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History of “La Poderosa”. Che Guevara’s motorcycle.

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La moto del Ché Guevara Norton

It was the year 1951, Ernesto Guevara, still a 23-year-old medical student, and his friend Alberto Granado, a 29-year-old biochemist, decided to embark on an adventure that would take them from Argentina to Venezuela, crossing the entire South American continent. The mount chosen for the feat was Granado’s motorcycle, a 1939 Norton 500, which he had nicknamed La Poderosa II. Che Guevara’s motorcycle.

Che’s route

Both young people wanted to discover the profound reality of Latin America, and they found no better way to do it than by going from town to town, on the back of a motorcycle, crossing great rivers, jungles and mountains. During the seven months that the adventure lasted, they lived closely the hardships of the indigenous peoples, the diseases that devastated the continent, and the reality of a land that was beginning to wake up.

They left at dawn on December 29, 1951, ahead of 12,000 long kilometers through battered roads. La Poderosa II , laden as she was with the two friends and everything necessary for such a long adventure, hit the ground with her irons at the minimum of change, and with her, the bones of Ernesto and Alberto. The latter, more handyman, was fixing each breakdown based on a lot of wire and adhesive tape.

They left San Francisco, east of Córdoba, in Argentina. From there they took the southern route to cross the dusty roads of Patagonia , later they would turn north, towards the snowy Andes , to enter Chile. There their provisions began to run low, and they exchanged medical services in exchange for food, lodging, and even mechanics for the battered Mighty One. It was at one of these forced stops to fix the Norton, when both friends had to take to their heels, due to the suspicions of the mechanic that his wife had fallen into the arms of the womanizer Ché.

Restoration of classic motorcycles.

The last steps of Ché Guevara’s motorcycle

The faithful Poderosa gave her last gasps in Chile, there was no mechanic to revive her and she had to be abandoned in a ditch. Here ended the journey of this Norton 500 , the true protagonist of our history. Its 490cc single-cylinder engine reached a power of 29CV, and a not inconsiderable 125km/h. Its military use in World War II had earned it a lot of press, but its rigid chassis and parallelogram front suspension were not the best option for a trip with two people on board, on unpaved roads and mountain roads.

The powerful
The powerful

After abandoning La Poderosa, Ernesto and Alberto continued their hitchhiking trip. They crossed the Atacama desert, entering Peru, where they visited Machu Picchu. Later they crossed the Amazon, and aboard a raft they were taken to the San Pablo leper colony, where they spent a few days caring for the sick who were isolated and treated there. It was an experience that would change them forever.

Route of Che in La Poderosa

Finally they crossed Colombia and arrived in Venezuela, the point marked as the end of the trip. Both collected their experiences in writing, Ché in his “ Travel Notes ” and Alberto Granado in his “ With Ché in South America ” . In 2004, the film The Motorcycle Diaries , by Walter Salles, was shot, which narrates this interesting adventure.

Route of Che in La Poderosa

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