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Biking the World Most Dangerous Road

BOLIVIA | Tuesday, 4 December 2007 | Views [1113]

Close your eyes and imagine rocky roads, passing under heavily cascading waterfalls, 1000m sheer cliff drop offs, on a road just barely wide enough for a truck to drive it, with no extra space for a slip of the tire or an animal to pass.  Yes, we decided to venture out on the journey from La Paz to Coroico to tackle the famed "World's Most Dangerous Road" with a top notch company - Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking.  The name of the company comes specifically from the fact that we're speeding downhill most of the ride, dropping more than 3600m in 4 hours, through 64 km of winding narrow mountain trail.  We start at the all time high altitude (for us) of 4700m.  
Arriving at the start, La Cumbre Pass, we are greeted with fresh snow blanketing the ground and surrounding mountains, fresh from the storm that passed through last night.  It's freezing here.  We opted for the supped up package for $75, which includes not only our full suspension, $2500 value high performance mountain bike, but also full gear, helmut, goggles, riding jacket and pants, buff to cover our face in the frigid weather, and riding gloves.  We suit up and are personally introduced to our bikes and given detailed riding lessons by the New Zealand owner of this company, Alister.  His job is to scare the shit out of us so we don't do anything stupid on the trail, and then coach us back with confidence in our ability to execute the skills he teaches us on the technically challenging portions of the ride.  
The first 20 kms or so are flat paved road, which allows us to practice the skills we've learned.  The road is slick, and wind strong and gusty.  Just one hour into the ride, three girls have had bad spills, one with a scraped up face, another with broken teeth, bloody nose, and the third who was following the second too closely, and ends up with a bruised ego.  Our company has two bus loads of people for this trip which is good - one bus takes the three girls back to the hospital in La Paz, setting them up with good quality medical care, of course, costs all needing to be covered by the girls and their insurance providers (you are not allowed to ride without insurance).  
We continue onward and start shedding clothes as we plunge into a hot subtropical zone.  There are guides in the front and back of the pack, and the bus trails us, in case of more accidents or if someone is so freaked out by the sheer drop off cliffs that they need to ride in the bus for a bit.  The scariest part of this ride is on the gravel portion of the road (less than 40km distance); there's the steep sheer drop off on the left hand side.  On the trail exists a set of large thick tire marks most the way.  We are instructed to ride in the left hand tire track, literally inches from the drop off, in the case of oncoming truck/car traffic, we would be able to move in time of an on coming vehicle.  So the trail is challenging in itself, but the added fear factor of riding just inches from the drop is frightening.  We manage to keep our treads on the tracks, even splashing through rivers and under heavy waterfalls.  I'm toward the back (because I'm going painfully slow) and get the full on individualized coaching by the guides which isn't such a bad thing until they scream at me to let off the breaks or my bike well fall over.  It's not until we drop down to 3000m and I finally get a big dose of oxygen and a sandwich break that finally get up the courage to go fast - they tell us that typically happens when we get to lower altitudes.  Now I'm really having fun, leaning into my turns and passing others, this is truly a thrill ride.  We make it to the bus, entering the town of Coroico, and little children stand in the road with their hands out to give us a "high five" as we ride by... this is the best part of ending our experience, aside from the icy cold beer at the bottom of the trail at the animal reserve lodge.  
We all decompress from a very long, adrenaline pumping day, driving, eating and watching our video and pictures from the ride.  We are extremely lucky that the weather held out, and for the first day since we arrived into Bolivia, there has been no rain.  The drive back, our original bus meets up with us after returning the girls to the hospital safely, and we take the "new road" versus the old road that we had just biked.  The new road, despite thousands of dollars spent on the project, is already falling apart, but still much safer than the road we just rode down, and the entire way back is sealed with thick fog, we can’t see in front or on the side or behind the vehicle.  We are happy with our driver who is a 28 year veteran of driving these roads.  He gets us back safely to La Paz.  We crash out, and have never slept so well at 4000m before.
For more information about the World’s Most Dangerous Road, and really impressive photos, check out their website:  www.gravitybolivia.com.

Tags: Adrenaline

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