Biking down the world´s most dangerous road

Trip Start Feb 07, 2006
Trip End Aug 07, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Make sure to check out Andrea's Travel Blog for more stories and photos of our trip!

Going North

Due to a national bus strike, we were forced to fly to La Paz north of Sucre. The view from the flight was stunning. La Paz has a unique setting. It's flanked on one side by the Andes Mountains and is situated in one of the many valleys which sinks lower in altitude compared to the alto plano, a very high area of Bolivia which stretches out for half of the country.

Because the plateau is very high above sea level, it's very cold and harsh there. When the Spanish arrived back in the day, they preferred to build the city in the lower warmer valley than above on the plateau.

This also makes La Paz one of the only cities in the world where the rich live in the low lands and the poor live on higher ground. The rich preferring the warmer climate of the low valley.

The city has a busy buzz to it. Cars zip by as women wearing traditional hats walk by or sell their wares and dead llama fetuses in street stales. The hardest part of La Paz is that, being in a rocky valley, it's built on a very hilly ground and a walk around town almost always requires a climb up a very steep hill.

As with the rest of Bolivia, La Paz is cheap. Our double room, although very basic and mostly uncomfortable, came up to only 2.50 USD each per night.


Within only a few hours of arriving into La Paz we had our next 3 days planned. The first of which was to visit the ancient ruins of Tihuanacu. I love ruins and we hadn't seen any yet. In fact most of western and southern South America don't have ruins at all.

Now that we had arrived in Bolivia, we would surely see ruins for the rest of the trip thanks to the ruling empires of the Inca and Tihuanacu.

I'd never heard of the Tihuanacu but they ranked right up there with the Egyptians. They reigned for 3000 years, where as the Inca only reigned for a few hundred years. Oddly, popular history doesn't spend much time on this culture, most likely due to the little amount of what remains of them today.

The site we visited had some temples and statues but the bulk of what remained to see was still buried and was being excavated.

It was interesting to visit but I couldn't help thinking how much better it would be to visit in 10 years when the site was fully restored and a little less imagination was needed.

The world's most dangerous road

The main road from Bolivia to Brazil was named "the world's most dangerous road" by the IMF for a reason. Each week, at least one bus falls off of the road. The dirt road, only narrow enough for one vehicle in some places, has no safety railing yet the drop down off side is a sharp 500M+ fall. The road actually starts in La Paz, over 4000M+ above sea level and drops down 3000M.

Several tour companies are set in La Paz to take tourists on kamikaze mountain biking trips 6 hours down the road. After considering our safety a little and talking to one of the best agencies in town, we decided to make the trip.

We started in the early morning with 10 others. We all got our own mountain bikes which were in good condition. The road started off paved but quickly turned to gravel. Being so high above sea level, we were actually biking above the clouds as we started! The whole ride ( mostly ) was downhill and after about 1 hour we could see the clouds as we lowered into them. Finally we were in the clouds and could barely see anything. Thick wet mist was all around us and we biked ahead listening for the honking of trucks. When we did hear them we pulled over close to the edge and prayed that the truck wouldn't clip our bikes and toss us down off of the cliff which did happen from time to time.

We kept this up for hours and hours until we reached the bottom soaking wet, muddy and sore.

It was funny, although it was the world's most dangerous road and just 3 feet to the left of us was a cliff which certainly would have ended our lives, I felt very safe the whole time. This was mostly due to how well organized the tour was.

We were glad we did it and the view was amazing.
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sojourner on

Falling over the edge...
Glad to hear you made it down the road safely. I was forced over the edge by a collectivos during my descent... After nearly three years since the accident, I'm ready to go back and, not just survive the road but, conquer the road.

andrewjerome on

That was a great read about Bolivia. Thanks.

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