After getting gas in Mocoa, a town much larger than you would expect to find at the end of one bad road and at the beginning of an even worse road, I drove El Burro (yes I named my car "the donkey") about a mile south of town and turned right at the police checkpoint. This marked the start of Carrera 10 or 45 or "trampolín de muerto" depending on who you ask. Starting at less than 2000 feet above sea level this road climbs all the way up to 10,400 feet before brining you back down to 9000 feet along the shore of Laguna de la Concha. Katy and I didn't know much about the road besides that it was super windy and one local guy we talked to had a colorful name for it. We really only took it because it was the most direct route to the Ecuador border from one of the last places we wanted to see in Colombia.
After about 10 minutes of driving we still weren't exactly sure why it was called the trampoline of death. I mean we had an idea but we couldn't decide if it got its name from the fact that it was so rough and bumpy you felt like you were on a trampoline and there were so many blind corners and narrow sections that you might to bounce off the edge. Or because it was so lush and densely forested that if you did go off the edge your vehicle would bounce thousands of feet down the valley walls.
Anyways, this road is treacherous but indescribably beautiful.
I could describe everything to you in the detail a recent liberal arts grad is good at but for the sake of length let's just stick to pictures and video that my trusty co-pilot Katy captured.
We tailed a huge truck for the first bit of the road. Like this one:
Until I decided he was going too slow and passed him.
From there the road got narrower and the clouds moved in like this:
While the road is dangerous and hard on your vehicle it does not require a 4x4 or even very high clearance. The most important thing is a good set of brakes and knowing your vehicle. Because there will be times when you are cautiously and responsibly driving around a blind turn and there's a huge truck doing the exact opposite. In these situations slow down and pull right until your mirror is good friends with the mossy rock wall. Even then one of you will probably have to back up so the other can get by.
It seems to be maintained by the government to some extent. There are a lot of guard rails. But a lot of them look like this:
They worked for someone else but probably won't work for you. I'm assuming this particular one was taken out by a land slide but there are many others that are all bent out of shape and hanging out into thin air.
This guy was lucky and crashed into a ditch on the left side of the road. You can also see one of the maintenance workers in this picture and the cute little stick and caution tape barrier he put up.
Here's a well maintained shrine to Mother Mary with lots of freshly lit candles
All in all it was a positive experience that put my driving skills to the test and provided some amazing views. Between the waterfalls to the views of the valleys when the clouds did clear for a minute I would definitely do it again. Not gonna recommend it to anyone else though.
Here's a video that shows how trucks just pop up around a corner and later on how an even bigger truck appears out of the fog:
Nope nope! Asked around and looked it up!!! This road is not just called the Trampoline of death or The Devils Trampoline by one colorful fella we talked to. That's actually it's name. Built in 1930 to transport troops while Colombia was at war with Peru, lots of people die here every year. (I can't speak to the accuracy of this number but I've read it in three different places) But apparently 2011 and 1989 are two of the deadliest years. 2011- around 500 people and 1989-300 people.
It seems to be a quicker and cheaper way to get from the border with Ecuador to South East Colombia. So a lot of people opt to pay one of two companies to take them along the road.