Now I deliberately didn't tell my mum that I was going to do this (sorry mum!) but I wasn't too scared. The emphasis of the companies is safety and we booked with Barracuda biking who are the best budget option (Gravity being the best of the best apparently).
The road isn't difficult biking - it's mainly downhill and despite the road conditions (wet, unpaved, gravel, mud etc) the bikes they give you are full suspension and really safe.
Add helmets, gloves and waterproof gear and you are set!
But first you have to give an offering to pachamama - Mother Earth. She really likes alcohol so we gave her some 90% proof and then blessed our bikes and ourselves with it too!
We started out at 4,700m - so it was cold and we were well wrapped up. To get used to the bikes - the full suspension and the brakes etc - we did a 40 minute stint on a normal paved road.
This bit was quite easy.
Then we tried out a gravel path - where I almost went over the handle bars from enthusiastic braking!
Finally it was time to do the Death Road. It's called this because so many have died on it. The road winds up the mountain - single track and it used to have 2 way heavy traffic - like trucks and buses. It's unpaved and frequently wet with landslides and has 600m vertical drops. It's also the only road in Bolivia where you have to keep to the left - this is to allow some sight around blind corners and so drivers are closest to the edge - the plan being that they can see if their wheels are still on the road or not!
Since a bypass was opened there have been fewer deaths and a lot more gravity assisted mountain biking. People still die though - 29 since the bypass was opened I believe - usually tourists who aren't paying attention to the safety briefings or who are inexperienced. The last lady to die was a Japanese tourist who was trying to film her husband whilst cycling and lost control of her bike.
For this reason Barracuda film and take photos for you and give you the CD for free afterwards.
Us on the edge of a drop!
As we descended down the road we lost a lot of altitude - our mini bus followed us to allow us to strip off unwanted clothing. However we did end up wet - cycling through waterfalls and rivers does that!
We eventually ended up in the jungle - it was hot and steamy at around 1,500m, but at least we survived! I think our group did the road in 2.5 hours - which is a decent time! This was aided by the mist at the top - not being able to see the 600m drops means that you get less nervous and also not being able to see anything other than the road means that you focus just on the road - no distractions!
After surviving the road we had lunch by the river and watched the photos and videos from the ride. Then it was back on the bus to La Paz - with some 2 litre bottles of pre mixed cuba libre's shared around the bus - but mainly with Cat, Natalie and our guide Eddy as we all sat like naughty kids on the backseat lol!