And so, I sit here in El Alto International Airport, awaiting my flight to Lima, the first of three legs on the way back good old blighty. For those of you who’ve known me a while, you’ll remember that this year was something I’d been looking forward to since before I even stepped foot in the building of Queen’s Belfast. I dreamed of Christ the Redeemer, Machu Picchu, amazing cultures and wonderful learning experiences, thinking it was a pipe dream that I’d have to fulfil when I actually had a sustainable salary. However, all my dreams came true, so much so that they flew by due to the amount of fun I was having. Now, I wait for my journey home, after exactly 10 months of complete and utter adventure.
Since my post regarding Machu Picchu, I have not only been writing articles for the Bolivian Express, but taken trips to Santa Cruz and the Salar de Uyuni. Not only that, I’ve also managed to partake in the creation of one of the magazines’ covers with the partnership of my good friend Nick Somers (nicksomersphoto.com). Soon after our working together on it, his return home was imminent, and I find it necessary to say now that I thoroughly congratulate him on all of his work. He is becoming a pure master of his craft, and we can only hope to master ours in to the same standard.
That same month, I had the good fortune to interview the star athlete of the Bolivian Olympic team, Ángela Castro, who was determined after her finish of 18th in Rio to get to the top ten in Tokyo. For this month, one of my more interesting interviews came to pass: a young, fresh face, the bartender at up and coming La Paz restaurant HUMO, gave a demonstration on how to make a flaming drink after telling me is strange yet inspiring story, which you can read in this month’s issue, available on Facebook soon.
I tell you all this not to gush about my endeavours, but to give this magazine some small platform, which, although all I can give them, is much less than it truly deserves. After working with these incredible people on four issues of this magazine, I’ve come to find that my one lifelong dream has been cemented: yes, I do still want to become a journalist, to interview people, tell their stories, let people know the truth. Although fake news may be winning the day at the moment, I hope that when I become the successful journalist I aspire to be I will be a truthful, hard-working one that stands up for their values.
I’d like to personally thank the team at Bolivian Express, who have been incredibly kind, helpful and welcoming during my long stay here (the record, apparently), and also to those who were mad enough to become my friends during my time here. I have enjoyed every second working with all of you, and I know that we will be seeing each other again in the future – if I have my way, I will not be away from Bolivia for too long.
Although La Paz now holds a very special place in my heart, I have seen some incredible places that venture away from the administrative capital. ON a whim, I booked cheap flights to Santa Cruz, the lowest city in Bolivia and also the warmest, lying on the cusp of Bolivia’s part of the Amazon rainforest. As I spent my weekend there, it quickly dawned on me that this was Bolivia’s gateway to the rest of the world; not just literally, but figuratively too. Adorned with shops that scream Europe or the United States, and malls the size of five football pitches, it paints itself completely differently than La Paz. To top it all off, there was even a zoo that parroted characteristics from the one close to my hometown of Colchester.
Then, not three weeks later, I crossed the Altiplano to finally do a tour of the famous Salar de Uyuni. Not many actually know it by name, but it does happen to be one of the most photographed places on the planet. Over 11,000 square kilometres from end to end, this former prehistoric lake is now home to salt hotels and tourists every single day.
Our tour included taking some rather silly but hilarious perspective photos, due to the sheer flatness of the Salar, and a visit to a few lone cactus covered islands in the middle of the desertlike, lunar landscape. The next days feels as if you’ve been transported straight from the Moon to Mars – mountains, dipped in snow, go in between volcanos and lagoons that emit sulphuric fumes and, incidentally, attract the strangest of animals: flamingos.
I will be honest, Bolivia was, at first, an afterthought. Brazil was my dream, and Bolivia happened to come after it. But now that I have experienced it in its full glory, I realise it is a rich, amazing country with so much to offer the world. And, especially this: absolutely underrated.
As I finish this blog post while eating dinner in Sao Paulo airport, ready to board my flight to London and return home, I must stress that this is not the end of Sophie’s Dreamlist. After all, I have so many to tick off the list, don’t I?
Keep following me, friends. There’s more adventures to come.