Indeed you did read correctly, we’re talking about death road. It’s official name is Yungas Road. It’s a real tourist attraction fairly popular in Bolivia, and if you’re ever in this part of the world, do it!
Back in 2015, me and a mate went on a life changing trip to South America and made our way through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. In Bolivia, one of the activities we signed ourselves up for was mountain biking down the infamous death road. It’s a high altitude gravel road precariously nestled on the very edge of a cliff. Most of the road is single lane and there are barely any barriers to stop cars or bikes from flying straight off the edge.
We climbed into the van in the early hours of the morning to make our way to the start of the road. At this point, I’m an anxious mess and wondering what the hell am I doing?! I haven’t ridden a bike for years and I’m in a van with professional mountain bikers, on my way to the most dangerous road in the world.
Thankfully, we weren’t taken straight to Death Road, we were given a few kilometers to cruise on tarmac and get used to our bikes. The views from this road are really impressive and the practice helped to calm some of my anxiety.
Fully equipped with helmets, trousers, jackets and gloves, we were off!
It immediately becomes apparent why the road has been given its name. The road side is littered with crosses and the day before our ride, someone flew off the cliff trying to take a selfie. So, leave your selfie stick in the hotel! (Or at home. Or, even better, just throw it away).
We each have the freedom to go at our own pace. The guides keep us together with regular pit stops that are no doubt designed to make sure they dont have a death on their hands. I am hardly an experienced mountain biker and my fitness level = Zero. Safe to say, for each rest stop I was the last to meet up with the rest of the group.
The views from up here are truly breath taking. The road twists around the mountains though the thick rainforest providing uninterrupted views.
Some parts of the road are really wide and comfortable, you can pick up speed, and its truly exhilarating! Then out of nowhere, it’s 3 meters wide and your speeding into a tight corner you only just noticed and crashing to the floor one meter from the edge. With my heart in my throat, I casually climbed back on my bike and proceeded at a slightly more controlled pace.
Many sections have become damaged due to relentless waterfalls that cascade down the mountains and spill onto the road. This makes for more obstacles for try and avoid, this time in the form of road workers.
The road begins to level out after some time which makes for really hard work! At least it was for me. The road is just loose stones and the odd big rock you have to avoid (or try to). It takes some muscle power which I was seriously lacking. But I made it!
There’s plenty of stops for photos as it’s strongly discouraged to take them whilst riding, for obvious reasons. The guides ride along side everyone and get snaps in all your sweaty, biking glory. This is awesome, but they ride one handed looking backwards! They haven’t even got their eyes on this road of death! Crazy.
The last stretch of the road, we veer off and go down a side track that doesn’t follow a sheer cliff drop. Here you can really pick up some speed! It’s quite a worn trail so much easier to navigate not to mention miles safer.
Apart from a couple of hiccups and the odd van to avoid, we didn’t come too close to becoming another Death Road statistic. Ill share some of these stats here:
- The road reaches an altitude of 4,650 meters at its highest point.
- To see the edge of the road better when passing other vehicles, people drive on the left unlike the rest of the country.
- An estimate of 300 people were killed annually before the upgrade in 2006.
- At least 18 cyclists/tourists have died on the road.
This whole experience was completely insane and filled with adrenalin. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or not, it’s something everyone should experience and totally out of the ordinary.
So,what you waiting for?
Thanks for reading, share if you like!