Road of Death – Potosi

After a restful two days in La Paz we headed out on the “road of death” before heading to a town called Potosi. The ride to the road of death was interesting itself, we had to ride about 5km through a mountain pass covered in snow. The road of death was interesting and exciting for sure although it’s not very dangerous anymore. At one stage of its life cars and trucks were regularly careering over the edge to the oblivion below. In some points the road is no more than 2.5 meters wide with drop-offs of hundreds of meters. Nowadays the road has been superseded by a new road and it’s been made one way. It’s mostly used by tourists on bicycles. I have been on many more dangerous roads including route 5 in Guatemala and the trampoline of death in Colombia which both have two-way traffic, nevertheless the “road of death” is worth the ride if you’re ever out this way.

From there we headed off towards Potosi but it was too far a ride after the road of death so we camped in the middle of a field by a river. It wasn’t our first choice of camp spot, we were hunted from that. Honestly there is something wrong with the people here, their miserable to the core. They’re not just miserable to us though, their miserable to one another as well. I find it very funny though, small angry pissed off people everywhere; most are only up to my elbow height wise.

The morning after a night spent camping next to a little stream in the freezing cold we departed again for Potosi a whole 400km away. I had a flat tire again so stopped to get it fixed in a little town on route. It took the guy over an hour to fix but he done a great job and only charged me $3 for his efforts. Shortly afterwards we rode into a hail storm. It was hard riding through this, the road was incredibly slippery. There was a car that kept overtaking us and doing the bollox generally that ended up sliding right off the road into a gully. The occupants weren’t hurt luckily enough; I guess that’s karma for you. After this we rode through the biggest dump of a town I have ever seen, the whole place was full of rubbish, it was disgusting to be honest. Bolivia would be a beautiful place if you just got rid of the rubbish and the people.

From here on the ride was fantastic, the roads wound they’re way through the mountains to the town of Potosi, which the lonely planet describes as the highest city in the world. Its elevation is 4060 meters above sea level; luckily enough we have been sleeping at heights that have let us adjust to the altitude. Potasi was once on a par with Paris and London. It was once rich in minerals before the Spanish raped the earth. It is now another dump (although the old part is nice) where small companies risk the lives of children to dig out the precious metals. The average life span of a miner is 31 years, children start working here at 14 and stay till they die. If they find no metals they don’t get paid. You can go and have a tour of the mines but I couldn’t be bothered, they’re extremely dangerous because there is no control here. They blast their way through without any concern for the other mining companies’ whereabouts. Tunnels are drilled on top of each other and drilled with dynamite which you can buy here in town. We were going to get some and blow something up in the desert but no one is willing to carry it.

Next for us it’s off to the salt flats before heading to Chile.

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7 Responses to Road of Death – Potosi

  1. Liam McILhone says:

    Really enjoying the blog. Been on that route “the other way round” about six years ago so bringing back lots of memories and smiles. Nice to know that some things never change at the border crossing between Peru and Bolivia!! At least you didn’t have to negotiate the (in)famous police checkpoint outside Copacabana!!
    Useless piece of information. Potosi was the source of all the Spanish silver wealth during her colonial past. Only place I have ever seen dynamite openly and legally for sale! They don’t have that facility here in Norn Iron (thank God!) !!!
    Keep the blogs coming. Great stuff.


  2. Frank says:

    Nice writeup. One thing: The death road is NOT one way. There is just very little traffic now that the new road is open. I had oncoming traffic half a year ago, maybe 3 or 4 vehicles.
    Cheers from Nicaragua,

  3. Frank says:

    Nope. I was in Coroico in May and in September. Did both roads twice. Once up, once down. Both roads have traffic in both directions. You got lucky I guess…
    Although, back in 2005 when the new road wasn’t open I did the ride down by bicycle and up in a van. Was much more fun then with all the trucks 🙂

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