notoriety. The worst year on record (1983) saw 320 people lose their lives in the gaping valley below, including the biggest single road accident in Bolivian history when more than 100 people were sent crashing over its near-vertical edge.
The road starts from La Cumbre and descends to the sleepy town to Coroico. A new paved highway has now been built to Coroico and further into the Amazon. Now the road is mostly used by small amount ( more like none) of local traffic and to tour companies that offer trilling mtn bike tours down the 65 kms descent.
I just had to ride it!! but since these mtn bike tours were out of my budget, ( $75 per person! ) also the fact of riding with a group of other gringos - which most have never ridden bicycles before and a guide... didn't sound like my thing to do.
After dropping Angela off at the airport, I went back to my hostel and packed my bike and set off for an adventure to the Most Dangerous road in the world! I had to see what it was all about. From riding all kinds of roads throughout our journey. I guessed this one must of been bad - the worst of all roads... - we already witness some pretty bad ones in Ecuador and Peru!
I found my way out of La Paz real easy and rode on a nice paved and scenic section. I knew the start of the "camino" was somewhere near La Cumbre. A big sign indicated a some highlights of some road to my right. Thinking this was it... I got off the paved highway, took air out of my tires (easier riding on gravel) and was anxious to check it out. Several KMS later, a bus was stopped on the side of the road, so to make sure I was on the right track. I asked the driver if this was the " Camino"
" Claro" he told me... right on, so i took off flying threw the dust.
Several trucks and busses where passing me, leaving me no room and in a cloud of dust everytime. The scenery was amazing as I was dropping lower into the amazon jungle, leaving the cold air of Altitude behind.
I knew the road was only a 65 km stretch, so expected to be a fairly short ride to Coroico. The road was No where to be scary, or major cliff stories that I had heard about. Three hours later, I got to this now where town. Looked at my map. I then realized that this entire time I wasn't even riding the "Camino de la Muerte" but a huge 150 kms loop that took me into the jungle and finally back to Coroico.
It was now getting late, and kept hoping I was going to arrive in Coroico soon. I was covered with dirt and dust and the jungle was hot and sticky.
Eventually out of nowhere a sign said - Coroico - 50 kms - in relief that I wasn't lost, I still had some ways to go. (50 kms can take several hours on these roads) I rode through some very remote little villages, locals looked at me as if they knew I was a lost individual on my bike. The sun was getting low at the horizon. When I asked a man on the side of the road to point out my direction, I was told another 20 kms. The roads split left and right, so I needed to keep my fingers X on the right one.
Finally, the sleepy town of Coroico appeared in the distance with the sun setting. I was happy after a dusty 6 hour to arrive.
I got myself a room in a sweet hostel with a killer view of the valley. I could now see the new paved road and on the other side of the valley, the famous "camino del la muerte" I had done a huge detour, but discovered another remote route.
After a good night sleep, I needed to leave early to avoid all the mtn bikers that would be flying down the road in groups.
This time going the right way... I rode up the "camino" back to La Cumbre.
I could now see why they called it "Dangerous" - as some parts of the road was only 10 feet wide with cliff hanging over the edge with a 1000 feet + drop. Other parts you could see Landslides (from rainy season) that would take out the road. Blinding curves, deep fog. Overall, - in a car or bus - you would shit your pants! But on a bike was nothing but pure fun riding.
I passed only one car on the way. It was getting late after noon and knew the bikers would soon be coming down. Since I was coming uphill (them downhill) I was hoping not to hit any.
They started to show up. I scared a few riding up at full speed. One guy almost crashed after he saw me.. thinking he owned the whole road! - I'm glad he didn't crash.
A couple hours of pure fun, bad scary road riding. I was back at La Cumbre on pave road again. I found the road nothing worse then any "dangerous" roads that we rode through other countries. Now, for the record I can say that rode the "Most dangerous road of the World "
As I was riding back to La Paz, only several KMS outside the city area. A big black dog came out of nowhere on the road, luckily I had time to see it and slow down from 100 kms to 80 kms and avoid it. Not even 5 sec after... a pack of dogs, all chasing each other came running on the hwy. One of them - went straight for my front wheel. No time to react, I had no choice to hold on tight to my bars (riding at 8o kms per hour) The dog hit the front wheel and slide across the pavement.
I don't know how I manage to not crash. But when I looked back. The dog wasn't moving. All the other dogs were surrounding the "dead" dog. I was shaking from the whole scene. I had just killed a dog! Luckily it didn't kill me. I knew a big truck was not far behind me. I didn't stop, but hoped that the trucker wouldn't finnish the pack!
I rode what they call the most dangerous road safely. Get back on the hwy and nearly killed myself but killed a dog.
In these countries, dogs are one of the most dangerous things on the roads... not the roads themselves!
Memories of people of died on the 50 km stretch road... many of these crosses are seen along the way.
Coca Leaves drying on side of the road.
This is what they call... a "land slide!!!"
The road is only for one car at a time... good thing I have a bike!
Riding in the fog with a 1000 feet drop off the side of the road.
Back to pavement!