Statistically the Worlds Most Dangerous Road, with an average of 1 person dying on it every day for the past 10 years......and we were wanting to mountain bike down the 64km road !! Fortunately since the opening of a new road 2 years ago, the number of vehicles and therefore deaths have sharply dropped. However over a 100 people died on the road last year, including 2 mountain bikers !! To make matters worse, we woke up in La Paz to torrential rain and by the time we got to the starting point, there was 3 inches of snow on the ground. The organisers sensibly decided to cut off the 1st 2Km to drop below the snow line.
The bikes themselves were excellent with full suspension and chunky wheels.
After a safety briefing we set off en masse with the 1st 20km being on fast asphalt road surface. Took it very steady in thick mist. A convoy of trucks and buses inconveniently travelling in exactly the wrong place and as others picked their moment to overtake, I took it steady in the mist until I spotted a straight section. Pulled out to overtake and nearly went full speed into a landslide. Decided to roll down behind the convoy and enjoy the views of waterfalls and mountain landscape and not risk anything more. Hit an uphill section that begged the name of the company being "Downhill Madness". Even the instructors were getting off their bikes and walking up. Came to the end of the asphalt section in pouring rain for a 10 minute break for food which thankfully slackened off a little for the main dangerous section.
We set off to a chorus of squeaking brakes. Everyone taking it very tentatively with the road being 3metres wide with sheer drops off the side. After 5 minutes practising on the offroad section we were stopped again to split into 4 groups. Chad (former mountain bike racer) went in the quickest group. Neil and Matt went in the 2nd group, whilst Dave, Livia, Donna ad I went in the 3rd group. Our guide set a really good pace at a speed where you cold still feel the excitement of the danger but slow enough to enjoy the fantastic views. Bikes coping very well with the road by staying in tyre tracks and only went into a slide when steering into the stones off the tracks. Our group picked up 2 fallers from previous groups who dropped into our line.
Lunch in a very impressive setting overlooking valley with several 200metre waterfalls cascading down. Post lunch feeling far more confident about the ride and headed up our group taking slipstream of guide as he picked up the speed in a flatter less dangerous area. Stopped a couple more times to view recent wreckages where vehicles have gone off side of mountain before racing down last sections, through streams and under waterfalls. Enjoying the cycling too much to be bothered with the picturesque surroundings. Made it to the bottom in one piece in tropical heat having dropped 3300metres in the 62km. Enjoyed a celebratory beer before being taken to an included buffet at a nice hostel - Chad, Donna, Neil, Justine, Livia and Matt all checked in whilst Dave and I went off to find a cheaper hostel.
Last night together so we all went off for a Mexican and a little dance to see out the night.
A day for goodbyes. After 9 weeks with Dave and 14 days travelling together with the Arequipa crowd, it was time for me to speed up my travelling and go solo to La Paz and on further south. Lazy morning and helped Dave find another hostel. Dave not feeling well and having got his key for his room, promptly locked it in his room. Fortunately the owner had a jar of spares which we went through to get back into his room. Went up to Hotel Esmeraldes to say bye to rest of crowd.....and after a few hugs and kisses I was on my own!! Expected the bus to drive back up the new road but my bus took the exact opposite route back up the Death Road that I´d cycled down. Minibus got a puncture which was good to get out and take a few photos that couldn´t when motoring down on the bike. Avoided the easy option of getting a taxi from the bus station and marched towards the centre until I hit a main road and got a collectivo minibus for a quarter of the price. Struggled to get a hostal so wandered back up to Adventure Brewers for a free beer.