If you’re ever in Bolivia or more specifically La Paz one thing you must do is cycle the world’s most dangerous road! The Death Road!
If you can ride a bike without falling off.. DO IT! If you can’t ride a bike and need stabilisers at least try to DO IT! (well maybe not) And if you do DO IT don’t go out the night before.. although cycling down the Andes is a great way to shake off a hangover!
The Death road starts at 4900 meters in the Andes and ends at 1000 meters in the base of the Amazon. Its 63km of amazing scenary, sheer cliff drops, steep hills and in our case rocky wet roads and torrential rain! It doesn’t get its name for no reason, a study in 1994 discovered 200 to 300 people were dying on the road per year.
The night before turned out to be a heavy night of drinking, we ended up in a bar by our hotel knocking back shots and dancing on the bar table till about 1am, this is when we decided it would be best to call it a night, we needed to get at least some sleep to brave the challenge the next day.
We awoke at 6am.. so as you can imagine we we’re still abit drunk. I knew I was drunk on the car journey there when we decided to play the classic hit “Chumbawamba – I get knocked down” full blast to motivate us for the challenge ahead. My lovely friend Lauren was sick out the window on the way.
We arrived at the start of the road; the starting point was at 4,900 meters surrounded by snow capped mountains so it was cold. One thing I noticed is the temperature warms up and the scenery change as you descend into the Amazon basin.
The first 20km of the ride is on tarmac, which gives a great opportunity to get used to your bike (and shake off the hangover). At this point you’re meant to get breath taking views of the Andes, unfortunately for us the Andes were surrounded in Mist.
Once the first part of the journey was out the way it was time for the real Death road to begin. The entrance of the road was very eerie to say the least. This is where the road goes from tarmac to rock, as if the narrow single roads with no guard rails, 600 meter cliff drops and down pours of rain which made the road slippery weren’t enough we had mist to contend with which added another element of fear.
What this did was make us very cautious, whilst the mist persisted we went slow and took our time. In some parts the sheer drop beside you comes from nowhere, we were all on edge.. literally!
As we descended and left the mist behind I started to relax abit more and take in the breathtaking scenery. It’s enjoyable enough to ride a bike downhill for 4 hours but to do it with breath taking mountains, cliffs and Jungle as a back drop was just unreal.
It was easy to get carried away speeding down hill in some parts and easy to forget that the danger is very real. Through parts of the decent you will see graves which are a real reminder that you could easily go over the edge. We passed another group of riders, one which had fallen off his bike at high speed, he was in pain and his helmet was filled with blood. It was the same rider that had sped past us 20 minutes earlier.
Once you get past the cliffs the road becomes more levelled off, the cliff drops fade away and it becomes a relaxing bike ride. When we got near the bottom the temperatures warmed up and the sun made an appearance making for a pleasant end to an epic day of bike riding. At the end of the road was a bar waiting for us so we had a well deserved pint.
All in all it was one of the most memorable and enjoyable days I spent in my 2 months in South America. The guides were brilliant and I felt in safe hands, if you can ride a bike confidently then you can conquer the death road.