La Paz: Death Road
La Paz: Death Road.
There was no way I was willing to hung over for today, so I was a very good boy last night. Not all of the boys were though, and there were some hangovers as we headed out of La Paz to Death Road. It cost us 450 Bolivianos for a downhill suspension bike, all equipment, two meals, and a van to follow us on the drive. It was cold at the summit where we started, and we were bundled up in layers. Our guides made us have a shot of 96% Bolivian alcohol that the miners drink before we started the ride. They said it was for the safety spirit of Pachemama. We got on our bikes and started the 63 km downhill ride to the bottom of Death Road. It was awesome. Many people used to die on this road, hence the name, but there are not so many heavy trucks hanging onto the edge of cliffs to get through the mountains. The last tourist to die was four years ago, so I think it should just be called Road now.
It starts on the highway, and it is fast on the way down. I have never been on a bike like that before. My bike had suspension like the motocross bikes I rode for years. I also reached speeds that I have never before attained on a pedal bike. It was fast. There are oil slicks on the center of the lanes, so that will keep your mentally focused. And then there are semi trucks here and there blowing blue smoke in your face. We did 24 kilometers down the highway and then we went to an area where it is just a windy mountain downhill road. That was awesome. It was just a road clinging to the edge of the mountain and there are cliffs with 400 meter drops in places, and you are sometimes no more than a half meter from falling off the cliff as you avoid a rock in the way. It is crazy and awesome.
Death Road (the gravel road) is not used as much anymore since a new road was built and paved. Death Road was built in the 1930’s by Paraguayan prisoners of war. And building that road was certainly a criminal job. That road certainly cost a lot of lives to construct and it took a lot of lives for the next 70 years. There was a place where an accident happened 20 years ago and 106 people died in a single accident. There is also a place on the road that is marked where political activists where shot in the head and thrown off the cliff on the drive in 1944, which lead to the country rebelling and hanging their then president in the town square after he tried to stop democracy.
We rode for about 5 hours with some breaks to cover the 63kilometers. One of the English boys had a bad wreck on the way down when he pants got caught in the chain and pulled him down. A lot of the right hand side of his back no longer has skin, both of his arms and the side of his face got it as well. He looks terrible and leaks blood. He rode in the van that was following us for the rest of the ride. There is always someone… It was a great ride, and a very cool experience. I survived the Road!
After we finished we went to a river where mostly everyone swam as it was about 35 degrees Celsius. There was one girl in our group, a 19 year old German from Hamburg. I feel like I could save people a lot of future misery if they would just talk to me about tattoos they want before they get them. She was pretty, but just above her bikini line on her right hip was a fresh mindless tattoo that said ‘Brasil.’ Lack of creativity and personality in humans just disappoints me so much… ‘Death Road 2014’ will probably show up on her other hip…