You can check out some pics of the road here. I will post some of my own pics very soon!!
The famous Death Road is a pretty big tourist attraction here in Bolivia. The road was a lot more dangerous before 2007, when a new road was built because between 200 and 300 people died on the road every year. Vehicles use the new road, leaving the deadly road just for cyclists. After doing the ride, I cannot even imagine how much scarier it must have been to have semi trucks coming at you around blind corners on a road that is barely 3 meters wide.
After my bike accident in Colombia, (read about it here), I was a little apprehensive about getting back on a bike, especially on The World´s Most Dangerous Road. But of course, a little fear has never stopped me.
After the hour journey to 4700 meters above sea level where we were begining the ride, I was a bit scared. It was cold, snow was falling from the sky and staying on the road, making it more slippery than ever. I was telling an English girl about my Colombian bike adventure, and I guess she could hear the apprehension in my voice. She was very sweet and told me not to worry about it, everything would be fine.
So, off we went! The first hour was on a paved 2 lane road. No need to pedal, gravity did the work as we made our way down the steep and slippery road, riding the brakes the whole way. It was snowing and sleeting and raining directly in my face, which made it difficult to see the scenery all around. The one thing you couldn´t miss though, was the steep vertical drop off the side of the road. What I could see all around me were snow covered mountain peaks above and lush green vegetaion below. The road was dotted with crosses, memorials and flowers for those who had fallen over the edge. It was scary to see just how many memorials there were. The first hour was easy and a lot of fun once my confidence level went up. Little did I know, this was not really Death Road. We had been biking the new part of the road, the safe part.
When I got a look at the REAL Death Road, a lump of fear welled up in my throat. Only 2 meters wide in some parts, 90 degree turns, blind corners, loose gravel, rediciously steep, holes in the road, giant rocks to avoid, and a steep, steep drop off with no gaurd rails if you fall prey to any of the above. One mistake, one second of lost concentration, one rock you can´t avoid or too much or too little pressure on the brakes, and you die. But the scenery was beautiful. Lush, green tropical jungle forrest surrounded but cliffs and dotted with waterfalls all along the way. You could only glance for a millisecond, or you risked going right off the side. I started off slowly, sqeezing the brakes hard the whole time. My arms vibrated from the uneven ground and the death grip I had on the handle bars. The wind in my ears sounded like someone had the windows open in a car on the highway. I gained more and more confidence and went faster and faster. Often I had to slow down and remind myself that being cocky is how accidents happen.
I came around one corner and noticed two bikers in my group stopped in the middle of the road. As I got closer I saw the English girl, who had reassured me that everything was going to be fine, her face covered in blood. She was in shock and bleeding profusely from the mouth. The other person who was riding near her only spoke spanish, and I was the next one on the scene. She had no idea what happened to her, she just knew it was bad. For a second I was in shock too, as I looked at all the blood and her broken front teeth. I had to calm her down and explain to her that she was ok, and had just cracked a tooth but there was a lot of blood. Others had gathered by this time and she was determinded to find her piece of broken tooth. As everyone searched for the tooth, I took a look at the road where she had fallen. Luckily, she was on a wide curve and had managed to stay in the middle of the road. Who knows what would have happened if it was on the turn before or after. She was lucky to have escaped with only a busted up face.
As she went to the hosptital, the rest of us continued on down Death Road. I was a bit shaken up after the girl´s fall, and took it very slowly. After 2 hours, we had made it through the most dangerous part of Death Road. The next part was still dangerous, but we didn´t have to be as careful. The road was a little wider, had less 90 degree turns and was a little less steep. This was the fun part for me!! I had all the confidence in the world as I ripped down the road, powered through S turns and splashed through waterfalls, only touching the brakes to turn.
Finally, we were at the end. I had survived the World´s Most Dangerous Road. No one in any of the groups died that day, but there were a few people who had to be taken to the hospital, and many others nursing wounds at the bottom. We had ridden from an altitude of 4700m to 1200m in 65 km. We had started in the freezng cold and snow, and now were sweating in our shorts and tank tops. We celebrated life and survival with a few beers, and called it a day!
Side note - Although Death Road is now largely a tourist attraction, it is important to remember that just a few years ago many Bolivians had no choice but to use that road to sustain life. They, and all the ones who have passed must be remembered and respect paid to the road where so many lost their lives.
On a cheerier note, the English girl was brave and went to a Bolivian dentist, who fixed up her tooth good as new. A few stitches and a few days for the swelling to go down and she will have a great story to tell others about the World´s Most Dangerous Road!!
Join me as I TRAVEL MY LIFE AWAY!!!