DEATH ROAD – The Most Dangerous Road in the World!!!
Now anyone travelling through South America has heard of or been down 'Death Road' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yungas_Road . The road is situated between La Paz and Coroico, is gravel and narrow and was until several years ago (when a new paved road was put in) the only road to reach the town of Coroico and beyond. It has seen many deaths (hence its name) and two of the more major ones were; 80 people who were in the back of a lorry and 100 people in a bus. Once you go over the side there is little chance of survival as the sheer drop is up to 1km in places and is straight down.
In 1998 a company started up a tour down the road on mountain bikes http://www.gravitybolivia.com/index.php?mod=tempview1&id=1251406369 and today there are many agencies offering the thrill ride down the notorious road. I had been in two minds on doing this tour as there have been quite a number of 'tourist' deaths over the years but after speaking with two travellers on two different occasions who said that it was really a great thing to do I decided that I would give it a go. They had both been with the same agency (and the one that started it all back in '98') and even though it was the most expensive it was reputable and it is occasions like this that you don't want to be going cheap!
The night before I was to go on my tour I read about a recent death on the road, a Japanese girl, and it had happened not even a week ago. Hmmmm should I be getting nervous???? It was an early start to the day having to be at the meeting point by 7.30am and by 7.45am we were heading towards our starting point of the tour. There were 11 of us on the tour, 1 English, 1 American, 4 Dutch and 5 of us Aussies.
For the first part we would be biking down on a paved road (the new road) before hitting the gravel road. The sun was shining and we were kitted out with our gear at the starting point and after a briefing on safety points we were off. Wow it was steep and boy did I get to know my brakes well. Everyone else seemed to be keen to go at a pretty high speed whereas I decided to be the nanna of the group and bring up the year at a speed that I was comfortable with. We stopped a couple of times on the paved road to appreciate the views and be given information on history of the road including fatalities.
Soon the sun was gone and we had hit cloud. We were up pretty high having started at 4800m and by the end we would be down to about 1200m. One part of the journey included biking uphill for around 45 minutes and we were given the option to give it a go or put your bike on top of the bus and skip it. I decided to skip it as walking the streets in La Paz had been killing me from the altitude yet alone trying to bike uphill. 5 people gave it a go and 3 of them made it, the other two not able to cope with the altitude. Now it was time for the rest of us to get back on the road as we had arrived to the old 'Death Road'. Down came our bikes and we were off, in the rain I might add, and still there was cloud and so we could not see the views or most importantly the sheer drop-offs on our left-hand side (and yes the side we had to bike on). The ride was very cold and because of the rain, very muddy, but I was toasty warm having 2 layers on the bottom and 5 layers on top but as we got lower down it got hot and I couldn't wait to strip off. We biked down in sections, around 8 I think, and at each section told some story of how people had died. We passed many crosses on the way down and there were lots. It was really important to focus on what you were doing and not be a '[email protected]@#ing idiot' as our guide put it.
About ½ to 2/3 of the way down the cloud cleared and we could see the amazing views and the drop off to our left which by this stage was not that bad (but not great either) and being on the bike it was not so obvious on how far it dropped to what it was being up higher on the bus. The ride took around 3 hours and we finished up at an animal sanctuary for lunch, followed by ziplining (flying fox) over the valley. It was my first time doing this and I think I was more nervous about it than biking down 'death road' but it turned out to be very easy and very safe and LOTS of fun.
So we all survived unscathed and we all enjoyed the ride down immensely and it wasn't until we drove back up on the bus that we saw how far down it was over the side of the road. OMG it was such a long way down and the road so very narrow. I was more nervous going up in the bus than I was going down on the bike!!!!