Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend

Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend

by Patrick Symmes
     
 

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Intrepid journalist Patrick Symmes sets off on his BMW R80 G/S in search of the people and places in Ernesto "Che" Guevara's classic Motorcycle Diaries, seeking out his own adventure as well as the legacy of the icon Che would become, Symmes retraces the future revolutionary's path.  And on the way he runs out of gas in an Argentine

Overview

Intrepid journalist Patrick Symmes sets off on his BMW R80 G/S in search of the people and places in Ernesto "Che" Guevara's classic Motorcycle Diaries, seeking out his own adventure as well as the legacy of the icon Che would become, Symmes retraces the future revolutionary's path.  And on the way he runs out of gas in an Argentine desert, talks a Peruvian guerrilla out of taking him hostage, wipes out in the Andes, and, in Cuba, drinks himself blind with Che's travel partner, Alberto Granado.

Here is the unforgettable story of a wanderer's quest for food, shelter, and wisdom. Here, too, is the portrait of a continent whose dreams of utopia give birth not only to freedom fighters, but also to tyrants whose methods include torture and mass killing. Masterfully detailed, insightful, unforgettable, Chasing Che transfixes us with the glory of the open road, where man and machine traverse the unknown in search of the spirit's keenest desires.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com editor
Before he became Che, the world's foremost revolutionary icon, he was Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, a handsome and somewhat naive young medical student with a romantic urge to travel. In the early 1950s, Guevara set off across South America on a ramshackle motorcycle ironically nicknamed "La Poderosa" -- the Powerful One. Accompanied by his friend Alberto Granado, an older medical student who was already a devoted Marxist, Guevara experienced firsthand the region's economic and social problems. Deeply affected by the poverty and desperation he saw, and influenced by Granado's Marxist perspective, Ernesto's worldview was changed forever. At the end of his trip -- which took him through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Cuba -- Ernesto had become Che.

It is this act of transformation through travel that fascinated journalist Patrick Symmes and inspired him to set off on his own motorcycle in search of Che, a copy of Guevara's road journal, The Motorcycle Diaries, in his saddlebags. In his rich, multilayered travel narrative, Chasing Che, Symmes retraces Guevara's journey through South America, eventually traveling more than 10,000 miles. Part biography, part travelogue, and part cultural critique, Chasing Che is a compelling book about the relationship of travel to identity, revolution, and the complexities of history. Claiming that travel is the "quintessential revolutionary act," Symmes bases Chasing Che on the idea that Guevara's epic South American journey was the primary force behind the creation of Che, the radical, powerful guerrilla leader. "Every long journey overturns the established order of one's own life, and all revolutionaries must begin by transforming themselves," writes Symmes.

Like all great travel writers, Symmes is a keen observer of history and political intrigue, and sections of Chasing Che are devoted to his probing of South America's turbulent political past. However, the best sections of Chasing Che are the moments when Symmes is describing his own journey through the beautiful, wild scenery of South America, illuminating the special intimacy of traveling by motorcycle. "The driver of a car knows nothing about the directions of the wind, the lay of sunlight, the small changes in temperature between a peak and valley," writes Symmes as he flies across Patagonia's immense emptiness. Symmes's portraits of the villages, shantytowns, deserts, rivers, and mountains he encounters are emotional and perceptive, and always laced with historical detail. A travel narrative soaked in history, revolution, and adventure, Chasing Che is an incredible read.

—Julie Carr

Anderson Tepper
This is history from the ground up, and these two journeys, 44 years apart, go far in capturing that painful, potholed history.
Time Out New York

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375702655
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/28/2000
Series:
Vintage Departures Original Series
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
422,463
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Patrick Symmes writes for Outside, New York, and Conde Nast Traveler magazines. He lives in New York City.

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