Death Road experience: biking the most dangerous road in the world

[us_message]Author’s Note: This article was originally published on 28 December 2014 and was republished to update some important information. The story, however, is written as it happened 4 years ago. Photos are not the best quality, too, as I only traveled Latin America with an iPhone4.[/us_message]

When you are signing for up for a Death Road biking activity, it doesn’t feel scary at all. Trying out those gears makes you think and believe, “this is pretty easy.” I’ve done a fair share of crazier things in my life. What’s there to lose?

We arrived at the meeting place and was surprised to belong to a very cool group. Everyone seemed to be enthusiastic about doing the tour. I was too… Not until we reached the starting point of the race (4,500+ above sea level.) We had to try our bikes to be comfortable in it for the whole day. I was really scared because I couldn’t breathe. We haven’t even started and I feel like I am going to back out.

Then I moved forward. Everyone looked excited and I didn’t want to say, “I’m going on the bus. Enjoy guys.”

We first rode the asphalt where we got to practice. It was mighty high and looking down is pretty scary. My breathing was normalized but my heart was still beating fast because of the trucks and buses that paved the way with us. I didn’t want to think of it but the song If I Die Young kept playing in my head.

If I die young, bury me in satin, lay me down on a bed of roses, sink me in the river at dawn, send me away with the words of a love song.

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I felt the wind on my face and avoided looking down. I tried looking back but when I felt that my bike was wiggling, I said, “Focus. Your friends can handle themselves. You have to watch out for yourself. Focus.” I was back in track but the trucks are still scaring me. I am to tiny to be run down by a huge truck and I know these people don’t really care because they also need to think of their safety.

I felt the wind on my face and avoided looking down. I tried looking back but when I felt that my bike was wiggling, I said, “Focus. Your friends can handle themselves. You have to watch out for yourself. Focus.” I was back in track but the trucks are still scaring me. I am to tiny to be run down by a huge truck and I know these people don’t really care because they also need to think of their safety.

Lord make me a rainbow, I’ll shine down on my mother. She’ll know I’m safe with you when she stands under my colors. Oh, and, life ain’t always what you think it ought to be, no. Ain’t even grey, but she buries her baby.

“Do not use the front break,” Helen, a friend from Belgium said. I was always in front of the line of the group but I was breaking a lot. I wonder why the guys ahead of me and I have a very long distance. Are they not breaking at all? This is a downhill path! These guys are crazy! Then I learned they only use the breaks before arriving the sharp curves.

And I’ll be wearing white when I come into your kingdom. As green as the ring on my little cold finger. I’ve never known the loving of a man. But it sure felt nice when he was holding my hand.

Oh man, the curves. They make the song play in my head louder. I handled them very well because I followed the instructions: “break before the curve. Not inside it nor before it.” You know, normal biking rules. Still, every time I ran into a sharp curve, I know I am going to be fine but my heart was beating so fast it’s making me super tense.

There’s a boy here in town, says he’ll love me forever. Who would have thought forever could be severed by the sharp knife of a short life. Oh well, I’ve had just enough time.

Then I experienced my first head blaring truck horn — on a curve. It turned out that I was driving in the middle of the road, occupying the whole space to avoid falling down the cliff. It was so loud I almost lost focus. I looked down, looked at the truck and I couldn’t stop because it was going downhill. I slowly pulled the breaks and let the truck pass. “Good”, I told myself. You’re alright. These trucks are annoying I think they should stop using those loud horns and have sweet ones instead! They scared me to death!

So put on your best, boys and I’ll wear my pearls. What I never did is done. A penny for my thoughts, oh no, I’ll sell ’em for a dollar. They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner. And maybe then you’ll hear the words I’ve been singing. Funny, when you’re dead how people start listening.

The song was still playing. When will this ever stop?! We arrived at the real Death Road where roads are narrower and thousands of people die every year. We stopped for orientation. I became more comfortable with my bike.

“We can do this”, I told my bike. I was thinking a lot of things that it made me talk to my bike. Who does that?! I already made it to this point. Three more hours and it’s done. Again, what’s there to lose? It wouldn’t hurt if you try, right?

The ballad of a dove, go with peace and love. Gather up your tears, keep ’em in your pocket, save them for a time when you’re really gonna need them. The sharp knife of a short life oh. Well, I’ve had just enough time. So put on your best boys and I’ll wear my pearls.

Man, three more hours. This road is the real thing. Definitely more scary than the asphalt road. Rocky. Whoever invented this activity is insane! The song kept playing in my head like it’s on a loop and I wondered: “Have I told anyone that I want this song to play on my funeral?” I even thought I’ll just whisper it to my sister when I am already on the other side and she will hear me. She knows me too well. But then, I didn’t want to joke about this because my mother will kill me first because of talking about this. HAHAHAHA! She hates it when I do that.

biking death road bolivia

The song was gone. I was on the right track. I learned to let go. I think the bike listened to my whispers. I also had small messages to the Universe during the ride. I was just thankful for all the life privileges that I received in the past year. I was enjoying the ride. The tension was gone and I felt like everything was so easy and working on my favor.

