How to survive Death Road in Bolivia

Why is it we as humans seem to be drawn to danger? Personally, I love the satisfaction of doing something a little out of the ordinary, challenging and exciting. The rush of adrenaline and the satisfaction after achieving something crazy gives my hormones a boost. Consequently, when asked if I wanted to bike down the most dangerous road in the world – I said yes.

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The North Yungas Road is situated in Bolivia, in 1995 it was named by the Inter-American Development Bank as the ‘world’s most dangerous road’. In 2006 data showed that some 200 to 300 travelers die on the road per year. The road itself was built in the 1930s by prisoners of war and was updated in 2006. Today, tourists flock to the area to experience the thrill of biking down a 15,000 ft descending road.

The first part of the journey is on steep tarmac (while the speed you pick up is immense and cars whizz past you this is the safest section). Next comes the narrow dirt road, which is all down hill too. If you dare peer off the dramatic, steep edged cliff, make certain to stay on your bike and as close as you can to the safe, protected cliff side (although some parts of the path are very narrow). Even though your hands and arms will be shaking from gripping onto the bars, you must look around you, the stunning Amazon rain-forest looks spectacular. You will cycle through waterfalls, up small hills but mainly you will freewheel downhill.

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You will be rewarded with a tasty lunch for completing the ride, looking at the other fellow travelers you will notice, plasters, bruises, scraps and dry blood caking their skin. These are the people who did not take Death Road seriously.

Cycling down Death Road provided excellent, dramatic and picturesque views of the forest. The bike I was loaned had very weak suspension, so by the end my arms were like jelly. It was a fantastic experience which while I would not do it again, I am glad I did it the once and I can say I did it and have the T – shirt (quiet literally).

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Top tips for having fun on death road will staying safe:

  • Listen to the guides – they know best, they have cycled this route many times and can guide you along it safely.
  • It is a bad idea to race down – from all the stories I heard, those that raced, got hurt.
  • Take it at your own pace, make sure to look around and enjoy the scenery, stop for photos and don’t rush it. People will wait for you at check points, so just breeze along.
  • If you are a mountain biker do not be fooled. Still take it easy – this mountain is very different from European mountains.
  • Chose a good tour company – make sure they provide a full body suit, helmet, bike with suspension and the group is not too big (8 is a good number).

I hope I haven’t put you off and certainly do not let the crazy racers who get injured put you off. As long as you take it slowly, safely and have a good bike you will be fine and enjoy it.

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