My ride down the road of Death

Coroico Travel Blog

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Getting a little rainy!

Bolivia is a land of mountains and valleys.  One of the most dramatic areas is the road that goes between coricio and La Paz, well El Alto.  The road is about 70 km long, and goes from an altitude of 5000 km to about 1,000 km.... making it downhill most of the way, which is why I decided to ride down it on a bike!  Just a warning, don't do what I did and use the cheapest company, I did and of the 5 people who road down, 3 were injured, including myself, it was still a spectacular treck. 

The story of the road of death starts in the 1930's, when it was built to connect La Paz to the jungas (jungle), you know to act as a more advanved trade route verses the old incan trail.  It was designed for low traffic, and using small vehicles.  However over the years people started riding buses down it along with commercial calls and trucks.

This is a pretty swank place?
  When I rode down about 300 people died on it annually, going off a cliff.  In the 1990's some dude got the idea to take mountain bikes down it.  Its a great idea!

My trip started early in the morning, at 6 am, we got some breakfast and were taken up to el alto, which is at maybe 16,000 feet.  There was a statue covered with idols from travelers who wanted good fortune on their trip.  The company I used was called Extreme Tours, the people working there were great guys, but it only costs 10 dollars a person, which resulted as the bikes being pieces of shit. 

The deal is that the company had a guide, and then followed us with a van to replace parts, hold supplies, and hold travelers....

We started in the fog, and wow did we start moving!  The initial road was paved, and we covered maybe 20 km in like 25 minutes, we were flying at unbelievable speed.

Yea I survived!
  We then passed through a tunnel.  The land scape was amazing, it was filled with llamas and alpacas.  Then we reached a fork in the road, which meant the begining of the road of death! 

 

One path was to the new jungas road, which was not open.  On the right was the road of death, a muddy, stoney path, maybe a good 15 feet wide.  On one side was the side of a cliff, on the other side a mountain wall.  Riding down was spectacular, a nice cool breeze from the mountains, followed by a warm one from the jungles was the norm.  You would go around a corner and there would be a waterfall, a beautiful view of the jungles below, but the most likely outcome was a huge truck full of potatoes or fruit comming straight towards you.

The injury van
  Because of this the ride was stop and go most of the way!

Although the road was beautiful it also has a dark side to it.  Around many turns a glup of mud will hit you.  Even sadder were the stray dogs, which are the souls of people killed on the road.  Even worse were the crosses, there were also some monuments to people killed on the road on bikes.  Actually a few weeks before the trip a guide was killed by a bus.  The saddest thing though are people who are orphaned when there parents were killed on the road by going off a cliff, many of them work on the road directing traffic in exchange for oranges and change. 

The single best thing about the road was that it was one lane, and many times two busses would be comming head on, the one going uphill would then back up until it reached a wide part.

Two bikers who survived the treck
... it was a tricky situation! 

I was happily trotting down the road, you know middle of the pack.  We reached a straight run, when I realised my breaks stopped working, I was forced to make a decision as I passed my collauges who have stopped.  I reached a relativly flat area and stopped my bike with my foot, I of course flipped my bike, but avoided going off the cliff..... the bike was not so lucky!  My hand was hurt but my bigger concern was my leg, which was dangling.  Luckily it was just a torn ACL but my day on the road of death ended and I retired to the van.  Inside was Jan the German who got altitude sickness.  Later that day I would be joined by Ivan who broke his wrist.  Of the 5 people who tried the road of death only 2 made it! 

The ridein the injured van was pretty crazy.

Getting around the Road of Death with Style
  The scenery was breathtaking, mainly 1500 foot cliffs filled with flora and fauna and fog.  The magistic condors flew overhead.  The end of the ride went along a river or creek, and got very dusty and unpleasent, however the worse part of the trip was picking up an injured biker who was doing the ride by himself and without a helmet.  He  avoided going off the side of a cliff but hit the side of a mountain and suffered spinal injury.  We helped him get in thevan and dropped him off in town covered with blood. 

Finally we arrived in Coroico for much need food and booze.  I could barely walk, but hey, chicks dig that stuff!

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Getting a little rainy!
Getting a little rainy!
This is a pretty swank place?
This is a pretty swank place?
Yea I survived!
Yea I survived!
The injury van
The injury van
Two bikers who survived the treck
Two bikers who survived the treck
Getting around the Road of Death w…
Getting around the Road of Death …
Waterfall
Waterfall
Cliff
Cliff
Heres me
Here's me
Another cliff
Another cliff
Nice road
Nice road
Nice road
Nice road
Coroico
photo by: Belluomo