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Turning 30 South American Style With the dreaded 30th birthday looming, I ran away to South America to celebrate the landmark birthday in style.

Death Road mountain bike trip to Coroica

BOLIVIA | Saturday, 7 June 2008 | Views [5845]

As the ultimate mountain bike widow there was no chance of sneaking out of La Paz without at least some experience of the death road, one of the most famous downhill mountain bike rides in the world.
My options were to catch a bus down and wait for Steve at the bottom with a cold lager or hop on a bike and do the 3,000 meter descent from the Southern Altiplano to tropical valley myself.
For reasons that are still unclear to me, I opted for the latter and joined a tour group with Bside adventures to tackle the mythical singe track mountain pass.
I was a little nervous as we set off at 8am on a freezing cold La Paz morning, and our guide did not really help maters when he called us all to stop at the side of the road.
Five minutes into the ride we were staring down a 500 meter cliff face to the charred remains of a coach which had plunged off the road several years before killing all on board.
Cheerily, he urged us on. I grabbed hold of my breaks and started pumping them for dear life.
After an hour on tarmac choking on toxic diesel fumes we turned off onto the death road proper, a single track mountain pass with sheer drops of up to 400 meters at right angles to the road.
From the top you can see the sheer folly of driving a car along this thing as the road is barely wide enough for one car with passing points dreadfully few.
In the good old days, drivers would reverse in dense fog along the tiny road and slide off into the abyss, or crazy drunks and tired drivers would fall asleep at the wheel and plummet down to the valley.
Fortunately now it is pretty much closed to traffic so the fatalities have all but ceased and mountain bikers, I was assured, are safe.
And it is a beautiful route, with a birds eye view of the valley below and waterfalls and rivers spilling over onto the road. If you dare lift your eyes you can see condor like birds circling over head, close enough to count their feathers.
Helmet on and $2,000 bike between me and the road I let rip and started flying down hill singing Indian Jones theme tune out loud and shouting wee heeeyyyy every time I hit a corner at speed.
I did get the colly wobbles a few times, especially when I hit rocks with my back wheel sending the bike sliding towards the edge but all in all it was great fun, especially riding through the river at the bottom of the road.
At the end of the route we loaded the bikes into a mini van and headed up to Coroica which is a little village perched at 1000 meters above the valley with the most beautiful views of lush hillsides smothered in tropical forests.
I splashed out and checked me and Steve into the five star hotel for the night with views across the valley.
Poor Steve though, he opted to do the ride solo, climbing up to the start of the death road and tackling the 7km climb up cobble stones at the end too.
By the time he arrived, darkness had fallen so he never did get to appreciate the sunset views he paid for.

Tags: bolivia, cliff, coroica, cycle, death road, la paz, latin america., mountain, mountain bike, south america

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