The Worlds Most Dangerous Road - Conqueror!!!

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

And I have the t-shirt to prove it :oD

So another day, and another travelblog being written two days late!
Ooops. this is getting really quite time consuming! Still, its fun and
I have a couple of hours to spare this afternoon so all is good :o)

Before getting to Death Road id better go back and fill in the gaps,
being a stickler for chronological order :oP Me and Jenna left
Copacabana on... whatever day it was, I forget, they all merge together! ...Thursday i believe. Anyway, it was an easy journey to la Paz, only 3 hours, and the scenery was amazing as we drove around the lake. At one point we had to get off the bus and get on a little boat to cross a corner of the lake (saves going round the mountains), and the bus went across very precariously on a little barge! When we got to La Paz the bus conductor was really nice and found us a cab, made sure the driver knew where we were going and haggled a price for us :o) We went to Loki Hostel - the same chain as the hostel in Cusco. Its a very partyish hostel which isnt really my scene, but its cheap, they provide breakfast, and they have duvets on the beds! Yay! Doesnt take much to make me happy :o) We went for a bit of a walk around the centre of town - its really steep as its built on the sides of a ravine down the mountain, and in the distance is Illumani, an amazing snow covered volcano. Its awesome! Had dinner at a middle eastern restaurant, yum, and had a look around the touristy streets. Its cool but there are only so many alapaca gloves, jumpers adn hats you can look at and after Cusco, Puno and Copacabana iv reached my limit! Got back to loki and had a drink in the bar and then went to bed. I think one of the minor problems with travelling with someone is that I get very lazy and make much less of an effort to meet people than i would otherwise. Dont get me wrong, travelling with Jenna is great and we get on really well but I dont really like introducing myself to people unless I have to so I havent done that so much recently. Thats also due to staying in loki though - i feel so scruffy there! theres a lot of travellers there who make a real effort to look good, make-up every morning etc, and i just cant be bothered (also i only have 3 t-shirts so my wardrobe is hardly varied!). Oh, another good loki story (although this isnt the majority by any means...) - when I was reading in bed the other night, this guy Daniel came in. We met him in Cusco Loki and he had annoyed me then for boasting about his tolerance to Valium - idiot. So him and his friend (both as thick as two short planks) sit down and his bed and start snorting lines of cocaine, which is stupid enough. Then they start discussing various places they had visited in south america, and how great it is that Paraguay is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, cos it makes it easier to get coke and valium! I wanted to smack them both for being firstly so dumb, secondly so ignorant, and thirdly so selfish! im sure the people of paraguay think its wonderful that they may have a crap standard of living and a really dodgy political situation, but at least stupid rich english kids can support their drug habits. Grrr!!!

Anyway rant over :o) The next day we went to explore La Paz properly. Firstly we went to book our trip on death road :oD we decided to go with a company called B-Side who had been recommended to us by a guy we met in Copa. Most travellers go with Gravity, another company with an amazing reputation that everyone has heard of, but this guy told us that B-Side was cheaper, had smaller groups, and the bikes were just as good. So we trusted him and went to chat to them in their shop and were really impressed, so signed up. After that we had to run around for a bit finding money (stupid cashpoints dont always work), adn then went for lunch at this really nice place called 100% Natural - very touristy but the salads are amazing! makes a change from rice, chips and chicken :o) Got the most enormous salad with 4 boiled eggs, and a great smoothy for 1.30 GBP. Im not really sure what we did for the rest of Friday, but we managed to waste the afternoon wandering around, posting stuff, booking bus tickets, oh and eating the most enormous ice cream ever! Made me feel quite ill actually :oS also got a new book (the selection was rubbish but it will do) and had pizza for dinner. We actually had a good excuse to go to bed early, as we had to be up early for death road, so not soo lame for once!

The big day dawned slightly cloudy and we were up bright and early to get to the B-side office. After talking to one of the guys I met in Arequipa about death road I was quite terrified as he said it was one of the scariest things he had ever done! Eep. We met the rest of our group and it was quite reassuring to see a raneg of people - two youngish germans, three old germans, a couple (him english, her bolivian) plus Jenna and I. We had two guides for the 9 of us and they were really cool. We drove up to that start point at 4700m above sea level, and had a briefing about the bikes, the terrain and what to expect. The first 32km is on road so was pretty easy going. We got our bikes set up as we wanted and then set off! The road was wide and tarmac, and we went pretty fast :o) there was an uphill section towards the end and i was pleasantly suprised to discover that i was one of the ones who coped best and got to the top second in the group - maybe not as unfit as i look :oP Jenna had a bit of a problem right at the beginning, shes not that used to riding bikes and fell off after 2 mins due to skidding in a puddle. other than that was fine though!

