I Survived the Death Road/El Camino de la Muerte

As timing worked out perfectly I took this opportunity to book the Death Road/El Camino de la Muerte bike ride on my birthday. I thought it was perfect. I would either die at 36 or live to enjoy another 36 years.

I was little nervous getting fitted for my motorcycle helmet, but at least they didn’t think we needed knee and shin armor like my other bike ride. Plus the fact that a week early a female tourist did fall 200 meters to her death. Nonetheless I took the plunge.

Honestly, it is not as bad. In the past this road was way more treacherous as this was the only road for cars and bikers. Now a new paved road has been built. So the only thing to worry about was other riders and their security vans, and maybe 2-3 local cars.

It was a beautiful ride starting in the cold mist of the Cordillera Real mountains, and ending in the warm, lush jungles of Yungas. Along the way you see great vegetation, fabulous vistas, ride over mountain streams and under waterfalls, and welcome way to cool off in the jungle. You also see a lot of workers. Men in orange overalls securing the mountain and women in bright yellow brimmed hats and jackets pruning the mountain. I get the feeling as I pass they just wonder “what are these tourists doing?’.

Starting on a paved road where you can really get some speed. Tears flowing from my eyes. After reaching the narcotics testing police outposts we pay bs/15 to get on the actual Death Road. At which point the rest of the ride is on gravel road. That is wide enough so if you skidded, which I did on one occassion, you have enough time to recover before you fly over the cliff. Or so you hope.

As you get lower into the jungle vines hang down from the cliffside and bugs pin off my helmet, while butterflies flutter in front of my face. Dangerous obstructing my vision momentarily as I move into the switchbacks of death. It is here where you see the most crosses and flowers and even a modern tombstone.

These are good reminders to use your breaks. Fortunately, the most trouble we had was 5 blow tires, 3 of which happened to our guide Hector.

Overall a great ride and only as dangerous as you make. For me the most dangerous part of the day was my birthday celebration later that night. After teaching my new friends how to really drink a tequila shot and stuffing my fist in my mouth you can only imagine where the evening went. I’m happy I survived the ride to take another.

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