Mountain biking the death road with a deadly hangover

After a week in San Pedro de Atacama I needed to start making my way back to La Paz in order to have ample time to spend in Rurrenabaque. Because, let’s face it. Bolivia’s Amazon was partly why I decided to venture out to this country in the first place.

To get to the Bolivian capital from San Pedro you can either take buses via Calama, bus via Uyuni (though this would include the actual tour of Salar de Uyuni which I had already done. Rules that out). Or buses the entire way via Calama. Naturally, I chose the latter option as it was the considerably cheaper one. I was warned plenty of times about Calama. Yes, pickpocketing at the bus station happens frequently, which made me choose an earlier bus ride. At the station I was even warned about keeping an eye on my bags when buying water. I managed to get out unharmed though.Maybe because I was good at keeping an eye out for my things. Maybe because I’m twice the size of the average person there. Maybe because I smelled.

I was thrilled to learn I didn’t have to stay the night in Calama. I was able to catch the last night bus to La Paz (there is only one company that operates this route) and after purchasing some waaaay overpriced snacks I am on my way on what was supposed to be a 14-hour bus ride. That was false. Along with a three-hour stop at the border the entire trip took 18 hours. Not the same. Patience really is your best friend when traveling in South America. Your very very best friend. On that note, when getting to Oruro, thankfully I randomly asked another passenger how long we had left to get to La Paz whereby they rushed me to a different bus. Phenomenal. I wasn’t even told there was a change….

Once I arrived in La Paz I immediately went to Sagarnagá  to book the death tour for next day. The agency I went with was called No Fear Adventures That evening I had wine with a side of dinner and danced to 90’s anthems until the wee hours of the night with some friends I had met previously in La Paz. Fearful to see our supply was shrinking, we rush to the nearest liquor store for the third wine run, handed in a $100-bill to pay for the wine (we were out of Bolivianos) and even managed to get ourselves locked out of the apartment.

Needless to say, the next morning I was not feeling 100%. Getting to the tour company, I slept the entire ride to the top of the Death Road. We were given all equipment and snacks and only asked to bring some water. In my no-so-sober state I remember soaring through valleys with a tense grip on the bike, trying not to look down at the 789687694853042 meter (ball park) drop below me and trying not to let the occasional cross marking different sites of accidents bother me. That wasn’t easy.

Gear is on! Looks a bit like I have a beard here.. but that’s OK!
Biking well over the clouds
… with pretty hefty drops

The best part is when you get closer to the tropics of Coroico. After biking through the misty clouds (that’s right- you’re that high up) passing through different warmer pueblitos feels oh-so rewarding. The tour ends at a hostel where we were fed a magnificent buffet which, to my delight, had plentiful of vegetarian options. 

Getting into Coroico

The car ride back from Coroico to La Paz takes about three hours. I was challenged in my ability to sleep through the bumpy ride. Which, of course, I did successfully and in stride.

“Cool story, bro. But how much did it cost?”

Death road trip: 400 Bs

Lodging: nada

Food: nada

Total: 400 Bs


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