DAY EIGHTEEN CONTINUED...........................

We rise directly from sea level up through the stark mountain desert. It's 80 km to the starting point. At this point we leave the Pan Americano. The locals give us great cookies, our last food for 36 hours.At 9 AM the gun goes off. The first region of the day we come into is the Valle del Luna ,Valley of the Moon. Awesome craters, no vegetation, 20,000 foot snowcaps straddling the border with Bolivia. The altimeter in the Bronco says we are driving at more than 5200 meters, nearly 17,000 feet.

Just before noon, south of Ollague, the world's
highest permanent human settlement at 17,400 feet, some of us take a wrong turn onto a dry lake bed. We are driving around in the giant salt flat. Everyone is very lightheaded because of the incredible altitude climb in such a short time.

The surrounding volcanoes in Bolivia really make it look as if we've driven up to another planet. We're practically up in the stratosphere anyway. The sun is huge and white. The sky is almost purple. There's about five cars driving around. One starts to sink in the muddy salt flats. Another vehicle pulls it out. This part of the journey is just as much about survival as competition.

While everyone is in a trancelike state,the mechanic for the team I'm with gets out his Bronco to take a picture of the incredible countryside. At the same time all the vehicles are beginning to back up.We slam into a press Montero. Simultaneously, a Toyota 4X4 backs over the mechanic who is looking the other way snapping pictures. CRRRACK! The huge tire goes right over his leg and breaks it in 2 places and rips his arm open at the elbow.

Everyone is running around like chickens with their
heads cut off. Luckily one of the team leader - drivers is also an MD. He commands me to get the first aid kit out of the other vehicle. I run over and I forget what I'm supposed to get- altitude can make you a bit scatterbrained. Then I remember and bring it over thinking all the while what a beautiful county Bolivia is, though I'm actually in Chile.

Bone sticks out of his pant legs . Blood all over! Meat hangs out of the elbow and upper region of his arm. The doctor binds the leg with an old shock absorber and ripped up T-shirts. His open arm is full of dirt. Six of us lift the poor wretch up in a plastic tarp into the Mitsubishi and stretch him out on a seat. Four of our vehicles turn back north to Ollague, about 50 miles over a ribbed solid rock surface that we had taken at a very bumpy 60 mph before. Now we have to go about twenty because of the painful screams every time we hit a bump, even though the doctor doped him up with every pill in the first aid kit.