DAY NINE CONTINUED...............................

At the border I became more than a reporter,
I was now a racer myself, un piloto! Team partners had dropped out either from wives calling them home or more likely they just couldn't take it anymore. Macho ways got them around just fine out in the backwoods of Mississippi and Arkansas, but not in South America.

I become the co pilot of Jeff from Cleveland. Victim of a major midlife crisis, he was a guy running away from the wife and kids and 9 to 5 back in Ohio. He dresses in black leather, chains and a black cowboy hat.

A good short prime after border.About 100 miles in an hour and a half on rough dirt. It starts off with a bang.Literally. Jeff smacked a wild dog at about 85 mph. The unfortunate animal somersaults into the jungle. A Dutch racer, Peiter Hardsteen, who had come in second in the Paris - Dakar is out. He slammed in to a metal pole at 150. Although he walks away in good shape, the car is finished, along with his sponsorship. Adios.

After the party, we check into the ugliest and worst hotel I've ever stayed in, save for a San Francisco flophouse. The Obby. Filthy bathrooms, dirty sheets and a wall that did not go up to the ceiling, so the room is lit by very bright flickering green fluorescent lights (mosquitoes' favorite). Right out of the Intourist hotel design book.

    We arrived in Piura, via Chiclayo,around 7:30,too late to check into the main hotel where there was also a huge quincenara going on around the pool. A local jefe throwing a huge affair to which the Rallye members took part, helping themselves to copious quantities of rum. Around the pool private guards clutched AK-47's, as the guests danced to top volume marimbas.

    It is rumored that a racer hit a 5 year old girl. $1000 to the family and he's out of jail.