Downhill all the way.....

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
Trip End Jan 19, 2007

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, September 8, 2006

Up early this morning and down to Barro biking in the backpacker part of town near our hotel. Had a quick breakfast there before getting our minibus out of town with 3 others - French and American. Keep meaning to say have met LOADS of French people here esp in Brazil and virtually no other Brits until we got to San Pedro in Chile - very odd but quite nice too!

Anyway, minibus headed out of town up hill pretty much all the way and about 45 mins and a police check later we arrived by a lake at Le Cumbre. We were kitted up in helmets, gloves, trousers and jackets and given our bikes ready for our adventure. We were about to cycle (well freewheel mainly) 60km to Yolonga near to Coroico. There are loads of companies that do this trip and we decided to do it with this one for safety reasons mainly plus they werent the cheapest or most expensive. I was quite nervous and felt a bit odd about doing this trip after the accident a few days ago but we decided to do it nonetheless.

After a safety briefing from our guide we were on our way down the asphalt road. Was a great feeling and would have been great scenery if it wasnt for the clouds.............everywhere! What a shame. We descended past another police drug checkpoint and a small village and after a while there was an uphill bit. I thought I had got fitter or maybe it was the altitude (well thats what I am going for) but it was quite hard work although it wasnt very uphill. I had to walk a couple of times but refused to get in the minibus so I was quite proud of myself. The road was not too narrow and pretty safe except for the crosses and shrines which reminded you of the tragedies that have occurred here.

We continued downhill after a while and then the asphalt stops and you are on gravelly dusty roads. The clouds were semi lifting and we could see the very narrow and windy road ahead of us winding down the valley. Then we could see some big buses and lorries trying to pass each other on the road - very scary. They have to reverse up hill to get passed each other. We started on the so called ´death road´ as it is meant to be the worlds most dangerous road which makes it sound like it is being glorified to me. It is undoubtedly not the safest road but it is improving and has some people signalling when you can pass. It should obviously still be a lot better and I cant understand for the life of me why anyone would choose to use it at night.

Anyway after photos we carried winding down the road which was good fun but very bumpy. After a while your hands start to hurt a bit as you are pumping the brakes so much. It can also be quite daunting going around corners as the drops are so vertical and very high. We were safe though and stayed pretty much at the back of our group and our guide and the minibus were very good at looking out for us.

A bit further down we stopped for a snack which was well needed by this time! Was great looking down the valley below us at other bikers etc (think we were the last ones going down). Our brakes were checked etc and then we carried on. Past some small waterfalls and through a couple of rivers and we could see more and more of the valley and the light was beautiful through the clouds. We then got to another uphill bit which I struggled through and was very proud of myself to make it. We were nearing the end but were given dust masks as the road gets v dusty even just from other bikes. Apparenty we had another 30 mins to go and my bum was starting to hurt a bit and your arms as you can feel your bones shake as you hurtle downhill. 5 mins before the end it started to rain and as we pulled into the cafe at the end a huge crash of thunder came around us. We got rid of all our filthy clothes at laughed at how dusty our faces were.

Then we gratefully got in the minibus up to the town of Coroico which is a lovely mountain village if a bit touristy. We went to Hotel Esmerelda for a fantastic hot shower. Unfortunatey we couldnt go in the pool as it was tipping down and the clouds were everywhere spoiling the view of the valley. Then a yummy buffet lunch and we were both ready for bed!

I was starting to get nervous about the trip home and wanted to make sure it wasnt dark at all when we were going up the very dodgy bits. We left and headed up hill which wasnt too bad although I might have held Daves hand tighter than usual! We got to the asphalt bit before dark and I started to relax but couldnt sleep despite being very tired.

We arrived into La Paz at about 7ish and proceeded to get stuck in traffic jams for ages before arriving home. Jen and Jonno our fellow travellers from the Uyuni trip etc have joined us in our apartment and we all had a few glasses of wine before we headed out to Mongos - a big expat bar/cafe here. We had a few beers and a good dance and somehow managed to stay awake until about 2am this morning. We haggled a while with a taxi home (still less than a dollar for about a 15 min ride!) Slept very well and woke up a bit hazy and aching from yesterday!
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