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We wanted to celebrate our 10 year anniversary with a holiday we'd never forget - we reckon 6 months of travelling the world (from trekking on the Inca Trail and through the Amazon to riding an elephant in Thailand) should just about cover it!

Monday, 3 November 2008

The World´s Most Dangerous Road

Mike and Liam were chatting about an excursion they had heard about, whereby you can hire mountain bikes and cycle 40 miles down steep gravel paths on what is statistically the most dangerous road in the world.
"Why on earth would anyone want to do that!!" I exclaimed, little knowing that 24hrs later I would be one of those mentallists.
I relied on the fact that Lynsey wasn´t up for it to save me from having to partake in the aforementioned crazy capers, but unfortunately my plan collapsed when Lynsey did an about-turn and said she wanted to do the bike ride.
Shaking, I went with the others to the office of Gravity (the bike company) to book my one-way ticket to a certain death. Once there, they assured us that their bikes were top quality and that they only had one hospitalisation per week, and one fatality since the company started ten years ago.
Obviously I homed in on the fatality and started asking questions, but they just shrugged and said that as there were over 100 fatalities per year, or one every 3 days,on this road (from La Paz to Caroica) that their record was the best. Put like that, I guess they were right, so with trembling hands I signed my life away.They even got me to sign an extra disclaimer (which noone else had to sign) as I was classed as a Nervous Beginner. Cheek! OK, so I hadn´t ridden a bike since primary school, but I wouldn´t exactly say the others were Tour De France standard either.
The rest of the day passed in a haze, as I cacked my pants in anticiption of the following day´s bike ride.
The next morning I woke with a start at 5.20am when the shrill tones of the alarm rang out like a death knell in the dark.
Struggling into our hiking gear, we peered out of the window at the driving rain, mist and fog - "excellent conditions for a downhill bike ride on a cliff face", I said moodily to Liam, whose fault it would´ve been if I´d been the next fatality, naturally.
We knocked for Mike and Lynsey and set off to meet the other mugs who´d agreed to the challenge.
Arriving in a minibus at the startpoint, our guide, a Scott called Matt, showed us how to operate our bikes. I took mine for a wobbly run around the flat area of gravel at the top of the mountain, cursing under my breath as it skidded on the rocks underfoot when I applied my brakes too quickly.
After a short safety speech we were off. We had been told to stand up on the bikes and lean over the front wheel(roughrider position it is called) to avoid being bumped around so much, lift our right foot if rounding a bend to the right and vice versa for left.
The altitude took our breath away, it was torrential rain, and my contact lens popped out on my cheek due to the high winds. Matt called it "extreme biking" due to the conditions, which terrified me even more.
I almost burst into tears when, after about an hour of biking on tarmac down sharp winding bends, Matt announced that we were now ready to START the ride down the World´s Most Dangerous Road. "What the hell was that then?", I cried. "Oh, that´s just the warm-up," he replied with a hint of a smile on his face.
Little did I know that it was about to get MUCH worse - the WMDR(worlds most dangerous road) is 40 miles of gravel, which when combined with rain turns to marbles, sending your bike, car, whatever, careering around just inches from a sheer1000m drop.
We were told to stick to ther left-hand tyre track indentation (the side closest to the drop might I add) on the narrow path to avoid falling off. Matt recounted tales of accidents people had had when failing to follow this advice - just a week before an Irish girl had gone flying over the edge when she left the track by mistake. Luckily she got caught in a bush just several metres down, otherwise she would have died for sure.
These stories, combined with the weather conditions, made my knuckles go white as I clung to the bike for dear life, applying the brakes at every bend and screaming my head off. Liam had agreed to follow me the whole way, shouting advice, such as when to start leaning in for an upcoming bend etc. Very sweet, you might think, but it was his big idea to subject me to this in the first place!
After a few hours, disaster struck!! I lifted my right leg too slowly for a bend and it hit the floor, sending me crashing down onto the rocks. Luckily I escaped with only a few cuts and bruises. In fact, there were only 3 girls out of our team of 13 and we all fell off. Actually, a few of the guys took a tumble too.
It´s hard to explain just how scary it was (check out Gravitybolivia.com if you don´t believe me), yet when we had finished the ride in one piece (just about) , we all felt really proud of ourselves and I even grudgingly admitted to being pleased that I´d done it. Hell, I even bought the DVD of our day, for all your viewing pleasure when we return. (laugh and I´ll have to kill you).
We showered as we were covered in mud, had lunch, and were taken back to our hostels by minibus back up the WMDR to the top, which was arguably more scary than the ride itself, as we teetered over the edge with Matt pointing out wreckages along the way, along with shrines and crosses for those that had died, that we had whizzed past minutes before.
The driver stopped to throw scraps to several sad-looking dogs that we passed wandering the highway, as these are said to be the lost souls of those poor people who have lost their lives on this most dangerous road...


Kirsten said...

I'm so proud of you.

ClareBear said...

WOW!!! just been online and watch a video of the crazy bike ride you did! madness, welldone to you both! I look forward to have you both home safe!! xxx

emma said...

you brave, brave, brave people!