Think your morning commute is rough? Frustrated by traffic or public transit? Just you wait. Try having to trek to school through some of these death-defying commutes. From zip-lining through jungles, to scaling mountains, and paddling hours down rivers, these commutes have us in awe of just how far some students will go to get to school — and let’s just say we won’t be complaining about our commutes any time soon.
1. Scaling Mountains In Sichuan Province, China
Anyone who thinks that their school is in the “middle of nowhere” should think again. For students living in parts of China’s Sichuan Province, commuting to school means hiking for a full five hours up gigantic, dangerous mountains. That treacherous journey leads them to what is known as “the school in the clouds”, located halfway up a cliff.
Keep your wits about you: on some parts of the journey, the path to this Gulu School is only 16 inches wide before it plunges down hundreds of feet. That would be scary even for any adult, but considering that the Gulu School is an elementary school, this means young children are risking their lives just to get to the only school in the area.
2. Crossing Broken Bridges in Indonesia
For some children on their way to school, there might be a frightening road that they have to cross. Yet for others, that road is replaced with a flowing river. And for students in the Indonesian village of Sanghiang Tanjung in the far west of the island of Java, the process of crossing this river is not as easy as taking a walk across a bridge.
Instead, students who live on one side of the Ciberang River have to scale a broken suspension bridge to get to their school on the other side of shore. The only safer option is to cross another, more stable bridge upstream, but that requires an extra 30 minutes of travel time added to their commute. Instead, students perform this death-defying feat every single day.
3. Paddling In Peru
There are only two schools that serve the children who live in one area of Peru’s section of Lake Titicaca, and neither of them would be defined as particularly convenient. The Uro clan live on man-made floating islands, and for generations their lives have revolved around being on the water. And their children’s school commutes are no different.
Since Uro parents are usually fishing before sunrise, the children are left to commute alone to school. And this is no normal commute; even the smallest children must paddle across the lake to get to class, and the trek often takes up to two hours of paddling each way. Not only is the route dangerous, it’s downright exhausting.
4. Crossing Tree Root Bridges In India
The tree root bridges in northeastern India are some of the most mesmerizing structures in the entire world. These bridges, made from the intricate crisscrossing of tree roots from Indian rubber trees, are not only breathtaking, they’re also known to get even stronger over time. But for the children who live deep within these jungles on the Bangladeshi border, these bridges are just their route to school.
Everyday, children from remote villages take multiple tree root bridges to make it to school. And while these structures might be easy on the eyes, they are by no means easy to cross. This area is one of the wettest places on Earth, so crossing these slick tree roots can become pretty dangerous, fast.
5. Taking Manual Cable Cars In Nepal
For the children who live in the village of Kumpur, Nepal, getting to class means climbing down step mountainsides to reach their school in the valley. Think that’s not too bad? What makes this commute one of the most dangerous in the world comes when these students have to cross a raging river on a broken, suspended cable car.
Here’s how it works. The younger children usually go inside of the cart while the older children push it across. There is no pulley system, so students must walk on narrow cables to push the metal structure. And over the years, the route has become even more difficult as the cables give way, making it harder to push the cart safely to the other side of the river bank.
6. Climbing Wooden Cliffside Ladders in Southwest China
Climbing up broken, rickety, wooden ladders to reach the top of a mountain face over 2,600 feet high is just part of the morning routine for some children in China. “If you have any kind of accident, you will fall straight into the abyss,” a photographer told The Guardian.
In fact, the trip to school for the 72 families that live in the nearby villages has been deemed so dangerous that the local school has been transformed into a boarding school. To cut back on how often children need to take this risky trip, students now only visit their families twice a month, and otherwise live at their mountaintop school.
7. Boarding Tuk Tuks in Cambodia
In Cambodia, students are redefining the meaning of carpooling. Instead of piling into a minivan, every day, students can be seen hopping into a remorque, more commonly known as tuk-tuks. These two-wheeled carriages, which are pulled at the front by motorbikes, have enough room to fit an entire family or, in this case, an entire class of students.
In the past, families who lived in the same neighborhood would either pitch in to send all of their children on one tuk-tuk, or, for the lucky ones, a parent of one of the children might own a tuk-tuk themselves. But recently, as apps like CamGo offer tuk-tuk hailing options at cheaper prices, families are sometimes ordering these carts like Americans might hail an Uber.
8. Taking Donkey Carts in Pakistan
Pakistan suffers from one of the worst education gaps in the entire world. Out of the 80 million children who live in the country, 24 million — just under one-third — are not in school, and over 50 percent of eight year-olds in Pakistan are considered to be illiterate.
Experts say that poverty is one of the main reasons that children in Pakistan are not receiving an education. Instead, families want to cut back on the time and cost of commuting, preferring to have their children help with household duties. But for those rural families who do decide to bring their children to school, the morning commute usually requires a bumpy ride on a donkey cart.
9. Traversing Frozen Rivers In The Indian Himalayas
Twice each and every year, families who live in more remote areas of the Indian Himalayas are faced with a potentially deadly commute to school. That is because for some of these families, parents and their children have to cross frozen rivers just to get to one of the very few boarding schools in the area.
The people living in this area are used to the weather conditions, and usually know exactly when to leave their homes for the best chance of making it to school safely. Still, these families have to look out for cracks in the frozen rivers that could crumble under their feet, while simultaneously looking up to make sure they don’t fall victim to one of the many avalanches in the Indian Himalayas.
10. Commuting By Canoe in Riau, Indonesia
In the province of Riau on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, fishing is one of the top commodities. And that should come as no surprise, considering that over 17 percent of the area is covered in water and the province features 15 different rivers. But just as life revolves around water here, so does the daily school commute.
