A Travellerspoint blog

Marching Down the Death Road

La Paz Highlights

overcast 20 °C


Alan, myself and Keiran headed straight to San Pedro Prison!!

I had read the book, Marching Powder, and interested in seeing it all in real life.

We had heard that they weren´t allowing random visits anymore but it was still a possibility and worth the walk!!

I recognised the huge grey building, next to the very nice Plaza Sucre, from the book as we approached! It was deffinately visiting day as hoards of people tried there luck at the gate...... we took a peek at the prisoners who were waiting in the courtyard near the gates to see if anyone exciting was going to pay a visit!

We tried our luck with the golden toothed (a sign of wealth and authority) prison officer outside the gates BUT as we had no contact name failed to get in!!!

I actually was indifferent with the decision, not sure whether I wanted to enter a self-policing prison at all!!!! Alan, on the other hand wanted to so we went in search of the British Embassy to find out if there were any British prisoners we could visit!

It was a fair old walk to the embassy and was deffinately in the nice part of town. Alan was the only one allowed inside, it was all very official.

Unfortunately there were no Brits in San Pedro Prison but Alan did obtain two names of British Prisoners in Santa Cruz for sometime in the future!!


We also visited the Coca museum which was really interesting.

Evo Morales (El Presidente) has tried to change peoples opinion of the plant as a whole since the plant (which is indeed the source of Cocaine) is heavily used by the Indegenous peoples of the area but more as something akin to tobacco where they chew it as a mild sedative or calming effect.


It´s not anything like the drug that´s derived from it..... and unfortunately the chemical version of cocaine (which has an american patent and is ENTIRELY legal ...... and used in Coca Cola etc.... means that the natural source of Coca is given a bad rap !!!

However.... the cocaine element is still rife in Bolivia and later we´d see a drugs bust and the Bolivian DEA equivelent stripping a car and people down with small white bags being layed on the ground infront of the car !!!!

So there´s always two sides to every story !


That afternoon we found a nice restaurant for an Almuerzo and since it was xmas time and the whole city was so hectic.... it was nice to chill out for a wee while.

The following day we had a very early start with the locally owned company ´Extreme Downhill´!

We were about to ride the death road.... de de der!!!!!!!

Alan and Keiran teased me, about falling off the side of the cliff, all the way to the starting point! I obviously found this hilarious!!!!!!!!!!

There were only the three of us and the guide biking with the driver accompanied by the guides wife and young son in the minibus that followed us (well closely me as I was always at the back) down the infamous road!

After a little breakfast we kitted ourselves with warm clothes and set off on the easy tarmac road....... presumably to get used to the bikes!

The interesting part of the tarmac road was a tunnel ..... without any lights apart from a car whizzing towards us, beeping his horn........ scary!

Eventually we arrived at the main event, Death Road itself! We left the main, new tarmac road and joined the gravel steep one. Last year the road was made into a one way system and most of the traffic was moved onto the new tarmac road so the chance of dying was slim ha ha!!! Infact its not that dangerous at all if you take your time and I personally did just this!!!

Alan and Keiran whizzed off with the guide but I just took my time, taking in the views that were quite spectacular as the mist started to clear..... especially the massive sheer drops inches away from the bicycle wheel!

We passed numerous crosses, 15 people had died in the last 8 years.... 9 of which were Israeli!?!?!


It was great fun as we cycled through small streams and got thoroughly dirty riding through thick mud........ which meant showering under the waterfalls as we drove under them!

There was a snack half way down which consisted of burgers followed by fruit and yoghurt!

Somehow none of us managed to fall off, it must of been the fact that we were highly skilled riders (although hard core Alan got a puncture and had to have a new bike)...... or that a donkey could of passed me as I steadily cycled down the road!!!

At the end of the road we had a cerveza to celebrate that we were all alive....... very dramatic I know!

We were then taken to a restuarant in Coroico for a hot shower before a huge lunch... very nice!

So the $35 we had spent for the trip went quite far as we even received a cool t.shirt and photo cd...... so forget the American Owned Gravity Assisted expensive trip at $99 a piece........... we recommend local owned!

Posted by stephyd 09:29 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bicycle

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.