Living the death road - Part 2

19 Jul, 2011 | Ivan Rodriguez P.

Culture

The rough earth track is beginning to make itself felt, and the Gravity As­sisted Mountain Biking team makes a stop to instruct us on how to proceed from here. The road from La Cumbre had been tarmac, but now turns into a different experience: “stones, mud, curves and the odd bus are what you can expect to encounter”, explained our guides. Five years ago a new tar­mac road was built to Coroico, and since then the vast majority of private and public vehicles choose that road rather than risk the Death Road. Still precarious, the old road now serves as a beautiful and spectacular bicycle path. Our group of twelve customer cyclists and two guides begins to move along the dry earth, and the green foliage thickens as we drop down into ever more luxuriant vegetation. On the left, a panoramic view stretches out: mountain beyond mountain in dark-green hues, the ho­rizon seems to herald our approach to paradise.

The track is wider than I thought, I feel like its name belies what I am experiencing. Then I am reminded of the very real danger as my eyes dart to the left to see drops of many hundreds of meters with no safety barrier whizz past my eyes. I quickly bring my eyes back to the road, nar­row perhaps for cars, atop a good quality mountain bike with excellent brakes this road need not be more dangerous than any other mountain-biking terrain, and it is a descent you will never forget for the rest of your life. As we continue to advance on our journey the adrenaline begins to abate and gives way to other feel­ings altogether: a sense of freedom and power fill my spirit as I thunder along the famous death road.

In less than half an hour we have passed from an icy temperature of about zero degrees, to a sweaty tra­jectory on which we pant eagerly for the next stop: our opportunity to rip off another stuffy item of clothing and feel briefly cooled. It’s so satisfying, and makes me proud to be in Bolivia, a country of so many natural wonders and dizzying landscapes. And back to pedalling, I tell myself: the road forces me to focus as we approach a small uphill slope, and I strain, sweat­ing more heavily. No distractions are permitted on this arresting adventure.

Stay tuned for the next stop at Senda Verde.

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