Travel Story 

Cycling The World’s Most Dangerous Road

No, it doesn’t connect Whistler with West Vancouver

There is a tour based out of La Paz, Bolivia that every traveller in South America will tell you about. It is a 63 km bike ride down what is dubbed by locals, The World’s Most Dangerous Road. This distinction is based on the fact that on average 100 people die each year as they travel to the next town.

I have been on some pretty scary roads around the world, but in all cases as I peered out the window to the steep edges I had to completely trust the driver. This was different. I was on a mountain bike. No windows to look out, just a shoulder to look over.

We left La Paz in the sun, but by the time we got out of the van it was cooler, cloudy and the thought of rain was not far from our minds. This was punctuated by the bike gloves that were given to us as part of the equipment; they were soaked from the last day’s tour.

Over some breakfast of fried pancakes and blueberry, cinnamon, and clove tea the guides explained a little about the road and what we should be expecting in the coming 63 km. They broke the tour into three different stages. The first was paved. The second, and the first part of The World’s Most Dangerous Road, was wet and muddy. The final section was dry and dusty, with a marked increase in temperature.

Warmer and dryer sounded good as we stood in the cold windy morning close to 5,000 metres above sea level. But that was at least four hours away and lots could happen between then and now.

At that elevation the wet gloves only made my hands freeze and I had to strain to grasp the brakes around the hairpin turns, so I opted to go barehanded and take my chances. As we settled into a rhythm we hit a little gravel patch in the road that flattened our guide’s front tire and sent him cartwheeling along the pavement. His cracked helmet saved his head and his clothes saved his limbs. But unfortunately he too had thought the gloves too wet to be of use; his bare hands suffered serious lacerations and the nail on his right index finger was ripped off. However, he maintained that the only thing injured was his pride.

I decided to re-evaluate the trade off of wet gloves/cold hands vs. a highway manicure and bruised pride. When we got rolling again I was wearing gloves.

It took about 10 minutes to regain our confidence and settle into a comfortable speed, breaking the group of eight into one group of three at the front and five a little further behind.

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