Che Guevara: The Motorcycle Diaries

discovery of the ocean

The full moon is silhouetted against the sea, smothering the waves with silver reflections. Sitting on a dune, we watch the continuous ebb and flow, each with our own thoughts. For me, the sea has always been a confidant, a friend absorbing all it is told and never revealing those secrets; always giving the best advice — its meaningful noises can be interpreted any way you choose. For Alberto, it is a new, strangely perturbing sight, and the intensity with which his eyes follow every wave building, swelling, then dying on the beach, reflects his amazement. Nearing 30, Alberto is seeing the Atlantic for the first time and is overwhelmed by this discovery that signifies an infinite number of paths to all ends of the earth. The fresh wind fills the senses with the power and mood of the sea; everything is transformed by its touch; even Comeback1 gazes, his odd little nose aloft, at the silver ribbons unrolling before him several times a minute.

Comeback is both a symbol and a survivor: a symbol of the union demanding my return; a survivor of his own bad luck — two falls from the bike (in one of which he and his bag flew off the back), his persistent diarrhoea and even getting trampled by a horse. We’re in Villa Gesell, north of Mar del Plata, enjoying my uncle’s hospitality in his home and reliving our first 1,200 kilometers — apparently the easiest, though they’ve already given us a healthy respect for distances. We have no idea whether or not we’ll get there, but we do know the going will be hard — at least that’s the impression we have at this stage. Alberto laughs at his minutely detailed plans for the trip, according to which we should be nearing the end when in reality we have only just begun.

We left Gesell stocked up on vegetables and tinned meat “donated” by my uncle. He asked us to send him a telegram from Bariloche — if we get there — so that with the number of the telegram he could buy a corresponding lottery ticket, which seemed a little optimistic to us. On cue, others taunted that the bike would be a good excuse to go jogging, etc., and though we have a firm resolve to prove them wrong, a natural apprehension keeps us from declaring our confidence in the journey’s success.

Along the coast road Comeback maintains his aviator’s impulses, emerging unscathed from yet another head-on collision. The motorbike is very hard to control, with extra weight on a rack behind the center of gravity tending to lift the front wheel, and the slightest lapse in concentration sends us flying. We stop at a butcher store and buy some meat to grill and milk for the dog, who won’t even try it. I begin to worry more about the little animal’s health than the money I’d forked out to pay for the milk. The meat turns out to be horse. It’s unbearably sweet and we can’t eat it. Fed up, I toss a piece away and amazingly, the dog wolfs it down in no time. I throw him another piece and the same thing happens. His regime of milk is lifted. In the middle of the uproar caused by Comeback’s admirers I enter, here in Miramar, a...

1. The English nickname Ernesto has given to the little dog he’s taking to Chichina, his girlfriend who is holidaying in Miramar.

Copyright: © 2005 Aleida March, Che Guevara Studies Center and Ocean Press. Reprinted with their permission. Not to be reproduced in any form without the written permission of Ocean Press. For further information contact Ocean Press at and via its website at