Fear and beauty on Colombia’s most dangerous road
Landslides, near zero visibility in the clouds, torrential rain and a single vehicle track clinging to the steep mountainside: welcome to the Colombia’s most dangerous road, Trampolín del Diablo (Devil’s Trampoline). The danger of the Mocoa to Pasto road in southern Colombia is matched 10 fold in the phenomenal beauty of dense cloud forests, tall palm trees, waterfalls, rivers and, of course, mountains.
This 70km section of road has claimed about 500 lives in recent decades.
I had (sort of) been warned in advance, but with this road being just one of only two arterial roads connecting Colombia to Ecuador, I thought “how bad can it be”?
It started out well enough with our transit van driver letting out air from the tyres as the road changed from sealed to dirt, to reduce our risk of sliding off the road and the edge of the mountain. Slowly the two lane track reduced in width to space for just one vehicle and it became a game of who would reverse first when meeting trucks along the way.
Then, the metal barriers began to literally slide down the mountain as the valley side of the road went the same way. Yellow tape clearly marked where the road was being undercut, a colour that became more prevalent the higher we went. Frequent yellow danger signs warning that we were in a landslide zone, the evidence of which could be found carved into the mountain where hundred of tonnes of earth had recently slide down the mountain taking vegetation and the road with it.
It was hard to know where the greater danger lay: from above where the overhanging dense jungle struggled to hold the rain soaked earth in place or from below where the road was being undercut and could slip down the mountain at any moment.
As the rain started, the waterfalls became more frequent; first visible across the valley, and then across the road as we passed through half a dozen flowing rivers.
The cloud settled in the higher we went and visibility dropped to 10 metres. But while we sat nervously in the comfort of the van, we passed people on scooters and even some Europeans on a tandem bicycle.
There have been plenty of moments on this holiday where I have sat in terror, praying, while a bus tears down a mountain almost sliding off at every corner. I can’t say this was one of those times and in comparison I felt very safe in the hands of a driver that travelled the road everyday and did not take any risks.
This may be Colombia’s most dangerous road, but for me, it was two hours of pure joy (and a dash of fear) with the scenery stunning around every corner.
Was it worth the risk? For me, absolutely.