Since the late 19th century, when Bertha Benz bravely drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim in Germany on what is considered the first long-distance journey by car, road trips have become a popular way to see the world. Moving away from mainstream routes and onto little-travelled roads, road trips offer a fascinating alternative to standard travel. Some travellers may feel themselves drawn to the unknown nature of certain routes, while, for others, it may be the thrill of experiencing and overcoming hazards.
In honour of the pioneering spirit of Bertha Benz, we've put together a list of some of the most dangerous and exciting road trips in the worldâ€¦
James Dalton Highway, Alaska, USA
The James Dalton Highway in Alaska is often described as the “ultimate road trip”. Stretching nearly 670 kilometres from the Elliott Highway to Prudhoe Bay, there are only five settlements along the route where you can obtain supplies or help. The highway has some steep inclines, which, coupled with ice and snow, make for extremely hazardous driving conditions. The low temperatures in this part of the world add to the potential for mechanical problems, although they also mean this is not somewhere you'd want break down.
Amalfi Drive, Italy
Running for 80 kilometres along the Italian coast, the Amalfi Drive is renowned for its excellent views of the dramatic local scenery - the mountains, coves and deep blue sea of the Amalfi Coast. However, the flip side of having such views is that the road often runs along the very edge of steep cliffs, with the Tyrrhenian Sea crashing on rocky shoals far below. The narrow road twists and turns, with many sharp bends and tight squeezes. Local and visiting drivers are known for their distinct lack of caution while traversing this route, driving at high speeds and while craning their necks to look at the view. Despite being one of the most beautiful drives in the world, you may struggle to relax enough to enjoy the many sights.
Birdsville Track, Australia
In Australia’s vast outback is a long and lonely route called the Birdsville Track. Much of this 617-kilometre road passes through pure, unforgiving desert. The isolation, heat and arid conditions encountered in this area can easily take unprepared drivers by surprise - potentially with disastrous consequences. While the road has been upgraded recently, flash floods can still make the route unpredictable and a bit of a risk to travel.
Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam
The Ho Chi Minh Trail runs virtually the entire length of Vietnam, taking in some stunning scenery along the way. But even four-wheel-drive vehicles find it exceedingly tough. The route is little more than a mud track in many places, scored with the ruts of previous vehicles. Rivers crisscross the trail at certain points, requiring vehicles to navigate their fast-flowing waters in order to pass. Other sections run through remote jungle areas where little in the way of supplies or assistance can be procured in case of emergency.
Yungas Road, Bolivia
The most dangerous road trip on this list is likely the Yungas Road in Bolivia. Known as the "Road of Death", this road runs from the Bolivian capital La Paz to Coroico 60 kilometres away. Along this route are hairpin bends and long stretches consisting of a single lane no wider than four meters in places. There are sheer drops, with no barriers to prevent vehicles from plummeting down the cliff, and dust can reduce visibility for drivers. When it rains, torrents flow down the hillside and across the road, rendering it a quagmire in places for vehicles. There is less traffic along this route now that a new road has been built, but it is still very dangerous, especially as it has become popular with mountain bike riders.
Road trips can be exciting, whether they follow a set route or meander along in a general direction. But it pays to be aware of the geography and potential dangers. Drivers need to dress appropriately, and bring the relevant equipment, supplies and spares they'll need in case of emergencies. Full insurance is also an essential requirement, so make sure you’re covered. Even the most straightforward of road trips may contain hidden hazards, so drivers should always be prepared.
Mr. Andrew M. @ www.roadtripwise.com has also additionally interesting tips and information about road trips.