The day that Che went away (+ 1)

Published: October 12th 2011
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Tina Writes

The taxi ride was ok but my arse was killing me by the time we got there as my seat was in the middle of the two back seats. When we got to the town of Samaipata, the driver didn’t know where our hostel was, so he and the other passengers all talked between themselves and asked passersby. We finally found it and quickly discovered it was the best hostel we had stayed in so far. We had also booked the best room they have, a little more expensive than most but at $140Bs (£13) a night it was really nice. La Posada del Sol is set in lovely landscaped gardens, the owners, an American from Texas and a Bolivian. So English was spoken fluently, making things so much easier and we feel less guilty about our ignorance. They also run a little restaurant, although I think most of the customers are guests at the hostel. The menu was pretty good and although fairly cheap, we have spent quite a bit of money here on the food alone. Only problem is no WiFi, or internet at all!

We had come to Samaipata as all research regarding the Che Guevara trail led to here. Although most of the action took place in (relatively) nearby La Higuera and ValleGrande, Samaipata was meant to be the jumping off point. We asked the day after we arrived about how best to get there and where advised it wasn’t that easy. It was a 3 hour taxi ride away to ValleGrande and if we wanted to go to La Higuera then we would need to stay overnight there. There were no public buses except one going to ValleGrande at 12.30pm, to late in the day. We also checked out the tour operators in town to see what their deal was. Sounded good, leave at 5am, go to both places with a guide and to the museums but it cost $550Bs EACH! (£55). So we left it at that and decided to go to the local archaeological site, El Fuerte (£10). We shared a cab (£4) there with some travellers we noticed in town, therefore cutting the costs. It was quite interesting. Used by three different peoples, the Inca’s being one of them. I don’t actually know what it was, I don’t even think the archaeologists know. It seemed to be a temple of sorts, carved out of the rock. Some people think it’s an alien landing pad but I think some people think that about all unusual structures. It was very hot though and although I had factor 50 on as usual, parts of it must have rubbed off from my straps as I look like a pink and white Zebra now.

We had been meaning to ask some of the people staying at our Hostel if they were interested in going on the Che trail with us, again cutting the costs but before I got the chance, Trent, the hostel owner stopped us as he was chatting to them and asked us if we would be interested in sharing with them for the next day. Great! So we had arranged for a taxi to take the four of us at 8am to ValleGrande and to each of the points of interest along with a guide, and back again for $117Bs (£11) each. We wouldn’t get to go to La Higuera, where Che was captured, imprisoned and assassinated though. I was happy enough with this arrangement. Only problem was, the guide only spoke Spanish but the Norwegian couple we were with spoke English and Spanish as well and were kind enough to translate for us. ValleGrande is where Che and his comrades were flown to after they were killed in La Higuera and displayed for the worlds press and towns people. This was in order to prove to the world he was dead and to scare the local people in to knowing what’s good for them! They were then buried in secret locations which were only uncovered in 1997. We first stopped at the Che Museum which housed timeline information and many many pictures of him through the years. A lot of the pictures where of him dead though. We then moved onto the hospital where he was taken to be cleaned and prepared for the press, this took place in one of the laundry rooms at the back of the hospital. Che was placed on the concrete washing basin and some of his comrades lay dead on the ground around him while the military posed with him. The concrete wash basin remains and the structure surrounding. It is fenced off (although you are allowed inside) and covered in graffiti by the people who have come to see it like us. I don’t think the graffiti is seen as a bad thing, I believe they are messages to Che from admirers. I would have like to have left my own little mark but I wasn’t sure this was the case and the guide wasn’t encouraging it. There was a wreath laid on the concrete where Che’s head once lay. I wondered at the time if flowers where laid often and who had put them there. We then moved onto the Airfield, this is where Che and the others had been secretly buried. They were buried in the land between the airfield and the cemetery. This now the Che Mausoleum and a building has been built over the ground they lay in. Inside the building remains the large hole that was dug when unearthing them and gravestones have been laid . Again I noticed each grave had flowers laid and I asked if this was normal and who laid them. The guide told us that these particular flowers where there because the day before was the 44th anniversary!!! All day I had been seeing the date he died, 9th October 1967 and it didn’t click, we had missed the anniversary by 1 day! What a-che-me. The guide was sniggering away at us. We moved onto another gravesite about 200 yards away. It was basically in someone’s backyard, these were the graves of all Che’s other Guerrillas that had been killed in combat a few days or weeks before he was captured. The families insisted that they were found after Che’s grave was uncovered and 2 years later they found them. Apparently only one member of the military knew where Che’s grave was and had kept the secret for 28 years. They had removed his hands and meant to remove his head and bury them somewhere else, so that if the body was recovered, they wouldn’t be able to tell it was him but for some reason they did not remove his head. Dental records proved it was him. Che was repatriated with Cuba and has been buried there against his family’s wishes. They wanted him back in Argentina but he was a Cuban citizen and his wife and children are Cubans and remain there today. All the other Guerrillas were also sent to Cuba even although many of them where Bolivian and some even French. The families are supposedly happy with this as this is what they think they would have wanted.

