Sunday, July 5, 2009

The worlds most spectacular ride?

I made it La Paz, and rode with Gravity down the ´Worlds Most Dangerous Ride´.

There´s a history here - in 1983 I walked the Takesi Trail, an old Inca road that goes from La Paz over the Andean divide and down into the jungle at Coroico. I got a ride with about 20 other people on the back of truck loaded with fertiliser sacks, up the road from Coroico to the pass at La Cumbre. The guidebook described the road as ´picturesque´and it was certainly that - cut by Paraguayan prisoners of war in the 1930s into the sheer bush clad cliffs. Despite the spectacular drop offs, it didn´t seem that dangerous, but this was maybe because I was concentrating on hanging on to the truck.

25 years on, the route has become a prime biking route, that I suspect is having a tourist economic impact that makes the Otago Rail Trail look like a cake stall. The tourist area of La Paz is lined with companies offering to take you up to the pass, give you a mountain bike and pick you up at the bottom. I went with Gravity who invented the ride, labelling it the World´s Most Dangerous Road, from a World Bank Report that was justifying the funding for a new road,which was completed in 2006.

The first bit of the ride struck me as the most dangerous - a hundred odd cyclists heading down the highway weaving in amongst trucks buses and cars. After we turned off on the old road, having dropped down from alpine landscape of the pass, the route seemed a good gravel road, and of course with the new road there is little opposing traffic. Our guide, Phil, got our group down in good order,with plenty of time to admire the spectacular views down into the jungle.

Ended up at small animal park in the valley, where the Gravity MTB ride ends and has lunch. I spent the night in a cabin there rather than return to La Paz. They rescue wild animals that have been captured and abused, and try to reintroduce them to the wild. But I suspect the animals know when they´re onto a good thing - I left my door ajar for a moment in the morning and a monkey was in checking whether there was anything interesting in my gear! Walked up an old inca trail morning to get to Coroico- there was a big concert on so the town is packed, they´d set up a sound stage on the football field, a spectacular spot looking out over three mountain valleys.

Got a minivan back over the new road - equally spectacular, but rather more luxurious than my 1983 trip!

1 comment:

  1. Go Alastair! Your descriptions conjure up many memories of this road and the big drop offs. Good to hear that the "new" road is finally open!