The soldiers came. But as we were preparing to fire they split into two groups. Antonio panicked and fired before he should and chaos ensued. Inti, Coco and I chased after two of the soldiers but they found shelter and we couldn’t shoot them out. We had to retreat to save ammunition. Eustacio nearly shot Che in the confusion and Che gave Antonio a real telling off for the danger his stupidity had caused. We set off but soon ran into the army. Thirty men ahead of us. Che said there was no point attacking them, we wouldn’t get enough weapons and probably would lose at least a couple of our own men in the fight. We kept on moving until Moro became exhausted and we had to stop. Some stayed in the bottom of the ravine with him, I camped with Che half way up and others including Miguel made it to the top. It doesn’t feel good when we are split into small groups – especially when there are men who can’t be trusted like Camba and Chapaco, and sick men and stupid men like Antonio who might shoot us instead of the army. We are in a poor state to be brutally honest. But we try to stay positive in front of each other because if we lose morale we don’t have much else left.
We are kind of trapped in this ravine and no one could find a way out. We know we are close to the river but none of the locals could give us information about fording places and this side is really steep cliffs. The mules won’t make it over those cliffs and Che and Moro certainly couldn’t do it on foot. We are at high altitude now and we’ve run out of water. But we had some good news in that Benigno, Nato and Julio reappeared. I was a bit worried that if they could find us so could the soldiers, but I was also relieved to see them again. We need all the men we can get. They told us about the soldiers they’d seen and confirmed that all our camps have been over-run with soldiers. They’ve been following our tracks for a couple of days. Benigno said he thinks that Joaquin’s group are very nearby and was positive that we will be reunited in a couple of days.
Spending all day trying not to think about being thirsty. Some men drank their own urine they were so desperate. Then they got sick. I sucked on some caracore leaves like Pombo told me to. It was better than nothing but not much. Pablito went off to look for water with one of the hunter guides who has come along with us. But they didn’t return. We had to kill the little mare that Che had been riding. She was starving to death. So we have food but we really need water. The radio keeps talking about killing guerrillas in two completely different places. Unless Joaquin’s group have split up it’s imposible to believe what they say. We won’t know for sure until we come upon them.
Still wandering around up in this high, humid place and making very little progress. Still no sign of water. Many are hardly able to walk because of thirst. The remaining mules are doing okay though. I AM THIRSTY. And of all the ways to die I do not want to die of thirst.
Those clearing the paths are fainting from thirst and we are making just about no progress at all. Some of them tried drinking their own urine again out of desperation but that just makes them sick. I went down with Inti and Benigno and found some water and brought it back up. It was hard to carry and we didn’t bring as much as we’d like, but there was no way Che and the mules could get down to the water so we had to do it that way. At least we had some water with our horsemeat. I forgot the radio down below so we had no news. I offered to go back down for it but Che said not to bother. It’s all lies anyway.
Ancieto and Leon found a route they thought the mules would be able to make from the camp to the water so we set off quite late in the day. It was pretty scary at the beginning, very steep and the mules were spooked all the time. I was holding one firm to make sure he didn’t throw Che off again. We can’t do with more injuries. When I got back to the radio I got a message but it was coded and no one could decipher it. I heard Che talking to Pombo and saying the situation was very bad, morale was low and things were not looking like they would get better any time soon. He didn’t know I heard him and I am determined to keep my moral up if only to prove to him that we are not all deserters and cowards like Camba. That man makes me sick. I wish he would fall over the cliff.
The trip down the ravine continued. The mules struggled again and one of them fell down. Che was leading the mule behind the one that fell. You couldn’t ride them it was too steep. Miguel, Benigno and Urbano had gone on ahead and found an empty house – empty of people but with lots of provisions. Goats, flour, salt and – yes, of course – lard. So two goats were killed and the whole lot was thrown into a pot. It took an age to cook but was worth waiting for.