Friday, August 9, 2013

The Death Road (July 16th, 2013)

The Death Road or officially the Yungas Road used to be the only connection between La Paz and the Yungas region. Since 1995 it is known as the world's most dangerous road: around 200 - 300 people were killed there yearly. In 2006 the most dangerous part was replaced by a new wide asphalt road. The old road is now mainly used by mountain bikers, as it provides one of the longest descents in the world (from 4650 to 1200m).

I said good-bye to Laura (who did not want to join) at our hostel after we were served breakfast. Another breakfast, which was almost identical to the one in the hotel, was part of the package. I was enjoying it in good company, so I almost did not notice that 8am, when we were supposed to leave, had already passed. Unfortunately, the day before, there was a big party in La Paz and therefore our car was delayed. When it did not show up at the rescheduled time (9am), our group started getting slightly upset. Towards 10am we were upset quite a lot and considered getting our money back. Fortunately, the car showed up five minutes after 10am and we started driving towards La Cumbre. Of course there were some extra delays, such as buying supplies and a police check, but eventually we made it there.

Late drive to La Cumbre

At La Cumbre we got our bikes and safety equipment: a full-face helmet, safety jacket and trousers, gloves and knee&elbow pads. The area around La Cumbre is surrounded by beautiful mountains, but visibility was not very good, as the weather was getting suspicious. 

Safety equipment was later quite handy against the rain

The road is going only down

We started our descent on the new road. It was very pleasant and easy for going downhill. Unfortunately, as we got a bit lower, it started to rain. The provided equipment protected me quite well, but I would have appreciated a pair of wipers on my glasses. Eventually we had a snack break, and the guides loaded our bikes on a car in order to avoid a short uphill section.

Our bikes loaded on the car to avoid a short uphill section

We were driven to the part of the old death road that was kept in original condition. There we got back on our bikes and the long descent began. The road was three meters wide and without much traffic, so it was quite fine at the beginning. We made a lot of breaks to rest and undress a bit, as it was getting hotter. As we were riding, I was getting more and more tired and even extra supplies of oxygen in the air were not helping.

Going down!!!

After almost two hours, we were nearly at the end, and had another break. From there the road was almost flat, so I had less use for the protective clothing. It was also really hot, so I removed the provided clothes and kept to just a t-shirt and shorts. I then also realized that I got my first-ever biking blister.

My first biking blister

Easy finish 

At the end we arrived in a small village. While our guides were cleaning the bikes, we had a well-deserved beer. The next stop was a small hacienda with showers and a pool where we washed ourselves, swam a bit and had a big dinner. After all these great things there was a three-hours drive back to La Paz. Because of the morning delay, we arrived after 10pm and Laura was already a bit worried.

More pictures are available.

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