That was the end of the tour and we had a bit of time to have some lunch so we ate in a cafe on the Plaza which turned out to be owned by a couple from Manchester. When I asked him why they had moved here and opened business he said ‘well , we are Jehovah’s Witness’. My first thought was to say ‘so you ran out of doors to knock- on in Britain and had to find some new ones?’ I really don’t get why he told us this, maybe one of you guys know why it’s relevant, answers on a postcard (or in the comments). Anyway, he was a nice guy and we had a little chat. It was time to head back to Samaipata.

I asked the owners in the morning where we could get a public taxi from to get back to Santa Cruz. They told us they would call one for us and have it pick us up at the hostel, so we agreed 12pm. We then went into town to pick up our La Paz bus tickets. We headed back to the hostel and told the owners we would be waiting in the lounge. They had mentioned there had been some trouble getting taxis lately, so when 12.30pm passed, I thought it was just a bit of bother getting one on time so when the owner came through to the lounge and told us we should really be making a move, I was horrified. I said I thought he called for one already and he said no, he would do it now. I was not happy! He acted like we had made ourselves late as if we hadn’t arranged for him to call us a taxi. He went into a bit of a panic and drove us to the taxi pick up point. There was one taxi that was apparently taking furniture and therefore had no room for us so in order to get this taxi we had to pay for the whole thing, $170Bs (£17). This may not seem much for a 3 hour taxi ride for 2 of us but in Bolivia it is. It should only have cost us $60Bs (£6). The whole thing felt a bit suspect but if we wanted to catch our bus in time we had no other choice.

We arrived without incident and got on our bus. The first 2 seats at the front of the bus meant we had no one in front of us, so no intrusion from their seat reclining and we had the front window (passengers are upstairs) so a good view. However the journey was not great and very little sleep was had. The Bolivians behind us where like something out of Dumb and Dumber and by the end of the journey, Rob was now calling them Floyd and Harry. One of them would hock up what we think was coca leaves in the most disgusting manner EVER with no concern for anybody on the bus. The first time he did it I thought he was dying. Another would shout ‘AYE’ over and over eventually prolonging it in a very husky voice. It was really weird and very annoying. After 17 hours we finally arrived in La Paz to realise we didn’t actually want to do ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Road’ bike ride and wished we has just gone straight onto Copacabana. But with no sleep and a room booked we will head there tomorrow.

R.I.P Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

Additional photos below
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12th October 2011

Wow, you look like a thirteen year old girl who can't speak English cut your hair, Rob.
12th October 2011

Also "a-che-me" LOL
16th December 2011
Che Museum, ValleGrande, Bolivia

Hasta siempre
From Bangladesh, we the people of Bangladesh r grateful to Guevara. Bangladesh liberated at 1971 through the 9 month guerrilla warfare against the aggressor Pakistan. Our freedom fighter was inspired by Che Guevara. Many of Bengali freedom fighter read Guevara’s guerrilla autobiography and learn many movement and they did many successful guerrilla operation on Pakistani soldiers. Today 16th December our 40th independence day we have been celebrate, remember our all martyr and also che Guevara who was the inspiration of our people in 1971. HASTA SIEMPRE COMANDANTE

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