I was really looking forward to La Paz, but it turned out to be a bit of a downer. Sherri had a bag stolen the night we arrived which put a big dampener on things, the traffic was horrible and there were student protests the whole time we were there. We did find a cool Cuban bar to hang out in a bit, and finally ate some decent food too, so all was not lost.
But bound for the famous “Route de la Morte” (Road of Death http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yungas_Road ) we headed out after just one down day in the city. The Road of Death starts about 50km from La Paz and then continues for another 60km, read the wiki page if you want to know about it, riding it was fun, not overly difficult or scary though, unlike the road that Barton and I tried to use to avoid the 50km highway to get there…
“hey there’s a track on the map that meets the main road about where the road of death starts, do you wanna try it?”
half an hour later we are at about 4900m of elevation on a 2m wide rock ledge, with some tricky rocky sections, a sheer cliff face on one side and about a 50 or 100m vertical drop on the other side. I don’t usually get vertigo, and not much scares me, but this is really pushing the envelope.
To make matters worse Betsy can barely breathe, which is not so bad for now as we’re going down hill, but sooner or later it will go back up, and i know Betsy isnt going to like it. The smaller main jets i bought back in Chile turned out to be the same size as the originals (no thanks to the guys in the workshop there!), so she isn’t enjoying this altitude.
But the view is like nothing else on earth, with clouds swirling across the mountain, the hues of brown and black shale, and the little goat track many km’s off in the distance running along a river motivate us to keep trying.
Another bit of rock, another death defying manouver to keep the bike quite literally on the straight and narrow, my heart is racing, and i’m gasping for breath in the thin air up there…
“hey barton, i dont much like this… one little mistake and i’m going to lose the bike here!” i yell through the helmet, leaving out that i’d also lose my life!
barton looks at me and then the little track off in the distance…
“sorry buddy but i dont think i’m up for this today, betsy is barely running and if we need to go uphill at some stage it’s going to be impossible…”
barton on the little fuel injected 570 is having an easier time of things, and along wtih his mountaineering experience is more used to the altitude and exposure, and i don’t think he realises how badly betsy is running until i try to turn around and ride back up.
On the smallest rocky sections she just wont go, so barton has to get off, i have to get off, and we both push her back up the incline. then again. and then again.
There and then, gasping for air and bitterly disappointed to turn around i resolve to buy a smaller bike for my next trip, no more than 120kg’s, soft luggage and fuel injection. Betsy is the perfect bike for 99% of the riding we do, but that last 1% that just isnt possible on a heavy bike, or maybe it’s possible, but not with me riding it.
Still the view to that point had been magical, and the effort was worth it just for that. The mountians here really are a riders paradise.
We hot foot it back along the main road to the start of the Death Road, where we find Sherri waiting patiently, and we eat some food from a little road side stall before leaving. The Road of Death turns out to be a really easy ride, beautiful but easy compared to the morning we have had, it descends about 3500m along a 65km route, so by the time we reach the end it’s less than 1000m for the first time in weeks, the bike runs properly again and it’s WARM!!!
Eventually we spend the night in a little town called Coroioco, it’s warm, the room is $7 each, we eat mexican for dinner, and we’re happy.