Coroico is a small town in the Yungas Mountains. It is also famous for being the end point of 2 of the worst roads in the world, the “Death Road” being one of them.
The Death Road was named such because there were so many people who lost their lives in the building of the road. Mostly it was prisoners from Paraguay who were forced to work. Now it is also known by that name due to the dangerous conditions of the road.
The drive into Coroico took us via “the new road”. It is paved but is a winding steep road with many tunnels. We heard someone say that the new road is now equally as dangerous as the old one, as now all the terrible drivers take the new road. We found that to be the case, as many crazy bus drivers drive too fast and take unnecessary risks.
Coroico itself is perched on a high cliff overlooking a valley. The roads in and around the city are very steep. We did not find the town to be very welcoming, and we got the feeling that the local people did not like tourists. We stayed one night and decided to move on the following day.
“The Death Road” is the old road that stretches for 31 miles/68 kms between La Paz and Coroico. It is said to be the worst road in the world. It is only wide enough in parts for one vehicle to drive, 3.2 meters wide, and no guardrails. It is unpaved, not well maintained, and has steep drop offs of over 600 meters. (2000 feet) Statistics say that 200-300 people die on the road every year. The road weaves through beautiful countryside. Since the new road has been built, the old road is less used. It is now a major tourist attraction, with tour groups running bicycle tours down the road.
Driving the death road had been on Mike’s bucket list for the trip. Mike had talked to many locals who reported the road not to be dangerous, especially if you drove up the road, because you got to stay to the inside of the road against the mountain. Also if you waited until after the cyclists completed the tours there was less traffic coming in the opposite direction. I, on the other hand, was focused on all the negative reports, and had developed a real fear of completing the trip. So initially we decided to take the new road back to La Paz. However this road was closed for 4 hours of road works, so we headed to the “Death Road”.
We waited for 2 hours while the tour groups completed the route, chatting to the riders as they came down. Then we took off- me holding my breath.
The road was a challenge in parts, and if we had been going down the road with me on the outside near the cliff edge my fear level would have been justified. However the journey was not as bad as my mind had conjectured.
When you come across vehicles coming the other way you do have to be careful and find a place that is wider to pass. There are crosses and memorials by the road as reminders of the danger if you don’t.
The journey was incredible and we were in a variety of climates throughout the journey. We were in clouds and misty fog for a large part of the way.
Mike was happy that we had completed the journey, a challenge but definitely doable. I was glad we had done it too, and that I had faced my fear. It was nowhere near as bad as my mind had imagined.
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.