After learning my lesson on Volcano Misti, I decided to stick to activities I was more qualified for in Bolivia…like mountain biking.
My lucrative bike career started young when I quickly graduated out of training wheels. I could even ride one handed. I easily got bored and didnt bike again until I got my beach cruiser my sophomore year at UCSD. I could ride to campus in a dress. Talk about imprssive.
Given such extensive biking expeirence, I was ready to handle the Death Road.
Considered the world´s most dangerous road, el camino del la muerte (the death road) gets its name from the unfortunate frequency of accidents that occurred when the road was in use by buses. In most places, the road is only wide enough for one bus. One of the worst accidents occurred when two buses collided and fell off the cliff leaving like 200 people dead. Now the road is mainly used a tourist attraction where idiots like me can pay money to bike down it (and of course get the ´I survived´ Tshirt to commemorate the experience).
The trip started in La Cumbre at 4700 meters where we got our gear and bikes. We had quality safety gear; full face helmets, gloves, elbow pads, knee pads, and a jacket. The bikes were also very new and very quality.
Alright, the bikes were slightly more advanced than I was used to…as in to brake, I actually had to use hand brakes instead of just pedaling backwards. Then there was this nonesense about gears and suspension. Huh. New technology I guess.
The first hour of the ride was on a paved road to prepare us for the Death Road. To be honest, I was terrified. Even though I felt like I was going 100 mph, I was dead last. Like awkwardly last. Our group took breaks every 20-30 minutes At these stops, every else had already had stopped, taken out their cameras, taken a bunch of photos…and then I came up.
Once I finally got used to that, we were done with the nicely paved road. It was DEATH ROAD time. In between the two roads, we stopped for a quick snack. One of the snacks offerred was Oreos. At first I passed just because I didnt really want any, but then I actually thought, ´What if this is my last meal??´ so I ate the Oreos to make sure I ended on a good note.
When we pulled up to the Death Road, I had a mini freak out moment. The road was twisty, narrow, and very unpaved with lots of rocks and gravel everywhere. Then there was the sheer cliff. I was about ready to stay in the bus, but that almost seemed more dangerous. Ive had my fair share of empanadas, but I am still significantly more narrow than a bus. Surely, I had less chance of falling of the side of the cliff. So I got on my bike, found my trusted glacier pace, and concentrated completely on staying on my bike.
The ride was actually so much fun. Sure, it was terrifying. I actually bruised the palms of my hand from squeezing the handlebars so tihght out of sheer fear. But for the most part, I was enjoying the incredible view and loving biking. I guess I could have passed on the pain it caused my butt from going over so much gravel and dirt, but thats kind of minor compared to dying.
At one of the stops, our guide said, ´Great job. You guys made through the most dangerous part where most of the deaths occur.´ Wow. How relieving. I guess one girl found this notion a little too relieving, because within minutes, she had fallen off her bike. (Im assuming she got going a little too fast, but sometimes just a weird shaped rock can send you flying).
She fell over the front of her bike and the brake jabbed into her hip causing lots of bleeding and I assume lots of pain. Luckily we had a doctor in the group (what are the odds), so I think the girl felt a little better once the doc made sure nothing serious was going on. The guides gave her a strong pain killer, got her in the bus, and we continued. It blew my mind that even though she had to go to the hospital (for 11 stitches), she still had to ride the bus all the way down, go get lunch with all of us, and then make it through the 3 hour bus ride back before showing up to the emergency room. She was a warrior.
When the ride had finished, we had decented from 4700 meters to 1180 meters. I was so stoked that I made it…I would get the free tshirt! YESSSS.