No ordinary episode of Top Gear this weekend but a Christmas special. Hammond, May & Clarkson head out to the rainforests of Bolivia for one of their toughest challenges yet.
Clarkson, Hammond and May have been dropped deep in a Bolivian jungle, armed with nothing more than a trio of aging 4x4s and a rusty machete. Their target destination is the Chilean coastline, but first they’ll encounter altitude sickness, drug lords and killer wildlife, not to mention a mountain pass known locally as ‘El Camino de la Muerte’ or the Road of Death.
El Camino de la Muerte is a 69km long road leading from La Paz to Coroico in the Yungas region of Bolivia. It is legendary for its extreme danger and it’s also known as the “world’s most dangerous road”. One estimate is that 200-300 travelers were killed yearly along the road. Most of the danger comes from extreme dropoffs of at least 600 meters and at most points the road is no wider than 3.2 meters, equal to one lane for traffic going both ways. It lacks guard rails and rain and fog can make visibility precarious. The road surface is muddy and often there are hillsides that take parts of the road away or cover it with rocks.
The road runs downhill from La Paz to Coroico almost all the way. For this reason cars going downhill don’t have right of way. This 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 the driver in a left-hand-drive vehicle a better view over their outside wheel, making passing safer.
However in 2006 large reconstruction works on the road of death finished, this involved upgrades from 1 to 2 lanes and a alternative road constructed for the most dangerous parts of the road. This leaves the original road mostly for foreign thrill seekers that use the road especially for downhill mountain-biking.
The Top Gear Xmas Special aired Sunday 27th December 8pm on BBC Two.
Download episode 6 and all other episodes of Top Gear Season 14 here.