Death Road, Bolivia – A Tale of Terror
La Paz, capital of Bolivia is the place to go if you are a thrill junkie. Here you can eat the hottest curry in town, play Russian roulette with prison by frequenting secret coke parties, tackle the highest golf course in the world or play with death by hurtling down the world’s most dangerous road on two wheels. The prize for surviving the curry and the road are tee shirts emblazoned with a logo proclaiming how brave the wearer has been. I am not a thrill seeker and have a fear of heights so I was relieved to hear that the death road had been closed to 4 wheel vehicles and replaced by a new, wider, safer one.
Being unable to cope with heights is a pain; in the past I tried to conquer my phobia thinking I may outgrow it. For example:-
St Paul’s Cathedral in England, the whispering gallery. I ended up on the floor, pressed tightly to the wall and had to be talked down by my mother and sister.
A ski lift carriage in Austria. It broke down and had to be hand winched into safety. I ended up on the floor, whimpering whilst the rest of the passengers looked on pityingly.
The Eiffel Tower, Paris. My legs gave way and I was helped/carried into a glass bottomed lift then lost sensation in the rest of my body when I looked down.
The tree walk in Victoria, Australia. I body glued myself to the central post and bonded with fellow phobics.
It didn’t work and I still can’t climb a regular sized ladder without feeling dizzy. So I passed on a trip down the death road which starts at 15,500 ft altitude. Where there are drops of over 1,000 meters on a mainly unpaved 2.5 meter wide road with no barriers and where the death rate in one year was 320 people.
However, at the end of the road is a lovely village called Coroico. I was informed that it was possible to take a boat from here and travel downstream for a few days and finally end up in Rurrenabaque (the starting point for trips down the Amazon Basin). I caught a regular bus which travelled down the new safer road to Coroico and congratulated myself on bypassing the dangerous one.
On arrival I was informed that the boat did not leave until Saturday. As it was Tuesday and not having the luxury of time I bought an ongoing bus ticket for the next day. What I didn’t know was that the route out of Coroico was a continuation of death road. Thinking the views would be good I sat on the window/sheer drop/oh my god where has the road gone/shit the wheel just spun out into thin air side of the bus. Other travellers proclaimed in glee that it was better than the bike ride and grinned inanely as we lurched around blind corners, inched passed oncoming traffic, listed out into the void and hung out of windows taking pictures of the breathtaking but stomach churning sheer drops. At one point I looked down and seeing no road just thin air threw myself sideways across the bus and grabbed a sleeping man’s leg for stability – I gave him a nasty shock for sure. I swapped seats. Then it rained which raised the stakes a bit higher. We slide and slew downwards for at least 2 – 3 hours in which time even the most fearless went pale and quiet. Determined not to fall asleep thus increasing my chances of survival if the bus hurtled over the edge of the precipice (self delusion had set in by this time) I silently screamed until we reached the river bridge at the bottom of the pass.
So readers if you are ever La Paz, want to go to the Amazon Basin and have nerves of steel and a death wish, go for it, the views are stunning. If that doesn’t scare you silly, then do it all again in reverse back to the capital. If you’re chicken like me – take a plane. The views are still amazing and you will actually see them because your eyes won’t refuse to open. Needless to say that after my trip down the Amazon I caught a plane back.