It started out as an idea. What would be the coolest thing to see in Bolivia? I’d heard and seen the dangerous road featured on SciFi and National Geographic programs, so getting a glimpse of the road was my objective. I’d also heard about some other things featured on Sci Fi, like Puma Punku and Tiuanaku, but I’ll save that for another post. In my search for information on seeing the world’s most dangerous road, I came across Gravity Bolivia, a high adventure extreme sports adventure travel site for the adventure traveler. If you’re going to go… you have to go with them. Best in safety equipment and support. On this one, I believe it does matter. I usually don’t endorse, but on this adventure, you have to be extremely careful.
In their own words…
“Quite deservedly, this mountain bike ride is our most popular and World famous. Gravity has been featured guiding and riding this road in more than 60 magazine and newspaper articles, (as well as six television shows and on the lips and Blogs of almost every backpacker and adventure traveler in South America), this downhill mountain bike ride is not only famous, but so is GRAVITY!”
My brother in law Jeff, who had never even been to South America joined us on this adventure. He said it was absolutely the craziest, scariest, best adventure, day of his life. He rode on the middle bar of one of our instructors this wasn’t the original plan. They didn’t have a small enough bike, but they accommodated in a serious way.
The ride is one of a kind with the most spectacular descent of 3,600m/11,800 feet from snow-covered high-altitude mountain ranges down to the Amazonian Jungle with most of the 64kms (40 miles) of downhill riding on the road locally known as “The Death Road” or “Camino de la muerte!” The true stories you’ll hear are real. This road is not a joke. It’s serious with sheer cliffs with 3000 ft (1000 meter) drops. The long ropes they carry aren’t long enough for the longest drops and there isn’t a survival rate on those drops either.
Why would someone ride on a road called the death road? For me, I wanted to do the investigation, read the stories and determine if it was something I wanted to do. Initially I simply wanted to see what the fuss was about, but when I heard I could take it at my own speed and with instructors who would tell you about the turns along the way, and give you professional equipment I was slowly convinced I could do it.
On the site they say the ride is for “Confident beginners to experts, average fitness and above, and in particular, those looking for a long, world-class, downhill mountain bike ride.” The Trip Advisor ratings for Braving the World’s Most Dangerous Road and scores for this ride were off the charts at the level of Chernobyl. Here’s what I said in my review “I just got back from a whirlwind tour of 3 capitals in South America and the thing that stands out above all was my ride down the Worlds Most Deadly road. I was a little scared, but I did my homework and read all the reviews and looked into the various companies that do this ride.
First off Gravity is quality. The whole time my needs were met. Andy our guide watched out for us. He told us at each stop what to expect and how to handle it. He wasn’t pushy and allowed us to take things at our own pace.”
I don’t want to tell anyone they have to do this. I don’t want any responsibility at all for convincing anyone to put their life in their own hands. It’s liberating, and will scare you, but it’s also likely one of the most dangerous things I’ve done. That being said, I know I was riding a good 40 miles an hour down the hill at times and feeling an incredible rush. My front brakes needed to be adjusted part way down the mountain, and a guy in our party hurt his arm and shoulder scraping them on the road.
La Paz is an amazing place. When we landed at the airport I was pleased to find they had reduced their visa fees. I got a Bolivian visa for only $60. Only 3 years ago I was looking at $160 x 3 since I was with my wife and baby and at the time none of us had the yellow fever shot. This time we were all ready and got our visa on arrival and yes at the new reduced fare. As of Nov 16, 2014.
When we got off the plane an older lady fell on her face, and after a quick jog, we were all dangerously out of breath. Don’t push it here. When you first get off the plane, the Swahili mountain words of wisdom come to mind… “pole, pole” comes to mind. “Slowly, slowly.” Chewing the cocoa leaves and sucking out the juice (a local remedy) do the trick for helping alleviate the high elevation headache, or bring your high elevation pills. We decided to ride on day 2 of our stay in Bolivia. That was intentional and smart. It allowed us to acclimate at the world’s highest capital.
These cliffs are no joke!
The ride is beautiful. The jungle really sucks you in, and the views are out of this world. We stopped 15 times along the route to take pictures, drink liquids, and take in the amazing view.
Michael Noel, Jeff Beaulieu, and Joel Oleson geared up and ready to ride. Bike, gloves, jacket, pants, helmet and goggles all provided by Gravity Bolivia. We all made it. Incredible experience.
GoPro3 Youtube Highlight Video of our Crazy Experience
“Mountain Biking for 64km down the World’s Most Dangerous Road (WMDR, aka Yungas Road, aka Camino de las Muertas, aka Camino de las Yungas) in Bolivia. The trip starts at an altitude of 4650m and ends at 1200m. I tried to edit this down to the highlights of the journey. Taken from my GoPro3 with myself, Joel Oleson, and Jeff Beaulieu sharing camera duty throughout the ride” uploaded and edited by Michael Noel http://sharingtheglobe.com
I facebooked a video of the narrowest part of the road as we drove back on the road. In a lot of ways it was more scary riding the bus back on that crazy road than on a bike.