Home > Uncategorized > Death Road – July 28th

Death Road – July 28th

The morning of the 28th we were up at 07:15 to get ready for our Bike ride of the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Road’ AKA the Death Road with Vertigo Downhill.  I couldn’t eat anything for breakfast, so I just bought myself a Powerade to try and help me through.  The shuttle bus arrived just after 8, and we boarded with a Swiss guy while waiting for the other vehicle to meet up.  Thankfully for me the Swiss guy was sympathetic to my bad stomach and gave me a couple of pills to take before we embarked on the long bike ride.

After the second bus arrived we all drove for 45 mins to the summit of the road.  Here we unloaded the bus and got geared up while meeting everybody.  We were given elbow pads, knee pads, pants, a vest, full-helmet, gloves, and a full-suspension bike.  There was a couple of Belgian guys who I was hanging with.  The first part of the road – 24km – was paved road.  It was mainly to get familiar with riding again, but was pretty fast regardless.  There was 15 people in the group, plus 3 guides and the two vehicles.  One guide was at the front, one in the middle, and one in the rear, followed by the two vehicles, so it all felt pretty safe.  They encouraged you to go at your own pace.

Me being me, I had to try and push myself to the limit.  We had various stops through the first section to take pictures, and allow everybody to catch up, but for the most part we began to get a feel for own own paces.  I tended to be around third – Behind the front guide + the best rider (One of the two Belgians), whereas Paul was mid/Late pack.  I felt more comfortable with this section, and began to get used to the curves of the road, so I was able to go relatively fast.  You didn’t really have to pedal and once you got a hang of the corners, didn’t have to touch the brakes either.  The only time we went slow was a part where we had to go off road due to a tunnel without lights.  After we finished the road section we had to stop and pay a 25 boliviano fee for the gravel part of the road.  This whole initial section was all downhill, but the part we stopped was the uphill section, so what they did was set up a table for lunch, where we rested for 30 mins before putting our bikes on the roof, and climbing in the vehicles to drive for 20 mins uphill to the gravel section of the road.

Arrived at summit, with Belgian speedster to my L

Geared up

Tunnel

Mountains

The Llama and the Condor pose

Gearing up

Ready to go

Mountains

With Belgians

We stopped for a quick safety chat before heading out.  We were basically told:

1 – Don’t go cliffside (Left), stay on the mountainside (Right) of the road

and

2 – He wasn’t going to tell us the stats (e.g. deaths) until the end of the ride.

So off we went on the long gravel section of the death road.  We did a brief wide section without cliffs (to get used to the gravel)  before stopping at a guardrail to observe the snaking cliff side road in front of us.  After the first 20 mins I began to get a better feel of my speed (around 4-5th behind lead guide) on the gravel.  I first learned after I nearly bailed into a ditch on a left turn.  My balance with left turns is horrible, as I don’t think my weight is ever centered on them, hence, at the tailend of such turns I get excessively wide.  None the less, I didn’t fall, but merely adjusted my speed from that #3 overall spot, down the line to mid-pack.  Afterall, no point in risking me taking a tumble of the cliffside all for a quest for a little more adrenaline, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle.  It was something I really need more practice at, and not something I could make a quick adjustment on the fly with.

The real Death Road

Me w/ Road in background

taking a break

Handlebar view

Cliffside

Group jump

Joking around w/ Guide

There were a couple cool sections we stopped for pictures at, including a waterfall section that was really neat.  We were on the dry season so it wasn’t a full on waterfall we went under, but there was still plenty of water none the less.  After about 1 hr or so we really got a good feel of how to attack the corners, and get over the fears (somewhat) of falling off the cliff.  It was still a little ‘living on the edge’ thinking of how many people plunged off the side.  A couple hours later and we began nearing the end of the Death Road.  There was one section where there was a 1-lane track people adventurous enough could try.  I think about 5 people went for it (not me thanks… I knew I’d bail).  Kind of embarrassing was one girl who went falling over in front of everybody 2M in.  The guide asked her if she wanted to come back up and just go the regular road.  This ticked her off and she (bitchily) replied; “No thanks…I’ll just walk from here.”

So the rest of us went down a regular road.  The regular lead-guide went down the 1-land track, so I wasn’t really used to the middle-guide setting the pace (really slow), so this one part I got to close to his back tire, so I braked and veered right, only to bail into a ditch… I kept on my feet the whole way, just jumped off the bike, none the less it was one fall.  We met back up with the other 5, before finishing the ride 15 mins later.

After wrapping up we all posed for a group shot which took ages to take.  We were sweltering hot, so Paul and I began to have a pissed-off look on our faces through the pictures.   Eventually the other guides appeared with a bottle of champagne (the delay) so we were a little less ticked off.  After this we headed 10 mins up the road to stop at a stand to buy beer before heading up to a hostel where we were given shampoo, towels (no soap) and allowed to have a shower.  After this we could  either swim or have a bite to eat.  Most of us didn’t swim as it got cold fast, instead just sipped our beers and at from the buffet. After this we had a 2.5 hr drive back to our hostel, where I hit the hay early to try and get my stomach on track for Brail.

Final group shot

me + Paul sharing a laugh covered in Champagne

Off we go to get beer

The next day we had to check out at 13:00.  We picked up laundry, before packing our bags and checking out (still leaving our bags in the hostel.)  We had a cheap (14 boliviano) lunch of pizza, pop, and garlic bread, before heading back to the hostel to chill out on the net for a bit.  Around 17:00 we got the hostel to call us a cab for the airport.  The guy was nutters! First off was a problem with the price.  Next up was him drifting into the middle of the road narrowly missing crashing into another driver… After this the driver blared by us yelling into our window, which the old driver clearly didn’t hear…. The guy was on some sort of drugs.  He picked up some random kid to drive up the mountain.  Heading up the hill, he would initially honk a good 15 times when he got 100m behind a car, which was followed by rigorous flashing of the headlights at the 50 m mark.  Even local Bolivians were amazed a t this crazy man.

We got to the airport to check in and pay our departure tax.  It was a nice airport, but surprisingly small (smaller than my hometown Abbotsford Airport) for such a large city.  I guess that’s what happens when everybody takes the bad quality buses run there.  Our flight landed in Santa Cruz, Bolivia at 21:45, and we had to kill a bunch of time at that airport while awaiting our flight to Brazil.  I basically stretched out on a bench and caught some scattered sleep (interrupted frequently by the blaring PA lady.)  At about 01:30 we headed to check in and pay the departure tax before catching the flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil at 04:40 on July 30th.

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