I am officially a survivor of Death Road.
Right now I am feeling a little worse for wear. I’ve been feeling nauseous all day (someone else in the group was in bed sick all day so must be a bug), I have a headache, my muscles are already starting to ache and I am exhausted BUT I made it!!!
Another early start to the day to sit in traffic for ages. Apparently in Bolivia it is fairly traditional to take a 3 day hike over the Easter weekend, so every man and his dog (literally) was heading up into the mountains.
When we finally got to 5,000m above sea level, we were kitted up, given our bikes and some breakfast which I didn’t partake in and before long set off on the ‘warm up’ ride. One hour and a half downhill on a tarmac road with cars practically licking you as they went past.
The views were spectacular. They could bring tears to your eyes and beat any postcard out there. We stopped for a photo opportunity on the way down and that was the only thing that ruined the view…..By the edge we were standing at for a picture, there were car and van skeletons below….eep!
Before long our practice ride was over and we were loaded back into the van to drive to the start of Death Road! The nerves started to kick in then. What with altitude and sickness I was considering chickening out.
Rekitted up and on my lucky number 5 bike we started…When on a bicycle on the Death Road, you have to ride to the left hand side to allow cars to pass, the left side happens to be cliff side, so although a brilliant view of the mountains and waterfalls, you also get a beautiful view of how close to the sheer edges you are!
Now I have NEVER done mountain biking before so after the smooth tarmac roads it was a bit of a painful shock to the system. My bones felt well and truly rattled and my hands felt like they were under some kind of rack torture. As you descended (95% of the route was downhill so you gained some real speed), it got warmer so you had to stop to start taking off layers. After one such stop, my lucky number 5 bike became not so lucky and got a puncture!!!! How could it betray me like that?! Luckily we were on a wider part of the road so I was at no risk of being thrown over the side.
Having being let down by number 5, I hopped onto number 19…One of the guides bike. I’m no expert, but I swear this was setup to go faster!!!! I went from second to last position in the group to second or third! The speed helped me feel less sick atleast as I was having to concentrate so hard.
At the half way point we stopped by some waterfalls for a snack, it was surreal to think where I was and what I doing. The stark contrast to this was the pain in my body (particularly my behind!).
One anti-sickness pill later (hoorah!) we set off again to go through the waterfalls! Hearing this I was super excited, well, until we got close to the waterfalls and I saw that the road underneath them was slippery and even narrower where the edges had fallen away….With Herculean bravery (it felt like it to me!) and a battle cry which may have been more like a terrified shriek, I pedalled through like my life depended on it – I guess it kind of did?!
So I was totally celebrating my victory with the waterfall, naturally I stopped concentrating and on the corner my bike decided the tyres were too wet and the stones should indeed be slippery. If I ever tested my luck in my life, that moment was it. I rode slower after that!!!!
Cliff edges, cars, waterfalls, rivers and rock slides later (I had a panic at the rock slide and put my bad foot down – it’s like I never learn?!) we were at our last pit stop. The home stretch. I felt exhausted, there wasn’t a single bit on my body that didn’t ache, I was hotter than hell itself and I knew the next bit of the track was 50% uphill – eww! My stubborn side was determined to do this. I had cycled 3 and half hours from the very beginning….This last half an hour would not beat me!!!!
Resolutely climbing back on to my steed I began the uphill climb, ignoring the pain everywhere. At the top of the hill I took a deep breath of victory and began my speedy decent to 1,200m. I went through one more very muddy stream and pulled up at the finish point. I felt like a hero. Exhausted, but a hero!
We were presented our survivor shirts which we wore with pride and then we were taken to a local hostel to shower and chill out in their pool. 2 hours later we piled back into the van for our 3 hour journey back to our hotel. I was practically zombified by this point. I fell into bed like I’d never seen one before – yay for sleep!