Mountain Biking the Road of Death - La Paz

Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
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Trip End Dec 16, 2008


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Thursday, August 28, 2008

After spending a couple days finding my way around La Paz, I signed up to mountain bike down the World's Most Dangerous Road, affectionately known as "The Death Road." 

The WMDR is basically a one-lane dirt track that starts at 15,400 feet high above La Paz and ends at 3,600 feet in the balmy town of Coroico on the edge of the Amazon basin.  That's an 11,800 descent over 40 miles, on a tiny ribbon of road hugging the sides of the Andes with a cliff on one side and thousand foot drops on the other.   

Our journey took us from bitter cold, dry mountain air, through clouds, steamy humidity, and finally hot, balmy jungle - and the landscape and vegetation changed dramatically from barren rock to cloud forest, and finally rain forest - all in a few hours!

Until 2 years ago, the WMDR was the only way to get between the two cities and was heavily used in both directions by buses, trucks, and cars.  Did I mention it was a one-lane road?  Occasionally the road has little areas called "monkey ears"  where it is just possible to get two vehicles by if one vehicle puts it's tires on the edge of the cliff.

The Death Road got it's name due to the fact that this path had the highest number of annual traffic fatalities per mile of any stretch of road in the world.  Between 100 and 300 people lost their lives each year, mostly due to drunk driving, failure to yield, or going a little too fast around a blind corner and coming face to face with a bus. 

In1983, a bus went over the side, taking 100 lives in a matter of seconds... well, maybe minutes depending on which drop they  fell off.

 Two years ago, Bolivia opened a proper 2-lane highway to handle all of the traffic and in the process, created one of the coolest mountain biking trails in the world!

This trip was a blast!  I think I pedaled twice... but my arms felt like I had been using a jackhammer and were rubber by the end of the trip.  At the bottom, we spent a couple hours at a posh resort overlooking an Andean valley to swim, shower and get some lunch before our van started the journey back up the Death Road.  The return trip was even better than the descent since I could actually take time and look at the scenery instead of my front tire :)

Next up: Climbing Mt. Potosi - my first 20,000 foot ascent, and my first technical ascent.

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