South America – Adventuring in Bolivia, Part 1 – Death Road

Two of the most popular “adventure things” to do in Bolivia include the Death Road biking tour and a tour of the Uyuni salt flats. And well, since the main theme of my trip is adventure, I naturally chose to do both.

Biking the World’s Deadliest Road 

When I first got to La Paz, I had an altitude headache for two days, so I kept things pretty chill. The Adventure Brew Hostel I stayed at was a great place to do this, with ping-pong and pool tables, as well as a sweet music playlist. (Tip: if you stay here, try the B&B. It’s a bit cleaner, quieter, and just slightly nicer. The B&B and Hostel are about a 1 minute walk from each other and share activities. You also get a free beer every day at both!).

While it was nice not to have a schedule for a couple days, I finally got myself organized on a Death Road tour. You hear a lot about different companies and their reputations, so I chose to go with Gravity Assisted Tours based on its 10+ year safety record and its reputation in the community.  (If you’re curious, the next safest and slightly cheaper option is Barricuda).

About choosing a death road company, Safety Sonia says: Let’s put it this way – a German guy I met told me his company hadn’t had any accidents in one year. Gravity had brand new Kona mountain bikes (also very popular in Canada) and no fatalities. You choose.

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 I would describe the Death Road tour as borderline spiritual. You get so much time to just enjoy the scenery while the wind is blowing past you that you’re not so worried about the cliff next to you. The road is almost exclusively bikers, so you don’t have to worry too much about cars either. I thought of my Dad a lot on this tour, but also just felt really present in the experience.

 

Touch your lips to some pure ethanol to honour Pachamama before your Death Road tour ...

Touch your lips to some pure ethanol to honour Pachamama before your Death Road tour …

It's disgusting. Honour Mother Earth though!

… it’s disgusting. Important to honour Mother Earth though!

Death Road highlights:

  • Get-to-know you games. First question, at 7am, from our guide was “What’s your most embarrassing story?”. Turns out a lot of people have pooped their pants? Not me. I called a 13 year old boy Anus once, that was pretty embarrassing.
  • Going really, really fast.
  • Stopping about every 4-8km to regroup and take photos. Our guide would prepare us for the next section at every stop, warning us of dangerous corners or things to watch out for. It made for a really relaxed and safe experience.
  • Channeling your inner mountain biker. If you went too slow, you lost control. If you went too fast, you lost control. A few fell off their bikes because of this, but rebounded and still had a great time.
  • Descending into the jungle. Half way down we stripped off our layers and left them on the little bus (which followed us the entire way, so if anyone felt unsafe they could definitely stop their ride at any time). Now at below 3,000m I was riding through waterfalls, over rocks, and through rivers.
  • Ending our day with zipling. And a beer. At a nature reserve, which included monkeys and parrots. No big deal.

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I loved this activity. A must-do in Bolivia, you’ll enjoy the almost spiritual experience of racing down a renowned path from the Andes to the Jungle. And I doubt you’ll die, unless you get distracted by a butterfly and accidentally go off the side of the road … like some Japanese tourist did a few years back …

Part 2 – Uyuni Salt Flats is up next!

 

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