We followed a trail along the river bank. It’s been used by people but not for a long time and we had to hack our way through a lot of the time. Then suddenly it ended. I hate this. It means we have wasted all our time and energy and have to re-trace our steps. It stopped by a large river. There was a dispute whether it even was the Masicuri. No one really knows. Marcos and Miguel went upstream. Inti, Carlos and Pedro went downsteam. They finally found the mouth and confirmed it was the Masicuri. We saw some peasants loading horses. With all the moving around we’ve been doing they’ve probably seen our tracks too, so Ramon warned us to be on our guard.
We camped near peasants, but made sure they could not see us. We bathed in what Ancieto named Cold Creek. It’s pretty obvious how this got its name.
Walking was easier to begin with today because the ground had been cleared by others yesterday. But then we hit a difficult patch where we had to clear a trail. Machetes out! It was about four in the afternoon when we came to the main road, which is the one we’ve been headed for. On the other side of the river is a house. But we looked for one on this side, not wanting to cross a river unnecessarily. Inti and Loro went to the house. No one was there.
We went on a night march. It was quite scary because however hard things are in the light in unfamiliar territory they are ten times worse in the dark. Inti and Loro went back to the house and came back after ten with news that the man was there but was drunk and unhelpful. He would only sell some corn. We made some humitas but Ramon didn’t eat any. He said he had some problems with his stomach. I am lucky, I have a cast iron stomach, my mother always said. We stayed nearby and slept in a little wooded area. Ramon and others had hammocks but there wasn’t enough space for all to rig hammocks, so I slept on the ground.
We woke to rain. It rained all morning. The river rises a lot when it rains. We went to the peasant’s house. His name is Perez but he wasn’t there. His son Montano was the only one at home. He said his father has been gone for a month. I am suspicious of thim because he told us some relative of his is the girlfriend of an army lieutenant. So while he seemed nice and friendly, we cannot trust him.
We stayed in camp. Montano came three times to visit us. Once he told us that people had crossed the river looking for pigs and we should beware. Others were out clearing paths to get us out of here. When Montano saw our hammocks he was amazed. He’d never seen one before. We also showed him our tool to shell corn and he begged that we give it to him. It was just made from a can so we happily gave it to him. We can make another easily enough. Miguel and Marcos went off to look for a path or a road we can take out of this place. We need to find a new campsite, further from the peasant houses.
I was on the radio today and we took a long message from Havana. Luckily I didn’t have to decipher it, just note it down. It said that we will be getting visitors. They will be coming to La Paz in about 10 days time on February 23rd and will then come to see us. So we will need to get back to our home camp by the end of the month. There was also some trouble in the message about money having gone missing. I never thought we’d need money here in the jungle but of course we have to pay peasants for what we take, we cannot steal from them if we want their support.
We followed the path clearers all the way to the next house. It has some fifty head of cattle, so must be owned by someone pretty rich – a rancher or the like. Turns out he is the brother of Perez. His name was Miguel. While this seems a rich place, it seems that Miguel is being exploited by his brother and so he is willing to collaborate with us. It was very late when we’d finished talking to him and so we didn’t have time to cook a meal. We are going to bed hungry. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. I am too tired to care. Too tired to read – too tired to write this!
We moved camp a bit higher up, away from the peasant. It’s not a comfortable place to stay, but it gives us a good view of all around so that no one can surprise us. Comfort isn’t high on the guerrilla priority list! We discovered that the army is in Masicuri, which is too close for comfort, but it’s just military work brigades, detailed to mend roads, so they don’t have many weapons. We went fishing at the river and caught loads of fish so we ate really well. Ramon said we have to get a lot of food together for the next part of our trip. We will ask the peasant to buy some pigs and fatten them up for us. It started raining again and that puts a bad complexion on everything and makes all work much more arduous. I even sat down to read for a moment but the rain was making the pages of the book wet because I couldn’t find any real shelter.
Rain all day. Stayed put. Read. Had classes. Ramon tells us that discipline is the most important thing for a guerrilla. I asked if it was more important than courage and he laughed. He said the first duty of the guerrilla is to stay alive and discipline will help us stay alive more than courage.