On the Trail of Comrade Chè

Another excerpt from my #bookproject as I timeline back through my #WanderYears as a photojournalist and adventure traveller. This kickass event takes me way back to 2006 while covering the #LandRoverG4 Challenge in #Bolivia and #Brazil, South America. Yup, this was the race where @Martin Dreyer won a #Landy worth a million bucks, and I got to chew some #coca leaves in the shade of the #cheguevara memorial

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It was around midday by the time we dust-lined into La Higuera, an unassuming and dirt-poor place. The colourful memorial to Guevara was impossible to miss, set centrally on the squalid mercado square. Any true disciple will immediately sense a stirring deep within, and I could not help muttering ‘Viva la Revolucion’ under my breath. I grabbed a photo or three, but the harsh midday sun soon had me in search of shade and something to drink.

Nor surprisingly, I found a tiny general dealer and ventured inside to buy a coke, but the language barrier once again serves up a curve ball. Me: “Una coca, por favour”. Shopkeeper: “Una coca”? She’s holding up a bag of coca leaves and I realise where things went wrong. Or right, I decide, accepting the proffered mild hallucinogenic, while gesturing towards the fridge and the cold Coca-Cola at the same time. I end up spending a handful of Boliviano notes, but walk away with my prize: a sizeable bag of coca leaves, some chilled colas AND a quart of cold beer!

Half an hour of chewing coca leaves later and I’ve decided this is an excellently magical little shop. I return to its welcoming shade and stare in a happy stupor at the basic products arranged along two rickety shelves. The retro-turquoise walls are adorned with a psychedelic mix of super-realist religious prints and calendar pin-up girls, and at a low wooden table, three of the world’s cutest kids are sipping glasses of raspberry refresca. They tell me their names are Xavier, Maria and Rodrigo, and their amiable smiles beam through multiple layers of grit and grime…

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