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

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  577 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
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 ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published July 13th 2011 by Vintage (first published February 15th 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Luke Goldstein
Jan 24, 2014 Luke Goldstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everyone has heard the popular phrase, “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Well, many people throughout history have judged those gone before us, especially those who went on to change the course of history. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara Jr. was one of those people. After growing up in Argentina, he took a soon-to-be-famous motorcycle journey with his friend and compatriot, Alberto Granado, into the deep plains and undeveloped areas of Latin America. During that journey he ...more
I recently read The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey, a few years after purchasing this book. Reading Che Guevara's own words about his journey through South America gave just the right amount of context for Patrick Symmes's own travel experience, following Che and his traveling companion's footsteps almost 45 years later on a German built motorcycle.

Symmes opines a lot on Che's legacy, and although he's sympathetic, he's not a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist fangirl. He allows a l
Jul 29, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perfect book to read while on a road trip through Patagonia and after reading Motorcycle Diaries. Symmes, Che and I drove almost exactly the same route trough South America (though I went further south and Che went further east into Venezuela) and Symmes, batting clean up after Che came though, recounts the social changes in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Bolivia that were the result or were influenced by Che and other socialist/leftist revolutions in the middle of the 20th century. Symmes does a gr ...more
Gary Power
May 18, 2016 Gary Power rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this. Patrick is funny and it reminds me of being in South America and all the good, and bad, experiences a gringo can have including Gringo Fits and being at the mercy of nature. The author is 6.2 and looks like a cast member from the Hills Have eyes so some of the South Americans were wary of him. He did some good interviews that shed some genuinely new light of Che's travels and clarified some errors that they made. I recommend it and if you love South America it well worth the ...more
May 05, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
De Toqueville's journey has had a number of replications, the best (of which I am aware) is "American Journey: Traveling With Tocqueville in Search of Democracy in America" by Richard Reeves. There are also many retracements for Lewis and Clark, discoverers' voyages and aspects of the US westward migration. I know of one attempt for China's Long March: "The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth".

Symmes, unlike other replicators, uses the transportation mode of his subje
Sep 11, 2013 Marc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-written book. I read it first because it is an "on-the-road" and "motorcycle-diaries" book; combining my 2 favourite shelves. As road tale it stands alone on it's merits. Lots of adventure and mishappery, over interesting geography and described with a pro's skill.

His travels were driven by the focus of Che's original wandering-both literally and figuratively. I understand that Symmes had made a name on Latin American politics by he had clearly done quite a bit of Che/Granado rese
Feb 20, 2008 Shark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Shark by: David Laraway
I had to read this for a Latin American culture class in college and thought I was at risk of being bored out of my mind. While certain parts of this book certainly could have been moved along a little faster, it is extremely interesting how the author helps us understand the Che Guevara legend while at the same time showing us the journey he went through that made him who he was. We see Latin America (a large portion of South America) through new eyes and get a glimpse into its culture that is ...more
Karen ⊰✿
I found this book interesting, but not necessarily engaging. He is a good writer and I assume a decent journalist. But there is something that stopped me getting really enthralled into the book. Perhaps it is just that I have never had a huge interest in South American political history and you may need that to fully appreciate this. It did give me an interesting insight to the people of South America and their unwavering hospitality to a broke gringo on a motorcycle and those were the parts I e ...more
Doug Taylor
Mar 16, 2016 Doug Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite travel writers on an interesting motorcycle journey through South America. Symmes is a great writer and is especially insightful into the Latin psyche. Some serious flashes of brilliance in the prose and the notion of following Che's motorcycle trip is a great narrative device. It's also nice to get a sense of Che as a young man - I didn't read The Motorcycle Diaries on which this is based - before he became the revolutionary.
Dec 28, 2014 Angela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I loved the description and the narrative. However, the book got way too slow halfway through.
Michael Schmidt
May 14, 2016 Michael Schmidt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: communism
This is perhaps the book that the - to me - unreadable Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance should have been, a recreation of the early 1950s transcontinental motorcycle road trip of an incredibly filthy pair of unknown Argentine medical students, the laissez-faire one of which would become the famous Che, and the hardcore Marxist one who would become, well, not.

