200-300 people die each year on this road with an average of 26 vehicles plummeting over the 1000m cliff. And since mountain biking began, 20 people have died. So what made me decide to mountain bike down the most dangerous road in the world? I have no idea…. but I’m definitely petrified with my decision.
I didn’t get much sleep the night before. Amee (my cousin) wasn’t coming with me either, she was heading off to an eco resort where I’d meet her the next day. I said goodbye and for a moment I wonder if I’ll see her tomorrow.
7am a group of us meet at the Irish pub in La Paz, not far from my hostel. No one is saying much to each other, I’m not saying anything. I don’t even take advantage of the cheap breakfast on offer. Our guide Mo came in and he speaks English, thank goodness. My Spanish is terrible.
We start at La Cumbre (4,700m), still in the Andes. Mo starts with the safety talk. I’m listening so hard I can hear conversations in the distance. He goes over the brakes several times stressing the importance, this isn’t helping me to relax. He tells us what to do if we come across a truck… wait, what?… a truck? Yes and if you come across one you have to give him right of way by letting him go hard up against the wall while I stand on the edge, the cliff edge. Definitely not helping.
He opens a bottle of 90% alcohol and takes a swig. Alcohol, yes! This will help. I take a sip (gulp), pour some on my wheel and a couple of drops on the ground to mother earth. It’s a ritual to protect us. I paid attention, I did EXACTLY what Mo told us to do. I hope the two love birds beside me are listening.
We all jump on our bikes and follow Mo to the starting point. The first segment is 24kms downhill, on a sealed road. He leads the way, I’m mid way in the pack.
Within moments I’m up the front with Mo and a few others. We are descending down the winding road at a rapid pace. Cars are coming towards us as they pass uphill traffic, I lean forward and slip between them and the edge. I’m passing other bikers, I’m fearless. I’m loving every single moment.
We reach the start of death road and its now raining so hard I can barely see. This isn’t good. The road becomes slippery and the rocks loosen above. But, I’m not phased at all. I put my sunnies on to stop the rain and mud hitting my eyes and continue on.
For the next few hours I’m racing down hill jumping over rocks, water, passing people, sliding around corners…I’m keeping up with Mo.
We stop for a photo-op, you’ll see this very spot on every brochure. I never thought I’d be that person dangling my legs over the cliff.
It didn’t bother me, I’m no longer afraid of heights.
Mo liked to stop often, I enjoyed his history lessons. The road was built in the 1930s during the Chaco War by the Paraguayan prisoners to connect Coroico and La Paz. In 2006 a new sealed road opened connecting the two cities. The North Yungas road (death road) became less popular for vehicles and more popular for adventure biking thrill seekers… like me.
64kms of downhill biking we reach Yolosa (1100m). It’s in the jungle and its hot, a complete contrast from where we started. The beers were on Mo and they went down a treat. He then took us to La Senda Verde Animal Refuge where we got to know some of the rescued animals.
Time to go home. I thought we would be taking the new main road home, which was built so no one had to drive up death road?
No. Straight back up death road in a bus! The scariest bus ride I’ve ever had in my life (all of my scariest bus rides have been in Bolivia).
But, what an amazing experience this was. I’d do it again over and over. It cost me 750B (108USD or (168NZD). It’s a full day of adventure and I the only company I’d recommend are Gravitybolivia.com
- Go with Gravitybolivia.com
- Take a GoPro, I’d broken mine back in Brazil and I’ve never been so gutted before. This would have been perfect. Let the Gravity guys know when you book that you have a GoPro and they will give you a special helmet
- You can stay in Coroico or head into the Bolivian Amazon Jungle, if I had time I would have loved to explore this area more
- Do it!