The road from Peru and Bolivia go through the Andes and lead the Stig along winding mountain roads, into one of the world's most spoken about roads, Yungas Road, El Camino de la Muerte, Death way - (The road has many names.) The 69 km stretch of road, takes between 200-300 people lives each year.
It is one of the few roads that connect the region Yungas of northern Bolivia with the capital La Paz. The road is narrow, very narrow; most of the route is on roads that are no wider than 3.2 metres. There are no railings and it is 600 metres straight down to be exact - (maybe you remember the thrilling moment from Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson?)
Yungas Road - more commonly known as "El Camino de la Muerte" or "Death Road".
In my entire travelling, today is the day I’ve been most looking forward to.
In Nepal, we landed on the "world's most dangerous airport", today we drove on the "world's most dangerous road". The road was built by convicts during the war between Bolivia and Paraguay in the years 1932 to 1935, his well deserved epithet in 1995 after the BBC had estimated that there were 200 to 300 people annually killed along the 69 km long stretch. Nowadays there is less traffic than in the past since it was built in 2006, there is a new and easier way to get across the valley. Whether it is for the better or worse, I am not sure?
Yesterday was spent organising. I've hired a photographer, Mauricio, who will help to perpetuate our strenuous journey down the mountain slope. Moreover, it would have to be arranged with insurance and a driving license. All normal assurances repealed in Yungas Road I was told. So new insurance was put into place with a local insurance office that specialises in this kind. Once inside the office, it began to dawn on me what we're going out on. The representative of the insurance company gets worried when I say we're going to drive a car - the vast majority who seek them to ride Down hill. They say that the road is in bad condition. After the new road was opened, the maintenance of Yungas Road had been abandoned. Moreover, Mauricio told us that there are often landslides along the road, and that it usually takes several days before they are cleared away. Racers must carry their bikes over the landslide.
But Mauricio calms us that we can ask the police when we drive through a checkpoint. Those guys are used to knowing if there have been landslides. Reassured? Well ... safe to say we have not slept very much at night.
A few miles outside La Paz passes a peak at 4,650 metres. A lot of cyclists (on average 200 per day), start their trip from here. On the way down you pass the checkpoint at the small village Unduavi. A bit later, you come down at about 3,500 metres altitude and the real Dead Road began.
I mounted the GoPro camera on the hood of my jacket, then read the sign that said: one should drive on the left hand side of the road (so the driver can see better if the outer wheel is approaching the edge). It also noted that the rough road is often no more than 3 metres wide. We were ready to go, but were very unlucky with the weather. The fog was dense, and it began to dawn on me that I probably would not get my cover photo for the book. My father however, was satisfied. He seemed to think that not seeing the bottom of the valley was more important than all the world's front pages. We hoped that the fog would facilitate and we began our drive down to the sleepy town of Coroico situated at 1604 metres. 2000 metres below us were large timber trucks. I must say Mauricio Suárez Guzmán did a fantastic job at being able to partially "get rid of" the thick fog on images, amazing job :-). I would have still liked to have shown you more driving and magnificent views, as it is totally amazing far down :-).Do you have tips for Stig about places he should see or visit, or restaurants he should try? Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Click here to follow Stig's route in Google maps.