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Biking Down the "Death Road"

BOLIVIA | Wednesday, 6 September 2006 | Views [3262]

Well, on Sunday I took the plunge and mountain biked down the "Most Dangerous Road in the World". After riding down it on a bike at break neck speed, I can tell you for sure that it is no exageration. The 44km stretch of road between La Paz and Coroico is a one-laned dust and loose rock road with nothing between you and a 100m drop off the left hand side. It also boasts a yearly death toll of 250+ people, which is almost the same as the toll for the whole of Australia...

When I had made up my mind to do this little adventure I presumed that the "real danger" involved was really just monitered and that they  were just talking it up a little bit. After I had booked myself in and was feeling excited about the upcoming adrenilin rush, I ran into 3 people one after another who had sustained fairly serious injuries doing the ride (a boy who had fallen off the side of the road and ended up with a broken arm, a girl with a broken leg and a guy who had  managed to face plant into gravel, needing 30 stitches to repair his face) and so I got a little worried but being freshly out of my teen years, it didn´t faze me too much as of course as things like that can "never happen to me".

We all met up at 7am... My group consisted of 6 englishmen and me. We drove up to the peak of the road at 4700m, were given our bikes and other equipment and a safety brief and then off we went! The first 15km or so of the road were really nice and smooth and down hill, so we had a blast doing that. About 10km into the trip we all stopped to observe the the remains of the first of many recent accidents we were going to see on the road. 3 weeks ago a driver of a combi colectivo had gone to sleep at the wheel, driving off a cliff, falling about 150m, killing 8 people. This put a little damper on the trip but on we went. We got to a drug check point and then the road starting going uphill, which considering the altitude, was a real killer! By the end I felt like my lungs were going to bleed!

When we got to the top, we were briefed again about the new safety rules for the "Death Road" which was shortly to begin. Along with the changing scenery, the road went from ashfalt to dirt, dust and rock and pretty quickly the left hand side of the road (which we had to ride on!) dropped away, revealing a damn big drop to the forest below. We rode on, stopping every 5km or so for a break as holding your hands constantly on the brakes on a road as bumpy as that really hurts! I still have lactic acid stored up in the arms and hands I think! On each of of breaks we were told a bunch of charming stories involving bikers and the road, I guess to keep us alert. We were told how an Israli girl (who had gone for a dodgy company) had been complaining about her brakes all day, took a sharp corner, had no brakes left, and went over the cliff and died - Apparently the company paid off the police to say that it was suicide and then changed their company name. Another, where a girl had got off her bike on the wrong side, a truck came around the corner a little too close and knocked her handle bars, puching her over the cliff where she also died. Certainly kept us all a little more on our toes I dare say!

Along the way we also passed the site of numerous accidents which had happened in the last couple of weeks, mostly involving tired or drunk truck drivers. One truck had actually gone over the edge just last week and was not found for 2 days because the wreckage was hidden in the scrub... 

human traffic lights on the road have been implimented a few months ago by the remaining family member of a truck driver who had collided head on into another truck, pushing them both over the cliff and killing all involved including their fived children who were aboard at the time. It seems to be helping a little with reducing accidents but obviously not enough...

We made it to the bottom of the road at around 2pm, with no injuries in the group which apparently is rare enough. We had a swim, shower and a big buffet lunch and then drove back to La Paz around 4. We got to tackle the "Death Road" now in bus which despite the fact that we got to hug the inside of the road, was still scary enough for me!

We got back to La Paz around 8pm, a little shaken but definitely proud of our exciting but probably pretty stupid adventure!

As for upcoming adventures for me... On Monday I went on a day hike in the Cordillera Real which was stunning (will post photos asap!) and decided that I will do a 10 day hike through this area towards the middle of the month (I am waiting a little to see if I can find a hiking partner...). Friday I will be going to the Pampas and the jungle in the northern part of the country where I will hopefully be able to see an anaconda, pihranas (don´t worry! I am not planning to go swimming in these areas!) and other cool wildlife. I will also go to see the Jesuit missions in the east near Santa Cruz, go to the colonial cities of Sucre and Potosi and to the Uyuni salt lakes before heading onto Argentina! Sounds tiring just writing about it but will be a blast! Bolivia is my favorite country yet!

Well will keep you all posted!




Tags: Adrenaline

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