Death Road

Arrived LaPaz to 2 days of scheduled rest. Rest has not happened yet. We arrived Friday afternoon, now Sunday morn and continue to pile on the activities. Hence have been unable to post my impressions. Have been down with continuing diarrhea and have not been eating in restaurants where I can get a wifi connection. Whenever 40 of us hit the hotel internet it crashes and is getting extremely frustrating.

But LaPaz is in a mountainous area, the city nestled very tightly into a steep valley. The roads are steep and have not seen a flat one yet. Outside of town up one of the valleys is a road leading to the northern sections of Bolivia. Up until 2006 when a new road was finally built it was acknowledged to be the most dangerous road in the world. Google “death road” or “most dangerous highway in the world” and this road comes up. It is built into a cliff and at places is only 3 meters wide and is a 2 way road. Rules of the road changed so one drives on the left instead of the right, as in England, Australia, and several,other countries. Only on this road is it done so that drivers have a better feel of where their tires are. Sometimes in passing tires will overhang. Up to 330 people a year died on this road, and it is still open and used for traffic because the new road is over three times longer. It is so steep and has big drops there are sections that have been used for BASE jumpers. (Parachutist who jump in this case from land)

I find that most places would find such a thing appalling. Bolivia has turned it into a tourist attraction and is now a destination mountain bike road. We hired one of the local mountain bike companies to provide guides (generally one per five riders, but being experienced we got 2 for 20), full suspension bikes, and two busses to take us on the 67 kilometer death road. Departing our hotel at 8 am we worked our way through LaPaz and up to the hills above, finally achieving an altitude of 4725 meters (15,500 feet) where high alpine conditioned prevailed. It was snowing but turned to sleet and rain with foggy condition limiting visibility to barely a hundred meters. The company provided rain gear but acknowledged it had been used so many times it leaked. We became rather wet and cold stopping at a roadside vendor and getting hot coffee and snacks while paying our road tax for the death road.

So with a blessing of the bikes for our safety with an offering to Pachamama ( an Inca god). We poured rubbing alcohol on our tires, on the ground and a sip for us. Whew I have massive amounts of hair on my chest now.

I have ridden harder mountain bike rides but never one with the exposure of this one. At first we questioned our sanity, but as we descended through the rain and waterfalls biking was fun. A 67 kilometer high speed descent. Wow. Our guides were great stopping us every few kilometers to relay a bit of history. The worst was a bus passing went down with 130 people. Now it is inattentive mountain bikers who die, as I remember about 9 a year although I could be off on that. Looking around is not an option except when stopped. It is a steep, rutted, gravel road with water running down it.

We dropped down at one point measuring 60 kilometers an hour. The vegetation turned to rain forest and reaching the bottom having stopped and shed many layers we were in jungle with banana trees, papaya, parrots, and monkeys. Elevation 1100 meters (3600 feet) a 3600 meter descent (12,000 feet). With minimal pedaling.

A few beers to celebrate and a hot shower. Why hot showers down there and not up here in LaPaz I do not know but it was nice. Then the 3 1/2 hour bus ride feeling the decreasing oxygen as we returned to the hustle and craziness of LaPaz. A great day.

Now lying in bed in hotel my roommate Buck just said this is like a climbing trip. Each of us waiting for the other to get up and start the stove.
OK just waiting for breakfast at 7:30



2 thoughts on “Death Road

  1. Just keep writing and know that sometime you will have enough wifi to send all. Don’t get so frustrated with technology! Pen and paper work too. Glad you made it down death road.
    Things are fine here!


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