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La Paz

Biking The World's Deadliest Road

semi-overcast 15 °C

Hola!

From Sucre we got on a night bus along with Faye, Stu, Raine and Tom. The 12 hour bus ride was relative uneventful, but uncomfortable. We'd gotten used to some pretty cushy buses after Brazil, Argentina and Chile, and there's nothing even remotely cushy about the buses in Bolivia.
Nevertheless, we did make it to La Paz and headed straight to our hostel. Since there were still a couple of hours until check-in we ended up drinking beer and playing cards until we could finally find our beds and pass out for a couple of hours.

La Paz lies surrounded by mountains at an altitude of around 3650 m (11 975 ft.), and the climate is fairly cool. None of us had really packed for the cold; it was time to hit the market. Bolivia, as well as Peru, is famous for cheap alpaca and llama clothing, and we'd heard La Paz was the place to stock up on these. The market is a sweater, socks and toque galore, with about 150 shops selling the exact same thing. Right next to the tourist market is the Witch's Market. This market is definitely different selling everything from love potions to shriveled up llama fetuses.

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Superstitious Bolivians bury these llama fetuses under the porches of their newly built houses for good luck.

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As La Paz grows it spills onto the steep hills surrounding the city. This has resulted in varying elevations from 3000 m to 4000 m. The difference in altitude also reflects the different social layers of La Paz; the wealthiest citizens live in the lower neighbourhoods, the middle class mostly live in high risers downtown while the less economically fortunate live in makeshift brick houses on the hillsides surrounding the city.

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In La Paz we stayed at the "Wild Rover", one of the big party hostels in the city. If you want to sleep, stay somewhere else. Since we were a group of six people we ended up having a dorm all to ourselves which worked out well as we didn't have to worry about waking anyone up coming home from the bar, or be woken up by people coming and going. Naturally we ended up party most nights.

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Jas with what appears to be his new look.

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Randomly met up with The Travelling Cousins, Alex and Laura when they checked in to our hostel :) Always a good time :)

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Tom charming ladies at the bar

After checking out the market, spending way too much money on alpaca gear and having probably too many beer, it was time to do the one thing we'd plan to do in La Paz; bike the Death Road.

The "Death Road" has many names but since it was christened "world's most dangerous road" by the Inter-American Development bank in 1995 most people refer to it as the"Death road" of" Road of Death". It is estimated that 200-300 travellers were killed yearly on the road, until an alternative road was built a couple of years ago. Still cars go off the road here every year, as some people choose to use the old road because it is shorter than the new one. The road is 61 km long mostly unpaved and down-hill except for a small up-hill section at the beginning of the road. After the road became famous for being the most dangerous in the world it became a popular tourist destination, and today many tour operators offer downhill biking of the Death Road. After talking to different companies we decided to go with "Overdose". Not only do they have great guides, they provide the best gear; its important for your confidence to look like a pro :)

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Ready to go :)

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Full of confidence...

The downhill trip starts at 4650 m (15260 ft) at La Cumbre Pass and descends 1200 m all the way down to the rain forest, ending in the town of Corico. The day starts off close to freezing, but when you get off the bike at the end of the day you're dripping sweat!

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The road hugs the mountainside on your right as you go down, on the other side are straight drop-offs up to 600 m (2000 ft)! Most of the road is no wider than 3.2 m (10 ft) and there are no guard rails. Combine this with fog, rain or dust reducing the visibility and you've got yourself a pretty dangerous road!

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There are many crosses along the road marking places of fatal crashes or where cars have gone over the edge

The Death Road was something we had planned on doing ever since we started our trip, still I was pretty nervous as we were getting ready. I'd never been on a downhill bike before, and this wasn't exactly cycling to work or the supermarket. Once we got going though and I got used to it, it really wasn't frightening at all and actually a lot of fun :)

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Getting instructions at the beginning of the dirt road. Another thing that's good about Overdose is that ll the guides and instructors are Bolivians. Many companies are foreign run and have guides from Western countries.

Obviously not everyone was as new to this as me, and some people appear not to have a sense of fear at all. Our group was divided into two, those who wanted to go fast and those who needed to take it a little slower. As you got more into it, or got tired, you could switch between groups as we made stops every now and then for the guides to give us some background on the road.

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As I mentioned before the road ends in Bolivia's rain forest. The climate here is the exact opposite of that of the altiplano at La Cumbre. As part of the trip we went to a small hotel in Corico were we had a well deserved lunch, beer, a much needed shower and a refreshing dip in the pool. It was so nice to be back in the heat, even if it was just for a couple of hours :)

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This is easily one of the best tours we've done on this trip. The scenery is amazing and the biking truly an adrenaline kick. It is most definitely a must do in La Paz!

After driving back to La Paz (on the new safer road) we got ready for our last night in La Paz. This was going to be our last night as a group, Raine was heading to Cuzco, Faye and Stu into the Bolivian jungle while Tom was heading to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca along with us. More on the less known Copacabana soon :)

Posted by CanWay 10:36 Archived in Bolivia

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