The World's Most Dangerous Road
Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
163Trip End May 02, 2013
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The starting line was about an hour by bus out of the city at La Cumbre, a lookout about 4,700 metres above sea level. It wasn't as cold as we'd been warned it would be. We donned our knee pads, elbow pads, jacket, trousers and full face helmets in preparation for the long downhill track before us. After a brief safety discussion and test run on the bikes we were off.
The first section was paved, which provided us a chance to get comfortable and go a bit faster. No pedalling was required to pick up speed as the slope took care of that.
We took several breaks for photos and some adjustments. There was a narcotics checkpoint that we had no problems passing through. After about an hour we arrived at a second checkpoint where we had to pay 25 bolivianos to enter the dirt Death Road. We had snacks provided by Vertigo, our bikes were reloaded onto the minibus and we were driven a few kilometres to the place where the true test would begin.
Nick and Kate had established themselves as the leaders from the start, behind our guide Chelo of course. We had a few issues with loose brake levers and Jason switched bikes with Chelo.
The dirt, gravel and rocky road started out wide enough and the one-sided cliffs weren't too high or steep. That all changed very quickly and soon simply peering over the edge could spell disaster. Our guide pointed out one bus and one car lying on the bottom of the valley in shambles. More group photos on some of the deadliest corners made for some good entertainment.
The road narrowed even further under a wide rock face with trickling waterfalls so we got a little wet and mucky
Then Jason rounded a sharp turn with a rock pile on one side and saw a group gathered just beyond it. They hailed him to stop and that's when he noticed Kate lying on a rock bleeding from her eye. Apparently she'd taken the corner a little too quickly and careened into the rock pile. Despite the full face helmet her glasses had shattered and sliced her face just under her eye. She'd also slammed her shoulder into the rocks pretty hard so it was scraped, bruised and possibly dislocated. She took it all very well and wasn't in much pain or disoriented. Still, she was in no shape to continue so she received treatment and reluctantly climbed into the minibus.
Only one vehicle came up the hill in the opposite direction on the dirt section but it was a large truck. Jason stopped to let it pass and yelled back to warn Sylvia. On attempting to get going again he looked down and noticed that his rear derailleur had come apart. It was time to switch bikes again and this time he got Kate's, which wasn't damaged in her crash but the rear brake was a little loose.
The finish line was the town of Yolosa at an elevation of about 1,200 metres. We were proud to have safely navigated the World's Most Dangerous Road and shared a large Huari beer to celebrate the feat. Sylvia reassessed Kate's shoulder injury, suggested a sling and obtained some ice from the bar to reduce the swelling. Jason's ears remained as completely congested as they'd been since the beginning, popping only occasionally and making for an uncomfortable feeling the whole way down
From there we were driven to a more remote place with a swimming pool, showers and a restaurant. Even though it was much warmer at lower altitude and we were pretty dirty, we couldn't be bothered with the first two and went straight in for lunch. The bugs were buzzing and it was a malaria zone so we had started our prophylactic regimen the day before. Jason got four bites on one forearm.
At Yolosita we said goodbye to Kate, Nick, our guide and driver. They were all heading back to La Paz, with Kate making a stop at the hospital, but we hopped on another minibus to Coroico instead.