To some it’s a true racetrack.
To some it’s only a racetrack in their minds.
To some it’s a livelihood.
To some it’s a cemetery.
To some it’s a workplace.
To some it signifies vacation.
To some it’s three hours of terror in a taxi.
To some it’s seven hours or more of swaying in an old bus.
To some it’s a place to sell goods.
To some it’s a place to buy favorite treats.
To some it’s an engineering nightmare.
To some it’s an ecological dream.
It’s one of few places where clouds rise from below and rocks fall from above.
It’s one of Bolivia’s only roads on which you drive on the right side on pavement and on the left side on gravel.
It’s one of few roads where the driver on the cliff “dropoff” side backs up to allow oncoming cars to pass.
It’s one of many roads where the maximum speed is an average of what a car goes when backing up to allow cars to pass and what a car goes when flying forward to pass the dustmaker driving ahead.
It’s one of many roads on which it is normal to fly past a heavy truck carrying explosive gas with only inches to spare between the truck and car and inches to spare between the car and a plunge to death off the cliff.
It’s a climb or descent of about 10,000 feet, a climate change between desert altitude and sea level jungle, and the difference between the largest city in Bolivia and small pueblos of only a few families.
To some, it’s a road.
To me, it’s a nightmare.
To some, it’s a way to visit loved ones in other places.
To me, it’s the reason I don’t want my parents to visit.
To most, it is known as “el camino de la muerte” (translation: The Road of Death, or Death Road).
So far I’ve survived the trip fourteen times. I must survive two more trips at the very least.
People make T-shirts about things like this. I just want tranquilizers.