The most highly anticipated activity to undertake when in La Paz, is to ride ‘Death Road’… that is, if you’re an adrenaline junkie or enjoy downhill mountain biking. Tick and tick.
Made by Paraguayan prisoners in the 1930’s, ‘Death Road’ climbs to around 4,650 metres and stretches 64kms, from La Paz, to Coroico. Narrow, sharp turns, rockfalls, and no guardrails have contributed to many deaths, thus its name. (Dw, an alternative road was constructed in 2009 to replace this stretch of road).
Driving out of La Paz City over iced roads, carved into the Cordillera Mountain sides, is a special kind of beautiful. Melting peaks form waterfalls, furiously cascading down rock faces.The weather has turned… snow and rain have set in. The van stops. Stepping out into the winter, cold air on my cheeks. I open my mouth. Snow falls onto my tongue.
Gear, guards, gloves and helmets on, I’m taken back to the days of riding motorbikes. Too bad the bikes are pedal and not petrol powered for Death Road.We commence the ride in a convoy, twisting down the mountains like wildfire. What a world to wind through. Downhill Death Road delivering the goods. I push past everyone but Fraser to get to the front.First bike down is mine. A busted front tyre! Second bike down, Rhys’s, with a smashed rear break and the third, Fraser’s, with a snapped chain. Someone asks me, “Did you hit a rock?” Ahh yes… a few hundred thousand making up the road we’ve been riding… tbh, we were all hammering it.
There’s road, then white nothingness past the cliff edges…. the great unknown. Clouds providing a giant drop sheet of sorts.
Most experience Death Road in drier conditions. Not me. Rain, rocks and water crossings… Vision impaired by the very mud we’ve been riding through. Drenched and dripping in dirt, head to toe. Literal mud bathing. Would love to walk through a car wash right about now. I’d do this again if time permitted.In the van on the drive back to La Paz, I look over at a few sleeping tour mates and realise, these are the final hours we spend together.
These names, become people and these people, become friends and family… Crazy to think in the little time spent… how much they meant.
A group of us go for drinks. Feeling tired, an energy drink seems necessary. Elvar says, “Red bull and vodka feels like home”. What a statement. For me, right now, these people feel like home.
We walk 3 blocks to Loki, a party hostel. Dancing on bars for shots and blazing til 3am
The next 1.5 days is spent on goodbye cries, sleep ins, street wandering and readjusting to solitude.
My room is cold and the other side of the bed is empty.
Mood: Somber AF.
Planning the exit to Cusco.