We didn’t do anything much today. There was no food at the farm only some sugar cane. The old man is not reliable and we decided to move on. We walked for two hours and slept in a cornfield.
It is Sunday. This means nothing but it is a way to mark the passage of time. Benigno and Coco went to recon and ended up taking a load of peasants prisoner which they brought to us. An old woman started to scream and we let her run back to the village. We went into the village in the afternoon and I was posted sentry. Others captured a jeep and a couple of trucks . One belonged to the oil company and the others were owned by individuals. We went on our way and when we reached Ipitacito we broke into a store – because it was closed – and took a load of stuff. But we left 500 pesos to cover the cost, we are not thieves but we must eat. Later we stopped at a house in Itay where we met the woman who owned the shop and told her we had paid. She seemed okay about it and gave us some cheese and bread and coffee. One of them recognised Che and said so. That meant time to move on.
We had been moving fast by truck, headed for Santa Cruz, but it stalled and then broke down. It was a Ford. We got off it and had to be ferried back and forth by the jeep which was a much more reliable vehicle.
We arrived at the settlement of El Espino. The community are Guarani people and they don’t speak much Spanish. They seem frightened to speak at all. We found another oil company truck but Ricardo soon got it stuck in the mud and we had to abandon it.
It took us most of the day to plan the next move – people aren’t as organised as they should be and don’t always pay attention. Che said Coco’s plan was too dangerous as it would take us close to the Rio Grande, so he sent the forward group off in the jeep and the rest of us followed on foot.
One good piece of news from the radio today was that Loro had escaped from Camiri.
We reached railroad tracks at dawn. It was a beautiful sunrise. I can still appreciate such things, perhaps more now that before because I never know if it will be the last one I see – and because so many days are raining. Using the railroad tracks for guidance should have shown us the road to Muchiri. But no such road exists. The jeep took a straight road used by the oil company but they soon came across a boy with a shotgun and a dog. He ran pretty quickly when Che shouted at him to halt. We set up an ambush. Miguel and others went off to explore the region while we stayed at the ambush. The army arrived in the afternoon and we shot at them, killing three and wounding one. After that we withdrew but didn’t find Miguel and his men. We came across the jeep – its radiator was dry and it had given up the ghost. Pombo came up with an ingenious idea to get it going. We all peed into the radiator and then added a canteen of water – then jumped in it and headed towards Julio and Pablo who were waiting with a fire going roasting meat. We ate turkey and pork meat. We have one live pig which is being brought along in the jeep. Its job is to drink from the water holes – I think this is to test if the water is safe to drink for us, but I don’t know how long it would take a pig to die from poisoned water and I’m sure some of us wouldn’t be disciplined to wait if we’re facing the choice of water now or waiting.
We’re making good progress in the jeep. Of course I’m not riding in it all the time, most of the time I’m with a walking detachment. We take turns in the jeep and it is good to know that you don’t have to walk all the time. Even though the jeep is a pretty bumpy ride it gives motivation when you are walking another five kilometres. My boots are holding up well so I should not complain.
Today we came across a man on a bicycle, setting game traps. He told us where there were water holes. He told us how to find water and everyone (except Che) drank their reserve supply – thinking it would now be easy to get water. It turned out we had just walked past one so I was sent back to find the water and to cook some food. We hadn’t gone far when we came across two army trucks so Pombo detailed us to set up an ambush. We fired and hit two soldiers but then Nato used his grenade launcher and one of the grenades blew up in his face. He was okay but the launcher barrel was blown apart.
We then walked about another fifteen kilometres until we found the next water hole. It was dark when we got there. At that point the jeep also finally died. We had plenty to eat though. The creek water was bitter. I wished I had left some of my reserve water - a lesson learned. Even if there is water around you can’t guarantee it will be good. I won’t leave myself without good drinking water again if I can help it.
Che told us that tomorrow we are going to cross the railway tracks and head for the mountains.
We have been a long time without making contact with Joaquin and that’s worrying. Che says he thinks they have moved north and we have to go find them.
It is our eighth month on the campaign and the fourth month of combat. We sat and talked about it. Moral is generally high, despite that we can’t find Joaquin and half of our men. Planes were flying overhead. The radio was giving out reports of dead which we couldn’t make sense of – maybe it is old news. Later we set out and walked eight kilometres – on the railway track to start with, then down an abandoned lane. It was uneventful. But everyone was tired – you constantly have to expect soldiers and being on guard all the time like that is tiring quite apart from the walking.
We are still looking for good water. Finally we decided to kill the pig and get something good to eat. We had just killed it when a cattle herder turned up and he let us use his horses to take the quartered pig away some distance to be cooked. I wasn’t sure whether to trust this man.
We were about to move off when an army truck passed by. They didn’t see us, and we were more keen to eat pork than shoot at soldiers so we let them go. We had kept some peasants with us all day and we paid them 100 pesos each and let them go at nightfall. There is still only bitter water in the creeks.