Dirtbikes & Death Roads, 2200 Miles in Bolivia

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by RockyRoads, Jan 15, 2008.

  1. Sundance

    Sundance Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
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    Siskiyou Mtns
    Absolutley thrilling. I've been glued to the computer since I opened the ride report. Thank you very much for sharing, you have made my day. We are heading to Belize this year, but may have to change directions.

    I'll go check out CCF too.
    #61
  2. pluric

    pluric Gimpy Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2006
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    Location:
    Salt Lake
    I have to "ditto" all the other positive remarks on this most
    detailed ride report. Great reading and excellent photos of
    what is going on.:clap :clap :clap
    #62
  3. scooterhose

    scooterhose Dare to Win Well

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
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    OUT THERE !
    :clap :clap :clap

    Fabulous!!!!



    :bow Pics.
    #63
  4. gmsnowball

    gmsnowball Black Bear Pass

    Joined:
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    Oklahoma Some Where
    Great ride report, what an awesome adventure. I'm envious:nod :nod
    #64
  5. BeeDub

    BeeDub Havagoowan

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,026
    Oh man, I'm at home sick and this report was helping me get through the boring day! Looks like I caught up to you :cry

    Anyway, great report, I'll keep checking for the ending. One thing I've been wondering though, since it seems you guys have had your share of flats is how Maurice hasn't discovered bike stands? He's got a nice truck, he's a pilot, all nice bikes for you to ride, and no life saving and cheap stands to help him change your tires on. I know I wouldn't want to be searching around for rocks to pile up if I had a chase truck! I don't know why these things pop out at me. :lol3

    Anyway, I actually added his email to my contacts for someday in the future, looks like a great way to spend two weeks...
    #65
  6. Mully

    Mully Kineticist

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    Compliments on an absolutely *outstanding* presentation of a fascinating and courageous trip! :clap

    Mods: You should "Sticky" this with a "Must Read!" note!

    mully
    #66
  7. OldAndBusted

    OldAndBusted Needs a little work...

    Joined:
    May 12, 2007
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    VT, USA
    i'm gonna be sorry when this one ends.
    #67
  8. Jean-Luc

    Jean-Luc Throttle committed

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    San Francisco, USA
    Fantastic report! :thumb I'm regretting even more not being able to reach Bolivia :cry

    :lurk
    #68
  9. hgulledge

    hgulledge Adventurer-of-sorts

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    Now this is a real Adventure with real Adventure Riders. :bow :clap
    #69
  10. RockyRoads

    RockyRoads RockyRoads

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2005
    Oddometer:
    250
    Location:
    Aptos, California
    DAY 11: RURRENABAQUE TO CARANAVI<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    After a wonderful night’s sleep, we had a scrumptious breakfast at Café Piraña, including excellent coffee, fresh squeezed juice, flaky croissants & chocolate croissants (yum), and omelets. The owner also made each of us a fresh luncheon sandwich that we carried away in our backpacks. The café:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>


    <o:p></o:p>[​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>The town of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Rurrenabaque</st1:city></st1:place> was very clean, with wide streets. Motorcycles were a very popular form of transportation:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    After breakfast, I braced myself for 64 more miles of jiggles and jolts—we had to ride back over that long road of potholes. I forgot to mention that along with the big trucks, there were numerous herds of cows that used that road. So as you came over a rise, you had to be prepared for a herd of cows walking in the road, or sometimes a cow or two just laying in the road—and they don’t get up and move either. With focused energy, we soon put the potholes behind us. Whew.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Here are Ben and I in front of a house:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The day was hot. As we rode through the small town of <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Sapecho</st1:place></st1:city>, we noticed a woman with a manual machine squeezing glasses of orange juice under a tin awning. We all stopped for a refreshing drink. I asked if I could take a photo of her, but she said “no”. So I took a picture of the Sapecho “welcome” sign across the street.<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p> </o:p>

    When we stopped for gas, William discovered that he had a gas leak from his fuel line. The chase truck was far behind us (still bumping along through the potholes), so Maurice, William and Ben tried various solutions. Maurice finally found some fuel tubing in town that worked perfectly. We spent a while at this gas station, and ate our sandwiches in the small pockets of shade.<o:p></o:p>

