THE FIRST DAY...............CONTINUED................

      At sunset things got a little rough. We turned off the blacktop and cut through what seemed to be a farmer's field. After about a kilometer we came to a rutted path. There were big holes, boulders and little rivulets rolling through them. The angle was a good 30 degrees. Cucuta lay 200 miles to the east. The sun set at our backs.Now the real hell began. Extreme discomfort would become the norm for most of the next month. After we negotiated the first kilometer the sky was pitch black. It was hard to see,even with our halogen headlights. The "road" was practically vertical. The air was full of blinding dust as the hard core racers pulled ahead. After all, they were racing the clock. We changed our first flat. Ten minutes, not bad for beginners on a thirty degree angle. Around eleven PM we were past the half way point. The air was much colder now at ten thousand feet. During the day it had been over 100. Now it was probably in the 40s.

      Suddenly there was a commotion up ahead.Other vehicles were stopped with the drivers outside waving large flashlights down into a ravine. A Chilean car crashed by missing a hairpin curve, slamming into a tree at 100 mph.

    My partner grabbed his cameras and put in special 1600 film. We climbed down about 20 feet and made our way through the mangled brush. Other than the nonexistent front end, the car was untouched. We flashed our lights inside. The windows were completely red, caked with gore. The AFP reporter yanked open the door. Two heads rested neatly on the seats. So much for the roll bar. It had decapitated them. The blood had shot out of their necks like firehoses. Nothing we could do now. The authorities would be notified in Cucuta. We finally saw the lights of Cucuta in a valley below. At this point there had been some earlier rain. Now there was deep mud to add to our misery. Hunger began to overtake us, as we knew the restaurants would be closing before we reached town.

    2:00 AM: Since we get in before the racers,we manage to snag the last hotel room in town. A couple of shots of rum and off to bed. We are lucky compared to many of the racers who after arriving as late as 4:30 AM, are then up the rest of the night doing various mechanical repairs that can involve taking half the engine apart just so they will be able to make it to the starting point in the morning. Whoever is not at the starting point in the morning is automatically disqualified!