Cycling down Death Road

by | May 27, 2017

Cycling down Death Road was not something I was planning on doing but was convinced by everyone else that it was a ‘must do’ while in Bolivia. We drove for an hour or so until we reached the mountains, at which point we geared up and made an offering to pachamama by pouring alcohol on the ground, on our bike and of course in our mouths. The look on my face will tell you just how delicious this alcohol was…

The ride began on asphalt road, giving us time to practice on a flat surface (though still steep and windy) before we hit Death Road. A few nights before this I was skyping my parents and when mentioning this little adventure my parents were shocked I would even attempt it… Infact, Dad said “Cycling has never really been your strong point…” and it was as I began the speedy descent that I realised he was probably right. Even on a smooth surface I was shitting myself. The views were lovely though!!

At one point there was a tunnel that bikes are not allowed through so we had to go around it, giving us our first taste of gravel roads! So so scary. There were huge, loose rocks everywhere. I was fairly certain I would die and we weren’t even on Death Road yet.
There was one little uphill part that was optional (remembering we were at ridiculous it was even more difficult) so naturally I opted to hop back on the bus for this part. Only a few crazy people rode their bikes for that section. Towards the end of that section, when the road began to decline again, we spotted a motorcyclist who had crashed. Luckily he was okay but this was not really what I wanted to see right before starting death road.
Our last safety talk before getting onto Death Road had me so nervous I was shaking. Rachael and I happily took our place at the back of the pack and attempted to go as slow as possible. The road was uneven and full of loose rocks. We were told to ride on the left – which is the cliff side! Insane! But most of the time you could ride on the left and still be at least a metre or two from the edge.
There were lots of great views and photo opportunities along the way, including dangling our legs over the edge of the cliff twice! I’m so brave!
At each break Steven, our guide, would tell us about the people who have died on the upcoming part. Just what I wanted to hear!! At times we rode under waterfalls and through river crossings.
I only fell off my bike once..amazingly not too near a cliff edge and I somehow jumped off before my bike hit the ground, saving myself from any real injury. One guy fell off right near the end and scraped his arm, but otherwise we all came away unharmed.
After a long day of riding we celebrated with beers, cuba libres and a buffet lunch. Exhaustion and adrenaline were an excellent combination.
We continued to celebrate with more cuba libres the entire 3 hour ride home, making it a bit of a party bus. And of course, then we headed straight to the bar.
We survived! Woooooo!