Why would anyone want to travel on a road which is known as the most dangerous road in the world, or alternatively as The Death Road? So yep, we decided to cycle down it!
We headed out from La Paz early as it was a bit of a trip to get to the top of the road. Within the first minute of getting onto the Death Road, we came up behind a Bolivian bus, which topped out at 35kph, so after a few frustrating minutes stuck behind it, made the sensible decision to overtake.
There only seemed to be room on the outside (the side with the 100 foot cliff) so I didn’t have much of a choice. I started pedalling flat-out to get past the bus, which was kicking up so much dirt and dust that I could barely see where I was going. Once I rounded the bus, and cleared out of the dust storm it had created, I realised I was headed straight for one of the notorious sharp bends in the road. I was pretty close to top speed at the time and I wasn’t able to turn as the road basically consisted of loose gravel at this stage.
As I was nearing the edge of the cliff I knew I had to pull the brakes as I couldn’t turn, but ended up pulling the front brake instead of the back one… I went straight over the handlebars, and landed inches from the edge of the cliff and the 100 foot drop below. Holy shit… near death experience number one on the Death Road.
So after that, we had another couple of hours of craziness, dodging cars, trucks, buses, waterfalls and the locals as we tore down the Most Dangerous Road in the world. Eventually, we arrived in Coroico looking and feeling great.
The next day, we decided to head for the jungle for a few days. We had two ways of getting there: go back to La Paz and fly into the jungle, or continue on the Death Road using one of the local buses! We had been seriously warned about not getting the bus as it was “not for tourists”. So yeah to be fair, it wasn’t really for tourists, it wasn’t necessarily for people either as we had plenty of farmyard animals to keep us company on the 20-hour bus journey into the jungle. After numerous breakdowns, a landslide and a random stop “to party” in some town, we finally rocked up to Rurrenabaque to start our jungle trek.
We weren’t exactly fluent in Spanish, so when we jumped onto a boat and went up river, deep into the jungle, we weren’t all that hopeful of finding an English-speaking person to show us what the jungle had to offer. Our guide’s name was Juan. We spent three days trekking in the jungle with him. We asked questions in English, he gave us what he thought was the answer in Spanish. He kept talking about something called “Selva”. He mentioned it constantly, so we were curious to find what it was. When we got back to Rurrenabaque, we met a local who knew a bit of English. We explained the story to him about Juan mentioning it all the time while we were trekking in the jungle.
After laughing for about 10 minutes solid, he let us know that the word “Selva” means jungle. Anyway, despite the language barrier, it was a quality few days spent trekking and sleeping out in the jungle with nothing but a sleeping bag and a mozzie net to cover us.
Later that day, as we sat down to have something to eat, we saw a report on the news showing a bus from Coroico to Rurrenabaque which plunged straight over the cliff on the Death Road and killed 23 people… that was the day after we got that same bus! Near-death experience number two on the Death Road.
Needless to say, we headed to the airport and booked a flight back to La Paz! Despite this being the “safer” option, we were amused to find that the runway was actually the field beside the one-roomed airport. No concrete on the runway – just grass. Oh how I love Bolivia!