    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    We were heading south, back toward <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">La Paz</st1:city></st1:place>, with the final destination of Caranavi, a fairly large town. Many of roads today were dusty and full of bike-rattling rocks. Also, there were many large trucks on the road, creating blinding dust clouds. I had a hard time finding a good rhythm. (I think that I used up all my mental concentration abilities on those potholes!) Along the way, there was some pretty scenery to enjoy:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>The main street of Caranavi was full of cars, buses and people. After checking into our hotel, Ben and I headed two blocks away from the crowds and found this nice plaza with an outdoor café, where we shared a drink.<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Nearby were some small boys playing—their “toy” consisted of two soda bottles tied together with a piece of string, and it provided a lot of enjoyment for them.<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>We passed this Stihl shop. We took this picture for our very good friends Dan and Bill who own B&B Small Engine Repair (a Stihl dealer) in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Santa Cruz</st1:city>, <st1:state w:st="on">California</st1:state></st1:place>:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>We also saw a lot of XR 250’s—it seemed to be the bike-of-choice in town.<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>We had a nice dinner tonight at our hotel and went to bed looking forward to tomorrow’s ride on “El Camino de la Muerte”.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    DAY 12: CARANAVI TO LA PAZ VIA “EL CAMINO DE LA MUERTE”<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    One of the walls in our hotel had these beautiful flowers growing out of it:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>Today was the final ride on our journey through <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">Bolivia</st1:country-region></st1:place>. We would be traveling another 6,000 feet or so up in altitude to reach <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">La Paz</st1:place></st1:city>. Along the way, we would be riding on “The World’s <st1:street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Most Dangerous Road</st1:address></st1:street>”, named for its historically high mortality rate. Maurice told us that a few years ago <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Bolivia</st1:place></st1:country-region> had completed a paved bypass road that all of the trucks use now, so the only people on the “Death Road” usually are tourists. I didn’t know if I was relieved or disappointed at this news. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Not too far from Caranavi, we started riding on roads that are very similar to the “Death Road”—one lane dirt roads clinging to the side of mountains, with the rule that you have to ride/drive on the opposite side of the road. The reason is safety. The road is constructed so that the cliff edge is always on the right if you are traveling up to <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">La Paz</st1:place></st1:city>. With normal side-of-the-road driving, the cliff edge was on the passenger side of the vehicles traveling up the hill, and too many truckers/drivers were misjudging the distance their tires were from the edge and going over the side of the cliff. The opposite-side-of-the-road rule allows vehicles coming down the hill (away from <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">La Paz</st1:place></st1:city>) to be on the cliff edge side, and to have the edge right outside the driver’s window so that they can see how close their tires are to the drop-off. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    At first, riding on the opposite side of the road was a bit unsettling. The roads were very narrow and winding, and the drop down was long. I was hoping that (a) I wouldn’t meet another vehicle going too fast from the opposite direction and (b) that all the drivers coming the opposite way knew that they were not supposed to be on my side of the road.
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>This photo is one of my favorites, as it captures the narrowness of the road and shows the severe consequences of a mistake in judgment (or a collision):<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    Across the way from the last photo above was this small house with a field of crops growing behind it. I was amazed that someone could plow a field at such a steep angle—one misstep and it seems like they would plummet down the hillside.<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>This is a typical type of truck that travels these roads:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p> </o:p>

    Unfortunately, Maurice got a flat tire right away, so William and Olivier stopped to wait for the chase truck with him. He told Ben and me to go on and then wait after a while. Ben and I had such a great time riding the twisty roads together, with minimal dust from just the two bikes. We eventually stopped and waited for a bit:<o:p></o:p>

