We can’t find a way out of the canyon. I don’t have anything to say about today.
The canyon ended in steep cliffs so we went back and tried to climb the ridge. It was hard work but we got high up – where it was very cold – and we slept there. Che gave us a talk about the month, achievements and losses. The losses seem to outweigh the achievements but morale is still good. He said that we are now totally cut off from the outside world. We still need to develop our peasant base as a link but it will take time to gain support. We have lost both Rubio and Rolando, and Loro is still missing. And we still can’t find Joaquin so our forces are depleted and split. We haven’t gained a single recruit. We need to work together better and watch out for each other. He said that with all the news and helicopters and soldiers he is pretty sure they know he is here and they are looking for him. At the end of the evening he took me aside and told me that I was doing well and that he believed I had the makings of a very good guerrilla. He said that I understand it is not just about killing, though I am not afraid to kill when I have to protect my comrades. I felt proud.
We didn’t do much today, but we listened to a long speech on the radio from Havana. Food is being rationed and Nato shot a small bird. Not much eating on that, but it encouraged us to try and get some more. We had tea with a bit of milk to drink.
We walked around today but no one really knows which direction we are going in. Miguel and Beningo were detailed to clear tracks – they are the best at it – to find water because we have no access to it here. Our rations are small because there’s not many days food left. We are now quite high up and Pombo says I have to watch out for Che and give him his medicine if he needs it because the altitude can cause problems for his asthma. I swapped my book with Pombo, so now I have Che’s Guerrilla Warfare, and his medicine.
Progress is really slow. We only walk for a couple of hours, but at least we came to a creek with some water. Still at high altitude. We could hear a car engine but not which direction it was in. We are still missing Loro and Joaquin with ‘the stragglers’. The men missing are: Joaquin, Apolinar, Braulio, Ernesto, Marcos, Moises, Pedro, Serapio, Tania, Victor, Walter, Chingolo, Eusebio, Paco and Pepe. That’s sixteen people missing – seventeen if you count Loro. There are ten men in the forward group under Miguel, and ninteen of us. So we are almost split down the middle.
Coco and Aniceto explored the creek. They decided it is the Iriqui. We spent time walking downstream only to discover it can’t be. I don’t really care what it is called. I am not good at directions but it seems no one else is either. I just hope we are headed in the right direction for the Rio Grande.
There was bad news from the radio, telling that Loro has been captured. I think it is true. We did some hunting but it yielded only one small bird. I think the food is really running out. Che always likes to keep a reserve which he doesn’t tell us about, but I think we are coming to the end of even that.
We stopped at an abandoned hut. Benigno said he’d built it on one of his earlier reconnaissance missions. It means we are at the Congri Creek, not where everyone thought. Che said we can use this to our advantage so we are going to try and get back to Bear Camp to pick up food and then on to the old camp. I thought we would never go back there, but we have been going round in circles it seems and Che doesn’t want to move too far away from where Joaquin’s group may be.
We managed to kill another couple of birds today so we saved the last of the rations which are canned meat and powdered soup. I have some of the soup in my knapsack.
The radio told that Debray is going to be tried by a military court. There was no further news about Loro. Debray is likely to be killed. Loro may already be dead. At least the radio said nothing about Joaquin’s group. But the news is never good these days.
Che came and talked to me today. He said that I must not be downhearted. He could clearly see I was, even though I tried to hide it. He told me ‘there will be times when you feel you have reached your limit of strength. That is the time you must appeal firmly to your will-power and take another step. And after that another one, and another, never stopping.’ He told me to remember that our only choice is victory or death. And that even if we die, the struggle will continue.