December 16, 2009

Good roads

Came across these images today from my last trip to Bolivia (back in the days of slide film). They are from a road that some people consider the most dangerous in the world. At the time I rode it, one car per week was going off the edge. As you can see, when that happens you don't survive.
I wrote a few stories about my time in Bolivia for various magazines, only one of which lives online. It's probably not the best I've written, in fact it was put together from the unused scraps of several other stories (to my editor: sorry!), but it does give a true sense of what it's like to ride a bike down there. The opener and a link to the full story follows these images...

"Bolivia's Wild Rides"
by Aaron Teasdale
Technically it was a road ride. Though in Bolivia — land of the most terrifying roads the world has ever known — that wasn’t exactly reassuring. In reality, it was a ragged, serpentine ribbon of mud and rock that rockets down 11,000 feet in 49 miles. Starting from Le Cumbre, a frozen, desolate pass at 16,000 feet, it plummets through cloud and cloudforest and waterfalls that land mid-road, into muggy tangles of jungle that spill over the roadside like groping green tentacles. Astoundingly, it is the main “highway” between the capital of La Paz and the cloud forest town of Corioco. Declared the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” by the Inter-American Bank, it features 10-foot widths, sheer 1,000-foot drops, and a multitude of small white crosses to remind drivers of the motorcycles, jeeps, and buses that routinely pitch off its precipices. Call it road biking Bolivian style.
Alistair Matthew, owner and chief guide of Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking, stood atop Le Cumbre preparing a dozen clients for their upcoming plunge. Without cracking a smile he said, “If you do find yourself going off the edge, please try to leave the bike behind as they’re quite difficult to come by down here.”

To read the full story, go here.

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