Cycling Bolivia’s Death Road
We heard about the World’s Most Dangerous Road while staying in our hostel, which conveniently had a desk where you could book your trip. One of the country’s most popular attractions, the Death Road is named this way for a reason as it kills around 100 to 300 people each year! This road is seriously no joking matter.
Bolivians use the road because it is the only way for farmers of the Yungas Valley to send their crops to the market in La Paz. Bolivia has more than half of its population living in poverty and so the potential threat of death is not going to get in the way of making sufficient money for one’s family.
After we made our way up mountains in our bus we were quickly kitted up. This included knee pads, elbow pads, special protective trousers and full-face helmets. The descent started easy enough as the first stretch was on smooth tarmac. All we had to do was avoid any trucks and cars coming in the opposite direction! The beginning of the track is where we travelled the fastest with some individuals reaching up to 70km/hr. After the main highway section was complete, we turned to the off-road section, which we could see was obviously the most dangerous part of the cycle. The road here was narrow, I’m talking at some points around 2 meters wide, with nothing but a 600 meter drop on your left – all the while, there were a few trucks driving up the opposite direction and we were told that we were supposed to cycle down the outside to let them past!
I started off on the trip probably one of the most nervous in the group but by this point, adrenaline had taken its effect on me and I decided to gun it down. I managed to stay in second position (after some insanely fast cycler) for most of the descent until suddenly a piece of dirt flew into my right eye, temporarily blinding me. Next thing, I was mid air and had managed to do a near 360 degree flip that landed me right on my back. It was not long until the bus that followed the group behind us appeared and the guides were making sure I was ok. I had suffered a mild concussion, because from what I remember, I nearly collapsed while standing up and momentarily lost all hearing in both my ears.
Roundabout 5 or 10 minutes later, I was feeling back to my usual perky self and decided to continue cycling, albeit at a much slower pace. The final part of the cycle was by far the easiest, and probably the safest. Although the cliff edge still loomed to our side, the road here was much wider.
The very end had arrived and for all our pain and effort we were treated with a visit to the local hot springs where it was time to relax, unwind and reflect on what we had just achieved.
This article was written by a friend.
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