Sunday, November 8, 2009

The world's most dangerous roads


But what are considered the worst roads if you're travelling overseas? Below, in reverse order, is a top 10 of the world's worst roads, compiled by the Association for Safe International Road Travel.

Think your local roads are bad? From Bolivia to China and beyond, we name the world's 10 worst routes.

We all know local roads which can be considered 'dangerous' - poorly lit lanes, potholed tracks, stretches of motorway which attract the area's wannabe Schumachers and so on.

These roads will have you driving among the clouds, along fast-eroding cliff tops with 3,500m drops, across deadly streams, through bandit territory and more. Suddenly, our local drive looks a whole lot less stressful...

10) Grand Trunk Road (India)
'GT', as it's often called, was built about 500 years ago to connect the east and western regions of the Indian subcontinent. The 2,500km road is full of trucks and rattling buses manned by drivers without much respect for their lives - or yours. And then there's the cyclists, the pedestrians, the salesmen, the ox carts, the cows, the buffalos....

9) Patiopoulo-Perdikaki Road (Greece)
This dirt track leads from Patiopoulo down to Perdikaki in the Agrafa region of Greece. It's steep, busy, full of huge potholes and extremely slippery (due to the gravel surface). It's also very narrow in places, with no lines or guard rails on the edges. That's less than ideal given the sheer drop... on both sides.

8) A44 (United Kingdom)
Much of the A44, a major road which runs from Oxford in southern England to Aberystwyth in west Wales, is fairly innocuous, but a 40km section between Leominster and Worcester has several blind corners. A quarter of accidents here involve vehicles leaving the road, and even more are head-on collisions. Nevertheless, the route is popular with thrill-seeking bikers.

7) Luxor-al Hurghada Road (Egypt)
Egypt's most dangerous road links two tourist locations - the ancient city of Luxor in the south, and Hurghada, a hub for diving schools on the coast of the Red Sea. The route is well-known bandit territory, with travellers facing a high risk of ambush and hijack. To avoid detection at night, the vast majority of drivers opt not to use their headlights. And that has a rather predicable side-effect...

6) Cotopaxi Volcan (Ecuador)
This 40km-long dirt track, one of countless dangerous roads in Ecuador, connects the Pan American Highway with the Cotopaxi Volcan National Park, which boasts one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. The treacherous route is peppered with holes, but the 'highlight' of the journey comes when you need to cross a bridge-less stream. It's particularly dangerous during flash floods... and flash floods seem to occur here even in the lightest of rains. You won't find that mentioned in any travel brochure.

5) Coastal roads (Croatia)
The Croatian coast makes the list due to the narrow and twisty nature of the roads, and a general lack of markings, lay-bys and side rails. The scenery on the jagged coast is absolutely stunning, but if you're driving, it's probably best to watch where you're going - and keep your fingers crossed that others do too.

4) Pan American Highway (Costa Rica)
The Pan-American Highway system, the longest drivable road in the world, runs an incredible 48,270km from Alaska to the lower reaches of South America. Several stretches can be considered 'tricky', but the most infamous section is a high mountain pass called 'Cerro de la Muerte' in Costa Rica. It's steep, narrow, twisty, full of holes and susceptible to flash floods and landslides. The name translates as 'Hill of Death'.

3) Sichuan-Tibet Highway (China)
At least 100,000 people are said to die on Chinese roads each year - or one person every 5 minutes. You'll want to avoid the 2,000km-long (but not very wide) Sichuan-Tibet Highway, which traverses at least a dozen different mountains with an average height of 4,000-5,000m. The high altitude means you'll be driving among clouds, and there's a high risk of landslides and avalanches to boot.

2) BR-116 (Brazil)
Brazil's second longest road runs 1,550km from Porto Alegre to Rio de Janeiro. The middle section, which covers around 400km from Curitiba to São Paulo, has steep cliffs, poor conditions and unstable weather. Officially it's named Rodovia Régis Bittencourt, but it's known locally as 'Rodovia da Morte'. That's 'Highway of Death'.

1) The North Yungas Road (Bolivia)
Some of the choices here may seem a little quirky, but few will deny that Bolivia's 'Death Road' is the most dangerous in the world. North Yungas Road snakes across roughly 70km of the Andes, from La Paz to Coroico, with drops of up to 3,500m... and dozens of wrecked vehicles at the bottom. Drivers need to contend with crazy hairpins, oncoming traffic (often rushing to beat you into bends), an almost constant layer of fog and, during tropical downpours, high risk of landslides too. Tourist companies now cash in on the road's notoriety by offering extreme bike tours down it. We'll give that a miss, thanks.



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