A bit of background information as to why Death Road got its name - until 8 months ago when a new road was opened, it was the only way to get from La Paz to Coroico and the jungle. At places its only 3m wide, there are no safety barriers, and the drop off the side of the road is over 1000m in places. The surface is loose gravel and there are regukar landslides. Drivers used to be so scared of driving along it that they would get drunk first to pluck up courage. The road was used by all traffic - buses, cars, bikes, and trucks carrying logs up from the forests. All this together meant that at its peak, 50 people a month were dying on death road from vehicles going over the edge, hence the name, Worlds Most Dangerous Road. Thankfully the new road opened last November and since then it has been a lot safer, its only really used now by cyclists and the odd car going to/from the villages near the bottom.

So we got to the top where the new and old roads separate, and it was so cloudy that we couldnt actually see the drop - prob just as well! We certainly couldnt see the bottom though and it was a sheer drop. the guide told us it was 800m! We were told we had to cycle on the left, as vehicles coming up take the right (mountain) side, and we had to cycle in the tyre tracks, so at times were only half a metre from the edge. We split up into a fast and a slow group, and i went towards the back of the fast group - i wasnt about to race at full speed as the surface was loose rocks! The bikes were amazing though, full suspension and really good brakes which was reassuring :o) my main issue was avoiding panic when i hit big rocks, and just letting the bike deal with it, which it did as long as i didnt pull on the brakes which makes it skid. So i learnt to chill out and take it as it comes, adn it wsa really cool. I actually didnt find it nearly as scary as id expected - in some ways slightly disappointing! Not that i wanted it to be mega dangerous but a bit more of an adrenaline rush would be cool. Was still awesome though, and I was going pretty fast by the end, as fast as i would dare! was more scared of skidding on the gravel and coming over getting nasty grazes than the drop. Towards the end we had to ride through two small rivers which was really fun - nearly everyone else got wet feet by stopping half way, hehe! the scenery was awesome on the way down, and the guides took a load of photos and videos which will be going up on their website - will post the link when i have it so u can have a look!

When we got to the bottom we all got beer to celebrate - although half our group didnt drink so it was slightly wasted. the group was pretty fun - Sven and Sirkin the young germans were going really fast, and Sven kept looking for stuff to jump and show-off on. The three older germans took it pretty slow and steady. And then the couple, Kristoff and Denisse, individually very sweet but by the end we wnated to throw a bucket of water on them! On the bus on the way there they spent the whole journey kissing and hugging, then they seperated to ride (Kristoff went faster with Sven) but everytime the group reconvened (every 5-10 mins) they had to run to each other, as if theyd just escaped death and been reunited. It was truely sickening, I have nothing against couples but theres a time and a place and this was not it! the guides were really good, explained it really well, amde sure everyone went at a good pace for them, and were generally cool :o)

Once wed taken off all the gear at the bottom we got in the van and drove to Coroico, the nearby town, and went to a hotel to shower, change and have lunch. The best thing was being at low altitude - only 1300m above sea level and it felt so good! The air actually feels heavy when you breathe in and walking around is so easy! i had so much energy, even after the ride :o) after our (late) lunch we set off for the long drive home. Apart from the couple pashing all the way it was fine, and we got back about 9pm. We were pretty tired bu there wsa an 80s party going on at Loki - ug. It was just like a college bop except with loads of people I didnt know and possibly more drunkeness. And what kind of traveller has an 80s costume in their backpack! So couldnt be arsed with that adn went to bed :o) All fine except for very drunk people staggering around the dorm, not being able to stand up and talking loudly. Oh the joys of communal living!

The final day in La Paz we lazed around, checked out of loki, and went o B-side to get our CD of the videos and photos from the trip :o) then we went for lunvh, and as there were no free tables asked two guys if we could sit with them as they had a huge table. It turned out that they had only just met to share a table too, and one of them was also escaping from Loki so we had a really fun, long lunch chatting to them! Another good salad too :o) after that we walked up to the central plaza with Phil (the Loki guy) to see the presidential palace, I phoned home (hellooo!), adn then went back to the hostel and just sat around drinking tea and chatting. So not a very eventful day! We left on the nightbus to potosi at 2030, having enjoyed La Paz but not really sorry to leave :o) Potosi is my last stop with Jenna and then we have to go our seperate ways, its been fun!

Miss you all, more emails would be good (hint hint!) xxxxx
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