A 0615 start for Huw, and oh a little later, sometime around 0900 for Bernice 😉
Paul, Phil and Huw meet in a local café for brekkie, before being loaded into a minibus for today’s adventure … cycling the “World´s Most Dangerous Road!! (WMDR) This is a 65km stretch of road between La Paz and Coroico down in the Jungle. Half of it is tarmac, and half is dirt/gravel and it descends something like 3000m in a nearly continuous downhill run. It´s reputation dates from when it was still the main road between La Paz and Coroico, when over a 100 people a year would be killed, usually when the vehicle they were on going over the vertical edge of the narrow twisty track. These days it is (supposed to be) closed to traffic and thus makes for a good days cycle. Apparently, the road was featured in last years Top Gear Xmas special but for obvious reasons we haven´t see it!
One of the main reasons for using “Pro Downhill”, is that they offered the option to do the first half of the route off-road – the usual run people take is on tarmac with regular traffic. Up at 4800m we all get kitted out with full suss bikes (tired but ok), full face helmet, trousers and jackets as well as elbow and knee protection (which we don´t bother with). Strangely, the pads are compulsory for girls but optional for blokes?!
The group size is 14 but it seems only the 3 of us knew about the off-road first section 😉 So, it´s just the 3 of us and a guide who set of at a great pace down some interesting trails, stopping occasionally to take photos and navigate where the trail has been washed away etc. Great fun, technical without being too bonkers, although Paul did manage to fit in a crash. It was pretty cold at the top but by the time we reach the half way stage it has warmed up nicely so we strip down to shorts and t-shirts and get back in the bus to join the rest of the group.
Next up is the main reason that most people do the trip – the death road or WMDR. To be honest, Huw nearly didn´t do the trip because the thought of drifting down a trail with a dozen or so non-cyclist sounded like a dull day out, so it is with a sense of an impending anti-climax that we arrive at the start of the road and get our initial brief. However, as it turns out, he needn´t have worried! The lead guide seems more than happy to ride at the pace of the quickest riders … i.e. the three of us plus another Dutch guy who was a bit put out that he hadn´t been on the first section with us. So, we get to ride the road at max speed 😀 … was it dangerous? Well, the ´road´ is a gravelly track that is about the width of a decent sized truck that has shear drops of a couple of hundred metres deep along large sections (i.e. most of it). So, if you happen to be travelling too quick into a corner and over-do the braking or catch a large bolder with your front wheel, it does get the heart racing … other than that same as a day out at the Look Out in Bracknell Forest!
By the time we reach the bottom we have been riding for about 3 hour and pretty tired, especially as we are now in the jungle so it is really hot and steamy. In fact, one of the great things about the ride has been the way the landscape has changes as we have descended. The destination is at 1900m and Huw get a reminder what life is like off the Altiplano … nice and warm mostly! We get to spent the next couple of hours in the grounds of a hotel having a nice hot shower, a bite of lunch and a splash around in the pool – oh and maybe drinking a cold beer or two! Finally, it is 3 hours in the back of a very uncomfortable mini-bus along the new road back to La Paz.
Meanwhile back in town and after brekkie, Bernice has a leisurely wander around, trying to locate a second pair of trekking socks for Huw as we´ve been advised to have two pairs for the hike tomorrow. It’s a bit of a mission but job done she returns to get some blog writing cracked….and relax for the rest of the day… and other than a brief power cut to the room she manages it perfectly.
That was until she got a call from reception around 1930, her immediate reaction was that it was Huw but in fact it was Lars, the Norwegian guy we spent time with in La Serena, Chile. He had returned to Bolivia to sell his motorbike he´d bought to travel South America, we´d noticed on Facebook. He´d turned up with a girl from the volunteer outfit he´d been working at when he´d been here before. She was also Norwegian. We sat in the communal area of the hostel chatting, thinking Huw would be back from his cycle ride any minute. The time ticked by and it got a bit embarrassing so Bernice suggested just going for a coffee somewhere and leaving a note for Huw. When she went to the room to get her jacket there was another call from reception coming through but she couldn´t get the key in the door quick enough to answer it. To say she was fretting a little bit about Huw and the death road would be an understatement. Anyway to her relief the phone went again and it was actually Huw back safe and sound. Hurrah.
We waited while he got sorted and we all went for a coffee and some food. Though when the food turned up neither of us could eat very much. We tried but the notion had passed. So doggie bag in hand we made our way back to the hostel hoping to find some worthy homeless person to donate it too on route. Never there when you want them eh! So we had no option to leave it in a conspicuous place hoping someone needy would come across it. It wasn´t there in the morning and there was no evidence of dogs so we can only assume it did 🙂