The best way to get a free T-shirt in Bolivia is to risk your life biking down the World’s Most Dangerous Road. Also called the Death Road because of the number of Paraguayan war prisoners that died during its construction, this road has claimed many lives. It’s very narrow at some points, with an unforgiving drop of thousands of meters straight down. When two cars travel in opposite directions many times one car, backing up to let the other pass, would just drop off the side. And, game over.
Nowadays, this road is mostly used for tourists on bikes, as they have built a new road between La Paz and Coroico. The new road takes a bit longer, but it’s only the second most dangerous road in Bolivia. Which is nice.
Before the tour begins, the guide has our group of ten raise our right hands in the air and swear to him:
I will not do anything stupid.
I will pay attention to what I’m doing.
I will not ride on someone’s ass.
I will tip the guide and driver generously.
Following this, we pass around a small bottle of 96° alcohol. We each take small, disgusting sips, and then pour a bit on our bike tires and on the ground, asking Pachamama to protect us from death and injury.
The descent begins with a few kilometers of curving paved roads: a chance to get used to your bike. Nonetheless, the guide encourages us to make exciting faces for the camera so that our friends can see what a great time we’re having!
Eventually we arrive at the unpaved Death Road, and we start our descent. I can’t tell if I am happy or disappointed that it is too cloudy to see the steep drop off the side of the road.
Focusing on our bikes, not doing anything stupid, Léa and I only see the dirt road beneath our feet. Turns out, just biking downhill for 64 kilometers descending from 4700m to 1100m is actually way more fun than it is scary!
Léa especially liked it. Perhaps downhill mountain biking is a new official hobby for her?
At the beginning of the ride we wore many layers of clothes to keep us comfortable in the wind, rain and cold…but by the end of the ride it was shorts and T-shirts in heavy sunshine.
After hours of downhill and sore fingers, the tour ends in a small town where the group is able to celebrate with beers and the much-anticipated free T-shirts. Woohoo!
But that’s not it. Also in this town is a small wildlife reserve that takes care of animals rescued from illegal animal trade. We have a buffet lunch at the reserve, followed by a brief tour into the domain of monkeys. They were mostly adorable and silly, though one started showering our group from a tree above, with his pee.
Most of our group got back on the bus to return to La Paz that evening, but we decided to stay in this jungle area in the nearby village of Coroico.
We find a hostel about twenty minutes outside of the village, and it turns out to be a little paradise. A large plot of land on the hillside with views of Coroico below, and the mountains across the valley, this is the perfect place for us to just relax for a few days, enjoying the scenery.
So we spend three days there, just enjoying the beauty and the calm and the sounds of jungle birds.
From here we plan to return to La Paz so we can catch a bus across the country to Santa Cruz, in eastern Bolivia.
Categories: Posts in English