Wednesday, May 18, 2005

More Superlatives

As I said, everything in Bolivia seems to have a superlative. The most recent (and scary) one I encountered was with Monday´s mountain biking expedition down the World´s Most Dangerous Road. This is a narrow dirt road, skimming along the edge of steep cliffs, which descends from La Cumbre, outside of La Paz, at 4,700 meters, to just below Coroico, at 1,300 meters. The road makes this descent over 75 kilometers. Let´s convert that: a descent of 3,400 meters (over 11,000 feet) over a stretch of 75 km (about 47 miles). Yikes! I´m not exactly sure if "World´s Most Dangerous Road" is a scientifically-proven moniker, but I would not be surprised if it is true. Nevertheless, this is one of the top tourist attractions of the La Paz region, so we followed along. And after all, if trucks and full-sized buses can go up and down the road all day long, surely it can´t be a problem to do it on a bike.

And for the most part, it wasn´t a was lots of fun. We were equipped with high-quality bikes (with suspension and disk brakes and other fancy things), as well as helmets and gloves and windbreakers and pants. We also had a guide, Victor, who was a very good guide, and made sure we didn´t get hit by any trucks, which was nice. The first third of the road is paved, so you absolutely fly down it. It had taken some convincing to get Thibaut to join me on the adventure, but after approximately one minute, he flew past me, saying, "what...are you braking!!??" After an hour or so, we cycled uphill for about 15 minutes (uphill? I wasn´t told about any uphill!) and then the road opened up onto a beautiful green valley where we could see thousands of feet down, and across to the winding path we were to follow for the next couple of hours. Also, we could feel warm breezes coming up from the valley, which was very exciting, because it´s kind of cold in La Paz.

The second part was fantastic. It was a dirt road with some rocks, but not too bumpy, and the scenery was beautiful and there were tropical plants on the roadside, and sometimes we even passed under waterfalls which dripped down onto us! But the adrenaline was on high, because the road was definitely very narrow, and if you lost control of your bike at the wrong place you would almost certainly plunge to your death. Unfortunately, many (too many) roadside memorials, and names like "Englishman´s curve" bear witness to bikers or guides or drivers and passengers who have done just that. But I´m not what you might call a crazy daredevil, and I was definitely cautious--the sore muscles I have now in the palms of my hand prove that I didn´t hold back on using the brakes.

The third part of the ride wasn´t as much was really bumpy, which actually really hurt our arms and hands, and also it was very dusty. Very dusty! Every passing van would send up a huge cloud of dust for us to choke on for several minutes. At the end we were completely coated with dust, and I don´t even want to think about the thin layer of dirt now on my lungs. But it was a really fun activity anyway, and left us feeling fully deserving of a day spent by the pool at our hotel in Coroico. Yes, a pool! Unfortunately, we only had a half day of sun...but still...a pool! Yippee!

And on a side note, if anyone is looking for an Industrial Designer with a university degree, I would recommend my brother, who officially graduates from UArts today. Congrats Dan!