31. Jan, 2010

The Death Road

The Death Road

There’s a road located in the mountains above La Paz that was once, or still is, the most dangerous road in the world. Because of this, it has earned the name “The Death Road”! For between $70 and $85 USD, local tour companies are more then willing to drive you up there, and take you on a guided tour down this 63 kilometer road. Obviously, this is something I cant pass up.

I choose a company called “Madness” for a couple of reasons. One, their prices were pretty damn good! Second, they have top notch equipment and their bikes rock! Third, Beatrize and Fernado the owners, are really really good people.

Leaving La Paz very very early in morning, you start by get fitted for all your equipment. Pants, reflective jacket, gloves, bike, and of course your helmet.

We arrived at the top of the mountain somewhere after 8am amidst a snow storm. Yes, at 4700 meters, it was snowing outside! This was going to be a fun day. Not exactly what I signed up for or was expecting, but fun nevertheless.

Because of the conditions, I was unable to take as many photos as I wanted. So I’ll try to describe as best as I can, what happened that day.

After a brief introduction of how to ride a bike, we were off. Riding single file down the first part of the mountain, the road is paved. Not 500 meters into the ride, CRASH! Down goes our guide. The first victim of road rash! Ouch! Nothing bad. But if our guide goes down, and he has to be the most experienced and best rider by far, I’m wondering what the rest of the day has in store for us!

Remember, its a combination of rain and snow falling pretty heavily on us now. The road is wet and slippery, and everyone is soaked with freezing rain all the way to their skin! There are buses and cars everywhere, and this section of the road is pretty busy. It’s a main highway.

Without much effort at all, you can easily do 60-70 kph on these mountain bikes. In better conditions, and with a road bike, I know I could easily hit 100 kph or more. It’s a pretty damn fun road to ride!

About 20 kilometers later, we stop at at a checkpoint where you have to pay 25 B’s. From this point forward, the cars continue on down the “new” paved highway. We leave the pavement in exchange for the “old” gravel road where so many have died!

I’ve never really ridden a mountain bike. Well, not like these. I bet they have 18 inches of travel in the front forks alone, with more suspension in the rear. They are probably impossible to use for ridding uphill, and a real pain in the ass to ride over level terrain. But for downhill, these bikes kick ass!

At first, I was trying to cut my path by choosing the safest and flattest route, avoiding rocks and potholes as much as possible. After awhile of getting used to the bike, you can haul ass and choose the straightest line possible. Regardless of any rocks, potholes or other obstacles they may be your way.

As we descend in elevation, the terrain became very tropical. With ivy, ferns, and waterfalls everywhere. In every way, very reminiscent of the movie “Jurassic Park”. Infact, there were a couple comments made from others that if they were to see a dinosaur appear, they wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Along the way, we stopped at a couple of areas that were marked with plaques or crosses, to remind us of others that have died biking the same course as we were on.

About four hours later, we made it to the coca fields at the bottom of the mountain, and the end of our adventure. My shoes, sock and rest of my clothes were still wet from the rain and show that morning. But overall, it was a pretty damn good day!