Ruta Nacional 5

Ruta Nacional 5

Ruta 5 in Chile runs from the Peruvian border, connecting with Ruta 1, 19km north of Arica, down to Puerto Montt where it connects via ferry to Chiloé island. This major road is a bypass of the country’s capital, Santiago. This road is Chile's longest route, 3,364 kilometres (2,090 mi) and is part of the Panamerican Highway. A notoriously dangerous drive, it's filled with deep valleys, steep drops, and desert.

Despite its relative modernity the part of the Chile Highway 5 or Route 5 known locally as Ruta 5 between Arica and Iquique is a notoriously dangerous drive. It’s a two lane paved road with a speed limit of 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) winding through deep valleys with steep drops littered by the occasional vehicle carcass sitting eerily at the foot. The surrounding landscape is bare, almost vivid and often void of any distinguishing characteristics. It would be easy to lose concentration, as the vehicle skeletons suggest many have, and plunge into one of the imposing voids on either side. Also, the frequent dense fog can reduce visibility to zero in a matter of seconds if losing your focus wasn’t easy enough!

The surrounding landscape of the road, in the Chile's Atacama Desert, is almost featureless making concentration extremely difficult and thick fog often descends on the road and can dramatically reduce visibility in a matter of seconds. But the main danger factor here is the monotony: hundreds of miles through endless, empty lines leading to numerous accidents. On the gutters there are small mausoleum in memory of those who gave their lives to the road. This long flat road with some steep drop-offs often catches speeding drivers unaware, resulting in many fatalities each year. The few times you can see cars and buses passing by, they were doing so at such a speed that you may think they are either tempting fate very foolishly or perhaps they are just ghosts whizzing past. The mono-hued and isolated scenery is well capable of endowing you with the capacity to have such visions, so concentrating and avoiding the use of any form of hallucinatory substance is essential here. The danger of this road is that with no surrounding civilisation, speeds easily rise and safety goes right out of the window.
It’s a two lane paved road crossing the desert from north to south, with gas stations very few and far between. Strong winds are also an issue here, the area is known for gusts so strong they'll blow you off the road and throw you down a valley.