We found ourselves in La Paz for longer than anticipated and not wanting to take any 12 hour bus rides to other distant parts of Bolivia, we decided to fill up on short trips. Coroico sounded like a great destination with itīs mellow atmosphere and an adjacent community of Afro-Bolivians to meet so the only question was, "how do we get there?"
With an option of a 3-hour bus ride on the new road or a full day of down-hill mountain biking on the "death road," the choice was obvious! We booked with B-Side adventures, who offered nice full suspension bikes and experienced guides to help out with any problems. Our morning departure started with a 45-minute van ride up to around 17,000 feet where we would begin our trip. Surrounded by snow capped peaks, we began the descent, the first part of which, would be on the "new road".
Riding a mountain bike down hills at 40 mph is as natural to me as drinking a beer. Laura does not feel the same way. As we descended into the first valley, Laura developed her cycling "comfort zone," while I leaned back and enjoyed the scenery. We passed through a few police drug checkpoints before veering off the paved road to start our most dangerous descent. At this point, the guides split our group into two groups. Group One was the hammer heads who wanted some high speed downhill, while Group Two would be the mellow riders, content to take their time and soak in the scenery. Laura and I went our separate ways.
The descent was amazing. We streaked down through the valleys, looking down the ravine at the buses and cars that hadnīt made it. Passing by countless memorials while surrounded by sheer cliffs and jungles, it was a combination of adrenaline and second guessing your sanity. The equipment held up well as slides toward the cliff were compensated by the suspension with some counter steering and weight shifting help from the riders. My group had an ex-BMX rider who would catch air at every opportunity and seemed to defy the laws of physics with his bike handling skills.
We stopped throughout the 40 mile descent for snacks and photos and finished up at the base of the valley with cold beer. No riders were lost from either group.
Laura and I chose to stay on in Coroico while the rest of our group headed back to La Paz.
Bolivia is home to many things, one of which is "the most dangerous road in the world." Iīd seen pictures of the road and swore Iīd never go near it. The road hugs the cliff on a descent of 12,000 vertical feet over 40 miles. With no guard rails and often less than one lane, the road has historically claimed about one vehicle every other week. Less than a year ago, the road served as the only route between La Paz and Coroico, so if you wanted to visit Coroico, a bus trip on this "near death experience" was your only option. Over the last ten years, the Bolivian government has gone to great expense to construct a new road (opened a year ago) so now the "most dangerous" road is less trafficked and serves more as a recreational mountain bike route than a transportation corridor.