We left Copacabana by bus and were onto our next destination…La Paz. The ride was uneventful except when we had to hop off so the bus could be loaded onto a dilapidated barge to cross Lake Titicaca.Once in La Paz (elevation 11,975 feet), we checked into Adventure Brew Bed & Breakfast which has its own microbrewery, includes free beer each night and all you can eat pancakes for breakfast – a win-win-win.
We spent the next few days running errands and exploring town. Chris got a great haircut for $4 which included a straight razor to the neck and a spray of whiskey as aftershave.We took a quick stroll through the Witches Market where you can buy love potions, ingredients for home remedies and llama fetuses in various sizes – what lovely tourist souvenirs!Next on our agenda was to mountain bike down Yungas Road, more commonly referred to as Death Road. In 1995, it was christened “the world’s most dangerous road” because at one time, an estimated 200-300 travelers died each year on the steep, narrow single-lane road.
A new road has been built as the main transit route, but the old road remains popular for biking and is still quite dangerous. Just three months ago, a truck toppled over the edge and killed an entire family. Eight months ago, a Japanese tourist died biking the road due to faulty equipment. Because of this, it’s important to choose your tour operator carefully. Several travelers recommended Vertigo Biking to us so we decided to give them a go.
We were picked up in the morning and suited from head to toe with safety equipment before our ascent down.The road has a 5% downhill grade for 40 miles. It begins with a paved stretch of road where you can catch beautiful mountain views as you dodge oncoming trucks and cars.The paved road quickly turns into gravel and lacks guard rails.The road is no wider than 3.2 meters with sharp turns, slick conditions, and possible landslides – this is when the adrenaline really starts to kick in. In some sections, the road was extremely foggy, making it hard to see over the edge and the road in front of you. After a few miles, the clouds burned away and we were able to see the steep drops down the mountainside.Chris and a fellow Irish lad had a hell of a time scaring themselves as they bombed down the rocky road as fast as they could without killing themselves…literally.Our tour company included a free t-shirt and cd of photos and videos from our ride. The guides were professional and took the time to inspect our bikes at each check point. If you bike Death Road, go with Vertigo! Many thanks to the Schlismann’s for the Death Road honeyfund. It was arguably one of our favorite things we’ve done on our trip so far!
La Paz is an epicenter for adventurous activities including multi-day treks to nearby peaks, abseiling from buildings, paragliding, ziplining, etc. If time had permitted, we would have partaken in more activities, especially going to see the wrestling Cholitas (wrestling grandmothers dressed in the local garb). With all the options available, we were forced to pick and choose just a few things to do so we’re off to the jungle for the next few days!