I fell off my bike on the most dangerous road in the world


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South America » Bolivia » La Paz Department » La Paz
August 18th 2005
Published: August 19th 2005
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For those thinking of doing the death road biking trip, check the end of this blog for helpful (I hope) advice!


Well our plans are never quite set in stone are they? Our plans for La Paz have proved no different to any others - We planned 5-10 days of Spanish lessons here, but the fact that I got explosive diahorrea and vomiting from some really bad (well, it was good...) street food put us off that for a couple of days, and then Laura came down with something. Also the altitude here is sickening, and not fun to move around too much, coupled with the fact that La Paz is terribly polluted (something to do with the mountains trapping in all the bad stuff - ask Tim or Lucy about it, they're bound to know)... not nice.

At some point, though, we did manage to visit the La Paz zoo, which is up a mountain out of town. It was great, but illness and lots and lots of sun cut our day short. The zoo was much much better than the Santa Cruz effort, but some cages, especially th big cats, were still too small. We glared at some schoolkids who spat at the jaguars. A brown bear got papaya stuck to his bum. We saw more turtles doing it.

Anyway, so after a few pretty dull days, some more compulsive shopping and museum viewing, we decided to go all out and mountain bike down the road to Coroico (dubbed the most dangerous road in the world because about 100 people die a year). The day came, but Laura got really sick (so she says... okay she really was sick), and couldn't go. The man in me urged me on alone, however.

It was great! Oh yeah! Thor would have loved it (thought might have come out of it worse than me).
We got a bus up to the top of the mountain, where we stopped to get a bike each (mine only had front suspension because I'm too tall or some diahorrea like that), which I wasn't too happy about until I bounced around the lake (there was a lake...).. bahahaha I like suspension.
We set off from there, 38km (or thereabouts) down a tarmac road. A steep (oh yeah, steep) road (we reached 90 to 100km an hour!). It was a blast. I scared a jumpy skinny lady by overtaking a bus on a blind corner (there was space before the corner!! I'm not crazy), and stayed up the front with the guide until the end of the tarmac section, where there were a few little hills and one big one. Most people chickened out fo the climb because of the description the guide gave (he exagerated to put off slow people taking all day), but me and three others gave it a bash. It wasn't too hard on the muscles at all, but the altitude made it a battle for air the whole way up.

The scenery for this first part was astonishing (see pics). Mountains everywhere, waterfalls, clouds below.. amazing. The road was really smooth and as wide as a dual carriageway in England, so no problems there. When we got past the hills and to the top of the death road, however, it was a little different. The roads were 100%dust and roacks.. not stones (well some), but ROCKS. Hello suspension! I Bounced the way down for an hour or so, past about 300 gravestones - little crosses made of twigs, and some proper mumuments, including one which the guide said a bus hit three years ago, fell off, and killed all 40 passengers. Hardly surprising, as the sheer drop on the side of the road is between 100 and 1000 feet constantly. The road itself isn't wide enough for two cars. There are little laybys that you have to reverse into to let oncoming vehicles pass. Sometimes we had to get off our bikes to let busses pass (though we stood with the bike between us and the edge - the guide told us about a German woman who didnt...).

On some of the sharper corners were little men in shacks; human traffic lights they're called. The first one to set one up, in 1994, was a little man who lost his whole family to the corner he now guards. It turned into a lucrative business and so now other corners are protected (though I spotted a shack at the bottom of one of the valleys... oops).

The views were absolutely incredible, though we were warned in no uncertain terms NOT to look at them. Apparently one guy a year or so ago did, and about 10 seconds later realised he was cycling in thin air, and fell about 200 feet. He survived - cracked his head open though...

All was going well - I was zooming down the track, inches from the edge (we had to stay on the outside because you never know when a vehicle is coming up on the inside), bounching around and having an all out great time. Then, however, I encounter a rather large and very dusty corner that my speed wasn't prepared for. Ouch. See pics for injuries. It didn't hurt (though it does now). The most painful bit was the 10 or so "}{_)@#&^^$#^s that went straight passed me, maybe slowing down to see the accident slightly, but not to help! I was lying on the floor with a bike on top of me for Christ sake! On the Death Road! Scum.

Anyway, the guide bandaged me up when I found him, and very kindly soaked me with antiseptic (Jesus Jumped-up Christ that hurts!). The rest of the ride was a little more controlled... for a while. Later it became very very dusty, and you could barely see the edge. Scary stuff. Anyway, in the end we reached the bottom, and only two people pulled out (of our group of 13) from fear. After about 4 hours cycling I felt severly violated, and sitting down, as urgent as it was, hurt considerably. We got free beer and a Tshirt for our troubles, then headed to a place where we could shower and eat (though I did neither). Later I took the minibus back up the same road to La Paz to find Laura feeling much better, though for some reason wearing my clothes... nevermind, we did our laundry for the second time since we got here today.


