Worlds Most Dangerous Road... on a bike...SMASH!!!

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Friday, December 17, 2010

We woke up at about 5.30am. I for one was worried that today might be my last.  A few reasons really, not having been on a bike (except wine tasting in Mendoza) for years, serious lack of balance, altitude, scratched sunglasses to blur my vision and an absolute hatred of exercise did not bode well for a 64 km bike ride with up to 600m sheer drops on one side.  After packing up our bags with everything we would need for the day, change of clothes, sunglasses, towel, swim wear (for the pool at the animal sanctuary), extra warm clothes, a rain jacket and suncream we got a taxi to Coffee Alexander our meeting point and excellent place for a decent breakfast.  Two scrambled eggs and bacon on toast and two cappuchinos later our guide Cody arrived from Gravity Assisted and loaded us and another 6 people on to the bus.  We set off in the direction of Coroico and the official 'World's Most Dangerous Road' AKA 'Death Road' and I was getting more and more nervous as I looked around the bus to see what appeared to me to be 6 semi professional mountain bikers (who had all had fruit for breakfast not bacon and egg butties)

After what seemed like 10 minutes but in actual fact was more like 45 we arrived at the starting point where we got kitted up in our biker outfits - essentially pants, jacket, helmet, gloves, what looked like me to be a snood and a safety vest.  We were then given our bikes and the panic really started to set in - the words gears was mentioned - shit my last bike had a bell where those things now were.  Anyway the guides explained lots of things to us about the bikes and the road but to be honest I don't really remember much of it as I was now in full on panic mode and scolding Andrew for ever making me agree to do this bloody thing.  The bits I do remember were 3.2m wide, no barrier, no record of how many actual deaths there have been of cyclists (maybe 14) but cars and van deaths were well in to the 100's, in fact in just one accident over 100 people were killed when a bus went over the edge.  I was having a cold sweat.  We blessed Mother Earth with some pure alcohol, poured it on the ground, then on our wheels and then took a sip - Wow it was like parafin.  But it calmed the nerves a little.

The first section of the road started at La Cumbre (4,700m/15,400 feet) and was tarmac so allowed us to get used to the bikes, ha.  There were a lot of bends and it was all down hill which was surprisingly Ok and I wasn't even the last to arrive at the drug check point (?).  The next section was similar and my nerves had disappeared the guides were really good and explained each section before we started them and there was always the bus following slowly behind if we decided that we needed a rest.  We had a group decision to make about an hour in to the ride - whether we wanted to do some up hill climbing - erm no - my hand was firmly locked to my side I am well aware of my limitations! (andrew edit - Gravity are the only company that allow you to do the uphill sections whilst glad now I did it at the time I thought I was ready to die). Five of the group decided to do it while 3 of us got to chill out on the bus following slowly behind and getting the chance to get lots of photographs of the beautiful scenery. Andrew was a bit knackered afterwards, you don't say, the altitude really got him but hey I was very proud that he had done it. Soon after came our first introduction to Death Road.  This section drops 2,000m (6,500 feet) and has 1,000m+ (3,300 feet) drops on the left hand side.  I dealt with all that until Cody told us that we would actually be riding on the LEFT!!! This was so we could see around the corners better - and get a better view of the sheer drops too.

Again this part was in sections which was great and Andrew got in to his stride and sped off so he could get photographs of me as I rode passed some 20 minutes later (bit of an exaggeration). We rode through waterfalls and streams and mega overhangs which were amazing and as we got further down and closer to the jungle it became hotter and hotter so we all stripped off a bit and drank gallons of the free water - the waterfalls were really refreshing too but we had to be careful this time not to ride on the left as the falls have washed away a lot of the surface making it slippery - I almost hugged the rock.  At the bottom we arrived in Yolosa absolutely wrecked after a small up hill climb - I'm blaming the altitude (what altitude) all the way.  We made our way to La Senda Verde Animal Refuge which was absolutely awesome.  We had a great meal of pasta and salad complete with a beer or two (this is purely to support the animals you understand) and then got to meet the animals. 

Most of the animals have been taken off individuals who illegally have them - the bear was resued from some kind of shop.  They have tortoises, birds, snakes, cayman, but our favorite by far were the monkeys.  The sanctuary has Spider monkeys, Capuchin Monkeys and Red Howler Monkeys.  We were introduced to Nico a Capuchin monkey who was in the 'Naughty Enclosure' and he looked very coy.  The volunteers decided to let him out and after a while (andrew edit which included the theft of a hair bobble, biting somebodies camera and trying to steal it and stealing someones hostel wrist band), after grabbing my boob with his hand down my top, he decided to make my knee his home and promptly went to sleep!  I even had to wake him up to leave.  Andrew even got a cuddle from a Spider monkey which took a shine to his beard (check out the video).  The journey back to La Paz (driving in the bus along Death Road) took 3 1/2 hours by which stage my arse had started to hurt and the bus was slightly uncomfortable - god even my hands ached.  Cody then told us that there had been 3 'incidents' that week and one man should have died (andrew edit he actually went over the edge but managed to grab a tree part way down the drop) - he was rescued by a guide abseiling down the rock face.  I felt fortunate.  We fell in to bed back at the hostel - I was glad that I had survived it and enjoyed it (even just a little bit).

I'd been there, done that and got the t-shirt.
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