The Death Road Plunge
One of the most popular activities in La Paz is cycling the so called Death Road which goes down to Corioco. Over the course of the trip you descend from 4700m to 1100m, down 63km. The first 20 km or so of the road is paved, wide and allows you to absolutely fly. However the road then becomes narrow, dirt and 300-500m drop offs on one side and a cliff on the other – the so called Death Road aka, the world’s most deadliest road.
The Death Road gained its reputation in the years when it was the main artery from the Yungas (one of the prime coca growing regions in Bolivia) to La Paz. However in recent years a paved alternative has been built and now virtually no traffic uses the old Death Road (or Yungas Road to give it its proper name).
This road should hold no fear (in the dry) for those of us overlanding through South America – there are plenty of roads just as dangerous.
The actual end of the death road cycle is the small village of Yolosa – Corioco is actually above this and would be a hard uphill slog.
We decided to go with Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking who are one of the oldest companies and one of the most reliable – claiming no deaths in their 15 year history (well 1 – but he was a heart attack victim – they didn’t mention if he died of a heart attack on the way over the edge though !). We were very impressed with the quality of the bikes and the guides and would highly recommend them for their very professional attitude. We saw a few other companies groups on the way down the road and this affirmed our choice !
On the first section we reached speeds of up to 70kph flying down the asphalt however the main death road is slower as its dirt and the risks are a lot higher – still I still got up to 50kph on this bit and it felt a lot faster.
We stopped lots on the way down the road – to let the slower guys catch up with the faster ones and we also stopped to peel off layers as we went from very cold at the top wearing thermals to tshirts and shorts at the bottom where it was incredibly hot.
The day was fairly incident free although several people fell off their bikes (not us I hasten to add) and one girl fell off landing right on the edge of the drop-off.
At the end of the road when you reach Yolosa each of the downhill companies takes their group somewhere different and ours took us to a “wildlife refuge” called La Senda Verde where we could have a shower (much needed) and got given a pretty late lunch (it was about 4pm when ate).
After eating we could go on a tour of their monkey sanctuary. This was pretty disappointing as the many volunteers (all paying) seemed to play with monkeys and pay lip service to rehabilitating them. It seemed less like it was aimed at protecting the monkeys and more as a money making scheme to let do-gooders think they were helping, play with monkeys and pay the owner.
The trip back to La Paz was 3 hours up the new paved Death Road and was pretty uneventful and we arrived around 9pm to end a very long day but incredibly enjoyable days – I’m convinced this is when of the greatest mountain biking rides (suitable for all levels) in the world.