Che Guevara: The Motorcycle Diaries

the experts

Chilean hospitality, as I never tire of saying, is one reason traveling in our neighboring country is so enjoyable. And we made the most of it. I woke up gradually beneath the sheets, considering the value of a good bed and calculating the calorie content of the previous night’s meal. I reviewed recent events in my mind: the treacherous puncture of La Poderosa’s tire, which left us stranded in the rain and in the middle of nowhere; the generous help of Raúl, owner of the bed in which we were now sleeping; and the interview we gave to the paper El Austral in Temuco. Raúl was a veterinary student, not particularly studious it seemed, who had hoisted our poor old bike on to the truck he owned, bringing us to this quiet town in the middle of Chile. To be honest, there was probably a moment or two when our friend wished he’d never met us, since we caused him an uncomfortable night’s sleep, but he only had himself to blame, bragging about the money he spent on women and inviting us for a night out at a “cabaret,” which would be at his expense, of course. His invitation was the reason we prolonged our stay in the land of Pablo Neruda, and we became involved in a lively bragging session which lasted for some time. In the end, of course, he came clean on that inevitable problem (lack of funds), meaning we had to postpone our visit to that very interesting place of entertainment, though in compensation he gave us bed and board. So at one in the morning there we were, feeling very self-satisfied and devouring everything on the table, quite a lot really, plus some more that arrived later. Then we appropriated our host’s bed as his father was being transferred to Santiago and there was not much furniture left in the house.

Alberto, unmovable, was resisting the morning sun’s attempt to disturb his deep sleep, while I dressed slowly, a task we didn’t find particularly difficult because the difference between our night wear and day wear was made up, generally, of shoes. The newspaper flaunted a generous number of pages, very much in contrast to our poor and stunted dailies, but I wasn’t interested in anything besides one piece of local news I found in large type in section two:


And then in smaller type:


This was the epitome of our audacity. Us, experts, key figures in the field of leprology in the Americas, with vast experience, having treated 3,000 patients, familiar with the most important leprosy centers of the continent and researchers into the sanitary conditions of those same centers, had consented to visit this picturesque, melancholy little town. We supposed they would fully appreciate our respect for the town, but we didn’t really know. Soon the whole family was gathered around the article and all other items in the paper became objects of Olympian contempt. And so, like this, basking in their admiration, we said goodbye to those people we remember nothing about, not even their names. We had asked permission to leave the bike in the garage of a man who lived on the outskirts of town and we made our way there, no longer a pair of more or less likable vagrants with a bike in tow; no, we were now “The Experts,” and we were treated accordingly. We spent the whole day fixing and conditioning the bike while every now and then a dark-skinned maid would arrive with little snacks. At five o’clock, after a delicious afternoon tea prepared by our host, we said goodbye to Temuco and headed north.

1. Easter Island.

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