Things are starting to hot up and we are getting ready to leave here. Some of the men have gone to hide weapons in the ‘Bear Camp’ cave. Tuma had been out scouting and told us that he saw soldiers. He said that he thought they’d seen him, so we prepared ourselves for a fight. I was nervous, of course, but excited too. But we waited a long time and then Ramon told us to stand down, there would be no fighting today. He sent some men to the other camp but I stayed here. We killed the horse to leave food for Joaquin’s group who are going to stay behind because some of them are sick. At night Rolando took off with the ‘fainthearts’ who have decided not to continue the fight. There are four of them – I don’t want to name them because I don’t want to even remember their names. They are shameful.
We spent the whole day storing stuff in caves and didn’t finish the transfer till about five o’clock. We took turns in moving things and in guard duty, but not a soldier was seen, and there were no planes flying overhead either. All was strangely calm. The only news was from the radio which says that we are encircled. It also reported that we are digging in at the canyon of the Ñacahuasu. Someone must have told them where we are.
We are due to leave in the middle of the night.
We left at 3.30 am and hiked for about three hours. It’s not easy in the dark (but it’s not easy in the light either) We passed the ambush site and saw the seven bodies of the soldiers left behind. They are no more than skeletons now as birds of prey have picked them clean. Urbano and Nato were sent on ahead to make contact with Rolando. The rest of us set up camp at the Piraboy ravine. We ate a lot of beef and corn – so much I got a stomach ache – and we slept during the afternoon. We’ve got the Frenchmen with us, Ramon wants to get them out of the area but it’s going to be hard to find a way to let them go. It was agreed that when we get to Gutierrez we’ll occupy the town and they will take their chances of leaving.
We found tracks and a soldiers hat. Also some US food rations. We got to Gutierrez and the peasants we met told us that 150 soldiers had been there but had withdrawn. We went in to occupy various houses, all empty as many peasants seem to have fled from the soldiers and we ate pork and yucca. Then we came across a house with people still in it. While we were there one of the farmhands escaped – I hope he’s not gone to tell the soldiers. I’m glad I wasn’t the one supposed to be guarding him. Ramon wasn’t happy about the slack attitude presented by some of our group. He said we cannot afford to be so chaotic. Because of that and the fact that soldiers are nearby we didn’t continue with our plan of escape for the Frenchmen so they stay with us for a while longer. The peasants say the soldiers are coming back tomorrow, so we’re not waiting around here. We got quite a haul of the things they’ve left behind though – plates, ammunition and equipment. Good to have more things, but not so good when you have to carry them around at 3 in the morning and get lost like we did.
We were all together today, hiding out waiting for soldiers to ambush. Ramon was organising us all into positions. Some of the men didn’t take their knapsacks, and some of them look like they don’t want to be here any more. But there’s no escape except into the arms of the soldiers. As we were about to leave we saw some soldiers bathing in the river downstream. I had my gun sights on them. I was ready to shoot. But we didn’t. It was a strange feeling, knowing I could kill a man without him even knowing I was there. It was the closest I’ve been to a soldier. I know the day can’t be far off when the shooting begins for me in earnest and I hope I will be brave like Che and not let anyone down. It turns out there is an army camp just about a kilometer away. That’s too close for comfort.
We had to cross the river in the middle of the night. I was frightened. But perhaps it was easier not seeing the danger ahead. Pombo kept a hold of my knapsack from behind and kept whispering to me that all was fine. Miguel went out scouting soldiers but he was giving poor information. Rolando reported that he saw ten soldiers in the ravine we’d just left. The army have set up a camp at the foot of it. It feels like we are the hunted rather than the hunters today. Not a nice feeling. Later on Rolando said that there were a hundred soldiers in the ravine. We have to get out of here and fast.
Later, along the river we came across some peasants, herding cows. We took two of their cows (we paid them) and gave them a document explaining our mission. They took it and promised to pass it round Camiri when they returned. We had a good feast of beef!
We were dragging one cow along with us – it was not much easier to get it moving on its own two legs than if we had to carry it dead – and we continued along the river. Rolando is the best man for an ambush, he can spot soldiers when I don’t even know they are there. But today even he saw none. Urbano and Julio were sent out to get a message to Joaquin who we haven’t seen for days. We want to find out what’s happening with his group. They didn’t come back so we still don’t know.