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Published: August 9th 2008
There are a few times when our days are so amazing that we feel that they deserve a blog entry all of their own and this was one of those days....
We had both been looking forward to another highlight of our trip since leaving the UK.. the mountain biking down the Worlds Most Dangerous Road. Sophie had seen this road on an email many years ago and at that time had never dreamt she'd ever see it let alone get to bike down it!
For both of us this trip was very different so we have decided to write a separate account of our experiences. As some of you will know Sophie and Dale are poles apart when it comes to sport so with one at the back and one at the front things were not quite the same.... Dale's Experience
Right for anybody who knows me well they know I´m fond of a spot of mountain biking every now and then so you can imagine the anticipation and excitement leading up to this day, after all this was a place of mecca for mountain bikers. After finally trying to convince Sofe to opt for the hard
tail budget option adamant that it would be more fun we set off on the Wednesday morning to start to descend down the Worlds Most Dangrous Road.
After reaching our starting point at 4,600m we both took in a deep breath when stepping out of the bus and hopìng it was not our last as at this altitude its not easy to breath let alone cycle. For this reason we were both hoping that there would not be to many uphill sections. After being handed out our bikes (Kona Hoss Deluxe) we started our first decent onto the road. I had already said to Sophie that I was going to take it easy and try to take in as much scenery as possible, but this all changed as soon as the testosterone kicked in and the challenge was on from a fellow biker from England. The pace of the first down hill section is fenomonial as it is all tarmac road with still many buses and cars using this section. Also the scenery change from the high glacier peaks to deep into the cloud forest in the space of 30 minutes was beautiful.
Now at this point my
English rival was starting to hold me up so as we were just entering Death Road so I thought it would be a good time to try an overtaking manoevour.. bare in mind that this is now gravel, only three metres wide with the added bonus of 600ft cliffs to the side. So as I made my move my rival decided it would be a good opportunity to swap lanes and take in some scenery. So as I was drastically trying to get back in the lane I had originally come from, there was now a new problem of a rapidly approaching corner to deal with. I was pretty much out of control at 25mph, heading into the void and about to become another statistic that makes this road the deadliest in the world. My luck changed and as the corner approched it seemed to widen by about 2ft. That doesn´t seem much but it was enough for me to make a rapid sweeping movement and leave me narrowly skirting the edge of the abbyss and most certainly death! After stopping and letting out a slight bit of wind, I glanced at my fellow rival when we had stopped and
the look of fear on his face told me how close I was to looking like an extra in E.T!! I took this as a very stark warning that you don´t get any second chances on this road.
As my confidence gained again the speed stayed the same and me and my rival decided to call a truce and he eventually come to his senses to let the better rider go first... (the instructor) and we both followed at a more sensible pace. The final leg of the road was very beautiful riding through waterfalls, streams and small jungle towns where the kids would run out and hold their hands out waiting for you to give them a high five, which is all good and well but this is not the place to have one hand on the wheel and also you will be striking a young child at about 25mph....
This for me has been one of the best thing i have ever done in my life if not also the closest I have ever come to death... but boy was it worth it!!! Sophie's Experience
Like I said we had both been so excited about
doing this trip since we'd first read you could do it in the UK. Now please bear in mind that I haven't ridden a bike since I was probably about 14 years old so trying to re-learn whilst going down this road was probably not the best idea I've ever had! Certainly for me the excitement of the 66km ahead wore off as soon as I stood on the bike and had the guide tell me about the gears with me having absolutely no idea when you need to change gears.. is it uphill or down???!!!
The first part was on tarmac which I thought would be ok, this was until we set off and cars started rushing past me while I was speeding seemingly out of control down the hill! From that point on the fear set in and the brakes came on to keep my speed in check at an average of about 1km per hour!
On about the 3rd section the guide announced that this part was uphill and since we were still at about 4,000m above sea level it could be hard going. With no shame at all I opted to jump on the
bus and cheat for this section, no point in tiring myself out so early on! I was the only one who didn't even attempt it but I'm happy to say that after about 500m 2 other girls gave in and jumped on with me which made me feel a little happier that I wasn't a complete failure.
I stayed on the bus for the 2 uphill sections which totalled about 8km then got off again at the start of the dangerous road determined that I was going to earn my t-shirt and cycle down it. For those that have seen this road it is about 3m wide in places and is gravel the entire way. Also for those that have never really cycled on gravel before I would advise that this is NOT the place to do it! For the entire length of this road I was scared stiff that I was going to go over a rock or even a pebble, lose my balance and go over the edge into the 600m sheer drop below me... fun it most certianly was not! I even bruised my hands from holding on to the handle bars so tight!
each of the approximately 10 sections I was last in the group.. by a really long way. This was because rather than freewheeling like everyone else I held onto my brake the whole way so I didn't suddenly rush out control.. or what felt like out of control anyway. Apparently if you go faster it is safer but this most certainly didn't figure in my brain!
As time went on I became more and more frustrated that I was so rubbish and would be one of those participants that the guides laughed about with other groups but I just kept telling myself that at least I'd done it and got to the end safely so mum would be proud of me!
It was only really on the last 2 sections that I got my confidence up and really began to feel the rush of wind in my hair. I even managed to not be last AND got 2 flys splatted on my goggles I was going so fast!!
So we got to the end of the road and it was at this point that Sophie's day really made an upturn...
We had read about the place
that we stopped when finding out about the tour in La Paz. Here you stop for a well deserved beer, get your t-shirt and lunch. We also found out that this place is a wild animal santuary and you can actually stop there for the evening. As soon as we arrived we enquired about stopping and although it was a little more than our budget allowed (£12 for the night!) we thought it would be well worth it and it was some of the best money we have spent so far.
Apart from the fantastic animals that you could interract with to your hearts content, the accommodation was fantastic with the best showers we have had since leaving the UK.. not only hot but powerful and clean too.. what a treat!
We spent that afternoon playing with the monkeys, macaws, dogs, cats, tortoises, Ossalot and just enjoying the setting that it was in. The weather here is much much hotter too as you are nearer the jungle so there was no need to wrap up in 100 layers to protect you which just made it so much better.
As if this place could get any better, the
food was wonderful and we enjoyed our dinner alongside the kid (baby goat) and dogs which have to be kept in the restaurant area to save them from the evil monkey which chews off young naieve animals ears! We spent the rest of the evening playing cards with the volunteers before retiring to our cabin. To top off the evening there was a particularly friendly cat who decided to stay with us so Sophie really enjoyed having a cat on her bed just like Stuart does at home!
We were woken up at about 7am by one of the macaws who loves to shout 'hola' at every opportunity but for once we didn't mind being woken up so early at all. Breakfast again was gorgeous and eaten alongside the goat and dogs with the monkeys peering in and occasionally being clever enough to get though the netting and join you! We had to leave at 1pm for our bus to Rurrenabaque so we spent every second swinging the monkeys around, giving them cuddles and generally having the best time in their company. They are so intelligent and Sophie was amazed when one of them who was kept on a
lead (because some of the older ones can bite) went an unhooked her lead from around a log so she could come closer to say hi!
For both of us this was the experience of a lifetime and it´s hard to put into words what these 2 days meant to us. For Dale the biking was something he will remember forever while Sophie would probably rather forget this and and just remember the fabulous monkeys and how much fun they both had with them.
Sadly we could only stay for one night though, the staff at the sanctuary were so helpful they had booked our bus tickets for us for the following day and we were off to experience the real jungle in Rurrenabaque...
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