Dangerous Mountain Roads and Passes

CNN today listed their idea of the 10 most dangerous roads in the world. I have to say that I do agree with several of the choices. I have driven 4 of the 10 they listed and another 3 I would love to do but politics and war make some of them quite difficult; namely the Iraqi road of death, the Karakoram Highway and the road from Jalalabad to Kabul-not to mention the elusive Khyber Pass which I would kill to drive. This list got me thinking about roads I’ve driven, roads I’d like to drive and just mountain roads in general. Here is what I’ve come up with.

First, if you’ve never driven on the type of mountain roads that I am referring to, let me try and explain what I mean. These roads snake in and out and up and down very high mountains; generally with very steep cliffs or drop offs at every curve. They are extremely prevalent in the developing world and do exist in first world nations as well. The difference is usually if these roads exist, for instance in Colorado in the Rockies or Switzerland in the Alps; there is almost always guard rails for safety. In many countries, these roads have no safety precautions and are generally not even paved, nor passable for two way traffic but they do it anyway!

If you read my site often, then you most likely remember my article from January when I biked down the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia (#2 in the CNN list and top picture here and below). That was an amazing experience but driving back up through the road was harrowing to say the least because we were never more than a foot away from falling some 600 meters, 2000 feet, straight down!
It is often like this in many nations. You can look at a map and see that two destinations may only be separated by 100 miles or something close like that. However, if you look into a bus or driving it will say it takes like 10 hours or something like that. It’s because it’s a mountain road and they can be really slow going and that is without considering the possibility of landslides or falling rocks.

For instance, you can get stuck behind a freight truck that runs on diesel and goes at a snail’s pace and will drive you insane. This could last forever as the truck drivers have no incentive to let you pass. Second, if a car comes the other way, this can cause massive delays because of a few reasons such as; the drivers have no idea what they are doing; they are not sharp enough to give way or to wait their turn; and they are very possibly drunk. DO NOT underestimate how often this happens in developing nations. I have been on buses where I have suspected and actually seen the drivers were hammered or drinking beer but there is nothing you can do about it and the only recourse is they drive off the cliff and kill everybody!

These types of roads are also the most beautiful to drive on, especially if you love just looking out the window gazing out over wide open valleys. I love doing this. You can also find these types of roads anywhere. The Mediterranean is very well equipped with gorgeous mountain roads. Corsica comes to mind for stunning views amidst relative safety.
Eritrea (above) is another place that comes to mind for gorgeous mountain roads that many people don’t know about. Stunning views and hanging on for dear life is always fun, in my opinion, but not everyone sees it that way. I have been with people who totally freaked out on roads like these in the developing world because they stared out the window and looked straight down; always a bad move if you’re scared to begin with.
My friend Jake, who sent me the CNN list, also noted that we drove the long mountain road from Tirana, Albania all the way down to Saranda on the coast where you get the boat to Corfu with an insane lunatic driver which brings about another point. Just because it’s not a bus doesn’t mean the driving isn’t horrendous. That particular driver, aside from being insane, was also very rude, smoked like a damn chimney, littered a lot and was sick as hell and got me sick too. I was not pleased with that experience and one reason why I consider Albania to be the worst country in Europe.
That aside, I love mountain roads and would do more of it in the Pamir Highway (above) in Tajikistan, the Karakoram Highway (2 above) in Pakistan and also as I mentioned the ancient Khyber Pass (below). That would be the ultimate in my opinion but it is a Taliban stronghold between Pakistan and Afghanistan and is not possible to pass at this point but this pass normally links Islamabad to Kabul. Maybe one day but for now I look forward to some new mountain passes and roads.
Let me know if you have any favorite mountain roads and/or passes.

You can see the CNN article here

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  1. South Island, New Zealand has amazing mountain roads although the drivers are much better.

  2. Anywhere in Switzerland but I never felt in danger but you cannot beat the view

  3. I like the PCH

  4. Pakistan is the most beautiful and having the dangerous roads in the world. Come n See.
    See Ya There

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