La Paz and Death Road

Posted: January 22, 2012 in Bolivia

Before heading over to Uyuni, I spent a few days in La Paz, one of the 2 capitals of Bolivia. La Paz is located in the mountains and well above the sea level at an altitude ranging between 3000 and 4000m. It’s that highest national capital in the world. It’s also not what I was expecting of the capital of the poorest country in South America. The city is not that dangerous and over all it’s pretty clean. It features like most of America many colonial buildings and has a bit of a European feel to it because of the architecture. Traffic is insane and really loud. La Paz offers many churches, markets and modern stores down in the center. There is a witch market but it doesn’t compare to Iquitos, Peru. There are a lot of museums as well, but one really unique is the Coca museum. The Coca plant can only be legally grown in Bolivia up to this day and has an incredible history. I will at some point dedicate a whole post to this plant that most people know so little about, but drink in their Coca Cola up to this day.

La Paz seen from above.

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On the week-end that I was there, it turned out that is was a special holiday called “Dia de los peatones”. What that means, and I had no idea either till I went outside to see it with my own eyes, is that motorized vehicles are not allowed on the downtown streets. It’s an intense feeling as the day before there was so much traffic that it took me an hour to get from one side of down town to the other.

Photo showing people walking the streets. Absolutely no vehicles were allowed, and that included taxis, busses…

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Bands were playing in the middle of the road

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Close to La Paz is also located the well known “Death Road“. Inside La Paz, you will find many tour operators offering down hill mountain biking for this road that has killed many, many people in the past. Finding a good and cheap tour operator is no easy task. Prices range between about 50$ and 100$ for the day ride with lunch at the end. Bicycle quality also ranges dramatically. I took the cheapest operator with front suspension only and hydraulic brakes. The thing is that a single suspension bike is lighter and will go faster than a full suspension so I saved money and got a faster bike.

The death road is nice and it’s probably one of the longest downhill fast trails in the world. It’s name on the other hand doesn’t do it justice anymore as all the traffic that once was dangerous takes today a different road, therefore all you will see on the “Death Road” will be bicycles going downhill. I raced the guide all the way down and the only problem I had on the way was a blown tube from jumping a rock at high speed. I also wish I could have gone faster, but the incline is not that steep. At the end he looked at me and asked how many times I had done the road before… 😀 Either way, the road is a tourist trail blown out of proportion as I would rate it a 3 in a danger scale of 1 to 10.

The views were at least nice…

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Our bikes

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The road is there on the right

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And the bike I used. Well, for about half way, as I blew the tube and the one they replaced it with blew up right away too, so I got a red bike after wards that had almost no more fluid left in the front suspension.

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  1. Vigilante says:

    There is a TV show about some people that go drive large trucks up the Death Road, It looks like such a beautiful place, but I would not want to drive a large truck there. Why did you rent a bike and not ride your KLR?

    • pimptrix says:

      Yeh, that show is pure BS unless it was filmed a few years ago when the 2nd road didn’t exist. Today, there are no more big trucks going on that road. It’s mainly a downhill MT bike trail. You even have to pay an entrance fee.

      I didn’t take the KLR cause it’s a big heavy bike and going downhill is no fun. As for going uphill, you’d have to watch out for all the dozens of mt bikes coming at you all the time so you couldn’t really haul ass or have fun going uphill either.

      With the MT bike it was fun cause I was hauling ass and I’d probably do it again if it were close to my house but the road is not what it used to be. I would have loved to do it back in the day when it had all the traffic.

      Oh, and the road is actually pretty wide in most part. There are only a few corners that are narrow, and if you look on TV or on the internet, they always show the same corners. It’s literally just a gravel dirt road. The roads through the mountains in Peru were more interesting and way more dangerous in some places.

      • Great Blog man. Will have to look at it for advice. Doing a trip of my own SF to Brazil, on a KLR.

      • pimptrix says:

        Thanks Robert! I just checked out your blog too and it looks sweet! I see that you’re in Guatemala! Check out my “How to camp in Tikal 101” if you’re gonna go up there. You might also find one of my buddies Quin on a Honda 650 along the way as I believe he’s around there too. Quick question, how did you add the SPOT widget into WordPress?


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