Conquering the worlds most dangerous road

Trip Start Oct 01, 2012
Trip End Oct 01, 2015

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Flag of Bolivia  , La Paz Dept,
Thursday, November 15, 2012

The past couple of days in la paz have been uneventful and we figured they didn't warrant a blog entry, we spent them catching up on sleep after our failed mountain climb and getting ready for the next weeks tours and activities. We were heading into the jungle and as we had both only brought skinny jeans as long trousers we needed something more suitable to the humid climate we would be heading into and something to keep the Mosquitos away. Douche bag travellers trousers it was- tai opted for striped bright blue ones and I went for a mustard yellow pair! Long trousers, baby wipes and lots of mosquito repellent packed we were ready, but first in order to get there we had to tackle the worlds most dangerous road.
Hearing that the bus journey to rurrenbaque can take in excess of 20 hours and frequently encountered land slides, road blocks and numerous burst tyres we decided to mountain bike the death road to coroico where we would stay over night and then catch a short bus followed by a 3 day boat trip which would end us in rurrenbaque.
We booked through a company called vertigo biking, it was cheaper than the others which we'd been told to be a little wary of due to stories of old bikes and 2nd hand parts but hey we want to be out here for a while so costs need to be cut sometimes.
We jumped in the minibus and off we went to the 4700m start point. We donned our gear- full face helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, bike jackets and trousers and felt we were ready for anything, the sun was shining and we were eager to get going.
The first part of the road is on Tarmac and still a fully functioning road, it wove its way through the mountains with awesome views across the valleys, we were all flying down this section as quick as we could, my bike didn't feel a hundred percent but the guide had said it was fine so I trusted him. We stopped at the first view point, looking out over the valley we could see the road winding its way into the distance below us.
Off we went again this time it started to rain slightly then before we knew it we were in the middle of the clouds and could hardly see anything, rain and mist were falling onto our glasses and afraid of taking our hands off the handlebars we forced to peer over the top like cross school teachers. The rain made it a little difficult and so did lorries flying past you playing chicken with the vehicles on the opposite side of the road all the while beeping manically to let everyone know they are there.
We made it though and at the bottom of the Tarmac section we were buzzing and couldn't wait for the rest.
We had some snacks and drinks and then hopped in the minibus to be driven 8km along the uphill section.
We stopped at the start of the classified section of the worlds most dangerous road, built by prisoners originally for donkeys to carry goods from the villages, the road is a dirt track hugging the side of the mountain, no more than 3.5m wide in parts and with sheer drops of over 600m it has taken the lives of many. Since the new tarmac road was built most vehicles opt for this route but during the years when it was fully functional around 27 vehicles (mostly buses carrying up to 50 passengers) a year would plunge over the edge killing everyone on board.
Now the road is still open to vehicles and is occasionally used by nearby villages, this was something we needed to keep in mind whilst flying downhill round corners.
The rain had subsided a little but the road was soaking wet and as it was mainly constructed of rocks this made for a very slippery ride.
Hands gripping the handlebars and the breaks we set off and bumped our way down the first few km until we reached a resting point known as the balcony. It's a famous part of the road as it has the largest drop off the side of around 800m, it was here that during the war prisoners were brought and were told they could either jump to there deaths or be shot in the head, most jumped not wanting to be killed by the opposition.
We stood for a while trying to imagine how those prisoners felt and then it was time to head off again.
The next section known as the bumpy section (it all seemed very bumpy to me) is where my bike broke and I had to climb into the minivan and be driven to the next point for them to give me a new bike. Being in the van was even more scary, watching out the window as the driver fiddled with the stereo I saw the wheels edge closer and closer to the side. I was relived to get to the next stop and be given a bike again. The next section was fun, waterfalls fell from the cliffs above and we had no other option other than to cycle through them, by this point the clouds had started to lift and we could see the drops we were cycling so close to- it really was spectacular.
The full ride took about 3 hours and was so much fun, we finished in a place called yolosa where we celebrated with a beer and exchanged stories of our ride. A buffet lunch was included and we demolished that before jumping in a taxi to coroico a small town that hugs the cliff face and looks out over the jungle beneath it.
After many of the hostels were full we finally found one and headed out to dinner- a Hawaiian restaurant where we were served cheese sandwiches and omelettes- I imagined Hawaiian cuisine to be a little different- maybe lots of different variations of pineapples but I guess we are in Bolivia.
Tomorrow we had to get up at 2.30am so unfurtunately we didn't get to see much of coroico before we headed back to our hotel for bed still buzzing from another incredible day on Bolivia.
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