After a fitful night sleep and interrupted dreams of possibly biking death road (I really am not joking) I awoke to pounding on the door at 7:15 am. Jumping out of bed, extremely excited because pounding on the door this morning could only mean one thing, I ran to open the door eating it because my socks were way to slippery for the wood floors. Getting back up I opened the door to dad, “Get ready!! The tour lady was there,”
“WE ARE BIKING CAMINO DE MUERTE!!!”
I was so excited, I couldn’t believe our luck!! As fast as we could we got dressed, packed our bags, and ran down to breakfast to shove some food in our face. Before I knew it we were in the car with our extremely patient guide, Octavio, (who waited for us for a long time while we got our stuff together to go on the tour) and headed to the highest point where we would be biking down hill into the Amazonian town of Las Yungas.
Scenic Drive thru La Paz
The drive up was great, Octavio knew a massive amount of information about La Paz and spoke perfect english. Throughout the whole drive he told us about the city, how it’s divided by the river into the Spanish section and the indigenous section (guess which side the black market exists on), about how Bolivia can grow around 400 different types of potatoes, and explained about the ride we would be doing.
La Paz is one of the most impressive cities to drive around. The highest capital city in the world, at 13,000 feet, is located in the mountains, the city center in the valley in the middle. It looks like waves of house as far as you can see in any direction, all of them made of pink bricks with tin roofs.
Off to the Races with Adventure on Wheels
After about 45 minutes we arrived at the starting point, where we met up with 10 other people who we also doing the tour with Adventure On Wheels. We got our bikes, protective clothing, helmets, and a small introduction on the rules of the rules and WOOO we started!
Part 1 – Pavement
The first half of the ride was on pavement and isn’t the ‘true death road.’ Because so many people died on death road in the past, in 2006 they finished a paved highway to the same jungle town, Las Yungas, and on this highway is where our day started.
All downhill, Jordan and I immediately placed ourselves with the front of the group, racing in single file down the steep road. The first segment was super high altitude, not much vegetation, but steep mountain canyon walls; absolutely stunning. We stopped multiple times to take pictures, but I felt like we should have had so many more based on the incredible views.
Part 2 – The Original Camino de Muerte (Death Road)
After a snack stop we crossed into the national park, jumped in the vans for about 15 minutes, and got back out at the top of the dirt road (that split from the new paved highway) to now bike down the true death road. At this point we had gone down about 6,000 feet in elevation, which was easy to tell by the vegetation (much more jungly) and the amount of air available to breathe (ahhhhhh). We hopped back on our bikes were off. This time we were biking next to steep canyon walls (up and down) covered in ferns and vines.
A couple times we biked under small waterfalls and through big puddles. We stopped to take some pictures at the most famous corner in death road (I’m sure you recognize the spot) giving ourselves heart attacks holding the bike up on the edge.
Octavio also pointed out the most dangerous stretch, where a bus containing over 100 Bolivian people had gone over the edge during rainy season because the road under the back tires had eroded out from underneath it.
Arrival to Las Yungas
As we started getting into Yungas Octavio pointed out green squares cut out in the jungle on the hillsides, coca plant fields, to produce coca leaves and cocaine. Arriving into town we were dirty, tired, and extremely happy. What a fantastic day!
They had to clean the bikes so we grabbed a beer at a restaurant and chatted until they finished.
R&R after the Bike down Camino de Muerte
We then loaded up in the vans and went to a beautiful hotel in the town with a pool, showers, and delicious buffet lunch. We soaked up the sun, showered, and ate; laughing every once in awhile unable to believe our luck that we had been able to do the tour.
Incredibly happy we made our way back to La Paz in the vans. Three hours later we were profusely thanking Octavio, who had been an incredible guide, and made our ways back to the room. Octavio had pointed out a cuban restaurant close by so we grabbed some food there before hitting the sack. The restaurant, Sabor Cubano, had delicious spicy dishes (my favorite: the Vaca Ropa) and amazing mojitos (as always mine with passion fruit – maracuya!). Slightly touristy, but would definitely go back in a heartbeat.
Did you miss our first day exploring the city of La Paz? Click here to read about the crazy, bizarre La Paz.