Wednesday and we are taking the world’s most dangerous road, Camino de las Mueretes, otherwise known as the North Yungas Road or Death Road. It’s just over an hour from La Paz to the turn off and the scenery is spectacular with some snow-capped mountains that only support small shrubs and vegetation and the valley is deep with steep walls.
The elevation at one point is 4650 meters and we descend into the valley and exit the highway onto death road. The temperature has risen dramatically from 5 degrees C at the summit and when we stop to remove some layers of clothing we understand why. The wind coming up the valley is blowing warm, humid tropical air up from the valley floor.
Locals waiting for the bus at the Death Road junction, when I asked for permission to take their photo most of the women disappeared but when I was handing out Canada lapel pins the woman were right in line for a pin.
When driving the death road you drive on the left side of the road, this forces the descending vehicle to be on the downhill side of the cliff which unless you are crazy forces you to slow down when passing another vehicle. The ascending vehicle has the right of way and it doesn’t take long before we encounter the first oncoming vehicle, a dump truck. We are on a section of road that is only wide enough for one vehicle, we can’t backup like a car and I don’t have the balls to stop on the cliff side and instead maneuvered the bike into a ditch on the uphill side of the road leaving about half a meter between us and the truck. Getting the bike out of the ditch proved challenging but we did make it.
The road has seen some improvements of late with modern guard rails and concrete culverts to reduce wash outs from the waterfalls and don’t get me wrong, it’s still damn scary to look over the edge in most places. For those who are interested here’s a link to a website with more details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yungas_Road
Cyclists coming through he waterfalls.
Diana hasn’t had any issues with altitude sickness but, I, on the other hand am always dehydrated and need to be careful when getting up from sitting as I can lose my balance if I stand up too quickly.
The bike and I were fairly clean after riding through a series of waterfalls that dropped a few hundred feet onto the road.
A few water crossings to deal with today.
We stayed at a hostel at Coroico ($24), just a half block from the central square. We met a twenty something couple from Australia during happy hour, Jessie just received her law degree and Daniel is taking his masters in environmental science. They are backpacking South America and shared some of their experiences with us. We had some concerns beforehand about how noisy the hostel might be but the rain must have started just after midnight which drove everyone inside. In the morning it’s still pouring hard and we decide to have a leisurely breakfast and wait for the weather to break. About 10 am we make a dash back to La Paz, this time via the new highway. The new highway has some erosion issues and while driving through a construction zone the front and rear tires decide to take different ruts in the mud and we take a closer look at the mud. We happened to have the GoPro camera mounted on my helmet which caught most of the incident. (See the video titled The Safer Highway to La Paz)
It takes us almost three hours to maneuver our way through La Paz as there is some type of festival happening. While climbing onto the bike after lunch a bus pulls up behind us and all of a sudden there are hundreds of people swarming the bus with a police escort trying to control the crowd and reporters. We think it may have been a soccer team or politician on the bus but didn’t wait around to find out.
For dogs in Bolivia every day is attack a gringo day and today is no different with three dogs doing their best to bite the buckles off my riding boots. Fortunately, between our boots and riding pants we shouldn’t have to worry about getting injured from a dog bite.
We have over an hour of video from Death Road but due to the internet or lack of we are unable to edit and post it on the blog. Once we have decent internet we will post it and advise. (sorry Sharon, you'll have to wait a while to see over the edge).
PS So far we have ridden just over 17,000 km (10,600 miles), replaced two rear tires, fallen from the bike three times, lost count on how many times we’ve had stomach issues and witness extreme poverty on a daily basis which for me is overwhelming.