Roads Week on WCN: The roads to discovery

Vania Goncalves 24 Aug 2016 GLOBAL TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE

If you believe the old song, the M25 motorway that circles London is ‘The Road to Hell’. But while many motorists may be inclined to agree with that sentiment — particularly during the coming bank holiday weekend — there are plenty of roads around the globe that offer much more than traffic jams and suspect hotdogs from service stations. From those that take in remarkable natural scenery, through to those constructed using innovative technologies — we look at some of the world’s most interesting roads.

1)    The Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway

The Atlantic Ocean Road, also known as ‘The Road in the Ocean’, is 8.3km long and connects the island and municipality of Averoy with the mainland at Eide, in Norway.

With a width of 6.5m, the road spans across an archipelago of partially inhabited islands and skerries.

As one of the 18 National Tourist Routes in Norway, it features several tourist sites, including dining, fishing, and scuba diving resorts, along its length.

It has also been branded as the world’s best road trip and the ‘Norwegian Construction of the Century’ — becoming a very popular site to film automotive commercials.

Construction on the road — a section of the County Road 64 — started on  1 August 1983. It cost NOK122M ($15M) and opened on the 7th of July of 1989.

2)    The Yungas Road or ‘Death Road’, Bolivia

The North Yungas Road is a 68km gravel-dirt track connecting the city of La Paz to Coroico, in South America.

In 1995, the Inter American Development Bank nicknamed this road ‘the most dangerous road in the world’ – and with good reason.

It can only fit one car at a time — it barely reaches the width of a vehicle, 3.2m — and has no guardrails to prevent them from falling 2,000ft.

Furthermore, rain makes the road muddy and slippery, and the route is prone to fog.

It is estimated that 200 to 300 people die each year while travelling on the road, with dozens of vehicles falling off the side.

Yet despite the dangers, the road is a popular tourist destination, attracting up to 25,000 thrill-seeking visitors — especially mountain bikers — annually to contemplate the stunning views of the Amazon rainforest.

It has become a profitable business for many tour operators to cater services to tourists — providing information, guides, transport and equipment.

3)    Route 1, Iceland

Do you fancy getting into the car and witnessing an amazing exhibit of waterfalls, glacial plains and even a volcano? We have the solution for you, just embark on a journey along the Route 1 or ‘Ring Road’ around Iceland.

The 1,332km-long road connects most of the inhabited parts of the country and showcases the island’s exquisite spots — the glacier lagoon, the Grímsvötn volcano and, in autumn, the northern lights.

It also crosses a few glacial plains and waterfalls.

The route, completed in 1974, is paved with asphalt for most of its length, but there are still stretches —32km in total — in eastern Iceland with unpaved gravel surfaces.

Some portions of the road are still original 1940s country roads containing a few potential hazards, such as blind curves and summits, or narrow passes.

4)    Passage du Gois, France

Passage du Gois is a 4.1km natural passage in the Bay of Bourgneuf, linking the island of Noirmoutier to the mainland in Vendée, France.

What makes this causeway interesting is that it is covered by the Atlantic Ocean most of the day —1.3 to 4m underwater. It only becomes visible and accessible to traffic twice a day —for an hour or two — when the tide is low.

As a matter of fact, the name ‘Gois’ comes from the verb ‘goiser’, which means to ‘walk while wetting one’s shoes’.

Its initial formation, over a thousand years ago, was due to the deposition of silt made by the north and south currents hitting the bay. That silt was constantly moving before stabilising at the current location.

Stabilisation work was then carried on to prevent it from moving and a cobblestone road was laid down. Around 1840, cars or horses were able to cross the passage.

Since 1986, it has been used for the Foulées du Gois foot-race and, in 1999, was part of the Tour de France bicycle race route.

5)    Perdikaki-Patiopoulo, Greece

Perdikaki-Patiopoulo is a 23.5km mountain road located in the north-east of Aetolia-Acarnania, Greece.

The road starts in Perdikaki — a village at an altitude of 700m — and goes all the way up to Patiopoulo — to an elevation of 1,160m.

It is a steep and narrow road with tight turns, no guardrails or other means of preventing a vehicle from going over. Furthermore, it has gravel in most places and no lines determining where the edges are.

It is therefore not a surprise that many die on this road every year and that most accidents happen at night-time. This, however, doesn’t seem to put people off, as the road is regularly crowded with pedestrians, trucks, buses and cars.

6)    The Seven Lakes Road, Argentina

The Seven Lakes Road, also known as the Seven Lakes Route, is one of the most popular touristic routes in Argentinian Patagonia.

