Biking down the World’s Most Dangerous Road

Howdy Folks!

Still in La Paz, waiting for my new bank card to arrive . . . today is the fifth business day, so it should be here today or tomorrow . . . however, in accordance to how things usually work, I reckon it’ll be here on Monday or Tuesday. Such is life, I suppose.

La Paz is still full of surprises. The other day, while walking around the main market area (about ten blocks square), I heard a crazy commotion. Turns out I had unwittedly stumbled upon a huge parade, complete with dancers, fireworks and an amazing brass band. But wait . . . was that a second commotion I heard? As it happened, I was standing on the convergence point of two identical parades, each with their own brass band trying to out-play the other. Naturally, I sat down and watched. Very quickly a stage was set up and a folkloric band (it’s the only way I can think of to describe it. Bolivian music is called by the people musica folklorica) began to play. Traditional Bolivian music has guitars, the little Bolivian mini-guitars that resemble and sound like mandolins but are made of armadillo shells, and pan pipes. What a thing to stumble upon . . . and plus I was the only gringo there.

But the last is just the prelude to my real adventure, which, if you haven’t guessed already, was alluded to in the title of this post.

The old road from La Paz to Coroico was officially dubbed by the UN a few years ago as the World’s Most Dangerous Road. As I learned from my guide, there were at least 200 deaths a year on this road from traffic accidents. There is now a safer, paved road linking to two cities, so this road has become a biker’s paradise. Indeed, the municipal government of Coroico now charges 24 Bs. a biker to use it, and has renamed it as the Bicyclist Park.

Anyways, the ride is 63 km long, starting at about 4400m altitude and dropping to about 1100m. Essentially, it is four hours of downhill sweetness. It was truly amazing . . . you start on a paved section for about 15 – 20 kms, going through an incredible valley ringed by jagged peaks. In the valley are old stone fences and herds of llamas, but these I only really observed at the stops, because despite the fat tires on the bike we were getting up to 60 km/hr. Very exhilerating.

Then on to the death road, as it’s affectionately called by gringos and tour companies alike. It is essentially a narrow logging road with a sheer drop-off to the left. I really can’t describe it well — look at my photos on Flickr, on the set entitled, well, you can guess I’m sure.

We had many stops for picture opportunities (fortunately the guides took photos and we got them on a CD — hence me having pictures despite having no camera), and at each the guide had a chilling story. An Israeli biker lost control and went over the edge here, a German over there. At another place he pointed to where a bus of 25 people went over. One glance at the pictures and it will be needless for me to tell you that there are no survivors. Ever.

The most chilling was the story of a poor French girl. She had stopped with her tour group for photos, but noticed a truck coming up the road (crazily enough, the road is still occasionally used during the dry season, or about May to October). While still straddling her bike, she walked backwards a few steps to give the truck more room on the corner, but backed up a bit too much . . .

I was quite concerned about oncoming traffic, until the guide said the road ahead was totally washed out by a massive landslide. Perfect. Traversing that, carrying the bikes, with the drop-off below us, was more than a little nervewracking, but hey, it’s an adventure!

Honestly, it was so cool. I haven’t had so much fun since, well, snowboarding at Mt. Washington I suppose. I mean, 63 km of downhill!!!! Actually, the last couple kms were hellish, as it was flat and we had to peddle. Plus, it was in the rainforest, with tropical heat and humidity to add to the pleasure. Then, within sight of the end, there was a massive flooded river of orange mud, and I got totally covered in this viscous, neon mud. The locals nearby thought it was hilarious . . . an orange gringo (still with a big shit-eating grin, of course).

Then we piled into the van and headed to a jungle mini-resort, where we had hot showers, a dip in the swimming pool, a three course lunch, and of course (and most importantly) ice-cold cerveza. Then back to La Paz for a very early night.

The whole day, with everything included (even snacks and the ugliest t-shirt ever) cost $35. Viva Bolivia.

Due to the horribleness of my t-shirt, I bought a new one. It features a picture of a coca leaf with the inscription “La hoja de coca no es droga.” If you can’t figure out what that means there are numerous tranlators on the net. Anyways, I love it, and I will sport it with pride back in Canada. My death road t-shirt, however, will meet its demise on some god-forsaken cutblock in northern BC.

Anyways, I’ve just signed up for another tour on Saturday, with a German fella and a girl from Quebec. At 3am Saturday morning we’re off to Oruro for the famous Carnival. We get transportation there and back, prime seats for the parade, food (no beer, damnit), and actually that’s about it. We expect to get very drunk with the locals and engage in an epic water balloon war. Supposedly that’s what you do.

Anyways, somebody send me an email!

‘K Bye.

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~ by turvyc on January 31, 2008.

2 Responses to “Biking down the World’s Most Dangerous Road”

  1. Colin, you are the man.

  2. […] first day of our tour was another day of downhill mountain biking, though not as dangerous as riding down the Death Road in La Paz. The sixty kilometers of coasting downhill from the high hills into a lush jungle valley […]

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