Roads to the End of the Earth
BOLIVIAS ROAD OF DEATH
Distinction: The only way from La Paz to the Amazonand the closest road to the hereafter.Bolivias Road of Death has a higher death rate on its 60 miles than any road on the planet. It runs from Bolivias capital of La Paz down into the northern jungle town of Coroico, where the Bolivian yungas (jungle) begins in the Andes. From Coroico, the road continues northwest toward neighboring Brazils jungle. Hundreds of people die in accidents on this road each year, yet the speed is only slightly faster than a walking pace.Part of the road has been paved, from the approximately 10,000 foot high La Paz up to Unduavi, but there are no guardrails. The elevation rises to 14,000 feet above sea level for over 16 miles, and the cliffs on the sides of the road can rise more than half a mile above the bottom. At this altitude, truck drivers chew coca leaves to prevent altitude sickness. From there, the route to Coroico then drops 10,000 feet in just 40 miles. After the paved road ends, the route narrows into one lane, with places every mile or two that are wide enough for two trucks to almost pass without scraping each other. Hundreds of hairpin turns make looking ahead for oncoming traffic impossible, so often its easier to drive the road at night, when headlights are visible around corners. The road is so treacherous because it was built by prisoners, during a 1932 war with Paraguay, and hand chiseled into the sides of sheer canyon walls. The most amazing thing about the accidents on this road is that people have actually survived the fall. In a good year only 100 people will die; a bad year costs 300 lives.The total time to cover the 90 miles from La Paz to Coroico is 4 hours on a good day with little rain or rock slides and erosion from waterfalls. But with these pitfalls combined with heavy traffic the trip is more like 6 hours.