The World's Most Dangerous Road - On A Bike

Coroico Travel Blog

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Bus that fell off the cliff.

6 a.m. 

I wake up early, unsuccessfully try to take a cold shower, pack extra clothes, my bike gloves, hydration pack, and camera gear.

6:30 a.m.

Leave my hostel and walk over to El Solario hostel, where I booked my bike ride down The Death Road in Bolivia.  The city's already up and running.

6:50 a.m.

Arrive at El Solario hostel.  They're serving a huge breakfast.  I'm the first one to arrive.

7:20 a.m.

I'm joined by an American, three Kiwis, and one Brazilian.  All guys, ready to rock.  Two other people pulled out because of illness, so we're a really small group.

8 a.m.

We leave the hostel, all bikes loaded on top of the mini-van.

8:45 a.m.

We arrive at point in the highway where we can get on the bikes.

Memorial to a bus that fell off years ago, killing many people.
  The altitude is pretty high (over 4000m) and the air is thin.  It's not the death road yet.

9 a.m.

We're off, and speeding down the highway.  It's a rapid descent. 

9:15 a.m.

We make a stop where we get a great panoramic view and see a bus that had fallen off hundreds of meters below us two years ago.  I think it's the death road, but the road conditions are great, and it's not the death road yet.

9:20 a.m.

I get a flat tire and it's repaired.

9:30 a.m.

We walk across the Bolivian narcotics control station.  No one's working there, so we continue on.

10 a.m.

We enter a foggy valley.  The road breaks up a little and we experience our first uphills, though very small.

10:30 a.m.

We arrive at the death road.

A car wreckage.
  We get a briefing on safety and the road conditions.  It's drizzling, so we put on some disposable ponchos.  We descend into the first part of the death road - the most dangerous part.  It's raining, a little cold, very muddy, but I'm pumped on adrenaline.  The death road is incredibly narrow, wide enough for one car, with some sections to allow traffic coming the other way to pass.  Some sections are so narrow that the tire tracks some within inches of the cliff.  And yes, the cliff.  There's no barrier, and the fog hides the death drop into oblivion... but you can clearly see the dropoff by looking at the vegetation.   It's all a descent from here on in, so only brakes are used and are very important.

10:50 a.m.

I discover my front brake loosened and isn't working.

The last, easy section of the Death Road.
  I get it fixed.

11 a.m.

We hit a section where it's raining heavily and we actually pass through some temporary waterfalls.

11:30 a.m.

We finish the first dangerous section and take a snack break.  We spend it catching chickens, tucking their heads into their wings, and putting them to sleep for fun.

12 p.m.

We pass a memorial to a biker who died riding the Death Road a few years back.  We also notice many other graves on the side of the road and one part where we pass a car wreckage oddly balanced on a tree.

12:30 p.m.

We're out of the rainy valley and it's dry.  We hit the last section full-on and fast, crossing streams and teams that left before us.

1:10 p.m.

We're the first team to finish.  High-fives all around.  We pack up our grear and drive to the scenic destination town of Coroico where we are greeted with hot showers and a massive lunch buffet at a pretty hotel overlooking the valley.

3:30 p.m.

We leave back to La Paz, but not on the death road.  A new, very-safe highway has been opened this year, which we take.  It looks very expensive, and I don't know if the Bolivian government just built it out of bad reputation or what.   On average, 26 vehicles fall of the death road each year.  This year, only three so far.  Only two vehicles were crazy enough to go uphill on the Death Road - on lone motorcyclist and one collectivo mini-bus.  With the new highway, I don't see it being used much anymore and will probably be only for crazy mountain bikers.

The total descent was over 3500m!  The scenery changed from barren landscape to tropical jungle in the matter of a few hours.

It was a fun 70km of downhill, but the ride back uphill is long and slow.  We don't return to the hostel until 7:30 pm.

The whole package - meals, bikes, guide, gear, video CD of the trip, and cool t-shirt (that's why I went with El Solario) only costed me $30, which is less than half of what the bigger and more well-known companies charge.


- Same tour, same buffet lunch, at half the price

- Decent Trek bikes.  No rear suspension so you go faster.

- Small team.  If everyone's fit, you don't have to wait much, though I know Downhill Madness splits you up into sub-teams based on skill level.

- Best looking and fitting t-shirt. 



- Well, in our team, we had two flat tires and my front brake went out.  I'm sure flats happen for aggressive riding, but I don't believe the other teams had as many problems for their size.

- No rear suspension so your ass takes more of a pounding.

- The outifts looked cool, but because of the rain, the rain outfit and ponchos looked ghetto.  We looked like the team the cooler and larger teams liked to beat up on, even though we were first to finish.

- The bus ride back was slow.  Some, but not all, of the other teams had faster vehicles.  Probably got back half an hour before us.

Oh yeah, I mounted a camera on my handlebars, so when I get back, I'll see if I can post something!

syltrav says:
This is the one... okay... do I know what I'm doin'?
anyway... send pictures!

Posted on: Jul 02, 2007
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Bus that fell off the cliff.
Bus that fell off the cliff.
Memorial to a bus that fell off ye…
Memorial to a bus that fell off y…
A car wreckage.
A car wreckage.
The last, easy section of the Deat…
The last, easy section of the Dea…
photo by: Belluomo