Crazy Bikers

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July 29th 2006
Published: July 29th 2006
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My last entry mentioned that we were planning a mountain biking trip from La Paz. What I failed to mention was that the route would venture down the so-called "World´s Most Dangerous Road". Yes, there is some validity to that well earned title a we heard that 3 vehicles had gone off the cliff in the last week. And if I´m so afraid of heights why would I even consider this trip? For one, I feel less fear when I'm in control, for another, I enjoy a good a good thrill now and then, and finally, we chose the safest tour operator on the route (one guide per seven riders;our group of 16 had 3 guides)
The route is 40 miles of which the first 10 are paved and the balance is dusty gravel, made even more dusty by passing vehicles. Our ride will descend 11,972 ft to the sub-tropical town of Corioco. We´ll bottom out at 3,608 ft at the end of our ride to have a round of beers to celebrate our finish-

We meet at a La Paz cafe at 7:30am and drive 30 minutes to the starting point. Our starting point is at a place called La Cumbre which is at an altitude of 15,580 ft. Once we arrived at the starting point, we were outfitted with pants and jackets, safety vest, helmets, gloves, goggles & dust mask while our pre-assigned bikes were off-loaded from the chase bus. We had the best bikes -Kona bikes with hydraulic breaks and great suspension. Since it's early and high altitude, everyone is bundled up in layers to resemble the Michelin Man. We really notice our shortness of breath at this point. We get to test out our bikes and gears here before we head off and receive a lengthy safety briefing from our lead guide, including a number of examples of what happens to you if you don't follow the safety rules. I'm convinced I will follow all the rules.

Although driving in Bolivia is the same as in the States, they drive on the right, one unique rule applies to this road. It is that descending traffic stays to the left (cliffside). This allows the descending truck driver to view his wheels as he pulls as close to the cliff drop off as he can in order to allow the ascending driver (hugging the mountainside) to pass
Coca Fields near CoriocoCoca Fields near CoriocoCoca Fields near Corioco

Learning about coca plant production
safely. Bear in mind that the width of the gravel part of the road is about a lane and a half. I don't particularly like this rule, but we'll see how it goes.

Once we're off on the road, the experience is amazing. We stay single file and whiz on down the road while viewing spectacular scenery. Yes, I'm taking my eyes off the road for a split second or two. During the paved section, we continue to receive safety briefings at key points along the route. Once we reach the gravel section, after 2 hours, it's a whole new experience. There's no taking your eyes off the road at any time. The road zig zags frequently. The guides whistle to notify us to slow down or dismount the bikes for oncoming traffic. We don't seem to have any wild riders in our group, thank goodness, as if so, they've been warned to curb their enthusiasm. I feel like I´m riding my breaks the entire trip. Anytime Dennis tries to ride beside me I tell him move on and stay out of my way. I need to focus and can´t have any distractions! It´s a rattling ride on the
Jeep for the returnJeep for the returnJeep for the return

Ourride to La Paz
gravel for about 3 hours.
The scenery is spectacular and the drivers we pass exercise caution while we pass. By the time we are in the final leg, we´re all tired and trying to be careful not to make any mistakes. We have our celebratory beers and are driven to our hotel, where we all have lunch and showers. We made arrangements to stay 2 nights, but the rest of our group will ride the chase bus back to La Paz on the very same road that afternoon. Our options to return to La Paz are that we can take the chase bus in a few days, take a local bus (no thanks!) or hire a private taxi.
The next day we stroll into town to check out the local market and scope out a potential driver. We saw a jeep in very good condition and contracted with Gonzalo to take us back the following day. In the meantime, he offered to take us on a 3 hour tour around the area. He drove to some of the nearby communities to show us the coca fields, explained how productive the plant is and why it´s important to the indiginous people.
View from the Front SeatView from the Front SeatView from the Front Seat

Oncoming traffic
The crop can be brought to market 4 times a year! We also visited a 500 year old abandoned hacienda built by the Spaniards to ensure a stable coca plant supply which was then provided to the miners in Potosi to keep up production levels in the silver mines.
The following morning Gonzalo arrived on time to take us back on the 3 hour drive to La Paz. Dennis sat in front while I preferred to have the rear seat. Along the way we stopped to take photos and enjoyed the breathtaking views. Once back in La Paz, we made arrangements to fly to Sucre. From there we will take the bus to visit Potosi, the city made rich and famous during the Spanish colonial days in South America for it´s silver mines.

