I spent my 31st birthday in Bolivia this year and most have asked 'WHY?' Contrary to popular inquiry, the decision was not predicated on the uncanny truth that there exists a nation that rhymes with my name (?!?!?!), but rather a calculated reply to the excruciatingly boring event that is turning 31. In other words, boarding a flying tin can to a phantasmagorical territory was the only answer to avoiding a birthday highlight that would have otherwise manifested as me sitting on the sofa trying to reply to automated texts from my dentist and (piece of shit) gym reminding me to "have a happy birthday and stay fit".
Bolivia is not an easy place. Nature is unforgiving when it's winter south of the equator and you're at 16,000 feet. It's dry and windy. My right nostril is still crusted shut. Accommodations compete for power outage tallies. Heating, light, and hot water are less afforded in the heart of the desert, and ain't nobody gonna give a single feck that it's -15C and your paresthesias have made their way to your upper lip. The hotel staff will (logically) explain that there are no logs on the fireplace because "it's too cold to chop wood". And while you may fancy yourself an athlete, at this altitude even the most delicate of exertions as the consumption of a single Pringle potato chip will make you gasp for air like a cardiopathic patient on the stairmaster. Be prepared for your first-world passion of quinoa to be annihilated by the overconsumption of all things quinoa- quinoa soup, quinoa tea, quinoa burger, quinoa granola bar, quinoa chocolate. quinoa quinoa QUINOA. If your experience parallels mine you'll even get food poisoning (in the middle of the night during one of those power outages) and end up with twice-seen (if only you could) quinoa all over your fleece pants. You may also eat a llama or twenty. Your brain and genitals will continue to vibrate for weeks (possibly forever) after so many hours of riding around on unpaved roads.
In exchange for your toughness, you will experience an extraordinary landscape minimally traversed and beautifully maintained. Erosions and colors that echo science fiction. Unbarricaded geysers of bubbling mud. Flamingos in a backdrop of snow. Green lagoons, pink lagoons. Giant, mythical cacti. A train cemetery. Mummies that have not yet been subject to archeological analysis. You are now in the home of the land that gave birth to over 200 varieties of potatoes, and makes the proud claim as being the only country with an island bordered by salt instead of water (I didn't have the heart).
You cannot dream up a more ethereal place or create a more fascinating history or imagine a President with a more provocative tongue [Evadas Cien Frases de Evo Morales para la historia]. You will drink a hundred coca teas for breakfast and if you're not into flan, chew the leaves for dessert. Your senses will awaken. And if it weren't for that diarrhoeic gift that keeps on giving, you will return home feeling like it was all too supernatural to have been anything but a dream.