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We tackle ‘Death Road’, the most dangerous place to cycle in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains

My descent of Colombia’s own ‘Death Road’ would make European health and safety personnel shudder. But then I’m not in Europe – far from it. I’m in the Unesco protected park of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – the world’s largest coastal mountain range, which sits some 5700m above sea level on the northeastern coastline of Colombia.

It’s an unblemished playground that’s still far from the standard ‘gringo trail’, and for those with a penchant for bike-based action, it’s a dream come true. I’m whizzing down its mud-splattered tracks on two wheels, past a cloud forest that’s fragrant with cow dung. My nostrils are streaming and I’m almost blinded by the glare of the sun reflecting off the dazzling Caribbean Sea that lies beyond.

Like its name sake in Bolivia, ‘Death Road’ is so-called for its rough surfaces, precarious vertical cliff drops and hazardous hairpin turns. The 383,000-hectare region (about the size of Rhode Island) is referred to by locals as the cradle of the earth – a unique geographic recipe of perfect snow-capped peaks, dense cloud forest, alpine meadows and high tundra. It’sinhabited by more than 30,000 tribal Indian communities, including the spiritual Kogi and Tairona people. It’s also aplace of historic torment: invading Spanish conquistadores penetrated the region in the 1500s and claimed the Tairona people’s immeasurable geographical treasures as their own, and also established a successful coffee agriculture that remains Colombia’s finest variety.


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Taking the High Road
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