La Paz & Ruta de la Muerte, Bolivia

The trip from Vallegrande to La Paz turned out to be much longer than expected (22h instead of 18h) because there was a massive parade in La Paz and also in other cities on the way (beginning of the University year). So when we arrived the parade was already well on it’s way (it had started at 9am and would continue until 9pm) and the bus couldn’t enter. Therefore we had to fight our way through the thousands of people to find our hostal. There we met up once again with Phillip, Cate, Laura and Tiina.

After 10 minutes in the parade Gab got robbed, her backpack was opend from behind and two guys ran away with her phone (luckly she swopped her new phone for an old iPhone so the loss wasn’t too bad). Well I guess a robbery is part of it if you want the full Bolivian experience…

The day after we got picked up at 8am from our hostal and drove up to “La Cumbre”, where we got our bikes and the safety equipment (full-head helmet, gloves, elbow and knee protectors as well as a jacket and pants).

The first part of the way down from 4800m to 1200m of altitude we took the new road (below) which connects La Paz Caranavi. This is an incredible piece of road and a nice downhill roll in an amazing landscape.

After about 20km on that road we had a little break and snacks. The bikes were put back up on the two  support vans (which stayed with us for the entire way down) for a little 8km uphill drive until we reached the entry point of the original Ruta de la Muerte which lay covered in clouds. The clouds soon left and we biked down this incredible road, always with a sheer drop up to 600m on our left side.

This is the only road in Bolivia where cars drive on the left side. This is due to the fact that the road is so narrow and has a massive drop on one side. So if the car which go uphill would drive on the right side (side of the drop) the driver couldn’t see the edge of the road well. Therefore, the cars driving down will drive on the side of the cliff (left side for them) and the driver can see the edge well because he also sits on the left side in the car.

A new, better and bigger road has opened in 2007 but still is not fully covered in tarmac. That is why the original Rute de la muerte is now mainly frequented by cyclists and motorbikers.

After 63km of downhill and an overall time of 5 hours we arrived at the bottom of the valley 3500m lower from where we had started out. From there we got back in the vans and went to a nearby hotel for showers and some lunch. For the way back we drove up the new road until La Paz which also took about 3h and was still quite dusty at times.

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