We took the road by the lagoon but pretty soon lost the path. We found a creek to stay the night at. The radio is worse than ever. One of the men who deserted, Bustos, is saying that his wife met with Che in La Paz – everyone wants a piece of Che – and the hunt is definitely on for him now. And we are on the hunt for Joaquin. I take comfort in the fact that if it’s so hard to find them and yet they are close by, it won’t be easy for the army to find us.
I stayed with Che at the campsite and a couple of groups were sent out to scout possible ways. There is a sense of hope at finding Joaquin’s group now which gives us a renewed vigour. That and all the pork we have to eat! When the scouts came back Che decided that we would take the path that may lead to Rosita. He thinks this is the one spoken of by Melgar and might take us closer to Joaquin. How great it will be to be reunited with them and hear all their stories. I am looking forward to seeing Tania again as well.
A lot of walking but at least I felt we have a purpose to it. We walked until the path ends and tomorrow men will be sent out to see where we can go from here. We always have to send scouts ahead these days because there’s always the possibility of the army and we don’t want to fall into their hands. On the radio I got a long message in code from Cuba and it took forever to decipher it. There was news of Raul Castro giving a talk. There is a reaction to a speech Che gave suggesting that all our struggles are like raising many Vietnams.
It was a rest day today while the scouts went out looking for paths. While here reading and listening to the radio we picked up news that there have been two skirmishes but they seem to be in completely different locations so one must be false and the other maybe gives an indication to where Joaquin’s group is. It was good to hear news that they may be near by, but bad to hear because obviously if they are fighting, men may be killed. There must be some truth in it though.
Camba, Urbano and Benigno were sent to cut a path. We waited in camp while others laid out an ambush for security. There was more news of action in San Juan del Potero, so it seems this might be where Joaquin’s group are. Apparantly fifteen soldiers and their officer were captured, stripped of their belongings and freed. This sounds like Joaquin. We’ll head towards this place to try and connect up with them again.
Che talked to us about the importance of July 26th and it reminded me of home and of why we are fighting for freedom. I wish the Bolivian people would get behind us and realise what we are trying to do is for their freedom not for our own glory. How can people not want to be free?
As we were about to set out Willy arrived from the ambush group and told us there were soldiers nearby. There was a fight. Eight soldiers were involved. One of them called out the name Melgar. It could be a coincidence but you can trust no one. Four of the soldiers fell into the ambush – the rest were too far behind. Our men shot them and at least three were killed. We withdrew quickly, before taking weapons or equipment because it would have been more dangerous to break cover and try and get them. We got on the horses and left. Che is suffering with his asthma again and his emergency supplies are nearly exhausted.
An advanced part of Coco, Pacho, Raul and Ancieto was sent out to cover the way. We had to go through a very steep canyon – I don’t like this terrain, there’s too little place to escape or hide – and we didn’t make a lot of progress. We got separated from the forward group and camped in the canyon. There’s a mixture of sand which the horses sink in, and rock which is hard on their hooves. But we still need them because not everyone is fully mobile.