The Death Road

Trip Start Sep 30, 2006
Trip End Dec 24, 2008

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, March 22, 2007

Finally got the chance to experience a four year long desire, since I was 22 Iīve been dreaming of riding the DEATH road or as its also known here as The Worlds Most Dangerous Road.

Itīs name is officially the worlds most dangerous road, according to an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report, an average of 26 vehicles per year drive over the edge. Excessive working hours and booze are the problemo.

Since last year a new safer tarmac road was built on the opposite side of the mountain and traffic uses this road leaving the old, dusty, narrow, rubble strewn and dangerous road to the mountain biking company's and the hordes of gringos who turn up for a go.

They say that the most dangerous way to travel down the road is by bicycle, weīre cycling down. The most dangerous way back up is by bus. We are taking a bus back up!

I signed up for this day trip, Kat stayed behind, and our group of nine drove up to 4600 meters in a van with the latest $2500 Kona mountain bikes on board. At 9am we had the safety check;

"this is the front brake, don't use it first. This is the back brake, use it first. Right, lets go!"

Then after a quick blessing to Pachamama, mother earth, we drank some whisky and poured some more on our bikes.

The first part of the 70km downhill madness was on tarmac, 20km of gravity assisted fun. It was a smooth road and the front guide went off like a cruise missile setting the pace at a reasonable 50km an hour. We all followed wearing these great fluorescent jackets looking like a cycling proficiency test on speed.

After the warm up and a quick stop for a drugs search, this is a main cocaine smuggling road, we took a break before entering the gravel death road. Another quick safety chat;

"Welcome to the Worlds Most Dangerous Road, go easy, stay on the left, don't overtake, have fun." 

So we set off, one by one, gravity helping us go faster, and hydraulic disc brakes helping us go slower. The road was about 3 meters wide and really loose gravel and rocks. The cars and truck that used to use the road would compress the rocks and gravel down making the surface flatter. But now there are no cars using the old road the surface has become even more dangerous as rocks become loose and stay that way.

On the fifth corner, who can claim first tumble, me. Coming around a corner the gravel on the road sent the back wheel sliding out, the bike starts heading towards the edge, Oooo Poop, emergency plan B, and I dropped the bike on the ground and used my body as a brake. Me plus the bike on one side skidding to a stop just at the edge of a long long drop down.

I picked my self up and dusted off to find a few scrapes along the knee but altogether OK. The guyīs face riding behind me said it all.

The good news is that I didnīt fall again and made it down 3400m in altitude. It was a very dangerous road. There were loads of crosses all along it, and we came upon one road accident. But you could make it as dangerous as you want it to be. The agency I did it with were very safety conscious. The only thing they didnīt protect you against was the really sore bum at the end of it all.

Cooper Out

Love Dan
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