|Up at 5.30am to get an early start, which is in itself, made the ride dangerous due to how tired we were! It took approx. 1 hour to get to the starting point where we unloaded, togged up in waterproofs, shown our bikes and then off down the mountain!
At just over 4500 metres it is very cold and woolly gloves would have been a good option. Unfortunately Paul didn't bring any and for the first 20 minutes he lost all feeling in his hands and struggled to pull the brakes.
Unfortunately approximately 15 minutes into the ride Helen started to suffer from altitude sickness, causing minor blackouts and feelings of wanting to vomit - not good when you are on the world's most dangerous road!! We quickly stopped, called to the guides and got the back up bus to her quickly. Once on the bus the trip organizer took very good care giving her a tablet to combat the feeling, hot drinks and food. 15 minutes later Helen was fine but sat out the next bit just to make sure.
Obviously Paul was worried for Helen but couldn't help think how convenient it turned out that Helen missed the only uphill section of the whole ride (6 km) and in the only time it rained!?!
The uphill section was hard - 6 km at 4000 metres puts a strain on the lungs and towards the end all the travellers were walking their bikes up the last section while the Bolivian guides had no problems dealing with the thin air.
Once the uphill bit was over Helen rejoined only to find that the good bit of the road (tarmac) was over and we were now going to start on the most dangerous bit. Approximately 40 km down the side of the mountain on rocky, narrow, winding roads with no barriers and sheer drops off the edge - Wahoo!
It was a steep descent with little let up in the jarring bumpy roads. Many crosses and headstones dotted the side of the track where people had obviously gone over the edge - nearly 100 people annually lose their lives as a result of plummeting off the edge. Any illusions of rocketing down the road were quickly checked at the appearance of these markers of lost life.
Waterfalls, mud pools and rivers all had to be contended with as we descended further down the road and into the warmth of the jungle area.
After four and a half hours, 63 km from a height of 4670 m to 1120 m, and reaching speeds of 50 km per hour we had finished. Tired, aching, wet and laughing - we had just survived the most dangerous road in the world!!!