Cycling into the Yungas

On the Death Road in Bolivia: With a mountain bike on the supposedly most dangerous road in the world into the Yungas

"Death Road"
“Death Road”

East of La Paz, the Andes slope in steep, deeply incised valleys down towards the Amazon basin: the Yungas. A single-lane unpaved road winds down, often with a vertical drop on the left and the almost vertical mountainside on the right. Until a new road was inaugurated a few years ago, this was the only direct connection from La Paz to the Selva, and the road led the world’s fatal accident statistics with 200-300 deaths per year. Now it is used almost exclusively by cyclists whizzing down the 3,000+ metres of elevation, and now only cyclists who fail to catch a curve die. The most dangerous road in the world has retained its nickname “El Camino de la Muerte” or “Death Road”.

Death Road
Sign on the Death Road

The tour is perfectly organised, with very good mountain bikes, helmet and knee pads, 3 guides and with stops every 15 minutes. The first part from the La Cumbre pass is on a tarmac road, then we are put back on the bus for a short climb. Eventually the new road turns into the neighbouring valley, and we get back on the saddle. Here we are stuck in dense fog, with equally dense cloud forest growing on the steep slopes. Towards the bottom, the visibility gets better and better, and you have to decide whether you want to quickly follow the leader in front or rather ride slowly and enjoy the views. At the best viewpoints we pose for photos, which are taken by the guides and later burned onto a CD. At the bottom we have showers and a late lunch, then we drive up the new road to La Paz, which takes almost as long as the way down.

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