Edit Blog Post
Published: June 24th 2016
After a final administrative day in Sucre doing laundry, cleaning my bag, and generally just trying to get myself together I booked an overnight bus bound for the current capital of this country La Paz at a cost of $90 Bolivianos which is around $13 USD. Transportation, really everything in this country, is ridiculously cheap. Fifteen hours later I arrived into La Paz with its five million inhabitants and its world record (for a capital city) oxygen depriving altitude of 13,000 feet. I had a few things on my agenda here including a witches market, the infamous Route 36, and the legendary World's Most Dangerous Road. My heart was already pumping and I thought I might have an aneurysm.
I told myself that when I got to La Paz I would check into one of the giant “party” hostals you find along the trail here in South America. Generally I avoid these types of places but I had to go at least once. I checked into Loki La Paz Hostal
for a reasonable $60 Bolivianos per night ($8.60 USD). I pretty much got exactly what I had expected – no sleep (sometimes by my own accord, sometimes by others), loud pumping top 50
music at all hours of the night from the bar, and a bunch of drunk early twenty something’s vomiting all over the place. Good fun indeed.
My first day here I booked my ticket to The Death Road strait away. I booked my tour with Barracuda Biking
($449 Bolivianos, $64USD) which was recommended by a British couple I met way back in Colombia. I did not even bother looking anywhere else and it was absolutely the right decision. The bikes were in great condition, the guide very experienced, and we had a small group of three riders as opposed to some of the other groups I saw with 15+. The rest of the day I wandered the city up and down all of the quirky and chaotic side streets exploring the strange markets within. La Paz is simple to navigate as the city is built with one main avenue in the middle of a large valley with the streets climbing either side. So if you get lost (as I am apt to do) you just walk downhill until you hit the main street again. Easy Peasey.
With one day to kill before The Death Road I went to a
witches market with hopes of finding all sorts of strange and exotic mischief. The only point of interest here at the witches market is the shops sell all manner of dried llama fetus that apparently you are supposed to bury under the front step of a new home to promote good luck and healthy living. Other than this the whole market was a serious tourist trap with junk ”Inca” clothing, maps of Bolivia, Che Guevara T-Shirts, and really nothing very interesting. I was quite disappointed.
Whilst at the market I did run across a flyer for Cholitas Lucha Libre
wrestling so I decided to give this a shot.The Lucha Libre was actually an entertaining way to kill the afternoon. It was like the WWF, except with out of shape men in crappy costumes. The draw here is that the Bolivian lucha libre incorporates women into the wrestling with the men being the heel and the girls being the hero. The acting was hopelessly bad and the theatrics terrible but the crowd was really into it and more than once bottles were flying over my head and into the ring at the performers. Overall a fun way to end the day.
Early to bed and up at 7:30am the next morning the day had finally arrived. The Death Road! Matt was in town as well and had booked the same day as I with Barracuda
for the bike trip. We also had a young Irish Lad with us named Sean. The three of us with our guide Jubert were to ride full suspension downhill mountain bikes 75KM with over 3,500m of vertical descent down the notorious death road. Our day started off high in the Andes Mountains outside of La Paz at an altitude of 4,700m (15,420ft.). The weather was cold, crisp, and clear. The first 30Km would be on paved road shooting down through the mountains and into the jungle below. Flying down the road whizzing past Semi trucks and with autos flying by I realized I had not really ridden a bicycle in quite some time and certainly not like this (Mendoza does not count). I was also astonished at how the scenery, temperature, and ecosystem had changed on me so quickly. Pushing on I craved more and more speed and the first leg of the trip was over before I knew it. Now out of the mountains and
into the jungle the real journey was to begin and the legitimate death road was before me.
Arriving in the jungle the road went from smooth asphalt to rough and loose dirt, gravel, and lots of mud. As if it was not going to be tough enough, now we were also shrouded in a heavy fog and drizzle. The road was super steep, slick and muddy. Before we started our guide also turned from fun and easy going to quite serious. He explained the rules of the road and adamantly told us to ride within our limits and to be extremely cautious. The Death Road is the real deal and since tours began in 2006 twenty-four people have lost their lives descending the world’s most dangerous road on bikes, not to mention the countless buses, autos, and trucks that have gone over. There are stark reminders all up and down the road with crosses and shrines dedicated to those whom calamity befell. In fact looking back I’m surprised that it is even legal to let people do this trip.
Putting all of these thoughts aside I began my descent and was full of adrenaline. I cannot really describe
the feeling of flying down this road. It almost seemed fake. Maybe that was my brain’s way of dealing with the real danger that was at hand. Looking over the side at any point and you could see a straight drop of hundreds and hundreds of feet into jungle nothingness. If you go over, you are done. No questions asked - game over. At some points the road was only 5or 6 feet wide and here I was cruising down with mud on my face, water covering my sunglasses and smiling the whole way down finishing in the tropical jungle at 1,200M. A completely different world from where we started a few hours earlier. Truly an incredible experience and a memory I will take with me to my grave. I am so happy I was able to do this whilst in South America and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Obviously I was not able to take many photos with my camera while riding the death road, but the tour guide snapped some and put them on a CD for me. Once I am able to transfer these, I should be able to post more photos.
and for those who want to know I did make it to Route 36 and yes the legends are indeed true.
Tot: 1.481s; Tpl: 0.062s; cc: 13; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0186s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb