The day started with one of the best breakfasts I have had in this part of the world. It was fantastic to see breakfast options on the menu that didn’t even involve high amounts of sugar. On top of a great breakfast we also had an incredible clear sky, although I am not sure if a clear day was the best to reduce the nerves. I may have preferred to have had a little cloud coverage and got to cover the deathly cliffs we were going to see.
Today we are heading up the mountain to ride down the World’s most dangerous road from La Cumbre to Coroico.
We took the bus to the drop off point where we were kitted up with warm clothes and sick bikes. These bikes are supposedly tested and serviced to perfection so it wasn’t good to see the chain fall off someone’s bike whilst warming up. O well I suppose it’s better to happen now warming up for the world’s most dangerous road rather than later when you are going down it.
Before we took off we said one last prayer and made a toast to ‘Pachamama’ (mother earth), our bikes and ourselves with a shot of what can only be described as metho. With one last look round of warnings (the day would bring many more). We saddled up and descended the first section – a nice easy patch of bitumen. There would be a total of 23km of bitumen before we hit our first patch of dirt. This provided a nice warm up and chance to build some confidence on the bikes before the real ‘fun’ began.
It was also in these first sections we got to know the biggest danger for the day – the other tour groups. Unpredictable and unrelenting, it was always a gamble when it came time to pass them or worse when they tried to pass you. There were some close calls during the day but luckily no collisions.
Whilst still on the asphalt we were faced with a decision to make as a group, to take on the steady 8km uphill section, or put the bikes on the bus, enjoy our morning tea and save our energy for the rest of the way down. We happily hopped on the bus and headed to the start of the ‘real’ Death Road.
It was here we began to really see and experience why this road had earned its title. Now the nerves were kicking in a little and I decided it would be wiser riding towards the back of the pack and let the ‘man friend’ ride up front so I didn’t have to watch him trying to do mad skids so close to the edge.
Along the way my bike mechanic skills (learned from a ride Courtney and I had taken along the Yarra back home in AUs) came in handy when I helped a fellow rider with a broken bike. Later I got to be a nurse when I found her fallen off her bike. I was a little surprised at how grateful she was that I had stopped to help her: she later told me a van with locals had stopped and laughed at her and then drove off.
As the day grew on we became more confident with speed on the road. However before we had the chance to get too cocky our guide would remind us about where we were riding by telling us a story of how easy there had been accidents and deaths even by cyclists riding this road.
Now I won’t lie to you there were many moments along the way where I heavily questioned why the hell was I doing this but I figured I was here now and I may as well complete the adventure.
I was thankful when we had made it to the bottom of the road and even more appreciative that I had managed to avoid the final gigantic puddle that was not made out of water.
We celebrated our survival to the bottom of Death Road with some beers and food at a monkey sanctuary.
Now that we had made it to the bottom of Death Road we had to return back up to La Paz and apparently the safest way to do this was drive the bus back up Death Road instead of facing the crazy local drivers on the new road.
As the bus climbed back up the mountain it was a little concerning to feel the bus tilting to one side where everyone was gathered to take pictures.
After stopping for a few photos we made it to the top and could now officially safely say we survived Death Road down and back. It’s time to celebrate with a delicious llama steak.