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Monday, June 13, 2011

Bolivia, The Death Road

 

La Paz Death Ride 001 It is Good Friday and instead of enjoying a fine meal of fish and chips, I find myself cold and barely able to breathe.

 

 

 

Of course, it is part my own doing having made arrangements the previous evening with www.prodownhill.com.

 

La Paz Death Ride 007 I am now at La Cumbre, Bolivia about 13,000 above sea level.

 

 

 

 

We have just arrived here after about an hour's drive from La Paz. In the distance, snow capped mountains reach for the almost cloudless skies as I inhale the crisp oxygen deprived air.

 

La Paz Death Ride 008 After what seems like a lengthy delay due to problems with one of the bikes we are given a safety briefing then begin our adventure down “The World's Most Dangerous Road”.

 

 

Joining the downhill pavement my shortness of breath and being cold is quickly replaced with excitement and adrenaline. The laws of physics are working nicely in my favor as this ton of mass begins to accelerate and accelerate rapidly.

 

 

La Paz Death Ride 010

 

Freeing myself from the captivating scenery, I test another law of physics and I am not to sure I like the results. My rear brakes did not pay attention in class or is not happy about carrying all this extra mass.

I have to make a pit stop as others race by me on a descending steep and curving hill. I watch them from above, looking like ants on wheels as my rear brakes is repaired.

Before long my tires are madly humming at over 300 miles an hour. Well, it seemed like that as the wind is ferociously whistling through my helmet. A stop at a military checkpoint and fluid is added to my brakes before I begin another downhill stretch.

 

La Paz Death Ride 035 Fortunately, there are no bugs along this area of  the highway as this part of the ride has me smiling from ear to ear.

 

 

 

 

 

La Paz Death Ride 048 Bypassing a tunnel, we are at another check point where we have a snack break and pay an entrance fee for the National Park.

BO$25 about US$3.60, a bargain.

 

 

Here, I have a fried chicken sandwich with fresh corn on the cob. I am teased that it will have me going to the bathroom more often than usual. A small price I think to pay for a taste of some local cuisine.

Recharged, we are now ready for the real challenge ahead of us. In about twenty minutes we will be where the Andes meet the Amazon. This is beginning point of “The Old Death Road”.

 

La Paz Death Ride 058 Another safety briefing as fog clouds hang over head and we are told this time to stay on the left side of the gravel road.

 

 

 

As our new descent begins a short distance from our briefing point I can see the road winding below us in between the breaks of the valley fog. We are now told to stay on the right side of the road although this is against Bolivian law.

 

 

La Paz Death Ride 072 It is a new and awesome thrill a minute as we race down the curving mountainous road that has no safety barriers. An instant painful death is sometimes just mere feet away.

 

 

However, in a strange way this and the gorgeous landscape adds to the excitement of the ride.

 

 

La Paz Death Ride 097

Coming on roadside waterfalls, I occasionally stop to relax a moment as others leave me behind in the dust.

It is tons of fun to race down the mountain but for me stopping to “smell the roses” is always a worthwhile part of any adventure.

A few hours into our ride and  we have a lunch break where chips, sandwiches and a refreshing old fashioned Coca-Cola in the bottle is provided. Still full from my tasty chicken sandwich, I just quench my thirst with “The Real Thing”.

 

La Paz Death Ride 104 Leaving our lunch stop the weather is improving but I keep myself layered as the night before I was warned about getting bug bites at the lower elevations.

Besides a history of it's own, a sad part of world history can also be found along “The Death Road”.

 

 

 

 

La Paz Death Ride 162 Klaus Barbie the notorious Nazi once lived along a part of this road and his former home still remains here.

 

 

 

 

Saving the best for last, we reach an area of “The Death Road” that promises to be the most challenging. Here, I take the “low road” so to speak and I am one of the last ones headed down. I will let the others “blaze” the trail for me.

In our final descent I can see “The New Death Road” that will take us back to La Paz. I am not looking forward to the four hour drive. This portion of the ride does turn out to be challenging, fun, enjoyable and ends with a cold reward.

 

 

La Paz Death Ride 197 Everyone has to repeat after me, okay, “Arriba, Abajo, El Centro, A Dentro”.

$70 well spent!

 

 

 

 

 

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