Wednesday, April 14, 2010

EP version 5.0 (crazier and as stable!) or the most dangerous road in the world for my birthday!

Alright, yesterday was my 50th and I had planned a very special event to remember!
“the death road” ( or most dangerous road in the world) in Bolivia:

If 50 was over the hill, let's the hill be at 16000 feet!

A little bit of history here: the caretera del muerte or “death road was named so in 1995 by the Bolivian authorities after averaging a death a day on this unbelievable stretch of road linking La Paz to the Coca field 12,000 feet below in Tropical Bolivia! One day even saw 100 fatalities and the government decided to build another modern road that was finished in 1999! The day the new road was open, the old road became a mountain bikers downhill paradise for thrill seekers!
Here is my Birthday story:
Usual wake up at sunrise, then breakfast and went to the meeting point in La Paz where I was greeted by 13 other crazy people singing happy birthday to me…..(I gave my birth date when signin in)!
An hour and a half of bus later we were on top of the world at 4800 meters (16000 feet) getting ready for the big ride! We wore 5 layers since it was near freezing and set up our downhill Kona Bicycle!
Darren the guide did his speech, made us swear we would not be F…ing idiots and reminded us of a biker fatalitiy last week on death road! (he was not kidding)
The bikes, riders and dirt was blessed by Pachamama (mother earth) and then we went for the first part of the road…15 miles of paved downhill!
The ride was exhilarating and cold, the scenery unreal, we were all on a cloud!
We went thru the usual army checkpoint then regrouped at a small village around 12,000 feet where our guide had a sad news for us: we had to climb an 8 mile pass before getting to the DR!
With a big smile he offered us to load our bikes in the bus but immediately I ran a rebellion saying climbing 8 miles at 12000 feet could not be that difficult!....
50% of the group followed me while the other half boarded the bus!
Within 500 feet, I was dead, complete lack of oxygen or else…..yet I managed to climb the pass and honestly it was my proudest moment of the day!
Then we got on the dirt road and the official beginning of DR! I was following the guide and quickly the pace got quicker ignoring the constant 2,000 foot cliff on left of an 8 foot wide dirt road!
This was so much fun and insane at the same time! We did that for a while and then I decided I wanted to live longer than my 50th birthday and went back mid pack for the remainder of trip!
We went under tropical waterfall, mud, silt, mud water crossing to end up 4,000 meters lower (12,000 feet) in tropical Bolivia where we encountered Spider Monkeys and other birds!
The temperature went from freezing to tropical requesting constant changes of equipment!
We were all on a high, nobody crashed even when we tried some tricky single track roads!
The 40 miles road was a 6 hours long ride and after a great lunch we decided to head back to La Paz.
Surprisingly the guide announced us that we would not take the new road but instead we went to back track the DR!....nobody reacted !
Now we were scared and especially me on an old school bus having a window on the cliff side of the road!
The bicycle ride was a breeze but being inches away from a 2000 feet cliff in an old bus was a bit too much!
Honestly, I got scared for the next 2 hours and tried to change seats but nobody accepted despite my old age!
On a side note, we made a quick stop by the house of Klaus Barbie (the Nazi “butcher of Lyon”) who hid in Bolivia for 40 years after WW2!
To make things spicier we even had a heavy fog mid way up the trip!
4 hours later we were back in La Paz where I was greeted by Carol and the kids to finish a wonderful day!
I got showered with gifts and love and Carol had even made crepes for me!
We had a great steak dinner and then got back to our apartment where I got to write this and reflect on my 50th!
I am a very lucky man with a great family and a lot of great friends around the world!
I would not change or trade my half century for anything or any other life,
Love and peace to all

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