For adventure seekers only!
While touring La Paz and trying to figure out what fun things my friends and I could do, we stumbled upon a small tour shop (Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking) offering guided mountain bike tours down the World's Most Dangerous Road. The road was given this chilling name in 1995 because of the amount of casualties. The guides explained that nearly 200-300 travelers are killed yearly along the road. Sounds tempting, huh? So after a bit of hesitation, we decided to go for it.
The tour bus picked us up from La Paz (there were about 20 of us tourists on the bus) and drove us pretty high up to North Yungas Road. It was pretty chilly at the top of the road so wear layers! Once you make your way down, you'll start to strip off clothing as it gets hotter. I was really nervous at the beginning because I hadn't been on a bike in years- and had never been mountain biking...add to that on the most dangerous road in the world! The ride starts out easy though and everyone is told to ride one after another. You see, the road can get to as narrow as 10 feet wide in spots and it's 2-laned so you don't want to take up much space! This road is so dangerous that often, our guides told us, bus and truck drivers will drink to take the edge off (greeaat idea). We were advised to stay as close to the edge (the CLIFF edge) as possible- it's apparantely the safest route.
Gravel-lined, narrow roads with LOTS of blind corners and 1,000-foot drops to a rainforest below make this one of the most thrilling rides of your life. There are, of course, experienced bikers who will jet to the front and never touch their brakes, but I suggest staying in the middle. My hands gripped the brakes for the majority of the ride! I did have a close call when I tried to pass a truck full of Bolivians making their way to Coroico. You can't see around the trucks very well when you're on a bike so I went for it after the person in front of me had gone. Unfortunately, another bus was making its way toward me and I had to grip my brakes and use my feet to slow me down- I didn't fall, thank god. Another fun part of the trip is the oranges. Yes, oranges. Not sure if they were being "nice" or not, but sometimes when a truck full of locals passed, they'd throw oranges at us. My guide said they were being generous and felt bad for us, but I felt differently at the time! haha!
There are no guardrails on this road, no stop signs or lights, no lane markers...just breathtaking views of the rainforest and the highs from the terror and excitement that rush through you as you make your way down the 40-mile road to Coroico. You'll see Christian crosses marking many of the spots where vehicles have fallen and there are several traffic guides who are actually family members of people who have lost their lives at the corner they're standing at. There are a few uphills so you should be in fairly good shape. The guides make sure they're the first and last bikers though so you'll never be alone.
I took this trip 4 years ago, but I'm pretty sure they're still around (their website is still up). I do remember one girl falling in front of me. She skidded and scraped her leg from the gravel, but she got back up and kept biking. I think that was the only accident on our trip. The last part of the bike ride down the cliff takes you through a dusty road. Definitely don't wear your nice shorts. I was covered in dirt at the end. The guides take you to a bar to get the best tasting beer of your life (YOU MADE IT!)! They'll take plenty of quality pictures during the ride (at least 2 of you going around scary corners). They gave everyone a cd of all the pics.
Once you make it to Coroico, a small Bolivian town, the guides take you to a BEAUTIFUL resort in the rainforest- La Senda Verde Cabins. My friends and I opted to stay overnight and I'm glad we did. Hung out poolside and stared into the gorgeous scenery while getting to know our new best biking buds. We went out for a drink at a local bar and danced the night away.
The next day, we rode the bus back to La Paz. I have to say I felt safer on the bike...but we did take the advice of the locals and had a drink before we left. ;)