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Ben and Ange - On the Road

Muerte Carretera

BOLIVIA | Tuesday, 24 June 2008 | Views [722] | Comments [2]

At cloud level now.  About 3500m.

At cloud level now. About 3500m.

After climbing volcanos, crossing the Drakes passage and working with big cats, we decided to do something risky.  Bring on the "Worlds most Dangerous Road"!  Cue dramatic music....

Its a stretch of road that goes from La Paz to Coroico.  Starting at 4700m and stretching down to 1000m.  DOWNHILL all the way baby!!

Since its downhill all the way why ever not do it on BICYCLE!  Minimum peddling - maximum fun!! 

Starting the day nice and early we caught our mini-bus up to the start point.  There we were provided with our bikes, jakets, pants, and ultra cool riding gloves.  Oh and a helmet... for what its worth.  After checking all our gear (read - making sure the brakes work) we were off!

The first part is tarmac with barriers and gentle curves.  This gives you a great opportunity to see just how much speed you can get!  With us tearing down the road it was only after about 15 minutes that we began to notice how cold it really was.  The snow and the ice on the side of the road should have given us a hint but it was our hands frozen tightly in position to the handles that brought it home... stupid ultra cool riding gloves! Numb hand cycling NOT recommended.

After 30 mins or so we had a quick break - off with the gloves and hand positioned on any warm part of our bodies.  I thought about placing my hands on Ange... but given the precipice near by I decided against it.  And I`m still alive so that proves how right I was.

A few more k`s on the tarmac, with the air slowly warming, we reached the start of the dirt section.  Up until two years ago, this was the original road.  Dirt, one lane and stupidly sheer drop offs, used by all traffic including BUSES and TRUCKS.  Another quick rest and detailed intructions which essentially spelled "please be careful", off we set for the REAL downhilling!  Our initial pace was quite slow (according to our guide anyway) but gradually we picked up the pace. 

Parts of the track you were constantly riding the  brakes going through one hair-pin bend to another while other parts were surprisingly quick... thank god for the guide as we were tearing along the road at full pace, only to see him start slowing and then the tight corner (with matching sheer drop) appears.

Of course as fun as the ultra-speedy sections were, you have to remeber this is on a dirt (stoney) track.  What this means is hands shocking and vibrating so badly on the handlebars that vision actually started to blur as speed increased.  So with blurring vision, dust in the eyes, hands cramping from their tight grip on handles or brakes who has time to notice the road just disappears a few inches on the outside of each bend?!

Over the 68km distance we covered, we probably only needed to peddle 4 or 5 times.  And that was probly just to pose for a photo anyways.  Easy to loose sight of the altitudes we`re dealing with until of course, we DESCEND into the clouds and then come out the other side and we`re still at 3000m or so.  Along the way we were also treated to overhangs that covered the whole width (or lack thereof) of the track and in one case even passed under a water fall dropping from overhang to the valley below.

So after 3 or 4 hours we finally made it safely to the bottom....almost.  NOt two minutes from the end guess who stacked it?!  Me!  Coming down another fast stretch with another cyclist ahead of me,  on the inside of the corner - me on the outside he started to drift out and apply his brakes... leaving me with no room.  But I`m in THE ZONE and have hit some impressive speeds.  Fortunately it was on the wall side and after dodging a few large rocks and wiping some of the speed off, I`ve stacked it!  No harm done - no injuries,  save pride.  The bike was a bit worse for wear though which made it look more spectacular.

Post down hill beer was consumed.  As was a big lunch for adrenaline inspired hunger and then for the journey home.

Now seeing as there was a new road built back to La Paz, one would have assumed that thats the road we would have taken.  No.  Our guide and trusty driver have decided to ascend the same way we descended.  Now I wouldn`t say that Ange and I sh*t ourselves... well actually... we did!

A mini-van is a whole lot wider than a push bike AND we`re not the ones in control!  It also may have been the driver playing with the cd player, the near head on collision with another van, the passing on another van on a super-narrow section and the clouds closing in making it almost impossible to see any further than 15m ahead of us that caused our state of extreme white-knuckleness.

But made it home we did... a day of thrills and spills to chalk up to our "how cool is this?" check-list.

 

Comments

1

You two are craaaazzzzy!!! Though I have a feeling the photos don't do the experience true justice. A bit like an EXTREME Macquarie Pass. Now not to sound like a mother, but you two please take care we would like you both back in one whole entire piece. Ange I hope you kissed any of Ben's boo boos better.
Love
Fiona and Boys.

  Fiona Jun 24, 2008 5:58 PM

2

Well of COURSE I did. Even if there weren`t actually any boos :-)
Oh - should be some more photees added to the album by now... check em out!
Ange

  bagen Jun 25, 2008 9:43 AM

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