I start to relish the feeling of speed, and go faster and faster. You don’t get many chances to ride down a mountain for 39 miles, losing nearly 12,000 feet of altitude. It’s a bona-fide adrenaline rush.
We come across an accident. A French tourist has ridden off the edge and the guides are hauling him back up using ropes attached to the support van. Fortunately, it’s just a 30-foot drop and he’s only broken his nose, but he looks like he’s gone into shock. I don’t blame him.
The further you descend, the warmer it gets—there can be a 75-degree difference from the top to the bottom—and I strip off. By the time we splash through a shallow creek and into the village of Yolosa, my fingers are aching from clutching the brakes, but there’s a huge grin across my face.
The rainforest is at 3,600 feet—the lowest point I’ve experienced in three weeks —and the oxygen suddenly flooding my brain makes me feel super-human. We celebrate the ride with lunch, and toast the lucky Frenchman.
“It’s about doing something a little risky, a little dangerous—but super fun,” explains Murillo. “People want to conquer Death Road.”
Back in La Paz, our guide hands out “I Survived Death Road” T-shirts. Wearing it the next night, I realize I’ve become ‘That Guy’, telling newcomers my exciting tales of hurtling down a mist-covered mountain on a bike—a trip so dangerous it kills “hundreds of people a year…”