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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Yungas Road Bolivia

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The North Yungas Road , 69-kilometre (43 mi) road leading from La Paz to Coroico, 56 kilometres (35 mi) northeast of La Paz in the Yungas region of Bolivia. It is legendary for its extreme danger and in 1995 the Inter-American Development Bank christened it as the "world's most dangerous road". One estimate is that 200 to 300 travellers are killed yearly along the road. The road includes crosses marking many of the spots where vehicles have fallen.

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Yungas Road Bolivia

A South Yungas Road (Chulumani Road) exists that connects La Paz to Chulumani, 64 kilometres (40 mi) east of La Paz, and is considered to be nearly as dangerous as the North Road.Photographs of China's Guoliang Tunnel are often incorrectly identified as showing the Yungas Road.

The road was built in the 1930s during the Chaco War by Paraguayan prisoners. It is one of the few routes that connect the Amazon rainforest region of northern Bolivia, or Yungas, to its capital city. Upon leaving La Paz, the road first ascends to around 4,650 metres (15,260 ft) at La Cumbre Pass, before descending to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) at the town of Coroico, transiting quickly from cool Altiplano terrain to rainforest as it winds through very steep hillsides and atop cliffs.

Because of the extreme dropoffs of at least 600 meters (1,830 feet), single-lane width – most of the road no wider than 3.2 metres (10 ft) and lack of guard rails, the road is extremely dangerous. Further still, rain, fog and dust can reduce visibility. In many places the road surface is muddy, and can loosen rocks from the road.

One of the local road rules specifies that the downhill driver never has the right of way and must move to the outer edge of the road. These forces fast vehicles to stop so that passing can be negotiated safely. Also, vehicles drive on the left, as opposed to the right like the rest of Bolivia. This gives a left hand drive vehicle's driver a better view over his outside wheel, making passing safer.On 24 July 1983, a bus veered off the Yungas Road and into a canyon, killing more than 100 passengers in what is said to be Bolivia's worst road accident.

The danger of the road ironically made it a popular tourist destination starting in the 1990s, drawing some 25,000 thrill seekers. Mountain biking enthusiasts in particular have made it a favourite destination for downhill biking since there is a 64-kilometre (40 mi) stretch of continuous downhill riding with only one short uphill section.

There are now many tour operators catering to this activity, providing information, guides, transport, and equipment. Nevertheless, the Yungas Road remains dangerous. At least 18 cyclists died on the ride since 1998. It is featured on the BBC show, Top Gear: Bolivia Special (Episode 6 of Top Gear series 14) where the hosts travelled 1,610 kilometres (1,000 mi) from the Bolivian rainforest to the Pacific Ocean.

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