High in Colorado

High in Colorado
Photo: Mandy Lea Photo

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The "Death Road" Mountain Bike Ride

After another restless night in La Paz (partially due to the altitude and partially due to the f’ing Brits I shared a room with bursting in at 2 AM to do a couple lines of coke before heading out to the clubs), I finally got my ass out of bed around 6 AM to pack and grab some food. Around 7 AM the people from Altitude Mountain Biking came to the hostel to pick up our group of seven brave souls who would be tempting fate to ride to ride down the North Yungas Road, which just happens to be dubbed the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” or the “Death Road.” Here’s a little background information on the route our group rode that might clue you in on how the road earned its name:

Start: La Cumbre (elevation: 4,643 meters or 15,232 feet)
End: Yolosa (elevation: 1,200 meters or 3,937 feet)
Distance: 64 kilometers (40 miles)
Sheer drop-offs: 600 meters (1,830 feet)
Average width of road: 3.2 meters (10 feet)
Guard rails? Hahaha, of course not…
Deaths: 200-300 per year (before construction of a new, “safer” road

So we all piled into the van and began the ascent from La Paz to La Cumbre, our starting point, with a few stops along the way to grab some bananitas (little bananas) and also to pass through some kind of police/narcotics check point. Upon arrival at La Cumbre we enjoyed another little breakfast of coffee and bread. Our guides then started handing out equipment (wind suits, arm and leg pads, helmets, goggles, and bikes). They also used this opportunity to assign nicknames to us all. Of course, I received the nickname “Jesus” (pronounced Hey-zeus…remember we’re in South America). This nickname would follow me throughout Bolivia and Peru…

In my opinion, the bike ride is best describe through photos…That being said, here are several photos of the “Death Road” ride.

Laguna Estrellani at the beginning of our ride in La Cumbre.
Getting our gear at La Cumbre.
Our fearless group!
The ride started in the snow caps and on paved road.
This is where the road turned to gravel/rock. If you look close, you can see the road in the haze of fog.

The "Death Road" at it's finest. This is fairly typical of the entire road.
Me and the road.
Living on the edge. I believe this is the biggest drop on the road. Well over 1,000 feet if I recall correctly.
Same drop. That's me in the front getting crazy with the bike.
Getting closer to Yolosa. It's pretty hot now at the lower elevation.
Nice view in Yolosa after finishing the bike ride.
Another view in Yolosa.
A triumphant survivor of the "Death Road" mountain bike ride!

Jesus y Judas. The guides loved this since they gave me the nickname Jesus. Also, notice all the bug bites on my arm. The bugs were vicious there.
Well, hopefully you now have a pretty good idea of how awesome the “Death Road” mountain bike ride is. I would definitely recommend it for anyone traveling near La Paz.

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