Day 117 - November 27th

Today we accomplished one of our major goals for the trip: riding the Bolivian Death Road. We started in town leaving the hostel, and we followed Google maps recommended route. Once again, Google led us on some crazy route that actually didn't make any sense. The roads were so exceptionally steep, it was unlike anything we'd ever seen. It made the roads in San Fransisco look like gentle slopes. Crazy start to the day!

After we got through that, the main highway took us up and up past cool ridges and lakes to the summit of the highway pass. This was at about 4600m, and was the temperature was barely above 0. At the top, we saw a bunch of groups of mountain bikers starting their rides. Riding death road on bikes is apparently the thing to do these days...

A couple kms, a 1500m elevation drop, and a gas fill up later (which was hilarious... Why was there a sheep at the gas station?) and we were at the start of Death Road. The sign at the top was hilarious... It warned of cliffs on the side of the road between 280 600m tall. As in, there were no cliffs shorter than 280m. Lovely.

As we meandered down the road, the sights were immediately amazing. The mountains across the valley were beautiful, and they weren't kidding about the cliffs. The road was mostly the width of one vehicle, with vertical cliffs upward to the right and vertical cliffs downward to the left. Also, fun fact... The death road is the only road in South America (besides the countries of Guyana and Suriname) where you have to drive on the left side of the road. So that put us driving right on the edge of the cliff.

There were so many cool sights along the road, so we kept stopping and taking photos. The photos will never be able to capture the beauty of the road, however. One section had been carved through the cliff face, so we were driving underneath a large rock over our heads. Meanwhile, the water draining from above was coming down quick, but we were driving behind the waterfall. It was epic. A little farther down we weren't so lucky, and actually had to ride through the waterfall... Oh well. No big deal at all. Something like that couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces!

Lunch that day was had on the roadside and was just jam and bread. Whatever gets us through the day! Just after lunch, we found some guy with a gate across the road who made us pay 25 Bs (about $5). Still not sure if that was legit or not.

About 3 hours, 34km, and 2000m vertical later, we reached the valley bottom. It was crazy too because the temperature had climbed about 30 degrees, and we were absolutely sweating by the bottom. From here we took the new main highway back to town, which in itself was a beautiful road. Nowhere near as sketchy or dangerous, but it had great corners and beautiful views across the valley of Death Road. After a rainy climb from 1100m to the summit of 4600m from earlier today, we thought we had seen it all. Nope. Apparently the rain on the La Paz side of the summit wasn't rain at all, but snow and hail. Perfect. That was our first time riding through snow on this trip!

La Paz itself was sunny and nice to get back to. An hour of aggressive and lawless traffic (which, realistically, was much more dangerous than Death Road) and we were back at the hostel. The afternoon was spent doing a bunch of random things, including cleaning an air filter, buying a towel, exploring a market, getting dinner, nothing crazy really. We had a couple beers at the hostel bar, then Trev called it a night while Dave went to another hostel down the road to meet up with some guys we met yesterday. 

That got messy fast. After some pitchers and shots and some beer pong, we all went to another bar and was some guy's birthday so he was paying for everything. Wierd, huh? Anyways, Dave got home at 4:30am. 

Today was a big day....but holy moly was it fun!

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