I was in Bolivia a few years ago and staying in the capital La Paz. I had heard there was some good mountain biking and arranged a tour on a route which is known by two popular titles. "The worlds most dangerous road" and "The death road" Neither of these names really inspire, but neither do they do this road justice. I had met people who had ridden it so was not going to be put off.
This biking tour is not for the faint hearted. It begins in the freezing mountain tops around La Paz and ends deep in the hot green valleys 3500 meters below. It was a while ago so some of my numbers might be a little out but I think it was about 65 kms and only about 4 kms was up a gentle slope. The rest of the ride is all down hill. It is just as well as it is very hard to peddle at those altitudes.
The first 10-15 kms is on a smooth winding highway and you can even overtake some of the slow moving trucks which litter the road. After that you turn off onto the real test. The death road is one lane wide and surfaced with dirt, gravel and large rocks. On the right are huge cliffs towering above and to the left sheer vertical drops of up to 500 meters. It can be foggy and it constantly twists and turns around sharp blind bends. If all this was not enough the real problem is the traffic. The road is used as a toll free highway by many trucks and buses in both directions. You need to stay alert at all times.
The people who make it possible are the locals who sit all day on the most dangerous bends with a sheets of red and green material. They operate a manual traffic light system and undoubtedly save hundreds of lives each year. They work merely for tips, and the system was started by a man who lost his family on one of those corners. There are still many casualties. The bus ride back up the road is probably more terrifying and dangerous than the ride itself.
It is a tough ride and not to be underestimated, but you can take it as fast or slow as you like and well worth the rewards if you can make it. The scenery is breath taking but you will have very sore forearms at the end.