My cab journey took me around the city, what a wonderful sight it is all lit up. Lights as far as the eye can see in the mountainous backdrop as well. The Hostel I booked looks closed when I arrive, all dark and a bar covered door, so more mild panic but all is ok as a poor night porter awakes and let’s me in. Although that’s the end of his hospitality and I take my 47 kg up the stairs to my room. Basic but lovely! Pictures on the wall are of local landscapes and are pretty realistic (as some people then commented on Facebook what a lovely view before realising I don’t have the most amazing view in La Paz just very decorative walls!) Showers awesome, bed comfy albeit cold and I manage a whole 1 1/2 hrs sleep before my alarm rudely awakes me. I have one full day in La Paz and had to decide between exploring the town or doing Death Road (as seen on Top Gear obviously that’s in vehicles and I’d be cycling). My Peru travelling buddies from 2013 unanimously said Death Road so I am and up and out the room in 10 mins. Breakfast was more cereal and bloody yoghurt, what smells like almost normal tea but no damn milk, and some bread, but it’s food and does the job. Other travelling nutters are awake as early as me although as time is tight I don’t speak to any of them, which for those of you who know me, that’s a rarity. I ask the reception man for directions to my meet place for the trip. Seems simple right, left, straight. I have a photo of google maps pin points just in case. Just as bloody well! Completely lost, asked probably 6 locals in my pigeon Spanish were to go and waved my google map at them. The local traders are busy setting up stalls, dogs are roaming in the hope of food, and then me, the gringo, running around the streets trying to get help! Made it with five mins to spare. And to my amusement and annoyance, four people I had seen at breakfast were only bloody sat in the meet and greet. If only I’d asked them what trip they were doing I wouldn’t have got lost!!
Mixed bunch of people. All lovely. About half are couples, Brits, Aussies, Swiss, Irish and Norwegian! We all introduce ourselves with the general info but also a funny story, although many chickened out or are too boring and don’t have one? I shared my drunk hockey night out where I passed out at 1am on the front lawn and my neighbours found me and were sorting me out in their nightwear!! There’s a lovely British couple from Halifax, an Aussie who’s left his wife in town as she wouldn’t enjoy the bike ride, a newly married Irish couple, who the girl introduced the man as her new husband, he jumped in to say ‘she doesn’t have an old husband though’. And an Aussie couple also going to the Olympics on their tour. Our guide for the day is called Wolf. It says it all! Complete nut case (you kind of have to be to work as a Death Road biker every day for two years, but lovely. German born but worked everywhere you could name. I think he models himself on being a white Bob Marley? Dread locks, baggy clothing, smokes like a trooper. His funny story was great. He speaks Spanish and has travelled lots. He was a snowboard instructor in Argentina and had a young lad for a one to one lesson. He was saying board away and I’ll chase you. However the Spanish for chase means fuck in Argentina. So he’s chasing this kid saying I’m going to fuck you. The locals eventually worked it out and laughed at the gringo, he thinks the poor kid was traumatised mind.
Wolf asked if we had all had time to acclimatise to the altitude. As I flew in 3 hours prior nope, lets just hope I’m fine having been at high altitude before. I think La Paz is over 400m above sea level.
Now death road to me was named because of the dangers of driving on it and therefore riding on it. We did see some mangled vehicles at the bottom of the valley to prove that thought! However it’s actually because around 1000 men died making the road. There is at least one death each year through accidents, and lots of broken bones from bikers being daft. So it’s not entirely safe and what’s to lose hey!!
You start in your winter woolies, as you go up to about 4700 feet but end up in shorts and t shirt (well almost). I completely forgot about mosquito spray as when you’re cold it’s not the first item you think of. Let’s hope I’m not bitten.
Wonderful scenery, 33km mostly downhill, through waterfalls, road and dirt tracks. The Andes are beautiful, the wildlife is colourful and it’s just such an amazing place to be in. Just picture rolling mountains, green trees, rock falls creating jagged and unique cliff sides, small water falls cascading over these rock faces and over the road and then this dirt track road, little more than the width of a bus in places, continuing endlessly into the distance around the mountains, and we get to cycle down it. Some parts are easy riding but others are very rocky and if you brake too hard you’d just slide off your bike and maybe down the mountainside. The best advice is not to look down, look ahead, keep your hands off the brakes as much as possible and just enjoy. It is just amazing.
There are stray dogs everywhere, just wanting some attention. Local kids playing happily in the dirt with random toys, the dogs or a ball. Our youth of today could learn a lot from these independent entertainers. I also nearly fell off avoiding a raccoon. Apparently they are rarely seen so how fortunate am I?
I had however forgotten about the toilet situation. Actual toilets but no seats or flushes or toilet roll, and you must put toilet roll etc in the bins not in the toilet due to plumbing issues and you pay every time you need the toilet on these trips. To be fair they need to earn money somehow, and at least my quads will get a good work out from all the squatting this holiday.
I am so pleased to have done this trip as lovely to meet people from all around the world again and they have given me advice for the rest of my travels!
No falls from the group at all, although other groups were rather haphazard as we passed them or they passed us! One girl must of had altitude sickness as she was wobbling all over the road and sat right in the middle rather than at the side so we any vehicles could pass safely.
I definitely recommend the activity, and our company Gravity, such a buzz! More expensive than other companies but worth it for the fun, safety and comfortable bikes. The afternoon was finished off with an optional extra of a zip wire cross the valley! I’m not one to turn down opportunities so I opted in! Amazing! 90km ph across the most amazing scenery, and seeing as I have jumped out of a plane I am in fact no longer scared just enjoy it. There are both going solo and as a tandem in a superman pose opportunities across the three wires and just another way to see the amazing scenery. We have celebratory drinks at the bar at the end of death road and we got given an actual bottle of rum and coke, pre mixed. Weird but original indeed.
We then headed to an animal sanctuary where you can see monkeys, aardvarks and various others and where we were fed like the starving athletes we are.
A long day but worth it. We drive back up the death road so get to see the cliff edges we daren’t look at when cycling. Stopped for obligatory selfies! Then back to the hostel to pack for a 6.30 leave to the salt flats! No rest for the wicked! However I have realised I’ve been bitten on the arms and legs. Damn it. Wolf says it’s just sand flies they’ll itch tonight then go. Let’s hope!
Death Road done!!