The Wayfarer (mnfaure) wrote,
The Wayfarer

Road with a dark past

It isn’t only the numerous car and cyclist fatalities that give El Camino de la Meurte (officially known as the North Yungas Road) its sinister reputation. From the road’s inception, it has had ties to morbidity and death. It was built by Paraguayan war prisoners, many of whom died during the construction.

War criminal Klaus Barbie, The Butcher of Lyon, fled from French justice* and hid in the Bolivian jungle, where he is said to have helped the Bolivian regime with their torture techniques. He sold and shipped wood from his forest to La Paz and the road had to be maintained for its transportation.** His old house sits right on the Death Road. Sadly our guide told us this information only after we were safely imprisoned in the bus, heading back uphill, otherwise we might have had to defecate on his property.***

When we began the downhill ride, our guide stopped us to explain the upcoming curves and dangers. The first sharp curve had a monument on it dedicated to the "Martyrs of Democracy." In November 1944, Gualberto Villarroel took five of his political opponents to this 3100 ft cliff and threw them off.  

Now that the new, wider, paved road has been built to Coroico, El Camino de la Meurte gets much less traffic, but the old road is still shorter and faster.  That, along with all the thrillseekers and adventuresome souls who tackle it by bike, will assure that Pachamama continues to get her libations, whether they be in alcohol or blood.

* SHAME ON YOU, AMERICA, for helping the sadistic @#$+%&!!!!

**  Our guide told us that the road was built for/because of Barbie, but the Internet gives the 1930s as its construction date, which was before Barbie's arrival in South America.

*** Probably a good idea to only tell us afterwards since Barbie was finally extradited, tried, and imprisoned back in the early 80s.  It is no longer his property and whoever owns it now doesn't need that happening to their house and land. 
Tags: bolivia, round-the-world, south america

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