“Debbie Does Bolivia”

Aug 26, 2005 at 3:05
by Russ Day  
“Ouchhhh… my aching head!” … It’s only now, a week after the crew and riders from New World Disorder SIX left from 10 hectic days of riding and filming in Bolivia, South America, that I’m even beginning to recover and can even start to think about the whole wild experience and tell the world about their adventures here, on top of the world.

Four years of pestering the folks from Freeride Entertainment, the gang at Kona Bicycles, and ANYONE who would stop and listen to me about how incredible the trails and scenery in Bolivia are… Four years of receiving blank looks and “Bolivi-where?” comments. And then finally, Big D himself sends me an email about bringing a team of riders down here to ride and film for 10 days in 2005!

Some months later and we collected a “dream team” of riders (Robbie Bourdon, Dave Watson, Carlin Dunne and Cedric Gracia) and crew (Nate Nash, Jorli Ricker, Lucas Kane, Demien Whitley and Alex Fostvedt) from El Alto airport (4100m / 13,500 feet) after more than 30 hours of flights and stop-overs (“but we probably saved a 100 bucks flying this route!”) and drove them to their hotel in a quiet suburb of La Paz city.

Over the next 10 days we rode, dug, partied, jumped and filmed in five different zones within an hour’s drive of the center of La Paz.


With three 4wds, three drivers and a handful of volunteers, we drove with the crew to each site, scouted out potential jumps, drops and lines, built jumps, dug transitions and then stood back to let the riders work their magic.

With the city of La Paz at 3,600m (11,800 feet) and almost all of the riding zones being in the mountains surrounding and above this height, the affects of working, partying and playing at extreme altitudes were felt by everyone.


At sea level it might have only taken a few hours for a couple of guys to build a jump like the one Carlin Dunne is styling in the picture above. Here, at almost 13,000 feet, six of us busted a gut for three hours before waving the flag and collapsing from exhaustion. The solution was to hire some local farmers from a nearby village to help us finish building the jump and landing, and in the space of only a couple of hours four of them were able to do more than we could have in two full days! We were so happy we paid them a full day’s wage each … totaling a whopping US$4 a head … less than a Big Mac Combo!!


Once we learned this trick and saw how much could be accomplished by using the locals to help us (and they were stoked about receiving the extra cash!) we hunted around in a couple of other areas for big jumps to build. Eventually we found a 50-foot step down gap with great mountain scenery (that’s Illimani in the background, all 6,349m/20,800ft of her) but a horribly lumpy run in, and an off-camber landing … no problem, half a day, seven volunteers, five local farmers and a heck of a lot of dirt moved and we had a motorway of a run-in and a transition you could land a 747 on.


While several bemused locals and a sheep or two looked on, Cedric, Robbie and Dave sessioned the jump making it look far too easy. The photographer and three camera guys shot from all angles. I think the angle below is the one that gives the best perspective on how huge this jump really is… although my amateur shot below doesn’t really do justice to it at all.


In between building and sessioning the big jumps we were also able to take the guys to a couple of hidden spots of single-track, up into the mountains for some crazy big lines, and once down a crazy third-world-style urban assault course down through town.

The singletrack trails in Bolivia are what we affectionately call “adventurous” -- lots of exposure, scrabbly traction, narrow, heaps of vertical loss, and very, very scenic. Not exactly A-line, in fact pretty darn hard to ride at warp speed or smoothly… however the boys schooled us thoroughly in exactly how blindingly fast these trails can, and should, be ridden! I can’t wait to get out on those same trails and see how much I can let off the brakes next time … although to be honest I’m a bit scared of the possible consequences if I mess it up at anywhere near that speed.


Guiding these guys down these trails gave me an opportunity to see first hand how fast they actually ride … rather than trying to figure out their “real” speed from the videos. I also got to try wearing the helmet camera (taking it between sections they were filming, not actually filming) they often wear when filming these sections of single-track. Holy SHIT, that thing is heavy … kudos to these guys for riding with it on, especially at serious speed, and even more so over jumps … I just about snapped my neck off just bumbling slowly down the trail with it on.


There is definitely something special about watching Cedric (the two photos above) rip up a bit of trail that I have ridden hundreds of times before. As expected, he rides it much faster than I could ever have imagined it could be done. What really interested me, though, was watching Robbie (photo at left) rip our trails up. Robbie’s reputation is in his pinpoint accuracy on ladders and huge jumps, but what his video segments just don’t do justice to is how powerful and FAST he is on plain old “ordinary” tricky singletrack! Both Carlin and Dave hold their own quite nicely out there, too, but I was particularly blown away by watching Robbie in action.


I wasn’t able to get photos of the biggest mountain line of the trip because I was stuck on top of the mountain freezing my balls off yelling through a walkie-talkie, but trust me it is super impressive, and it’s going to look incredible in New World Disorder 6.

Throughout the trip I was also super impressed with the professionalism of the photographer, filming guys and safety guy (even though we had no major crashes) that Freeride Entertainment and Matchstick productions sent down to work on this gig. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, and in many ways not the easiest of countries to travel in, let alone film in. The riders and crew certainly had plenty thrown at them, but they pulled through, despite a good dose of food poisoning. By the end of the shoot I was super stoked with what was achieved, and I’m excited to see how it all looks in New World Disorder Six.

I’m also excited that people will finally get a chance to see what mountain biking in Bolivia is all about … so I’ll look slightly less like a crazy zealot when I corner people to rave about how incredible Bolivia is as a riding destination.


So keep an eye out for the Bolivia segments in NWD, and who knows, maybe we’ll see you down here some time soon to sample some of the most spectacular riding in South America.


Alistair “El Jefe” Matthew


For more photos and some short mpegs from the NWD visit to Bolivia please visit our gallery here!
All photos © www.gravitybolivia.com, 2005.

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