The Yungas Road runs 40 miles from the lowlands of the Amazon Jungle to
the Bolivian capital of La Paz at an elevation of about 12,000 feet. This
route is cut into the eastern side of the second highest mountain range
on Earth, the Andes. This crucial lifeline from the Amazon Jungle brings
goods like tropical fruits, coffee, and cocoa leaves to markets in the
capital of La Paz. The Yungas Road is a roller coaster of twisting dirt,
rock, and mud, turning every trip into an adrenalin-pumping adventure.
This road is considered the most dangerous in the world in terms of deaths
per mile, claiming up to 200 lives per year. For all travelers, the Yungas
Road is a path into the unknown, marked by danger at every blind curve.
Travelers driving this road face a danger equation created by the confluence
of three factors...sheer topography, extreme climate, unstable geology.
When these combine, the result is the most dangerous road on the planet.
But drivers who survive are treated to one of the most breathtaking drives
in the world. Canadian Jonathan Derksen knows the Yungas Road's deadly
beauty firsthand. Well, Ifve been on the Yungas Road about...maybe 50,
60 times since I first came to Bolivia. You never know what's gonna happen.
February 1983, as a teenager living in La Paz, Derksen and some friends
traveled the Yungas Road from La Paz...down to a jungle retreat in the
small town of Chulamani. A group of friends and I, we rented a bus, and
we headed down into the Yungas. We were laughing, singing and having a
great time...not even paying attention to the cliffs that were on either
our right or our left. As the driver navigates the Yungas Road's hairpin
turns, the bus comes within inches of driving off the road. This is the
most obvious peril facing every driver on the road. The first factor in
the danger equation...the topography of a sheer cliff face. On one side
lie vast drops, ranging from 20 feet to 3,000. On the other is a cliff
wall reaching as high as the eye can see.