Cynics may spend their whole lives listing the reasons why one should stay miles away from the motorcycle. However, only he who has ridden that beast, felt the thunderous roar of the engine and caught the wind in his hair will know, what a truly liberating experience it is, it’s addictive, exhilarating, inspiring, it’s a wholly different way of life. And of course, every biker has a secret map or list, whether it’s written down or in their heads, of roads they’d like to ride. For that motorcyclist and for those who find the purest joys in the most adrenaline rushing moments, we’ve put together a list of five highways to ride before you die.
Trans Sahara Highway – Africa
The Trans Sahara Highway takes desert adventure to a whole new level. It runs about 4,500 km long through Algeria, Niger and Nigeria. The highway is haunted by multiple dangers – right from the political tension between the countries to the extreme climatic conditions to the sandstorms to the complete lack of facilities. However, like everything that’s dangerous, there’s a prize involved here too – something that makes the entire struggle worth it. The desert, with its vast, seemingly endless and undisturbed landscapes, and the wonders sunlight can work on the sand creates a view that is awe-inspiring, intimidating and humbling.
Visiting this road even for sight-seeing, requires the most meticulous forms of planning. The highway is the world’s highest international road. Imagine riding at 15,397ft. km above sea level and civilization, with foreboding jagged mountains on one side and steep valleys on the other. The highway starts from Abbottabad, Pakistan and ends at Kashgar, China. In addition, it also brings the countries of India, China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan within extremely close proximity of each other. Yep, that’s right; one highway, four countries, unbelievably breathtaking beauty and an extremely treacherous climate. If you’ve always thought of your life as an action-thriller movie, we think you might have just found the ideal location for it.
Among the locals, the road is nicknamed as ‘Camino de La Muerte’ which, in English, means Death Road. This alone should give you enough hints about what’s in store. Just like the Karakoram, you have a huge rocky wall on one side and a 2,000 feet abyss on the other. The road itself is barely 12-feet wide. However, unlike the Karakoram, here you have rainforests, which in turn mean heavy rains, fog and strong winds, which in turn mean heavy mudslides and waterfalls landing right in the middle of whatever little you have of the road. Oh and if that wasn’t enough, the road here is unpaved and unguarded for most part. The North Yungas road alone accounts for about 300 deaths by accident every year in Bolivia, and creepily enough that has only added to its infamy.
The Ruta 5 runs through Chile’s Atacama Desert – one of the driest places in the world. Rainfall here is near zero, so are gas stations and any sign of civilization. You wind through deep and overwhelming valleys, with the constant possibility of strong winds blowing you and your vehicle off into nothingness. However, more than any of these, the one thing that really makes the pit in your stomach drop and the knot in your throat tighten is the sheer monotony of this place. The endless miles of emptiness and the possibility of death waiting at the next stop make you question your decision, your soul and your very sanity. Dump the alcohol and drugs, and tighten your motorcycle helmets, this place is as deadly as it is beautiful, in a way that you cannot even fully comprehend.
Xinjiang Highway – China
This is the highway that that connects Kashgar in China to Lhasa in Tibet. Xinjiang Highway is also known as ‘the road paved to heaven’. Therefore, quite obviously, it’s going to be a purgatory of its own kind. The average altitude is somewhere around 14,000ft. This highway has some of the highest road-passes in the world. Extreme cold is the only climate you’ll find here. And cold and fever ranging from normal to fatal will be your loyal companion until the very end. The terrain is primitive, and the culture is absolutely unique. However, the unadulterated shattering blue skies, white snow and fresh air will make up for all the pain, and leave you with a strong desire of returning to this place at every chance you get!
Karen Fernandes is a freelance blogger and an avid motor enthusiast. She is associated with Pit Stop, a company dealing in a wide range of motorcycle parts, apparel and accessories online. She practices yoga and martial arts in her free time.