Amy’s T1D Adventure: Biking on “Death Road” in La Paz

La Paz, a City in the Mountains

I landed in La Paz, Bolivia at El Alto airport which sits above 13,500 ft. As the taxi took me down to La Paz, I had the most incredible view of the mountains surrounding the city. I was in for a treat for the next two weeks.

I dropped my bags at the Airbnb I was staying at and went out to explore. It was very cool and I ended up wearing my warm winter jacket throughout my stay. Latin America is not all blue skies and beaches!

Even though I was in  the highest city in the world, I wanted to see if there were any places I could run. I found a city park which was practically all uphill. If my lungs were screaming for air while walking, running was out of the question. As I headed to find a grocery store and local gym, I had a blood sugar crash. Luckily there were street vendors on every corner selling fruit. An apple and banana later I was feeling a little less light headed –  I couldn’t tell whether it was due to low blood sugar or the high altitude. My runs for the next 10 days were going to have to be on a treadmill. The pollution, traffic and steep hills of La Paz were not ideal for outdoor exercise.

No Guards in a Jail?

Day 2 started with a walking tour of the city. It was the perfect way to get a snapshot of the highlights and ideas for things I could do over the next week. We walked past the infamous San Pedro jail that sits right in the center of the city. There, children and wives of the criminals can live inside the jail with them while they await trial. There are only 15 police guards outside and none inside the jail. Not an ordinary way to run a jail, but nothing was ordinary in these countries!


Amy's T1D Adventure prison

We ventured through the streets of the witch’s markets, food markets and past some of beautiful churches. We also saw the Presidential palace.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Flags

We also learned about some of the ridiculous comments the current president had told his citizens like “If you eat chicken, you will become gay”. He later apologized for this.

After the tour, I was starving for lunch went on the hunt for a vegan cafe. With not much luck I ended up buying some groceries to take back to the apartment and cooked for myself!

Outdoor Markets and Incredible Views

On Sunday I went for a run before exploring one of the biggest outdoor markets in Latin America. El Alto is the indigenous city that sits above La Paz and in the markets you can find anything from used cars to second hand clothing to fresh fruit and  traditional Bolivian lunch dishes. The most exciting part was catching the Teleferico cable car up and seeing more incredible views of the city!

Amy's T1D Adventure: Cable car
At the markets I stocked up on some gifts to take home and some warm winter gloves and beanie for my trip to Salar De Uyuni where I would be sleeping in the desert at below freezing temperatures!

My sugar levels were on a little bit of a rollercoaster of lows and highs. Unfortunately, it wasn’t only for this day and seemed to happen for most of my time in Bolivia. A mix of high-carb and high-fat foods didn’t help.

Biking on “Death Road” with T1D

I had read online about doing a biking tour of the Death Road, which, as the name suggests, is labeled as the most dangerous road in the world. I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I went ahead and booked.

On Thursday and we took a 1.5hour drive from La Paz to the start of the Death Road. We had on full motorcycle gear, helmets and gloves and once we were on the road I understood why— it was very narrow, rocky and bumpy.

The view at the start was incredible. We were amongst the clouds! I was a little nervous but after we started our 3-hour bike ride down the road, I warmed up to it a bit. By no means was I at the front of the pack, but I felt comfortable riding over the rocks and keeping my eyes on the road so I wouldn’t veer to the edge! Our  photographer even managed to make me look like a rebel.

Amy's T1D Adventure: Amy on Bike

The day ended with a vegan-friendly lunch at the bottom of the Death Road and we had a long 3-hour trip back to La Paz. It was a great experience and probably the most daring I’m going to get!

More Adventures Ahead

The rest of the week was a mix of indoor treadmill running, spin classes, gift shopping and cooking while I awaited the adventures that would end my Latin American trip. I was going to Salar de Uyuni–the biggest salt flats in the world: a 3 day, 2 night excursion into the Bolivian desert. I was very excited!

This is a guest post series from Amy McKinnon, a One Drop user and 28-year-old ex-advertising executive who recently swapped her NYC apartment for an oversized backpack to explore the streets of Latin America for six months. Amy has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years and tries her best to balance blood glucose levels,marathon training and a high-carb raw vegan diet. Now she has thrown travel into the mix. EDITOR’S NOTE: Amy is a performance athlete and consumes a high-carb diet. At One Drop, we believe that a low-carb approach to food reduces the risk of high and low blood glucose incidents and can effectively reduce blood glucose levels overall. However, we want to share a variety of personal experiences so we can all learn how other people live their lives with diabetes. Always consult your doctor before making changes to a prescribed regimen.




Amy McKinnon
Amy McKinnon

Amy McKinnon is a One Drop user, marathoner, ex-advertising executive, and has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years. Amy is currently exploring the streets of Latin America for six months.