Monday, 15 April 2013

World's Most Dangerous Road by bike, La Paz to Corioco, Bolivia

Known as the 'Road of Death' and dubbed the most dangerous road in the world, the Yungas Road  leads from La Paz to Corioco, and for 70 or so breathtaking kilometres you can cycle downhill and let gravity do all (most) of the work.

From La Paz, there are several tour companies who offer trips up to the mountains for you to free wheel down at break neck speeds and varying conditions. You can shop around but the best thing to do here is either to go on the recommendation of other travellers who have done it and didn't get into any bother, or to just trust your gut.

The tour starts with hotel pick up (depending on the tour agency you use) and then you drive up to La Cumbre, 4700m above sea level, the start of the trip. Here, you leave the minivans and everyone is given a jacket, knee and elbow pads and a helmet, obviously you get a bike too. After safety instructions where the same thing is repeated for quite some time, essentially the guides kindly asking you not to get yourselves killed, you start off down the hill.

At this stage, the road is paved but at this elevation the weather can be erratic at best and on this day it was tearing down with rain and with no mud guards on my bike (decent tread and brakes were my only pre-requisite) it wasn't long before the standing water was blinding me and I couldn't see a thing. Pretty soon you reach ridiculous speeds and overtake all the slow moving traffic, hoping there isn't another truck or bus coming around the next corner.

After a drop of about 1600m, there is a check point where a mandatory fee is required before carrying on. At this stage, some tour companies load the bikes and drive the next section as it is pretty hilly and at 3000m oxygen is pretty scarce when cycling, mercifully the company I was with did this rather than having to cycle uphill, heaven forbid.

Once the road is basically all downhill again, the bikes are offloaded and with the assistance of gravity, the group takes off down the hill again. There are various stops along the way to get the group together again, to take advantage of photo opportunities and as you head down into the valley, all those layers at the top are very unnecessary and various stops are needed just to de-layer. Come the end of the tour, everyone is just in T-shirt and whatever pants they have on as around 1100m it is much warmer.

Depending on the tour, there is an all you can eat spread waiting for you at the bottom and a shower, this you will need as the road is rocky, then sandy, then wet and so at the bottom you really are covered in muck from head to toe. However, the adrenaline is still pumping as you recall all those hairy turns with sheer cliffs and all the crosses that act as a reminder that this is a dangerous road where deaths happen often enough. Recent years have seen a decline in these as there is a new road which most trucks and buses use now so the road is now basically for the use of cycling down. An awesome experience which can be taken as slowly or as quickly as you like, just make sure your brakes work and you are holding on tight.

Check point

Snacks if you so wish

Start of the 'dangerous' section

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