The 110km road is located in the Lake District — an area of glacial lakes, forests and extinct volcanos — and connects the towns of San Martin de los Andes and Villa La Angostura.

It covers the south sector of the Lanin National Park and the north of Nahuel Huapi National Park.

The route goes through Lacar, Hermoso, Falkner, Villarino, Traful, Correntoso, Espejo and Nahuel Huapi lakes, as well as other smaller lakes.

While travelling on the road you will be able to contemplate radiant mountains and distant glaciers, as well as deep green forests.

Also, its section at the Andean-Patagonian forest is dominated by native species of trees like the Nothofagus, Cordilleran Cypress and the Radal.

7)    The Kolyma Highway or the ‘Road of Bones’, Russia

The R504 Kolyma Highway is a 2,025km road connecting the towns of Magadan and Nizhny Bestyakh in Russia.

This road is also known as the ‘Road of Bones’, as the skeletons of the gulag prisoners who died during its construction are buried in its foundations.

Kolyma was built during the USSR’s Stalinist era with its first stretch built in 1932 by the Sevvostlag labour camp inmates. Construction continued with the use of gulag labour until 1953.

The highway is also one of the coldest roads in the world, and is located 100km from one of the coldest inhabited places on earth, Oymyakon town, where the average temperature in January is -46 °C.

8)    Guoliang Tunnel Road, China

The Guoliang Tunnel Road links the Chinese village of Guoliang to the outside world through the Taihang Mountains, in the Henan province.

Before the existing road, villagers had to climb a steep set of 720 dangerous mountain steps to get out of Guoliang.

The village’s head Shen Mingxin, with the support of other villagers, then decided to build a road tunnel through the rocky cliff.

They sold goats and herbs to buy hammers and steel tools. 13 villagers worked on the project, which took them 5 years to finish, using more than 12t of drill rods and 4,000 hammers.

The 1.3km-long, 12ft-wide and 15ft-high road has 30 windows of different sizes and shapes, allowing drivers to enjoy the spectacular views of the Taihang Mountains — known as ‘the long corridor in cliffs’.

9)    The Crooked Street or Lombard Street, San Francisco

Lombard Street is a 183m long, one-way road in San Francisco, California, known for its eight sharp turns.

Located between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, it has the title of the ‘most crooked street in the world’ — due, precisely, to its eight hairpin turns.

The design — first proposed by property owner Carl Henry and built in 1992  — was envisioned to reduce the hill's natural grade of 27%, too steep for most vehicles.

The street is paved with red bricks and has a recommended speed limit of 5 mph (8 km/h).

10)     The Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, Abu Dhabi

Strabag International of Cologne built the Jebel Ḥafeeṫ Mountain Road in 1980.

The road stretches 11.7km up the mountain to an altitude of about 4,000ft.

It has 60 turns and three lanes — two ascending and one descending — and was labelled the ‘greatest driving road in the world’ by Edmunds.com, an American automotive information website.

The route ends at a parking lot at the top of the mountain, where you can find a hotel and a palace belonging to the country’s rulers.

The Mountain Road is a challenge — just look at the image and you will understand why — for those who dare to cycle it.

Various competitions have been held on the road and at the mountain, an example of which is the Jaball Hafeet Mercure Challenge — an annual road cycling competition.

The arrival of the third stage of the first Abu Dhabi Tour also took place at the Jebel Hafeet in 2015.

11)     The Red Rock Scenic Byway, Sedona, Arizona

Often called a ‘museum without walls’, the Red Rock Scenic Byway is located in a region known as the Red Rock Country of Central Arizona.

The 12km-long road, officially State Route 179, runs between Interstate 17 to SR 89A in Sedona. It offers stunning views of the red rock mesas and nearby Mingus Mountains.

Other attractions along the highway — where you can give yourself some time to stop, contemplate, explore and take selfies — include the Red Rock State Park and Montezuma Castle National Monument ruins — a window into the life of the Sinagua people who lived there more than 600 years ago.

12)     Stelvio Pass, Italy

The Stelvio Pass is the highest paved mountain pass in Italy’s Eastern Alps. It dates from 1800 and is located in the Ortler Alps between Stilfs — ‘Stelvio’ in Italian — in South Tyrol and Bormio in the province of Sondrio.

The mountain above the pass is called Dreisprachenspitze, which translates in German as the ‘three languages peak’ to mark the place where the German, Italian and Romansh languages meet — as in Lombardy people speak Italian, in South Tyrol German, and in Graubünden Romansch.

The road features 60 hairpins and was voted the best driving road in the world by BBC television show Top Gear in 2008.

As a tourist attraction, the pass is one of the busiest in the Alps with peak months between July and August.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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