Today Carlos and I were taking a tour of the 'death road' by bike, allegedly the most dangerous road in the world. Even looking at a map confirms that it is certainly in with a shout at this title and the statistics also support the theory, at least before the bypass had been built and the traffic volumes greatly reduced. Now there is still some traffic but mainly what remains is lots of hair raising bends with no barriers between the hapless bikers and a death assured drop. In fact this assertion had been tested only last year by two bikers who had been trying to film one another while riding side by side on phones as they headed down and they paid a bit too much attention to framing the shot and a bit less to the sharp bend that they went straight over.

Our tour started early, even for this trip, and we were up at 5.30am, grabbed a takeaway breakfast and standing outside the hotel in the pre-dawn haze. Some 20 minutes after the bus was due to pick us up and we were getting a little anxious, inspecting every vehicle that  pasted by for it's tour like potential but with no luck. While waiting we saw three very drunk lads stagger by, obviously the night was still young for some party go-ers! When the bus arrived the driver seemed in a hurry and we were soon driving up back streets at pace looking for the rest of our group before heading to the main office to get kitted out. Our safety briefing was both good and entertaining. We were later to learn some of his catch phrases, all lasses were called 'chicken' for some reason but when measuring up our hands for gloves it got a round of chuckles when at one poor lass he came out with 'ah, chicken with fat fingers'.

We drove up to our starting point in a pretty ropey bus, stopping only once on the edge of La Paz to use the public toilets. These made sure that only the desperate would need to stop here by combining squat toilets with no running water - pungent doesn't do it justice. We stopped by a lake at 4700m to be given our bikes and as normal with any hired bike outside of the UK the brakes were on the wrong side giving me the mental image of grabbing the front brake in an emergency and hitting the deck hard. I mentally wrote myself a memo to not even touch the front brake and kept my fingers crossed. We had full suspension bikes which as my friend Darren once commented 'makes you twice the man down the hill and half the man up it'.  Luckily we didn't anticipate much uphill to tackle. Our first section was on tarmac to the top of the traditional 'death road' but with fat soft tyres top speeds were quite sluggish and there was barely any need for any brakes, more hunching over the handle bars to reduce drag.

After a quick stop to buy a ticket to allow us to descend the death road and a short section in the bus again we were at the start of the dirt track itself. While buying our ticket we saw a large flat bed with new JCB on the back, not so unusual until we stumbled across the American film crew buzzing around. During our descent we passed and were passed by this outfit several times but never quite figured out what they were doing, other than not taking the much easier by pass someone has thoughtfully built. At the start of our descent we were still in the clouds and so the track was slippy and wet. The track itself was hard packed dirt with some loose stones on the surface and sometimes barely wide enough for a single vehicle, let alone the truck with JCB that was chasing us down. Passing places could be pretty rare and when this was the only option for many drivers the chaos must have been total. We were soon losing altitude and the temperature was rising and eventually we broke out of the mist into sunshine and dry tracks. This mainly highlighted the spectacular drops at the side of the road, really no place to switch off and drift too close to the edge.

The rest of the ride went by in a blur. We stopped and posed for photos every now and then, had some splashes through streams and even had to pedal on some flat sections. The bike was a dream to ride, with the suspension smoothing out the bumps much better than those with only front suspension. At the end of the biking we stopped at a cafe for a quick drink and packed the bikes on the bus before moving on to a hotel for lunch. In a generally celebratory mood having survive we had a nice lunch, swim in the pool and then a shower. There was even shampoo provided in little sachets although I demonstrated how not to open them with your teeth and can say that while it might get you clean, it tasted awful. The English lass with us wisely used the machete of the gardener.

The drive back to La Paz was agonisingly slow with a lot of altitude to gain in a rickety bus. Once back at their office we waited for the CDs  of photos to be burnt with one eye on the clock as we were due to meet the rest of the group for the evening meal soon. That soon turned into two eyes, and eventually two eyes and a stomach as it became painfully obvious that burning CD's was on the edge of their computer skills and agonisingly slow. We stepped in to help out and after an audit of their equipment started using a second machine, despite the receptionist getting a bit worried about us using her machines. At long last we had our copies and had no time to go to the hotel and get changed so phoned our guide and got directions to the hotel restaurant and arranged to meet everyone there. Having biked for a day and then hustled at double quick time across La Paz it's fair to say we were not looking at our James Bond best and so when we stepped into the lobby of the hotel which was very very posh, including a grand piano playing in the background, I'm sure we were on the border of being asked to leave there and then but strolled straight up the stairs. As one would expect from the surroundings the food was fabulous and a fitting last night out for out trip.