Anyway, that's about it for this update - we're heading to Tiwanaku tomorrow to see some serious Incan ruins, then Copocabana the following day for some more, in and around Lake Titikaka. We´re sticking to our Spanish CDs rather than lessons, as we decided the money and time could really just be better spent. We are actually coming on quite well with the CDs anyway!






Okay, Death Road stuff.
The first thing to bear in mind when booking with a company is if they will take good care of you. I fell off... but they bandaged me up and stung my wounds with disinfectant etc. However I heard some bad stories about other companies just zooming past injured bikers - apparently my company (Gravity) had to bail them out and take them to a hospital. As lonely planet says, consider what corners are being cut with the cheaper tours.
Gravity is 50 american dollars, and you get a free postcard (whoopie), lunch, travel and t-shirt. Most companies offer a free t-shirt, and prices start at about 25 dollars. However, a lot of them don't change their bikes often if at all, and guides may not know what they are doing (when I crashed my handlebars were out of line with the wheel, and they sorted it out, and during the ride my brakes were loose, which they also sorted out very quickly. They also make sure the seat is the right height for different sections, and do a safety check every hour or so on the breaks and tyres), and/or might not speak english - Gravity gives each group two guides, both of whom speak english, one of which has it as a first language.
Also Gravity offers an insurance policy, which you don't need to take up if you dont want (it's an extra 10 dollars), but your insurance package may not cover it. Anyway, I heard from the guide that if you crash and need insurance, you can pay then (don't tell anyone I told you).


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19th August 2005

LIFE INNA THE FAST LANE!!
HEY!!!GRINGOS!, THE OLE SOUTH AMERICAN TROTS HAVE CAUGHT UP WITHA YOU,ISA THE STREETFOOD NO GOOD POR FAVOR?,JULIO LOVES HEES STREETFOOD BOT HEY!,HE HAS INSIDES MED OFA OLE ALLIGATOR HIDE HE HE HE. BLIMEY O REILLY!!!YOU BIKERS LIVIN INNA THE FAST LANE,VEWY DANGEOROUS!!!,A GRINGO COMPARDRE WORKA HERE SAY HE REACH MAX 45KM/HR, ANNA WAS VEWY FRIGHTENED!, THOSE DROPS LOOK MIGHTY STEEP!!! LAURA DO THE BESTA THING ANNA REST OP, THEE TROTS WILL SOON PASS ANNA THEN FEEL LOTSA BETTER.JULIO HASA CONTACTED ME AFTER SEVERAL DAYS MISSIN AND SAY HE WOZ FOLLOWING YOUR GROUPA DOWN THEE "DEATH ROAD" INNA HIRED CAR, BOT UNFORTUNATELY THEE BRAKES WERE NOTA RESPONDING! I SAY "JULIO!,IDIOT!!" WHAT DID YOU DO? MAMA MIA! HE SAY "I MANAGED TO AVOID GOING OVER THEE EDGE COS I COLLIDED WEETH ANOTHER VEHICLE WHICH SLOWED ME OP!!!" GRRR!!! I SAY "YOU TWEET!!,WHAT ABOUT THE OVVER DRIVER?" HE SAY "NO MATTER!!!,IM ONLY SPORTIN ONE BLACK EYE AND THE DAMAGES WEEL GO THROUGH YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY RODRIQUEZ TRAVEL!" AIEEEEEH!!!!!! VY! VY! HE ISA NINCOMPOOP,ZO I TELL HEEM TO GET TO LAKE TITICATA ANNA CONTINUE A SWEEP OFA THEE AREA, SECURITY PURPOSES, FORA MY HOMBRES HE HE HE!! I HOPE THERE ISA NO COMPLAINTS SO FAR WITH RODRIQUEZ TRAVEL, BYE THE BYE THE SKULL WAS A VEWY GOOD LIKENESS OFA JULIO AEEEH!! HA!!
20th August 2005

woah!
crazy stuff!! and you look filthy, jealous of that tan! :P hope you've recovered from the exploding poop now....
25th August 2005

signs of life please
where are you now?have not heard from you for a week,some signs soon please,,,,.falling of bikes rins in the family,thor did it ,and I fell of a stationary bike once,beat than,eh?seriously,though,I go through all coulers of the rainbow,from green with envyto pale with fright now,so please songns of life,,,,.Thanks for loveky postcard,from supergran.

Tot: 2.09s; Tpl: 0.073s; cc: 12; qc: 27; dbt: 0.0306s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.3mb