Here in Sucre, the climate is spring like. It´s a university town and the capital of Bolivia. We have very nice accomodations and the food is great. I´ve been in shock each time we receive the bill for a meal. We rarely spend over $10 for the both of us for dinner. Last night we sat in the balcony of a restaurant overlooking the square. We ordered an appetizer of meat for two. When it arrived, we were shocked at the size. The cutting board had 2 large pieces each of pork, steak, chicken and a spicy sausage, along with a bowl of fries and a basket of bread. We also had a beer and 3 glasses of wine while we chatted with some travelers from London. The total bill was about $8. Tomorrow we´ll make the trip to the nearby town of Trabuco for the Sunday market, and on Monday we´ll take a cab to the city of Potosi where we will take a mine tour. We enjoy visiting Spanish colonial cities for the history and architecture so we´re looking forward to spending a few days there.
Thanks for all your comments and emails. It´s great to stay in touch.
Nancy & Dennis

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Additional photos below
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Traffic Flow Traffic Flow
Traffic Flow

Last view of traffic to Corioco

29th July 2006

Nancy, You two are wild! I can't wait to pass this along to Jimmy. You guys might be ready to participate in next years Tour de France. I love to hear how adventuresome you are. I had no idea! We miss you. Take care of each other.
29th July 2006

You have more nerve than I
Your pictures and commentary are full of great details that I feel like I am right there with you both. I am too much a nervous nelly to handle that road. Glenn's driving makes me nervous, that is why we have a Volvo. Of course Glenn would have been right up there in front leading the group. We just finished a mountain bike ride around part of Waldo Lake. Although the mosquitos were troublesome, and the a few areas the trail was very narrow on a ledge, I could always get off my bike.
30th July 2006

questions about bolivia
Hi Nancy and Dennis, thanks for your great post about the bike ride. I am in northern argentina now, and planning on being in bolivia in a week or so. I would love to get the specific names of the tour companies you used and the accomodations you had while travelling in bolivia. i am travelling on my own, i speak very little but functional spanish, and to be honest, a little scared of travelling in bolivia. please send me an email at i´m a canadian. thanks, brian
30th July 2006

latest blog in the mountains
Have fun and be careful. The scenery around the mountains must be spectacular. Hows the food? You certanly get enough food for your money.Please ignore my spelling. Wishing you and Dennis the best. Your Father P.S. I forgot to start with Dear Nancy. How was thr bike ride?
30th July 2006

I wonder how many lost their lives constructing the road? Glad to hear you safely made the round trip. It's finally cooled off here.
31st July 2006

Hey!! I cant believe that you did that!!! That would have been scary! I would have never done that! Great to hear from you and I miss you! I really hope you havnt had any problems Getting our e-mails!! Please no more crazy stunts! It is bad enough that you arent here but to know that you were on some crazy road that you could have fallon off of was bad! I miss you and cant wait to see you soon! ~XOXOXOXO~ Angel Hi Nancy and Dennis. Must of been fun going on the most dangerous bike trail in the world! I'd probably be pretty scared. Come back soon the summers been boring without you! -R.J. I miss you so much and did you see the new Walter the farting dog book. I miss you my little buddies. -Sage
2nd August 2006

So nice and frightening!
The road you traveled remembers me of and old french movie with Yves Montand where he has to deliver dynamite to a mining place in south America in an old truck!. "le salaire de la peur" or something like that.It also made me think of a travel we did in France on the route Napoleon ; I was afraid each time we encountered another vehicle! I hope to see both of you soon and meet Denis! Enjoy and keep writing! Sylvie
4th August 2006

I have enjoyed your pictures and commentary of your journeys. Wish I were brave enough to try a trip like yours. At least I can enjoy it vicariously.

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