There are a handful of “famous” roads that most motorcyclists know about and/or dream of riding someday. The Death Road is nearly always fairly high on the list of most riders. Got to say, I’m not keen on the name, but I’m game for giving it a go. So on a Friday Brian and I are led through La Paz by Andrew on his Beemer and out the northeast corner of the city on the road to Yungas.
We ride paved highway for nearly half the ride out, through two narco checkpoints and then stop at a barrier and a group of tiendas where we are supposed to buy our tickets to ride the death road, along with all the bicyclists making the downhill ride. Brian and Andrew chat with some people making the same journey on bicycles today….and that sounds pretty cool too.
We head off for the turning onto the old Yungas Road which is the Death Road, just a few miles ahead.
Not far down the gravel road is the official beginning….and we get a chance to look across the valley at the incredibly beautiful view and road.
We take a couple of pics and then head out and onto the Death Road.
It’s just a as stunning as the photos I’ve seen.
There are waterfalls and vines and we find that descending the 9,000 from La Paz has led us to a tropical part of Bolivia in les than 40 miles…it’s incredible.
It’s strange to finally be here, on this legendary, dangerous road. Although Andrew is right, this isn’t really the Death Road anymore, it’s a watered-down tourist version of itself. Ever since the new highway was built on the other side of the valley this road has been relegated to the status of tourist attraction. And don’t get me wrong, it’s worth coming to see and to ride, but it’s a much tamer and quieter version of itself. There are guardrails now, and traffic is virtually non-existent. Traffic goes downhill in the morning, and uphill in the afternoons making it essentially a one-way road, and the volume is controlled. Gone are the days of buses hanging on cliff edges and trucks meeting each other on blind corners and having to reverse to accommodate each other. I’m not complaining, because now I can enjoy it in a relatively safe and quiet manner…and it’s incredible even if only for the view. I’m glad not to have to worry about inching my way around a truckload of cabbages or send up prayers as a bus nudges past me. I’m not proud, this is just my speed.
After miles and miles and lots of photo stops we finally reach the bottom security gate and a place to take a drink. It’s gotten hotter with the sun and the lower altitude. We ride down to Yolosa and then head up the few miles of cobblestoned winding road to the top of the adjacent ridge and have lunch in Coroico. Then we make our way down the bull dust switchbacked road to the river below and cross over onto the new highway to make our way back to Friday afternoon rush hour in La Paz. It’s been an incredible day.
As we hit the city we all take different paths, Brian intentionally, but Andrew and I not so much. Brian heads off to pick up some insurance papers and Andrew and I are separated by the crazy traffic. So I find myself alone and without fuel as my bike runs out and dies on a side street. Thankfully reserve gets her sorted again, as I had worried it wasn’t lack of fuel but a lack of will to live that had made her give up. Betty hadn’t been running very well this afternoon on the way back into the city. I made my way back to camp and Brian sorted her out with an air filter cleaning the next day and that set her purring again. He said he had never seen one so dirty….well no wonder Betty wasn’t herself.