We arrived in La Paz, Bolivia late after a long day in Lake Titicaca. Our main reason to stay in La Paz was to try our luck biking down the infamous “Death Road”. This 64km downhill mountain biking path is best known for it’s dangerous one lane road that was carved into the side of themountain face back in the 1930’s where they averaged 200-300 people dying on it a year.
Now it’s one of the main sites for tourists to go and get their adrenaline pumping while in Bolivia. After looking into the numerous different companies we chose to book with Barracuda Biking based on their safety and expert knowledge from their guides. Because of the protests going on in the city we had to meet extra early the next morning just to be able to get outside of the city before some of the roads were blocked off. After a brisk half hour walk uphill (due to the road closures) our bodies had begun defrosting and adjusting to the altitude just in time to begin the start of our biking adventure. Once we arrived at the top of the hill we were all outfitted in padded jacket and pants (Piet looked like MC Hammer in his gear) and were given a bike that was specific to each of our heights.
After riding around the parking lot area we went through all the safety precautions you could imagine and then we did a little ritual to keep us safe. We all took a sip of what I could only explain as lighter fluid and then sprayed a bit over our tire and onto the ground for protection. It was a neat bonding experience for our group. From here we were ready- the first 20 KM’s were down a paved 2 lane road to help get us accustomed and comfortable on the bikes. Our guide Gus was amazing, he’d stop us every so often to look at certain view points, to check on us and to tell us a little bit about the history of the road. There was even a spot where we could spot an old bus that had gone over the cliff! You were able to go as fast or as slow as you needed as we had one guide in the front of our group and one guide behind us. After the initial fear wore off a bit, you could find Piet and I racing down one after another. Then came the portion of the actual “Death Road”...
This is where the road narrows, it’s dirt and rock and while some areas now have guardrails up there are numerous portions that do not. Luckily the government has built amuch newer and safer road but the Death Road is still open for drivers to take and we did encounter a couple of cars along our journey. I think the scariest thing to me was when they told us the cars get the inside of lane and bikers have to take the lane closest to the cliff!! Once you got over the initial fear of the cliff beside you (and the memorial crosses), you were able to start to enjoy the scenery around you.
It was an amazingly diverse landscape that we got to experience throughout the day. At first we were chilly as we started biking high up through “cloud forest” but as we started winding our way down into the jungle (nearly 15,000ft) we were shedding off layers because it was getting so hot and humid in the jungle. We were riding underneath waterfalls, biking through streams and passing alongside coca fields as we were zooming along.
Then as we neared the village of Yolosa, our end point, we were taken to a little jungle oasis that had an amazing pool to relax your tired muscles and a couple cold beers to cheers your fellow survivors with! It was a pretty incredible experience and we are so glad we were able to check this item off of our bucket list. All in all, our guides were amazing, the safety was top notch (as we saw them check our bikes at multiple stops) and there was plenty of food and water to keep our energy levels up throughout the whole ride! Albeit, the next day our bums and hands were a little sore, it was well worth it!!