Because of the vast waterways, many students who need to get to one of the schools in this area are given no other choice but to take a boat to school every day. But that doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing. With so much use, many of these boats are at risk for sinking before kids even make it to their first class of the day.
11. Riding A Mule In Hydra, Greece
Of all the Greek islands, Leonard Cohen’s old haunt of Hydra is considered to be one of the quaintest. Although it is also one of the closest islands to Athens, it sets itself apart for its quiet lifestyle, since the island is entirely car and motorcycle free. Instead, donkeys and mules are the primary modes of transportation on this island.
For the school-aged children who live on Hydra, that means there is no option to ride a school bus. Instead, every morning and every afternoon, tourists on the island can see children riding mules with their backpacks attached to the saddles. That’s definitely one way to beat the after-school traffic.
12. Motorbiking in Hanoi, Vietnam
Vietnam is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy a car, due to the country’s high import taxes on vehicles. So instead of taking on that huge financial burden, many families opt to using only motorbikes and scooters to get everywhere. And when we say everywhere, we mean even to school.
Every morning in Hanoi, the nation’s capital and one of its biggest cities, thousands of motorbikes whiz through the streets, carrying sometimes multiple children in school uniforms on their way to class, all on one singular bike. And if that isn’t scary enough, let’s just say that the rules of the road are much different in places like Hanoi, and that red lights seem like more of a suggestion than a command at times.
13. Braving “The Road Of Death” in Bolivia
The North Yungas Road in Bolivia links the capital La Paz to the forested area of Yungas in the Andes Mountains. Locals call this road “El Camino de la Muerte”, which directly translates to “The Road of Death”. While some students are lucky enough to get to leave their remote villages to travel to the city for a better education, they are not as lucky when it comes to their route to school.
This road descends 15,000 feet and stretches 40 miles down cliffs, taking sharp turns. Even days with high visibility, this road is considered one of the most dangerous in the world, and that is not even considering the days when it’s covered by mist and fog.
14. Boating Around Alligators In Nicaragua
In Nicaragua, the commute to school can be terrifying for those living in the most rural areas. On the east coast of the country, for example, some students have to row through the alligator-infested waters of the Rio Escondido. But for other students, that’s not even the hardest part of the journey.
Children who live by the riverbanks board family-owned canoes that are often riddled with holes, requiring one child to row while the other scoops water out of the bottom of the boat. But for students who aren’t lucky enough to live by the water, their commute also means they have to brave “snake fields” that are home to boa constrictors and other deadly predators.
15. Balancing On A River Tightrope In Sumatra, Indonesia
In a rural region of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, 20 students from the Batu Busuk village have no other choice but to trek cautiously to the only school in the area. And that trek means that they have to cross thin tightropes over high river waters.
While some of those tightropes were always that way, others are just small remnants of broken suspension bridges that have never been fixed. But once they get to the other side, these intrepid students still have a seven mile journey before they reach their school house. To make matters worse, the area is usually subject to heavy rainfall.
16. Riding Oxen in Myanmar
In the rural areas of Myanmar, the lucky students are the ones who get to ride oxen and bulls to school. But for those who are not so lucky, or whose families cannot afford these massive animals, getting to school means walking six miles in total — to and from their school lessons.
Since UNICEF estimates that 55 percent of children living in this country also live in circumstances of poverty, that means most children aren’t able to take the more convenient oxen-option. These grueling, two hour-long commutes mean that many school-aged children simply don’t go to school at all. But some organizations are trying to change that, and are sending bikes to villages to try to increase school attendance.
17. Hiking Through Rice Fields in Sa Pa, Vietnam
There might not be a more breathtaking commute to school in the world than there is in Sa Pa, Vietnam. But just because it is beautiful does not mean it comes without some hefty challenges for its residents. For the students who live in the Muong Hoa Valley, getting to school means hiking through the steep, tiered rice fields that this area is famous for.
With all of the rainfall that this region gets, the path to school is quite often wet and slippery. Schools aren’t located next to any actual roads, so there is no choice but to walk. And while tourists might find themselves slipping all over the trails, these kids are seasoned professionals. They can even do the hike one-handed while FaceTiming with friends.
18. Train Surfing in Jakarta, Indonesia
Anyone who thinks that a New York City subway commute is overwhelming just needs to take one look at the packed rush hour trains in the metropolis of Jakarta, Indonesia. These trains, which are taken by thousands of students every day, are pretty much always packed, and those who want to either avoid the crowds or avoid paying pile on top or cling to the sides of the train car.
The Indonesian government has been trying hard to cut down on this practice, which is called “train surfing”. In some areas, they’ve lowered cables, while in others they’ve installed hanging concrete balls to try to crack down on people riding on top — as if the idea of riding on the roof of a speeding train would not be enough to dissuade someone.
19. Braving A “50-Lane Highway” In China
No, this is not a 50-lane parking lot. This is the G4 Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway, one of the busiest roads in all of China. And for students who travel with their families by car out of the city in order to get to schools throughout the country, this nightmarish view is just part of the commute.
While this highway only actually has 25 lanes, cars tend create their own makeshift lanes, sometimes spanning to 50 cars across, hence its nickname of the “50-Lane Highway”. In reality, this portion of road leads to a a crowded toll booth area that then, somehow, narrows down into a four-lane highway.
20. Climbing Mountains In Mexico
At the beginning of every week, children who live in northwest Mexico in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range leave for school early in the morning, and won’t see their parents until the end of the week. To get to school, these children have to brave commutes that will take them to altitudes of over 3,000 feet.
One wrong step could mean disaster for any of these school-aged children. And the route there involves sharp, rocky edges and narrow paths, all of which are climbed by children as young as six years old. And if it rains on a Sunday night, children know they have to leave extra time for their more slippery commutes the next day.
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