the world's most dangerous road....on a bike

  • snow on the mountains
  • all kitted out and still freezing
  • jochen seems too psyched
  • valley below
  • remains of a car
  • part of the road
  • police checkpoint
  • tunnel not for cyclists
  • look at me go
  • the whole team
  • view from the peddle
  • riders below
  • streep
  • having a break
  • rainforest starts
  • place where a group of israelis died
  • pretty foggy
  • the landslide
  • carrying bikes up landslide
  • this is gonna be tough
  • forming chain to carry bikes
  • still carrying bikes
  • massive bike
  • after the slide
  • dutch couple who have cycled 26000kms
  • this is why it is dangerous
  • living on the edge
  • balls of steel is all i can say
  • going through the waterfall
  • trying to break through the fog
  • almost there
  • dogs chilling on most dangerous road
  • curious dog
  • vulture in the clouds
  • coca plantation
  • we made it
  • bit of fun on mountain bike trail
  • the team is exhausted
  • hotel pool

On the 29th of May, me and my travel buddy Jochen from Germany, booked ourselves onto a bike trip going down the world's most dangerous road on a bike. We searched around La Paz to find the bike company with the best track record as rumour has it that a couple of weeks ago an English adrenaline junky died, doing the trip, so we didn't want to take any risks.

We decided on a company called B-Side who use Bolivian guides with loads of experience. The company has also never had any accidents and their bikes were top quality, with front and rear suspension and front and rear disk brakes. They also provide excellent safety equipment - helmets, knee guards etc.

On the 30th of May, we met the rest of the riders at the company's office at 7am so we could get all the gear on the van that would then take us up to the start of the road so we could start our decent at about 8:30. The road starts at roughly 4000m, and then drops down to about 600 meters over 64km. When we got to the top, it was absolutely freezing, with snow on the surrounding mountains, and all water puddles were frozen over.The company was great. They had tailored all our bikes according to our height and weight and preference of brakes etc. Then they gave us about 20 minutes of just riding around on flat ground to test our brakes and suspension and get a feel for the bike.

Then we were off. The first 32kms of the road are tarred but are pretty scary all the same. The scenery around here is breathtaking - literally breathtaking, because of the altitude you do struggle breathing, and the fact that we had about 4 layers on because of the cold didn't help. Our guide told me at one of our check points, that we were hitting between 50 and 60 km per hour. But on such good bikes you really do feel safe. Even on the tarred road there are several police checkpoints because this road is infamous in the drug trafficking world. We didn't have any problems as we were cycling so the police don't even ask any questions - kinda weird cause you'd think that would be quite an easy way to smuggle something.

At one point we stopped and looked over the edge and at the bottom of what seemed like a 200m drop, was the remains of a minibus - pretty scary seeing this on the part of the road that is tarred and is not really considered the most dangerous road...yet! The first 32km were done in less than an hour, even though we stopped a few times to get some photos. At this checkpoint, the bikes were all loaded onto the van, and we hopped in as the next 5km are an extremely steep uphill, so the guides preferred that we save our energy for the more technically challenging dirt part of the road.

When we got to the dirt road I realised what all the hype is about. Staring down a 300 meter cliff in a middle of a rainforest is somewhat of a daunting experience - definitely got that fear factor below the belt. We quickly had some energy bars and drinks and a couple of snack an we were off again. But.....this is when we realised we had a problem. A couple of kilometers down the road, there had been and landslide overnight, which blocked the road. Going back was not an option, so we had to climb up the landslide, and form a chain so we could pass the bikes up and over the landslide to continue the decent. At this point I met a Dutch couple who were doing this trip on their own, and who've been cycling on the same bikes all over the world - they've done about 26000km on those 2 bikes. Their trip really blew my mind.

Once we got the bikes over the landslide, we were off.  What was before (on the tar road) an Altiplano terrain turns into a rainforest. The cliffs are covered in ferns and trees, and there are small waterfalls all over the place. It's also much warmer here, so we got rid of a few layers. At some points on the road you get quite close to the edge, but at no point did I really feel like I was in danger because the guides weren't pushing us too hard. I think doing this road is about keeping level headed and not trying to be some flash dude speeding down a death road. I think the parts where it hits home what you're doing is when see crosses and "alters" on the side of the road for people who have died. The majority of these are local people in buses or cars back in the day when the road was used a lot. One place had an alter for a Jewish girl who went of the edge in 2001, she was 23 at the time so would have been my age now - pretty sad.

At times the fog was pretty thick which made the cliffs and the valleys below look really eary. It was also so thick that riding through it was like riding through soft rain. Just before getting to what is called the snake part of the road, due to it's multiple chicanes and the fact that in the rainy season you can sea loads of small snakes on the road (according to our guide), there are several waterfalls coming down onto the road. These aren't powerful waterfalls, but still give you a refreshing shower when you ride through them. After this we got to a famous cliff and sat on the edge for some pretty cool photos. The cliff has also been photographed for the ticket into the natural park that the road goes through.

4 hours later we reached the bottom of "The World's Most Dangerous Road". It was pretty exhausting and we all rewarded ourselves with ice cold beers from one of the street stalls. The guides then drove us to a pretty fancy hotel in the mountain, where we all had a swim in the pool and got fed a pretty decent buffet. It felt awesome being closer to sea level. I could finally breathe properly and unlike in La Paz, climbing a flight of stairs was a breeze.

It wasn't cheap doing the trip, but it's been by far the best spent money since I've started travelling, and would do it all over again. That night, Jochen, myself and Hannes, another German dude, decided we should celebrate the day's events by partying hard. We started at the hostel bar, then went to a Bolivian house party because Hannes had recently met a Bolivian girl who invited him to it. Hanne's Bolivian girlfriend is in the entertainment industry and when we got to the house party it was pretty much just guys, which I thought was odd. As the night progressed, I realised the 3 of us were the only straight guys in the party, although by this time a few girls had arrived, to balance things out a little. At about 3 everybody got into taxis and headed to a club. The place was pretty packed, with locals and gringos and gringuettes alike. Turned into a pretty good night and Jochen and I crawled into the hostel at about 8am just in time to sit down for the free hostel breakfast.

Today, Monday the 1st of June, I'm going to board a 25 seater plane which will take us into the middle of the Bolivian part of the Amazon, and I'll be there for the next few days doing a trip along the river and through the jungle.