Death Road, La Paz, Thursday 28 April 2011


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Published: May 10th 2011
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We have been our of internet range or the slowness of the network has been at snales-pace in Bolivia so hence you haven't heard from us for over a week. Are you ready for the big catch up as we are now in Salta, Argentina.
Pam & Tom

On one of the days while in La Paz, a new challenge was before me.... to ride a mountain bike along Death Road which is/was the most dangerous road in Bolivia. Those of you who have seen the TV series “The Most Dangerous Roads in the World” may have seen shots of the Bolivian road. The difference today is that there are hardly any cars on the road as a new road was opened 5 years ago.

The company Madness Adventure was recommended to 8 of us who were keen to do the 64 Kilometres, downhill all the way. So we went along to see and hear the risks. AS there was hardly any cars on the road now and because the people who have been killed on the road have been totally stupid, I decided to take the ride. We were all kitted out at 6.30am with long protective pants, a very safe helmet, gloves and orange vest. We were given instructions on waring all the equipment. We were also told that the 1st 2 hours of the ride was going to be very cold because we would be starting at 4,640 metres above sea level. Our finishing point was at 1295 metres above sea level where it was a lot warmer.

We were driven by a small van to our starting point which took about 1 ½ hrs. The wonderful scenery was seen even along this part of the trip. In addition to our group, 2 German brothers joined us, one of whom had lived in Brisbane for 12 months, working with his uncle who was working on the tunnel that was built under the Brisbane River.

Once we arrived at our starting point, our guide gave us all the instructions on our bikes and how to use them, how to use the brakes, given that we will be free-wheeling down the mountain. This briefing took 30 minutes. I felt that I had made the right decision to go on this ride as I had heard of the amazing scenery along this road..... and safety efforts by the guide was optimal.

We had one guide who led the group, another who rode behind the slowest rider (it was not a race!) and a guy who followed in the van. We were told that at any stage, if we didn’t want to ride any further, our bike could be put back on top of the van and ride in the van.

The 1st 22 Kilometres was on sealed road. I don’t know how fast we were riding, but it was pretty exhilarating. After the 1st 10 minutes of riding, we stopped and the 1st amazing bit of scenery hit us – the photo will tell the story. It was so spectacular, I got a bit emotional. We stayed there for about 10 minutes to take it all in.

Off we went again, stopping frequently. At the end of the sealed road was a tunnel which we were not going through. We rode off the road and started on the old gravelly road. This 1st bit of gravel was terrible and went for only 100 metres. I thought at this stage that if the next 42 kms was not going to be enjoyable as it nearly shook up off the bike. At this stage I was pleased that Tom had decided not to make the ride. Fortunately, this was the worst strip of road. We passed roadwork along this little section which made it even worst.

We stopped at the end of this rough patch and we all were thinking the same thing. On our bikes again, we continued to free-wheel down the mountain, dropping about 1500 metres over 15 minutes ride. We were all getting used to our bikes and the terrain. Once I relaxed my grip on the handlebars and allowed my arms to go with the motion of the bike, I was really enjoying myself as it was a more comfortable ride. We always kept away from the edge, as many of the sheer drops were 600-800 metres.

It would have been pretty easy to concentrate only on the road we were riding over rather than remembering why we were taking the ride, so I always made sure I was looking around to take in the scenery. I was getting more and more confident riding down the mountain and was getting a lot of speed up. It was a fantastic feeling...but at all times I was not taking unnecessary risks.

I will let the photos tell the story. An addition, one of our stops which was before we road under 2 waterfalls, we noticed a station wagon with photographers getting out. They were racing back on the road to stop this large red truck so that they could take photos of the truck on this road. A couple of our group recognised one of the guys as the photographer of the program “The World’s most dangerous Roads”. They were taking more footage for their program. It was a pretty narrow part of the road, particularly when a truck was travelling along the road. We waited for the truck to go past and off we road again. I could see why cyclists had been killed along this road when there were lots of vehicles on the road.

One of our stops, our guide suggested we take off several layers of clothing because we were continuing to drop in altitude and it would be getting quite warm. He was right. I kept my arms and legs covered, as I was still riding a bike on a rough road – some got down to their T-shirts and shorts.

At the end of the ride we took off all our riding gear and put on Deet Mosquito repellent as we had stopped at Mosquito Pub. One of the girls in our group, Nicola didn’t put repellent on until it was too late and she was badly bitten by these pink-looking mosquitoes. She had pretty tough days over the next few days. Our guide pilled our bikes up onto the top of the van and we drove to our lunch spot. Lunch was average, there was an opportunity for a swim which none of us took up and I was the only one who had a shower. The ride had taken us less than 4 hours.


We drove back to La Paz along the new road which took about 3 hours. The new road wasn’t good, with sections of cobbled stones rather than bitumen and there were badly pot-holed un-sealed and sealed roads. In parts it was slow growing. We arrived back in Pa Paz by 4.30pm.


Anyone who wanted to do this ride, I would highly recommend it. This was another highlight of our 3 month holiday in South America.



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