Saturday 13 August 2011

Final day in Bolivia

The trip is almost finished. The clients are all on planes on their way home as I should be in 10 hours. I successfully guided a rope of 3 of them up a windy but sunny Illimani before our final return to La Paz. Yesterday I joined 2 of them on a mountain bike trip down the ´road of death´. This is the old road down to the Yungas which begins at Le Cumbre at over 4700m. Here we donned elbow and knee pads, eyed our bikes nervously and then 20 of us swooped off down for the first hour which is is on the main road; tarmac, the odd very deep pothole, oncoming traffic in your lane and a descent of over 1000m in a really short distance. Survival of this first section (a veritable Tour De France of competitive international travellers) allows entry to the real deal. The old road is a rutted landrover track with a 500m drop on the left- I hitched my way up and down it when it was the only route almost 20 years ago! Now there is a new road and so less traffic. But there are still plenty of other bikers and riding on the left next to the drop is compulsory. For some reason things got less competitive here with only 4 of us making a real effort to disengage our self preservation instincts and to keep up with our guide- ´Speedy´ Gonzales. Of this 4 (we dubbed ourselves the international pelleton) a frenchman wiped out with a bald back tyre and a dutchman failed on a corner and ran straight into a cliff. At the rear end of the pack one girl retired with a suspected broken arm. So after 63 km and over 3000m of descent in 3 hours riding time the last 500m was uphill. It was at this point I discovered that the gears on my bike were limited to 1.... the one I´d been using downhill. So it was a hot and sweaty finish with lunch in a hotel near Coroico. The 2 chaps I was with had been told they would be back in La Paz early in time for their flight. This was clearly not going to happen as the bike guides were settled in for an afternoon of beer and bike maintenance near the pool so we hopped a taxi with instructions to get us back to the capital ´pronto´. He took us at our word and accelerated off up the new road. The 10 km per hour speed limit seemed to mean 50 to him and the no overtaking signs were utterly invisible to his eyes. This was a little more scarey than the biking! We were glad to reach La Paz safely and in time for the lads´flight.
Home in a day or so- photos and video to follow.

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