Trailing Che with Avinash Thadani
The news that he is riding all the way from Mumbai on his KTM 640 has already made an impression in the minds of the MTM participants. The eagerness to hear his story is palpable. And then heaves in the massive bright orange KTM 640; muddy from the ride, with more than a foot of clearance and a legacy of a great trip. On it, is Avinash Thadani – lean, bearded, restless, constantly bobbing and swaying and always ready with a humorous retort. His disarming and friendly demeanor is almost infectious. It’s the post lunch session of Day 1 at MTM and we are ready to get transported back to 1967! The year when Argentine revolutionary, Che Guevara, was executed
When one harbours a dream for ten years, its realization is stronger, more satisfying and sinks in with more impact. That’s what happened with Avinash. Inspired by the movie, Motorcycle Diaries, which is based on the 1952 expedition done by Che Guevara and Alberto Granado on a Norton 500, Avinash had decided to do the same trail one day and reaffirmed the intent with a map of the same in his room, for a decade. It swathed many walls of rooms through his graduation years and then when he was working in the US; bits of plaster sticking to its back testify this till date. The map served as a constant reminder of the dream.
He was headed for the end of the World, the tip of South America in Tierra Del Fuego – Ushuaia Patagonia Argentina; 15,000 kms through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Brazil over four months.
Equipped with a smattering of Spanish and plenty of fortitude (which admittedly weakened sometimes), Avinash started in Bogota with expected excitement.
An early crash on Day 2 which ended being trapped under the heavy bike for what seemed like hours, ducking from bullets fired by the AK 47s of the FARC, riding through the thick wild jungles of Colombia and the thrill of not knowing where he might be sleeping that night set the tone of the trip.
He rode on the daunting terrain of the Andes, slept in local homes, camped under the stars and stocked up on a lifetime of moments to remember on this trip.
The most memorable of them were the ride on The Routa Del Sol – or Route of the Sun. This is the road that skirts the blue waters of the Pacific winding southwards along the edge of the country.
Also, the wooden raft ride across the Amazon, done by Che and Granada, was one that Avinash wanted to replicate. Trying to have the closest possible experience, he hopped onto the most local boat available to cross the mighty Amazon. It was called ‘Henry V’. Ofcourse, the boat was far from the royal grandeur of its namesake. Though nauseatingly cramped with rows of cloth hammocks, chickens, muddy coloured water, which he survived for five days, it gave him a story that he can talk about for ages. The only consolation; Che would have possibly suffered the same hardships on his ‘Mambo Tango’ raft or possibly much more.
Of all the countries, it was Bolivia that had Avinash hooked. The poorest of all South American nations – intriguing, mysterious and reeking of absolute raw beauty. It was here that the trip actually felt like a pilgrimage. After a debilitating time of dealing with his lost passport, money and all other belongings, it was just one thing that made the whole trip worth it – the village of La Higuers
Packed in a cab with two large Bolivian men on a constant dose of coca leaves, he rumbled past dark Bolivian jungles into the unassuming village, with hardly any inhabitants. A small museum has been built on the same place where Che Guevara was executed. A silent emotional admiration swept over Avinash and he was finally able to soak the whole journey in –a mix of relief and awe flowed down his cheeks in the form of tears. He also made his way to Che’s grave in Villa Grande and then finally to the town of Alta Garcia, where Che was born as Ernesto. It’s unique encounters like this one that make travelling worth it: Avinash was lucky to meet an old man who knew Che Guevara as a kid. Naturally, coming from a contemporary of the man himself, the stories that he related about Che in his childhood were goose bumps worthy.
The final leg of trailing Che ended at the tip of South America, in Tierra Del Fuego – Ushuaia Patagonia Argentina. After four months of an exhaustive and exhausting trip, Avinash’s love for riding was only fueled by the success of these 15000 kms in a land of wonder and history. He is back in India and is working on his next dream: after this, nothing seems too hard.