This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 3 June, 2020
Advertisement

What's it like to cycle the world's most dangerous route? This Irish couple found out

Bolivia’s so-called Death Road has a 1,500-foot drop and claims up to 200 lives a year.

Hugh Mongey and Aoife Hoey

WE SAT ON the sunny terrace of Hostel Bicentario in the Bolivian town of Coroica, overlooking its deep river valleys and jungle-like hills. The popular tourist spot is nested in the mountains of western Bolivia, surrounded by clouds and banana trees, and we could have stayed there forever.

But the stopover was to be our last lap of luxury before we set off for the North Yungas Road, a death-defying mountain route known among tourists as Death Road.

The 40-mile dirt trail, which connects the Bolivian capital city to the Amazon rainforest, is widely considered the most dangerous road in the world.

It is over 1,500 feet high and never wider than 3.2 metres.

And with few barriers in place to stop you falling off its edge, making way for traffic can be a daunting experience.

Nervousness

We weren’t particularly nervous on the evening before the trip. It had been planned with considerable thought and we felt safe travelling in a small group.

When morning came, we met our guides – Milo and Cecile – and our fellow adventurers – Edith and Benoit – over breakfast before loading up the minivan with our bikes and safety equipment.

DSCN4805 L to R: Benoit, Edith, Aoife and Hugh

There wasn’t a lot of chit chat during the 90-minute ascent to the top of the road. No doubt everyone was in deep personal introspection or prayer, summoning their inner strength for the journey ahead.

Heavy clouds lingered along the route, and our nerves were palpable as the van turned in and slowed to a stop.

We were given a quick safety briefing on hand signals and, following one final reminder not to take selfies as we cycled, we were on our way.

The trip was brought to a sudden halt only 500 metres later, however, when another tour guide ahead signalled to us to call an ambulance.

A support vehicle arrived moments later with a stretcher for the injured cyclist, the day’s first casualty.

Ambulance+on+Death+Road

The exact details of the accident were unclear, but we were told that he had flipped over his handlebars and, by the look of his bloodied helmet, seemed to have taken a serious knock to the head.

Slightly shaken, but more focused, we ventured forward nonetheless. And between the cascading waterfalls, lush vegetation and incredible views of the Yungas hills before us, it was an awe-inspiring journey.

Tips for surviving Death Road:

Research your tour operator

Cheaper is not always better. Choose the operator that best suits your needs and fitness level. Are you experienced enough for a tougher route? Would you prefer not to have too many stopoffs along the way? These are the kind of questions worth asking yourself before booking.

Smaller can be better

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

Find out how many people are going to be joining you on the tour. In our experience, smaller groups are funner and allow more flexibility. Rather than booking from La Paz, the Bolivian capital, we went with an operator based in the town of Coroico.

DSCN4795

Go at your own pace

Don’t feel that you need to keep up with the fastest in your group. Stick to a speed that you feel comfortable with.

Safety first

Ask the tour operator about the quality of their safety equipment and bikes before you book. It’s important to make sure you’ll be well supported during the trip.

Enjoy the view

You’ll probably only do this cycle once, so make sure to stop and enjoy the view, even it is a little scary.

Hugh Mongey and Aoife Hoey are an Irish couple backpacking their way around South America. You can keep up-to-date with their travels on their blog, Two Hungry Backpackers.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Hugh Mongey and Aoife Hoey

Read next:

COMMENTS (44)