Around the world there are some famous cities, places and things to see and do – and Death Road is definitely one of them.
The Death Road is found in Bolivia, but ‘Death Road’ is more a description and nickname. The road’s real name is The North Yungas Road and is more than 60 kilometres of terrifying drops, uncertain surfaces, narrow winding turns and, as you’ve probably guessed, has claimed many lives. It leads from La Paz to Coroico, 56 kilometres northeast of La Paz in the Yungas region of Bolivia, and is the most dangerous road in the world. It has been reported that, on average, between 200 and 300 people died each year along this infamous stretch of road.
Travel shows have showcased this road in recent years, including TopGear. Recently, I was speaking to a friend who had travelled through Bolivia and had cycled the road on a mountain bike on a recent holiday to South America and she explained there is now tours taking thrill seeking backpackers down this road, which got me very interested and made this challenge a real reality.
After a doing some research and speaking to a tour company, I got the go ahead to travel down the road myself. So, after setting off on a post Commonwealth Games holiday in South America, first stopping in Peru to explore Lima, and followed by the trek to Machu Picchu, I took on Death Road.
The Death Road is the most dangerous thing I have ever done. Only two weeks prior another tourist had fallen of the side of the cliff and died. This road is not to be taken lightly. The groups start at the top at an elevation of 4650m at La Cumbre Pass and ends at a small village of Coroico, at around 1100m.
I was picked up from my hostel by Gravity Bolivia and driven to the start point before a much needed safety briefing. I was joined on this adventure by five other backpackers and three tour guides, which included the boss, to accompany me down the road in the racing wheelchair. The Bolivian Government has built a new highway that bypasses the most dangerous section, so the road is much less travelled these days by cars and heavy trucks. The start of the descent travels down this stunning new hot mix double lane highway at breakneck speeds before we stop for a quick chat with the group to explain what’s coming up.
We stopped after each section of road to explain what was coming up for safety of each group member. Each section is no safer than the last, with sheer cliff drops and hairpin corners constantly.
After flying down the alpine mountain region the famous Death Road gravel starts near the trees, and as you continue down the road the landscape changes every few kms. There is so much beauty and you try to take as much as possible in during the descent, while not willing to take your focus away from what’s in front of you as one simple mistake could well be your last. You are able to take a short break at each stop to enjoy the view before refocusing on surviving the next section of road.
My highlights from the trip must be the snow capped mountains at the beginning, before finishing in 30-plus degree temps, but along the way the two highlights were the waterfall we travelled through along the road and the river we crossed, which had water up to my back axels - that was a new experience for me.
As the push continues you are closer to finishing and surviving but the entire way is sheer terror, as you are literally only centimetres from certain death. If you crash you will slide and fall over the edge, and these are very, very big drops. That last few hundred meters into the finishing village was the most amazing feeling, as you realise what you have just done and that you’ve survived that epic journey.
This is certainly a travel bucket list item ticked and something I will remember for life. It was also something different, as by pushing the distance down the road I became the first person in a wheelchair to push the road. So it’s now onto ticking off the next item on my travel list and achieving the dream roll around the world.
So, please keep searching the world for your dream and remember to do it safely as possible as anything is possible if you believe.
Thank you once again to Gravity Bolivia for having me on the tour and for helping me make this dream a reality.
For anyone looking at traveling to South America I highly recommend a stop in La Paz to ride the Death Road with http://www.gravitybolivia.com