Day 454-459 / Copacabana – La Paz – Oruro, Bolivia / 200 miles (Total 11,525)
Our plan today was to take a bus into La Paz to avoid some crazy traffic. I think everyone was grateful that we did at the end of the day. La Paz has one million people strong, and I have heard enough horror stories about bikers loosing their cool trying to pedal into the large city. I only have 30 days to get in and out of Bolivia (that’s the most they give people from the states), so there will be some buses and hitching involved for the next few weeks. For the last 15 months I never thought about the end coming. Now, the deadline is staring me in the face. I need to start planning out routes, how long they will take, and try to swallow the thought of the last days are coming fast. I’ll be honest, its hard to grasp right now.
We bought our bus tickets for 25 Boliviano’s (7 Bolivianos to one US dollar) and made our way to the bus. I jumped in right away to make sure the bikes were loaded carefully and not just forced in. Usually the bus company’s have no respect here and do whatever they can to get it done fast. All loaded up and on our way to La Paz.
It took about 4 hours to get into the El Alto (sister city to La Paz), and things got hectic real fast. Vehicles and pollution filled every inch of the streets. Seriously, it was a mess and we were happy not pedaling through the chaos. We finally get a glance at La Paz, and the city is massive with buildings and houses over flowing out of the crater. We made it to the bus station and started to unload the bikes, and of course the rain showers started up. We had no clue where the Casa del Ciclista was, so checked out the address at a internet shop. We found the house on the net and I plugged the address into my phones map. Things got very stressful then. With the rain coming down and some of the worst traffic on the trip, we slowly made our way to the house. Every road we tried was bumper to bumber and we were biking against the grain of traffic. We jumped on the sidewalk and I tried to have a little fun. Slick roads and drifting kept me entertained for a while, till I drifted a bit to far and wiped out on the sidewalk. Laughs all around and I was up in a second. I don’t think I’ll ever learn to ride normal.
We found the casa del ciclista, and Christian welcomed us all into his house. Since Christian opened his house to bike tourist, over 1,000 bikers from around the world have passed through. We came inside and the house is packed with other cyclist. Christian gives us a run down on how the house works and shows us to our sleeping quarters. Not much room or privacy, but its a free place to stay with a kitchen, bathroom, internet and great people. It’s really amazing what Christian does for bikers like us. We get settled in and there is never a silent moment with 12 people sitting around with the same passion. Six of us decide to bike the Road of Death tomorrow, so we make plans and I headed to bed early.
Around 7 am, we pack our bikes on top of the van and made our way to the Death Road. No panniers for this ride and traveling light felt great. The driver will bring us to the summit, follow us down, and bring us back into La Paz. Not bad for $18.00 each. We start the descent at 15,400 ft and the first 18 miles is a fun, fast, paved ride down. Immediately the views start off with a bang and we are all laughing at the thought of 45 miles of downhill fun. The road eventually turns into a dirt road with a smooth ride and the road starts looking like its name. Hairpin corners and some of the steepest drop offs I have seen. There would be no surviving a fall on this road.
A small rain shower came through, only making the road seem more dramatic. I pass some areas on the road that had me saying “what the s%$^”! So amazing, so beautiful, and so breathtaking. Just try and not look down. For the next 5 hours, we blasted down the hill and enjoyed one of the worlds most dangerous roads.
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