Cover image for Chasing Che : a motorcycle journey in search of the Guevara legend
Chasing Che : a motorcycle journey in search of the Guevara legend
Symmes, Patrick, 1964-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Vintage Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
xviii, 302 pages : map ; 21 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F2225 .S96 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
F2225 .S96 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.nbsp;nbsp;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.

Author Notes

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

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Riding a temperamental motorcycle through the semi-surreal landscapes of the cone of South America, Symmes conceived the sparkling idea to retrace the route taken by Ernesto Guevara Lynch de la Serna in 1952, before he became "Che." In 1996, Symmes motored south from Buenos Aires into the wind-blasted plains, carrying Guevara's diary. The name "Che" was an ensured conversation starter, Symmes discovered in his odyssey, never more so than in locales where an oral memory of Guevara's visit lingered. Strung along a route from the Atlantic, across the Andes, up Chile, and into Peru, Guevara's diary strikes Symmes not as a recitation of the faults of society but as an adventuresome travelogue. Symmes himself acutely critiques, in the countries he passes through, the revolutionary wars Che advocated, culminating in his demise in Bolivia. Whether one idolizes or demonizes Guevara, Symmes rediscovers the person he was before he became exploited by Castro as an icon and by T-shirts as a commodity. Memorable travel literature created from fine observational journalism. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1952, a 17-year-old, prerevolutionary Che Guevara lit out with a friend on a motorcycle trip through Latin America. It was, as he wrote in his Motorcycle Diaries, a journey that would shape his attitudes toward politics, people and revolutions. Symmes, a freelance travel writer, traversed the same route in 1996, with entertaining and illuminating results. Fluidly moving between the past and the present, he tosses out observations about Che's expedition while chronicling his own adventures. In Argentina, Symmes encounters a defensive German who insists he is not a Nazi; in Chile he visits a utopian settlement founded by a wealthy and radical environmentalist; in Peru he visits a leper colony, the same one Che visited in 1952. Refreshingly, Symmes avoids digressions of self-discovery, instead letting his book serve as a primer for recent Latin American history and his own take on the region. Symmes's prose, like the Latin America he writes about, is spotted with gems. He says pointedly, "The funny thing about a dictatorship: it was great for culture. If there was one sure way Pinochet could support poetry, it was by staging a military coup." Unsentimental and funny, this book combines the spiritedness of a gonzo journalist with a serious reporter's sense of purpose. First serial rights to Talk magazine. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The last two years have seen a resurgence of interest in Ernesto (Che) Guevara, the Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary. Several biographies and numerous books have added significantly to our knowledge about this important 20th-century figure. Now Symmes, a journalist, contributes an account of his attempt to re-create Che's 1952 eight-month motorcycle journey across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru--a trip that has been called the seminal, radicalizing event of Guevara's life, the inspiration for his politics and life work as a revolutionary fighter. Although Symmes set out on the trip eager to discover the early Che, the one who wasn't involved in revolutionary activities, he ends up writing much more about himself than about Che and more about current issues in Latin America than about the 1950s. Of interest to libraries with travel collections.--Mark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, UT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xv
Chapter 1 The Silver Riverp. 3
Chapter 2 Fellow Travelersp. 34
Chapter 3 Big in Japanp. 52
Chapter 4 Mytopiap. 84
Chapter 5 Che and the art of Motorcycle Maintenancep. 103
Chapter 6 The Miraclep. 137
Chapter 7 Jubilationp. 146
Chapter 8 The Red Blazep. 161
Chapter 9 The Road to Romep. 190
Chapter 10 Holy Weekp. 220
Chapter 11 The Navel of the Worldp. 239
Chapter 12 The Wit and Wisdom of Che Guevarap. 256
Chapter 13 Ten Thousand Revolutionsp. 270
Epilogue: Final Victoryp. 292