Death road team talk tactics on the edge
Pete persuaded me to do another weird thing: cycle down the World’s most Dangerous Road (WMDR).
The 60 km stretch of road, most of which has been blasted into the side of sheer cliff face, was named WMDR in 1995 after a whopping 26 vehicles whizzed off the edge into oblivion within one year.
As you may imagine, I wasn’t actually that keen on doing this bike ride… but as this road is the only way to arrive in a lovely town in the sub tropical jungle we all wanted to visit, I let Helen and Pete wheedle me into it.
The day before leaving we were asking the tour company for info about what to wear etc and I thought I would cut to the chase.
“How many tourists have died on this trip?” I asked. I nearly fainted when she coolly replied, “Just 27 … but none with our company. ”
Left to right: Pete, Helen, Fraser, Houdini (the guide)
We started at 4700m where the air was icy and thin. To cap it all, it was misty as hell.The first 8 miles were tarmacked road which would have been a dream to whiz down had my fingers and feet not gone numb with cold and started to throb. The scenery here was cloud filled valleys and snowy mountains and it was hard to believe what the guide was telling us: that in the space of 4 or 5 hours we would descend over 3500m into the humid rainforest.It was when the tarmac ran out that you could see why it was also called “death road”. A look over the edge revealed drops of over 300m into the forest below.
Large parts of the road aren’t even wide enough for 2 vehicles to pass, and as it gets steeper and bumpier, it gets narrower and the blind bends come faster. There isn’t enough money to erect barriers and all that stands between you and the edge are regular clusters of makeshift crosses reminding you that one skid on the slippery, stony track and one of them could be yours.
Red plastic flags mark the spots where recent accidents have happened and if you look from the other side of the valley you can see where vehicles have slid down through the greenery. For the most part I was too pre-occupied at steering my juddering bike around the potholes and stones to notice the drop too much which was probably a good thing. The rule is that downward traffic must stick to “the outside left edge” whilst those going up can hug the middle. Despite being told this I couldn’t help but veer over to the middle at every opportunity!
I was clenching my fingers so tightly around the brakes that after the first 2 hours I could hardly brake any more. Pete and his daughter Helen whizzed passed me a couple of time apparently oblivious to the drop, that was until Helen decided to scare the whatsit out of us by falling off her bike at top speed and slithering to a stop just inches from the edge!!!
As the scenery got greener and lusher the further down we got, the sun got hotter and the excitement built when we spotted the town of Coroico perched high in the hills – the Promised Land. Finally after 5 hours of fist clenching we reached the bottom. We crawled onto the bus for the last few miles up to Coroico. I have decided that hurtling down bumpy dirt tracks with blind bends and sheer drops next to me is what life is all about!!
You really should try it!!!
Muddy, but unbowed