Death Road Bolivia - Worth The Risk?
by Wanderlust on October 11, 2011
As I hurtled down the path at a speed far higher than I'd have liked to be going, my leader's words were echoing in my mind. "Go at your own pace. This is not a race." This felt a lot like a race. It was all very well telling me to go at my own pace but when the rest of your group, guide at the front, are peddling like there's no tomorrow, you really don't want to get left behind.
I'm told that the cliffs on which I was cycling plunged as far as 900m. I wouldn't know. My eyes were absolutely fixed on the ground in front of me, very much aware that the tiniest stone could send my tyres skidding off the edge, and that the blind corners didn't leave a lot of time to gauge at what speed you should be cycling.
And then it happened. I braked at a corner, constantly aware of the team members behind me who were travelling at reckless speeds, willing me to go faster. My slowing tyres caught a rock and the friction send me flying towards the ground. I landed half a metre from the edge, the girl behind me braking furiously to stop herself following suit.
I lived through it. Just.
Cycling Death Road was, in hindsight, one of the most exciting things I have done in my life but it was undeniably also one of the scariest and one of the only times where I have found myself thinking, "There's a chance that I could die today." When you finally reach the finish line, you are given the opportunity to listen to a talk given by your leader which details the true dangers of what you have just taken on. At the time of my cycle, a man had died the week previously when he hurtled off the edge at a corner and suffered a punctured lung. Just one month before, a Chinese girl had died when she took her mind off the track for one second to wipe condensation from her glasses. They call it Death Road for a reason.
So, should you do it? You need to be brave. You need to be able to concentrate and assess the risks of every corner and every path. You need to be willing to accept the fact that the dangers are NOT just a selling point for tourists. They really exist. You need to be willing to pay a little extra to go with a reputable company who follow safety standards. Our guide told us that of the 50 or so companies who take tourists on Death Road, only around 6 are legally registered to do so. You need to let go of any ounce of competitive spirit - the road will win.
Most importantly: You need to not tell your parents until you've made it out of the other side!