Patrick Symmes, who did a fantastic job with The Boys from Dolores, his interrogation of Fidel Castro's deliberately misrepresente
Wu Ming
Dec 29, 2010 Wu Ming rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ecco la postfazione di Wu Ming 1 (traduttore e curatore dell'edizione italiana) a Sulle orme del Che.
"[...] una testimonianza preziosa. Discutibile, anzi discutenda, e nondimeno (o forse proprio per questo) preziosa.
Uno dei presunti punti deboli del libro ne è in realtà il punto di forza: la Belle Epoque del neoliberismo vi è descritta all'apice della sua retorica, ma dal punto di vista di chi già allora doveva accontentarsi di briciole (spesso letteralmente). Già nel 1997 la distinzione tra
Nov 29, 2007 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved reading this, perhaps because I cannot get enough of people riding horses or motorcycles around Latin America. Would someone write a book completely consisting of riding horses or motorcycles around among all that wind and all those improbably growing trees? I also like this writer not only because his style of writing about travel and food and outsider-ness is in fact a true discernible style, one that all the magazine editors have thankfully not managed to quash, but also because he's ...more
Nov 05, 2010 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Patrick Symmes retraces Che's famous 1952 motorcycle trip through South America before he was the famous "Che" and just Ernesto. Symmes documents the rise of Che and his ideals as well as the lasting effect Che and his ideology has left on South America. Symmes doesn't tiptoe around the darker side of Che although it doesn't really come out until the end of the book when Symmes reaches Bolivia, the site of Che's death. However this makes sense since Symmes is originally examining him through the ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Strey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this after The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Guevara to try & put some 'flesh on the bones' & historical context. What I got was this & a lot more besides. A good mix of history, reportage & personal observation/experience. I would suggest that the "Diaries" be read with this book, but that this book can be read on it's own merit as a very good travel biography with a challenge & a purpose all of its own - and a fine read to boot, where you feel involved in the author's own quest & achievements against t ...more
Jul 20, 2015 Mason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author, a journalist for the New York Times, reenacts a motorcycle trip throughout South American taken by the infamous Ernesto "Che" Guevara in the early 1950's. During his journey, Symmes learns and subsequently teaches his readers about a wide variety of Latin American cultures and customs, apart from delving deeper into the early development of the Argentine guerrilla. From Buenos Aires, down to the Argentine pampas, up the long length of Chile, to the peaks of the Andes in Peru and endi ...more
Mar 03, 2016 Snem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Such a beautifully written travelogue and I love learning about history through someone's travels. This book made me fondly reminisce about the trips I've taken. I admired the author's flexible carefree style and I loved all the fascinating people he came across on this journey. I wish I had some pictures included in my version. I probably should've read the original diaries beforehand or at least had a better working knowledge of Che going into this. I recommend you do a tiny bit of Wikipedia h ...more
Being attacked by a mangy dog while trying to repair a BMW motorcycle in the middle of a remote Chilean village? That's just one of the many anecdotes that will amaze, amuse, and enthrall any reader of this narrative. It is also a very informative look at the mystery of Che Guevara. What I like about this book is that the author weaves his own travel through Che Guevara's pre-revolutionary journey on a motorcycle by traveling the route himself. Mechanical problems, culture shock, and the mission ...more
Jan 13, 2008 Autumn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this as an assignment in a Latin American civilization class. The author copies a motorcycle journey taken by Che Guevara in the 1950's and chronicles his experiences trying to chase down the legend. An interesting insight into Che's life. Definitely worth reading for anyone who has an interest in Latin America and the mysterious Che legends.
Chris Carlton
Dec 27, 2009 Chris Carlton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Symmes is a consummate story teller as a historian, travel writer and novelist. I feared the premise of following Che on his motorcycle journey would simply lead into a conventional travelogue, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how both the modern travel narrative and the historical narrative of Che's life were interwoven so seamlessly and readably.

Having watched China emerge trough phases of revolution, I found it particularly interesting to compare my experiences to Symmes' account of corr
Aug 03, 2012 Lewis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading The Motorcycle Diaries, this was a great insight into what has changed in the forty years between Guevara's motorcycle journey and the author's. The book talks about the rise of guerrilla warfare and the government backlash and the persistence of poverty. The author encountered many people with differing opinions and stories about Che. He shows how the romantic idea of Che continues and confronts the reader with details beyond just the idea. I preferred the open and compassionate G ...more
Who really knows who Che Guevara is? You see his face everywhere but do you know who he is? This book appealed to my wanderlust instincts. Who wouldn't want to throw caution to the wind and go on a motorcycle trip across South America? You could always read Che's actual diaries but I actually find Patrick Symmes' version more entertaining. Enjoy!
Lamski Kikita
It is interesting to see what someone finds when going on the actual journey tens of years after Che's death. Separating Che the man from Che the myth is very hard, but I really did not need this book to figure out that things go wrong in revolutions because they tend to be romanticized and idealistic. I think I will go on this journey one day. and regardless of what went wrong, Che will remain a legend and a symbol of struggle against tyranny.
Cary Neve
Feb 03, 2008 Cary Neve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jasmine
Recommended to Cary by: Yessy
Before I read this book my view of Che was only vagely what I have heard when I was a little girl. I learned what an a extraordinary man he was and how passionate he was about on what he believed.
Fun to read, fun to see how he enjoyed traveling through beatiful places in south america such my Chile lindo. :)
Thanks Yessy for recomending it.
This book is SO overdue at the library. I'll probably owe so much money I could have bought it for myself instead. Needless to say, I'm only half-way through and won't be able to finish it since it's an inter-library loan. I'm really disappointed I wasn't able to get through this since I really am enjoying it. School and studying take priority over pleasure reading, oh well.
May 15, 2009 blakeR rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I will call him "Pinchbeckian" for how he messed up what seemed like a pretty great idea: following the path that Che took during his "Motorcycle Diaries" in order to get at the essence of the man. Unfortunately, his cynicism and self-importance get in the way of his mission and grate on the reader.
Michael Mcgowan
A book about a guy who re-traces the steps Che Guevara took on his travels around South America by motorbike to try and get a glimpse of what radicalised him, but doesn't agree with his politics, was really easy to read
Sep 07, 2007 G rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: high-caliber
An insightful and energetic travelogue through Latin America, and a worthy successor to Guevara's Notas de viaje and Granado's Viajes con Che Guevara. But it could have been maybe fifty pages shorter.
Feb 15, 2009 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whatever you think of Che Guevara--hero to the working class or mass-murderer--this is a fascinating travelogue of South America.
The stories he had to tell were good, but when he inserted himself into the story (granted, it's his story soon, but he is not as interesting as his "subjects") I got annoyed. It's also a bit overwritten.
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