The raft was useless. Some of the better swimmers went into the water but it was too cold to swim across. We were sent out to look for a barge which supposedly belonged to the peasant farmer who lives nearby.
I didn’t care much for the barge but I was happy that we were also going to get some food. Before we got to food though, we ran into some soldiers on the opposite bank. We used a lot of ammunition and then withdrew. I think we might have killed some of them.
So tomorrow we must move on again. It’s not looking good because on the one hand we have the river and on the other it’s impenetrable brush amidst steep cliffs – I don’t know what we will do if we are confronted by a lot of soldiers. Shoot and hope I suppose.
Today we spent in ambush because no one felt safe enough to break cover. All day I felt like it would be my last. But there was only one small plane flew overhead, no soldiers. I know they are out there and I am frightened because I know they would have the upper hand on us right now. Our ammunition is low but at least we have some food. I will die, if I do, on a full belly. I’d rather live on an empty one.
At last we moved. But we only got as far as a water hole before the difficulty of the journey ahead was laid out plain. Others went in search of another water hole, but when they came back they said it was difficult to get to so we stayed up in the hills. And of course it was wet and cold. I had nothing to do but listen to that devil the radio which is telling more lies. It told of army casualties from our clash a few days ago. That is good except it means they will be out looking for us and we are not in a good position. But it tells lies because it said that Inti was dead and he’s sitting here right beside me while I write this. But they told how many of us were in the group and got it entirely right – 17 Cubans, 14 Brazilians, 4 Argentines, 3 Peruvians. How did they know that there are 17 Cubans and 3 Pervuians? Maybe they are guessing or maybe someone has given them the information. I don’t know.
After an hour of walking we came to a water hole. The day was very cold and it was good to be moving. We only have food for a few days. The radio is telling of political unrest which Che says is a good sign. I am too cold and hungry to care but I can’t say that out loud.
It was cold again. The water hole was icy but we huddled round a fire for most of the day waiting for news from Urbano and Miguel who were out clearing a trail. We were supposed to leave in the afternoon but Miguel came along late and then told us the bad news that he had reached a creek with a fence which he supposed led back to the Rio Grande. So we stayed where we were. We ate the last of the stew which has been our final rations – nothing left to eat now apart from some peanuts. We will have to move soon to get more food. In the evening I discovered that it was Che’s birthday. He is thirty nine. He told me he thinks he’s getting a bit old for all this. I wonder if I will be alive when I’m thirty nine and if so, where will I be? I said this out loud and Che said that I would be alive and well with children and a wife and we would be in a free world. I hope he is right. It is a dream that feels a long way removed from the cold and hunger of right now.
We went towards the River again led by a peasant called Nicolas. We paid him off. We ate peanut soup. It was foul. We found some palm hearts and boiled them in lard – there is always lard – It’s not really food. I wish we could go somewhere else, but Che says we can’t move too far away from here because our priority is to find Joaquin and his men. I wish they would turn up and we could get moving properly.
We were walking along the river and saw some of our own men on the other side – Pacho had swum across to see how things were. I wish he hadn’t because then we all had to swim over and it was freezing with a bit of a current. But Pombo hung on to my shirt and made sure I was safe. He kept telling me there would be food on the other side. I didn’t believe him but it was nice of him to try and keep my spirits up. We walked on the other side for an hour or so until we came to Rosita. There was fresh water there at least but also the footprints of some soldiers who must have been there not long past. So then it was walk again, in the Rosita, in the water which was freezing. Miguel told us that there was a beehive at the end of the trail, but he was talking nonsense. So we ate mote and more palm hearts with LARD. Pacho told me that Lard is good for you. I said it might be good for you but it’s not GOOD for me. It may keep me alive but what’s the point being alive when you wish you were dead because you’ve eaten lard and feel like hell. He laughed at me. ‘Armies march on their stomachs,’ Pombo said, ‘but guerrillas march on Lard.’ ‘Watch out,’ Pacho said, ‘it’s a slippery slope that lard.’ How they can laugh I don’t know. If I’m holding my sides it’s not because I’m laughing, that’s for sure. It’s because I’m waiting for the lard to come back up again. I am sick and mostly I am sick of lard.