The North Yungas Road, popularly known as El Camino de la Muerta or the Road of Death, is the only passage way to go to some of the outskirt villages in the Yunga region or the way out to La Paz in Bolivia. It is a road where engine condition doesn’t matter much. It is a road negotiated best by praying.
The 43 mile road has earned the reputation of being the planet’s most dangerous road according to the Inter-American Development Bank in 1995. Every year, it claims 200 to 300 lives on average. Every fatal accident is marked with the Christian symbol of Cross.
The road was built in the 1930’s by the Paraguayan prisoners during the height of the Chaco Wars. It was designed to be a lifeline for the different towns of the Yungas but as its history has proven, it is far from being that.
The road ascends initially 5 kilometers above sea level and then plunges 3600 meters down the Bolivian Andes as a single lane snake road with no guardrails and intense drop offs which are not for the faint nor not even for the strong hearted.
A lot of people have lost their lives when their vehicles plummeted down the cliffs of deaths. A lot are also injured when public buses scrape against the rocky walls of the mountains.
Weather is not really considered a big factor. Imagine the cloud of dust that covers the path and impairs vision of drivers during the summer. The rains do not help either as they rush down the forest walls through the lose dirt and rocks of the narrow road.
Before traversing the North Yungas Road, commuters and drivers are accustomed to feeding the dogs found on the foot of the mountain to please the earth deity Pachama.
More direct routes are being constructed to connect the towns of Yungas. Travelling thru the Road of Death though may serve as a rite of passage.