Everything was going normal not until Helen (Belgium), Andre (Brasil) and I fell off. We were all too close to each other and when the one in the front, Andre, lost balance, we all had to pull our breaks. You know what happened? We were all laughing so loud while we were on the ground! I wasn’t afraid anymore! After all those scaring-myself-to-death thing, everything was just for fun now.

We continued and we were slowly coming to the easier part of the road. I took my time. I didn’t rush. I embraced the moment. I realised being present in what you are doing makes you more relaxed so I continued doing it. The more I live in the moment, the more I felt that I wasn’t afraid of dying. I could die anywhere anyway, I thought. Traveling and doing things beyond my means made me more appreciative about life. I wasn’t scared to die because I know I lived life to the fullest!

We reached the end! Aside from being grateful of finishing the Death Road, I was also thinking about food. Imagine, 6 hours riding on a bike and being scared to death, what would you think off? Food!

We showered with the beautiful guest house provided by Barracuda Biking and we were served with lunch. Kach (Philippines), Helen (Belgium), Kenzo (Belgium) and I asked for another plate. It wasn’t really possible but we begged the agency and they gave us more! How cool is that! While having lunch, the nastiest and craziest accidents of the Death Road were playing on the big screen. Good thing, they showed it after the ride! If it was played before, I would literally have backed out.

[us_message color=”yellow” icon=”fas|pencil-alt”]Disclaimer: This tour was sponsored by Barracuda Biking. Please remember that I never recommend a product just for free stuff — I only recommend something I genuinely believe in and trust. [/us_message][us_separator style=”dashed” type=”default”]
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How was your Death Road Bolivia experience? Did you find it scary as I did?

I’d love to hear about your experience! Leave your story on the comment box below!

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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. Trisha is an ambassador of Girl Rising, a global movement for girls' education and empowerment. In no particular order, her favourite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv. Follow her life adventures on Instagram: @psimonmyway

Comments

  • June
    December 31, 2014

    YOU INSPIRE ME SO MUCH.

    reply
  • Rachel Heller
    December 31, 2014

    Hi Trisha, I have two comments:
    1) I love how you wrote this: interspersing the song lyrics and your description.
    2) I think I would have been just as scared in a car. It just would have taken less time!

    reply
  • December 31, 2014

    Oh, I so can’t wait to do this myself! It’s already on my bucket list. I first heard about the Death Road on the Top Gear Bolivia special. Ever since then, I knew I had to travel this road. And then I found out, a couple of months ago, that there are bicycle rides along it! Win, win!

    reply
  • December 31, 2014

    6 hours of being terrified!?!? Uh, I’ll take the bus down! 🙂 What an amazing experience, and, even if it was scary, I bet it makes for a great memory!

    reply
  • Robson Cadore
    January 3, 2015

    Hi Trisha!
    Congrats!!!! This is in my bucket list for years! Well done!
    Your pictures are stunning too!!!!!
    Take care!

    reply
  • Chris Nash
    January 4, 2015

    What an amazing adventure! I was just talking about this same experience with an English couple over Xmas. Not sure if I’ll do it when we get there though!

    reply
  • January 8, 2015

    Thank you, June!!!

    reply
  • January 8, 2015

    HAHAHAHA! I almost did, Rachel! But I didn’t want to spoil the group. I wanted to look tough. HAHAHAHA! Now I remember looking at the bus who was following us behind, thinking of giving up.

    reply
  • January 8, 2015

    Stephen, you’re going to love it!!! I am so excited for you!!!

    reply
  • January 8, 2015

    So true, Nat. 6 freaking hours! I couldn’t believe it myself but it was definitely terrifying — most especially when you put so much scary thoughts in your mind. I did that the whole ride!

    reply
  • January 8, 2015

    Rob, you guys should go! You’re going to love it!

    reply
  • January 8, 2015

    Chris, do it! Life is too short to miss such beautiful experience. 🙂

    reply
  • June 1, 2015

    It’s a fun ride and not too dangerous if you ride carefully

    reply
  • February 19, 2016

    It’s always a great thing to see woman doing such thing. This is so inspiring. I would want to share this with my friends who fear of traveling solo and trying adventure.

    reply
  • November 17, 2018

    It’s truly amazing experience! I love mountain biking & enjoyed a lot once, when I was in UAE. It’s all about feeling of freedom for me 🙂 But yours look like more adventurous. Even though you were suffering breathing problem, but you continued & finished it successfully. And thank God you saw those videos after the ride..hahahaha

    reply

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