Biking the World’s Most Dangerous Road

Nope, it’s not an exaggeration. The Yungas road, connecting Bolivia’s capital city to the country’s Amazon rainforest, was dubbed the “world’s most dangerous road” in 1995 by the Inter-American Development Bank. Built in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners of war, it is estimated that between 200 and 300 people died annually on the road during the height of its use.

With no guard rails, the single lane road twists and turns through Amazon jungle, under waterfalls and cuts sharply around tight corners. On average, the road is no wider than three meters making it a treacherous feat for any two cars to try and pass one another. Add rainfall, fog and dust to reduce the visibility and it becomes obvious how the road earned its reputation.

Gill and Paul are all geared up and slightly out of breath at 4600m

Leah and Sharon test the breaks on their bikes. Brake failure could be deadly.

The 24km paved section that we whizzed down before starting on the world's most dangerous road

Even the paved section took no prisoners

Today the traffic of the road mainly consists of a few brave commuters and thrill-seeking tourists eager to claim bragging rights of mountain biking down the world’s most dangerous road. Even though the car and truck traffic has seriously reduced on the road since a safer alternative was completed in 2006, today the Death Road has claimed 18 tourist lives, the most recent being in April 2010. Among the tourist deaths, the most gruesome seem to be the most harmless. A French girl was merely balancing with one leg on each side of her bike when she lost her footing and tumbled over the edge. A guide, experienced on the ways of the road and knowing the most intimate details of her curves, took one too many steps backwards and fell over the edge while taking pictures.

And the most recent was an Israeli girl who was killed when she simply didn’t stop. Her tour had braked on the side of the road at a pull out zone but when she went to join them her bike just kept going over the edge. Some say she tried to use her brakes, some say she didn’t.

We enjoyed the ever-increasing temperatures as we descended further and further

The Yungus Valley and the city of Coroico in the distance

The first couple minutes of this video show you just how nerve-wracking the Death Road is to bike down.

Leah and Gill pose on 'postcard corner', a particularly daunting section of the road

Shaking in our boots but full of adrenaline

Despite the ample warning, for those still willing to take a risk and conquer the Road of Death prepare yourself for a heart-pounding ride beginning at La Cumbre (4700 meters above sea level). You’ll descend more than 3500 meters to end in the Valley of Yungas (1200 meters about sea level) covering 64 km of downhill, white knuckle mountain biking.

After biking down, we had to take the bus back up. This proved to be slightly more nerve-racking

At the thinnest part of the road, it was hard to look down. Yikes!

At the bottom of the Death Road we hung out at an animal sanctuary where they housed everything from toucans to boa constrictors to capuchin monkeys like this little guy.

This spider monkey did some human-like chillin' by the pool