    Me:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>Ben:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    After a while, we headed onward, enjoying the amazing beauty around us. Occasionally, we would come upon a truck or a taxi. The taxis were scary because they were usually going really fast, and we had a couple of heart-stopping close encounters.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    We also waved to three other motorcycle travelers. The first two were traveling together, and the third was solo; all three were on large bikes with hard panniers and loaded down with items in the back. I was wondering whether their hard luggage and big bikes would be rattled apart on either the rocky roads after Caranavi or the pothole road to Rurrenabaque.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    A town that we passed through:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    We rode into one town, and a very big dog charged from the right side at me, barking and barking and lunging at my leg. Just as the dog came toward me, however, a large chicken ran out in front of me. So I’m riding along with a big dog to my right who looks like he is going to take my leg off, but I can’t get away because there is a wall to my left and a huge chicken in front of me flapping its big wings and running forward as fast as its legs can go. Ben saw what was happening and zoomed up to the dog, trying to chase it away with his front tire and by revving his engine. Finally, the wall ended, and the chicken ran off to the left, and I could speed forward. It was surreal, like it was happening in a cartoon. The funniest part is that there was a bunch of people hanging out in front of their houses on the right, and they were witnessing all of this (and of course no one called the dog off). I’m sure that I was great entertainment. We didn’t stop to take a picture of that town. The dog, at least, was not very welcoming.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    As the road dropped closer to the river, we came upon this one lane tunnel. We could see the road coming out the other side to the right, so we could make sure that no one was coming before we entered the tunnel. The tunnel was pitch black, and you couldn’t see the light on the other side because the tunnel road had a right-hand turn in the middle of it. Even though I knew that no one was coming when I entered the darkness, it was still a bit unnerving.<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>We passed quite a few beautiful waterfalls:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>Here I am on one of the wider sections of the road, with a big truck coming in the distance:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    This is what the dust looks like from one of the trucks:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Right before these signs, the road markings indicated that we were supposed to switch back to riding on the right side of the road (and the drivers coming the other way would start driving on the opposite side). About a mile before we stopped here, Ben and I almost got taken out twice by speeding drivers (coming toward us) who apparently didn’t understand that they were supposed to switch over to the other side of the road. <o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    At this junction, we turned off toward the entrance to the Death Road. Once again, the rule was to drive/ride on the opposite side of the road. <o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    We could see the road snaking along the mountain ahead of us:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The views were incredible:
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>People had placed numerous crosses along the way to mark the passing of a beloved one on this road:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Here I am riding on the road (one-fourth of the way across the photo from the left):<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>This next photo shows one of the most dangerous parts; the road is extremely narrow and slippery, with loose rocks; and there are big waterfalls that pour water directly onto the road, and any vehicle passing by—it was pretty wild to ride through the falls.<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I just have to shake my head in wonder when I imagine having two-way traffic with trucks, buses and cars on these tiny roads, with such a steep drop on the side. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Today, however, the most dangerous aspect of this road (for me) was the multitude of tourist groups bicycling down the road on the wrong side, straight at me. <o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    I rounded one corner, and there was a bicyclist heading directly toward me on my side of the road. She was still about 20 feet away, so I yelled, “You’re on the wrong side!” She yelled back, “I know!” But she didn’t move over, she kept coming. (In retrospect, I think that she was afraid of the drop-off on her side of the road.) I didn’t want to swerve over to the other side for fear that she would try to correct her mistake and swerve over too at the last minute. So I slammed on my brakes and stopped, just as she ran her front tire into mine. In trying to avoid injuring her, I had also pushed my bike down, so I was left in that awkward 45-degree angle where I was on the bike and holding it from falling on the ground, but I didn’t have enough leverage to hoist it back into the straight position. I’m embarrassed to say that I wasn’t polite to the bicyclist, and I think that I used the word “idiot”. She pulled herself and her bicycle together, rode off and left me struggling to upright my bike. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Ben also had a head-on collision with a bicyclist, but no one was hurt.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Another view of the road:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    Here is Olivier riding his bike in the distance:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    In case you can’t see him, here is a close-up:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    We rode up to greet the clouds:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Another view:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Yeah, “it’s all good!”<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    We stopped to take a final photo of this magnificent road—a road that is so beautiful and quite an engineering accomplishment, and yet has caused so much tragedy and grief in its history.<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>We then connected with the new paved road into <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">La Paz</st1:place></st1:city>—very smooth and fast, with wide sweeping turns. The air grew much colder as we headed further up in altitude. Here I am passing through the last checkpoint outside of <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">La Paz</st1:place></st1:city>:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>These buildings are at the top of the crater; we paused briefly before heading down into <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">La Paz</st1:place></st1:city>.<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    We arrived back at Maurice’s house in the early afternoon! Here we are: William, Marc, Maurice, Olivier, me and Ben.<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>Maurice generously fed us snacks and then pizza, as we packed up our gear and got ready for our departure. Our plane wasn’t leaving until late at night, so David invited Ben and me to walk to the downtown area of the Zona Sud for some coffee. Here is a view of the crater walls of <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">La Paz</st1:place></st1:city> as we walked:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>The Zona Sud area is very different from the main downtown area of <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">La Paz</st1:place></st1:city>—it has many boutique retail shops that are high end, and our nice coffee shop could have been located in any major city in the world. It is also the only place in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Bolivia</st1:place></st1:country-region> where I had anyone ask me to give them some money. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    David and I in Zona Sud:<o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    This trip exceeded all of my expectations. It was a journey filled with great riding, incredible sights and much laughter. It was also a true adventure. I met so many generous and warm people. Maurice was the ultimate guide—he did everything possible to ensure that we fully experienced the magic of <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Bolivia</st1:place></st1:country-region>. David, Hugo and Rene, as well as the other riders in our group, all contributed to the fun. Writing this story has given me the delight of reliving many of the experiences that I had, and has also further embedded the wonderful memories that I will always carry with me. Thank you for letting me share it with you!

