The oft-repeated stat by those defending the airline industry is how much more perilous is your trip to the airport than the actual flight. Those are anywhere, anytime facts. (No BS; look ’em up!)
Double down on that scenario with a couple of cocktails, some sleep deficiency, and a little aggressive driving to widen your chances for peril. Take all of those factors, then stretch them with your route over one of these charming passageways, and you’re really risking it all.
One cannot deny the charm, though…
Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
Without the Guoliang Tunnel, one could not access to Guoliang village by car. There was a narrow path outfitted with steep stairs one could traverse to reach the valley village of Guoliang.
To give them better access to the outside world, the villagers began tunneling out along the mountainside in the ‘70s. As they funded the project by selling livestock, the tools they used were all hand tools, hammers, and chisels.
It took 13 villagers, the loss of one life during construction, and five years of labor to carve out a tunnel 3/4 of a mile long, 13 feet wide.
The tunnel is safe to travel, so long as drivers don’t take risks, but there is little to stop your car from careening out one of the roads many windows.
Karakoram Highway, Pakistan
It’s 800 miles of roadway between China and Pakistan, sometimes called the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway. It passes through many sections of the venerable silk road, which operated 200 years before the common era.
Running through the Karakoram mountain range, the highway reaches heights over 15,000 feet tall. That’s about fifteen Eiffel towers stacked.
Construction of the road took over 1000 construction workers’ lives from landslides and falls, between 1959 to ’79.
The biggest danger on the Karakoram Highway is the same danger that threatened those who constructed it: slides and falls.
James Dalton Highway, Alaska
There are three towns on the Dalton Highway, all with fewer than 25 permanent residents each. The first two you hit at Miles 175 and 188. The last one you find at Mile 414. Between those desolate points, you are alone on the Dalton.
If you plan to travel the Dalton, authors recommend you carry survival gear. Also, it’s not a good route for lightweight cars or motorcycles as many sections are gravel. Driving with your headlights on is a mandate.
The dangers of the Dalton Highway extend beyond the poor road grades. Harsh weather conditions, low visibility and high winds flinging rocks through windshields with little effort are a few of the hazards.
The worst thing that could happen to you on the Dalton is not death, but what comes before that. You might pray for a polar bear to attack. Yup, that happens. Normally, they shut down the road if someone reports a bear sighting because they tend to attack.
Jalalabad–Kabul Road, Afghanistan
Part of the Grand Trunk Road, the 40-mile passage through Afghanistan claims so many lives, according to the New York Times, people have stopped keeping track.
Afghan drivers take no heed to the perils. They drive the road as fast as they can, speeding around corners, flinching at danger, sometimes with success. ‘
Contrasted with the violence of the Taliban, which comes and goes, the Jalalabad-Kabul Road kills more people every day. Most of them die by flying off the side, but some collide with oncoming cars.
Like many beautiful roadways, the best views you find on the most treacherous sections, where the geography lends itself to jaw-dropping views. The problem isn’t just a matter of geography. The road is not wide enough for two cars to pass comfortably.
North Yungas Road, Bolivia
The road otherwise known as the death road, claims more lives than any other road on this list. Like the Jalalabad-Kabul, the road in Bolivia is mostly wide enough for one vehicle, but the North Yungas is not paved so most drivers take it slow.
Driving the Yungas is further impeded by rain and slides, which can pull the road out from under your car. By our best estimates, it claims 200-300 lives every year. If you’re not sensitive, perform a search for video of “The Death Road.”
The horror of trucks and buses sliding over the side, combined with the grim stats, will leave you wondering why anyone in their right mind would travel this road, especially when there are other options.