Leaving Sorata early we took two 4WDs with three guides and two drivers higher up into the nearby Andes where we would start our decent
. The owner Travis was along for the first two days and has set up many downhill trails around Sorata since moving from the US 8 years ago. He informed us that the 2 days of biking was much more dangerous than riding down the death road which confirmed our decision to skip it. The 4WD itself was great fun and we saw some spectacular scenery. The bikes were top of the range – worth about US$2500 each and they were definitely appreciated. We started our decent with some amazing snow covered mountains as our back-drop. The dirt track was steep, rocky and occasionally had small creeks cutting across it. It was going through one of these that I was glad I hadn’t tried to be a hero and was wearing the knee/shin protectors as I hit a rock in a creek going much too fast for so early in the trip and I saw the bike go sailing over my head. Only some flesh wounds though so I was straight back on the bike. That was the second fall I had and thankfully the last as I became more comfortable with the bike and could go faster, safely (Steph didn’t fall once and held her own for speed among most of the group). We covered 80kms downhill through the mountains down into the valley, passing through small villages that only see tourists when the tour goes through each week. Dodging cows and wild Llamas was also another hazard. At one point riding one of the narrowest parts of the track we had a drop of several hundred metres right next to us. The scenery was spectacular throughout the whole day and it was a great rush taking hairpin bends as fast as possible
. We finished the day with an optional 15km uphill ride which a few of us, including Steph, gave a go. The strong head wind was definitely a hinderance. I made it to the waterfall which was apparently halfway and had a wash until the jeep came by to pick me up. Devestatingly it was only one more short uphill until a nice leisurely roll to where we stayed in a small Jungle village. The cold beer was definitely appreciated that night. We had decended from 4800m to 1100m.
The next day we took the jeeps up through the jungle to 1700m from were we again had an amazing day of breath-taking rides through the Jungle. Although less downhill, there were some great sections which really got the heart racing. We covered most of the 40kms and ended in a clear river where we had a swim at lunch before a short ride into Mapiri, on the banks of the river. It was a nice ride into town and we were welcomed by a very friendly village with all the kids running out for high fives. Although exhausted, it was sad to have finished that leg of the journey. Downhill biking is definitely addictive and we’ll probably see if we can do it elsewhere too!
We headed off for a 4 hour minivan ride to Sorata where we were to begin our bike/boat adventure to the jungle. Along the way we had to detour around a local village who had blocked off the main highway to hold what looked like their traditional dancing championships – it was quite comical seeing a bunch of old village blocks dressed up in their best pinstriped suits. Unfortunately we didn't have much time in Sorata as we left the next morning – it seemed like a really nice place and there was apparently a lot of trekking nearby. We met our group for the tour – 9 of us in all – including a Dutch couple Jules and Elska, a Dutch/German couple, two German girls and an older Swiss guy. They were all really nice and we all got on really well throughout the trip which made the experience even better.