    THE END
    #70
  11. larryboy

    larryboy Chopper Rider

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2005
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    20,188
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    Outstanding!!!! :clap
    #71
  12. OldAndBusted

    OldAndBusted Needs a little work...

    Joined:
    May 12, 2007
    Oddometer:
    400
    Location:
    VT, USA
    holy shit you rode the actual death road? i thought it was just a cultural reference in the thread title. i was impressed enough already, you really didn't need to do that.
    #72
  13. a1fa

    a1fa Throttle Jockey™

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2006
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    +1 for the riders, +1 for the bikes. +1 for the chick with the daytona 675. :clap
    #73
  14. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2007
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    20,855
    Location:
    Burbank CA
    ANOTHER ORIGINAL!

    Trully amazing and every picture is just wonderful.

    Thanks RR.
    #74
  15. stevee

    stevee Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    384
    WOW .............:clap :clap :clap
    Truly an adventure , and a story so well told it should be made into a book .

    I've never ridden off road [ well , not on purpose anyway :D :D :D ] , but this report just makes me wanna jump on a bike and go .
    Bloody shame I haven't had a bike for nearly a year now , but this is the stuff that keeps me yearning for another .

    Steve
    #75
  16. Truckman

    Truckman The almighty Beavis

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2007
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    Sellersville,Pa.
    :lurk :lurk :lurk very ,very nice.......Keeep on rocking!!!!!!! more power to you guys for being able to ride there!!!! alot better than Pennsylvania!!!!!someday i'll do a ride like yours....it looks truly awesome!!!!!I'm tuned in to adv pics now......:clap also nice of you to sponser a little girl the and then ride to see her!!!! that is very,very nice of you guys.
    #76
  17. idahoskiguy

    idahoskiguy Long timer

    Joined:
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    1,160
    Wow! Once I started reading it I had to finish.

    Thank you for sharing.

    :thumb
    #77
  18. BikePilot

    BikePilot Long timer

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    Tampa
    Amazing Report:clap
    #78
  19. OnlyVees

    OnlyVees Moto-journalist

    Joined:
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    Stunning. Some of your photos literally took my breath away, gave me the chills. (the last photo from day 1 stands out)

    Thank you for sharing.
    #79
  20. Peke

    Peke Kloothommel

    Joined:
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    The Netherlands
    What a great ride and what a bless havin a girl sharing the same passion.

    I say thank God for that.

    Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
    #80