I apologise for what is becoming a very monotonous, boring and predictable start to my writing, but once again we’ve had an incredible day! We met our other bikers for breakfast at 7 where I discovered that I was 20 years the senior of the next oldest. No change, no change. There was us, two very pleasant Americans (I know!!!), a great Aussie guy, and 5 English children from the upper upper upper class. Before I get onto the biking, I’m going to have to character assassinate them – 3 “gals” who couldn’t have been a day over 18 but knew everything , and two “chaps” who couldn’t have been a day over 12. The chaps had those ridiculous beards that made them look Amish. They had the usual inane conversations, but best was on the way back when one of the 12 year olds mentioned he’d been checking the Financial Times to see how his savings were doing! Can someone explain the concept of savings to me and Charlotte, as it’s not something we’re familiar with? One of the girls told him he was so left wing as he reads The Guardian, and he replied “But I read Der Spiegel too”! Knob. On the return journey they discussed all the jolly japes and wizard pranks they’d had on last day of school. I missed the first part of one conversation, but it ended with “They’d never do that at state school”. Knobs. For all their education and upbringing they certainly didn’t know how to mix with the rest of the group. I suspect we were far too inferior for them. However, being a much more tolerant person these days, I simply listened along and sighed, rather than planning to thrash them to death with a rusty iron bar as I would previously have done. Just to teach them a lesson about the reality of life. In a helpful sort of way. Travelling has calmed me.
We had a small bus from the 1920’s that took us and our two guides up to the starting point at 4700m. Equipment was sorted, bikes allocated (I had a very nice full suspension Kona Stinky) but before we could start we had to make our offerings to Pachamama, so a bottle of that 96% proof alcohol was passed around to pour on our bikes, onto the ground, and a sip of it each. It was noted by all that I took much more than was necessary, and was the only one who enjoyed it! Tasted like schnapps!
Charlotte had decided not to ride but stayed in the support bus following us.
At the top we were in the cloud and rain, bitterly freezing cold, and fully layered up. We set off for 64km of downhill! Magnificent! The first 22 km are on a surfaced road, so was a good chance to get used to the bike.
And then onto Death Road itself. It’s a stony, gravelly track, fairly compact, and only about 3-4m wide in most places in the top half. It’s impossible to imagine that prior to the new road this was the main road for cars, lorries and buses. We did it in sections, stopping often for the views and to rest (your hands get tired being constantly on the brakes). It isn’t technically difficult nor steep, but it’s just the blood curdling drops at the side of the road and the many crosses at the roadside that cause the fear. As we began to descend and I got my confidence up, it soon became clear that despite my age I was by far the fastest, most capable and fittest (yes, me!) of the group, so I had great fun tailing the lead guide as fast as I could. Just absolutely brilliant. I had such a superb time, and fulfilled one of my many bucket list items. For Charlotte in the bus it was even more of an ordeal with the road barely being wide enough! I think she had her eyes shut a lot of the time! Far worse than biking!
And then Charlotte once again proved that I’ll never understand women. Having been too scared to ride a bike down a long path, she then opted to do the zip wire high above the jungle forest! She was the only one of the group to do it! It’s in 3 sections, totalling 1.5km long, very high, and reaches speeds of 50mph. Fantastic! I’m really pleased she did it, and loved it! Hopefully there’s a link to the video of the first section below.
Having descended a vertical height of 3500m we were in the jungle and in shorts and t shirts, incredible after having started in full winter gear. This was by far the lowest we’d been for a few weeks, and it was a pleasure to take huge lungfuls of oxygen-rich air. But it also meant that once again I was brutally savaged by mosquitoes the size of eagles. The back of my calves look like a pin cushion.
After a meal and a couple of beers we were bussed back UP Death Road which was another terrifying experience.
A great day and another huge recommendation to everybody.
Tonight is the last night in our lovely boutique hotel, and then it’s back onto a night bus tomorrow. We’re heading to Sucre, then Potosi, then the Uyuni salt flats and the Attacama desert and into Chile. However, the Attacama, one of the driest places on earth, has been hit by lethal floods, as has much of the area around. This is because what would normally have dropped as snow on the mountains has dropped as rain. Who says global warming doesn’t exist? Roads have been closed and airports too, so we’re just going to take it day by day and see how we get on. At the very worst we can just bring forward our flight to New Zealand if we can make it as far as Chile. Maybe I need to sample more beer in order to appease Pachamama……
Charlotte’s zip wire! –