There are few things I have done in my travels that have really shaken me up… Death Road was one of them.
Now that I think of it, it may be the only thing I have done in my travels that has almost brought me to tears. Give me bungy jumping off the highest bungy in the world or skydiving out of planes any old day. But bike riding down a road where hundreds of people die per year on a mountain bike at a high speed with no cliff railings? No thank you. This was truly a once in a lifetime type of deal.
Bike Riding Death Road in Bolivia
So it all started at 7:30am in an English pub where I met my guide Dustin from Gravity Assisted Mountan Biking – renowned for being the safest company doing the ride on a daily basis. They’re been doing it the longest and have mostly English guides, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong, right!? Sure you will pay a little more… but can you really put a price on your life? I swiftly decided no, no you can’t… and coughed up the $120 for a day unlike any other.
From the pub, we drove for an hour in the bus – myself, a Scottish girl, a Canadian, numerous couples from Australia, England, and Italy. Now outside of La Paz, we were handed our gear for the day – our bikes (fit to size and brakes on the side of our home country), pants, jacket, gloves, helmet, scarf and powerade. To be quite honest I hate powerade – but given we were in for a 4-5 hour journey on a bike, I figured I could do with the extra hit of energy.
After a not-so-brief safety rundown (which is a good thing, might I add!!!), we set off on the first leg of the trip.
First we rode down a road purposefully built for traffic, speeding down the hill as fast as the slope and wind would take us. We were instructed to leave a bus-length between ourselves and the rider in front of us, given this is how so many accidents occur. Here’s a look at our view on the way down…
After warming up on this road, it was time to take to the gravel road that is known to most as The World’s Deadliest Road. Stupidly enough, I hadn’t taken a moment to consider the name – thinking it was more or less a nickname the road had received for being so unsafe. As it would turn out, 300 people die a year on the road – hence the name. The worst part was that one of my fellow riders informed me of the statistics JUST BEFORE I hopped on my bike. Talk about timing…
After convincing myself to go for it (I was seriously considering bailing), I embarked on the 4-5 hour ride down hill with my fellow riders. It was quite a rush of emotions – particularly fear, given riders must ride on the CLIFF SIDE of the road… how that is considered okay I truly have no idea.
But the ride is fine if you can a) ride a bike and b) focus on the task at hand. One of the riders in front of me had quite a tumble off her bike after hitting a rock in the gravel and losing her balance (which occurs frequently on the ride), but luckily for her she was nowhere near the cliffside when this happened.
To be quite fair, the only stories you hear of people tragically falling off the cliff are those who are either not confident on a bike, trying to take a photo, or racing down hill. None of which I would recommend for obvious reasons!
If you dare, this is undeniably the most memorable bike ride you will have in your life… and a must for any thrill seeker visiting La Paz, Bolivia.
What are your thoughts? Would you, wouldn’t you!? Let me know in the comments below what YOU think of my decision to bike ride death road.