The World’s Most Dangerous Road, Bolivia.
After 6 nights in La Paz, we embarked on a bike tour of the famous “World’s Most Dangerous Road”, the route that runs between La Paz and the Yungas region of Bolivia.
These days, there is a safer, more modern route and so the journey has become a hugely popular tourist attraction, with cyclists and support buses the most common users of the road.
We went on the tour with Ride On Bolivia who had excellent reviews and cost 450 Bs (under £50), half the price of the best known and priciest tour company, Gravity.
We started the day with a pick-up at the hotel and drove to a point in the mountains close to the start of Death Road for breakfast.
We had tasty banana bread made by the owner of the company and our guides Victor and Cello took us through the plan, before introducing us to our bikes and safety gear.
The helmet, clothing and pads were really modern and as good as any we saw on the route. The bikes were decent but only had front suspension, so you felt a lot of the bumps!
Once we’d got our gear on, we headed off on a tarmac road towards the start of Death Road, which took around 45mins (with stops for pics) and gave us a chance to get used to the bikes.
As it was mostly downhill, me and a Kiwi bloke flew to the front, being the heaviest. There was an extremely-opinionated Aussie girl in the group who was a pain in the arse before we even set off. She tried to stay at the front but, of course, the heavy members in the group would soon catch her up on the downhills and I found it difficult to be constantly on the breaks to try and keep a gap behind us.
Without ever pedalling, I would fly past her on the downhills and she would come pedalling past me on the flats, treating it like a race. Meanwhile, Ashleigh was taking it easy at the back, getting used to the breaks.
After a while going at a good speed on the tarmac, the guide Cello signalled for us to pull over on the gravel to the right. It was me, followed by the Kiwi guy Simon and then the Aussie girl. Simon and I pulled over and turned back to look out for the rest of the group to catch us up – in flies the Aussie girl who pulls her front break as soon as she hits the gravel, skids and face plants the ground. Dick. The helmet kept her in one piece but she had a big dirty smear on her chin where she’d decked it.
That knocked her confidence a bit and she then hung back towards the rear of the group (it was a small group of 6) so Ashleigh was wary to make sure she gave her a wide-berth as she was clearly a liability. Soon after, she skidded and hit the deck again and the poor Canadian girl behind her didn’t have time to break or swerve and so flew over her handlebars and hurt her thumb so bad she would be in tears later on the ride. All this before we’d even reached the World’s Most Dangerous Road itself!
At the start of the Death Road proper, we were quick to discover how bumpy the bike ride would be but it was a clear day though and the views were amazing.
We set off at our own paces, and it tended to be an order of me or Simon at the front, followed by Simon’s mate from Austria, Ashleigh, the Aussie girl and the Canadian girl with the aching hand.
In the first few hours there were various points of interest where we stopped for pictures or to hear stories from the guides.
There were numerous crucifixes along the way, marking where accidents had caused fatalities. Even though it’s safer on a bike than a big bus, there are still a number of deaths each year on the route, the last fatality being a Bolivian cyclist.
We heard a story about how guerrilla groups would bring people to the road to hang them over the side of the cliff and intimidate them. There was a plaque in memory of a group of politicians who jumped off the cliff hand-in-hand, rather than giving in to intimidation of a guerrilla group, and dying as martyrs.
We stopped for snacks and lunch along the way and silly photo opps like this:
Later in the day, we would cover more distance between stops. At speed down the bumpy roads your hands would ache like hell and so every break was a welcome respite.
The last stretch down to Coroico was nice, though I managed to go ahead and take a wrong path at one point and had to turn back and pedal uphill for a while, which was annoying!
At the end of the trip we came down a particularly bumpy section and without warning it opened out onto a main road – we’d done it!
Ashlieigh and I, along with the Austrian bloke, were the only ones not to come off our bikes so we glugged cold beers bought from cholita women at the bottom of the route, before hopping on the bus and heading to a hotel resort with a pool for lunch.
Ash and I decided to stay there for a few nights to enjoy the pool, sunny weather and lower altitude. Before moving on to the town of Coroico.