We were headed out. Some of us were sent to look for an ambush position. We came across a truck and took the people with it prisoner. Che decided that we would set up more ambushes and capture any passing trucks as well as the army if they came. We got a lot of supplies including bananas. We paid for them all of course. We also took a Mauser rifle off them. The plan was to load up the truck with supplies and drive it to Tichucha – saving us the walk. As the sun set a plane circled round our position and we decided to set off. Just as we prepared to leave the shooting started. We weren’t expecting it – the ambushers became ambushed. Ricardo got involved shooting soldiers because he came across their guide. We had everything loaded into the truck and set off immediately with the six horses we captured trotting alongside. We had to leave Loro behind because we couldn’t find him. We finally got to Tichucha at about three in morning. It turned out that we didn’t get all the supplies we paid for, and that Pombo had dropped some dollars out of his bag. It was some 2,000 dollars so Che was not happy. He told us that his name must be changed from Ramon to Fernando, because Rolando told him that the Englishman knew his name was Ramon. So perhaps no one knows he is Che at all. But if I die and they find my diary, I’m sure they will know he is here. I will keep calling him Che here and I will keep alive!
Today we had a rest day, apart from planes flying overhead. We stayed low. I read more of Debray’s book. I’m nearly finished and will swap with Pombo soon. We’re going to stay close to the cornfield here for four while others go to look for Joaquin. Coco and Camba will head in the other direction, making a trail to the Rio Grande. We’ve just got to watch for soldiers until Joaquin comes with the ill and the stragglers. Still no sign of Loro.
We were set upstream on a ridge. You can see a fair distance to the house of the last peasant in the village before the priest’s house. The priest seems to be the boss of the place. A peasant came around. I don’t trust him. Of our group, Pacho has gone missing. Ancieto set him out on our path but he never turned up. We’re going to look for him tomorrow. And still no sign of Loro either. It’s horrible when men go missing. You never know if you will see them again.
I was on guard with Pombo when we saw about thirty soldiers coming from the little house. We left Antonio on guard to tell Che. As we were getting our ambush ready, he came to say there were now some sixty men advancing on us. All of the group formed an ambush on both sides of the creek. I was with Inti on the river bed. The soldiers came. With them were three big dogs. Che shot one of the dogs because it was in danger of giving away his position. There was a fire-fight and Rolando was killed. Rolando was a great fighter and we will suffer his loss greatly.
We took his body and withdrew from our positions. Thankfully, later Pacho turned up again having found Coco and the track again. We buried Rolando in the afternoon. It was a terrible thing to do and reminds us again that life is so precious and that at any moment any of us may die. He was a hero but now he is dead. Benigno and Ancieto turned up saying they had been in an ambush too, and they could not find Joaquin.
We left Rolando behind in his dirt grave, where no one will ever know he ever lived, and got to a crossroads leading to the rivers. We waited here for Coco and Camba. Che said we have to protect each other even better now. He is very worried that we haven’t found Joaquin and upset about Rolando who he had known for so many years. He said that we had lost one of our most valuable comrades, both a military and political leader and a friend. It is a terrible thing to bury a friend.
The priest is definitely an enemy. We could see helicopters landing at his house and planes bombed our ambush position. At least that suggests they do not know we have moved on.
Camba and Coco turned up about midday. They said they’ve cleared a path and we have a four hour hike ahead of us to climb the ridge. Che sent others out to look for an alternative route, but they couldn’t find on so we are going to take Coco’s route.
After only a couple of hours we came to a place where there were a lot of orange trees. Urbano and Benigno went on ahead to create a further path. We sat, listening to the radio and eating oranges. I am quite good at working the radio now, at least for listening to, and I’d say it was a friend except for the news it brings always being bad. You can’t believe all of it of course, but it’s hard to know what to believe. Today it said we’d killed several men plus a dog and that two of our men had been killed, a Cuban and a Bolivian. It also said that the Frenchman is being held prisoner, so he is still alive. But you can’t believe anything that radio says.
Another day of walking – hopefully away from the soldiers. We followed an old trail leading to the Rio Grande. We set up camp when we came to a point where the creek had run dry and it wasn’t clear which way was best to proceed.