Getting Older But Not Much Better – My Bolivian Birthday

It was my birthday on the weekend and it was MOMENTOUS. It’s been all about surprises and friends – two of my favourite things in life – and the fact that it has been a week-long extravaganza has been perfect for this self-centred egotist.

The Surprise Party

We had always planned to have a night out in Sucre on the Saturday night (the night before my actual birthday) to celebrate not only my birthday but Dallas and Anton’s (which were coming up later in the month) and also our last weekend in Sucre. Saturday was usual and lazy until Fish told me I had to be ready to leave the house at 3 for a ‘booking’ we had. He’s as good at keep straight-faced as I am at asking a million questions trying to guess the surprise (that is to say world-class). We arrived at Parque Bolivar – Sucre’s answer to Hyde Park – to find Mon, Anton, and Dallas set up under the trees with a gourmet spread of muffins, fruit kebabs, Christine’s-devilled-eggs, zucchini slice, and wine. Vicente joined us and we had a lovely time that was very reminiscent of London Life (but with better weather).

Our park picnic in Parque Bolivar (note the handmade pinata in the bottom right). Image via Mon and Anton.
Our park picnic in Parque Bolivar (note the handmade pinata in the bottom right). Image via Mon and Anton.

They’d even papier mached a piñata for me, which, due to my enormous lady-guns, I broke in one hit. This was an ‘adult’ piñata containing not only lollies but condoms and cigarettes. The latter disappeared into the pockets of certain male friends but apparently they missed one condom. This was discovered later when we were offering the lollies to all the kids in the park and one little girl pulled out the dinger. Very embarrassed, I quickly grabbed it from her and explained that was ‘para hombres’. Luckily her parents had a good sense of humour.

My guilty/awkward I'm-sorry-I-broke-the-pinata-first-go-and-now-nobody-else-gets-a-turn laugh
My guilty/awkward I’m-sorry-I-broke-the-pinata-first-go-and-now-nobody-else-gets-a-turn laugh

The sun started setting so we packed up our things and Vicente, Fish and I headed to a salon to take care of the one certain task that needed completing for the day…

The Big Chop

Anyone who follows us on Facebook will inevitably have seen my haircut-spam. Here’s what happened: one Spanish lesson my man-bunned friend Vicente told me that 2 years ago he’d been visiting a friend in Cochabamba (another Bolivian city). This friend worked in a hospital and took Vicente on a tour. This tour took him through the paediatric oncology ward. Vicente was moved by the little girls who were so upset by losing their hair. He then decided he’d grow his hair so he could give it to a wig maker. I’ve always said that I would donate my hair for wigs when I was ready to lop off my long locks. I told Vicente and his eyes lit up: his hair was now long enough to cut so let’s do it together! Saturday the 1st of August was the agreed upon day.

The Big V and I before we went to chop my hair off.
The Big V and I before we went to chop my hair off.

I’d like to say that I wasn’t bothered by the idea at all, but to be honest I stressed about it in the weeks before. Luckily by the time we went to the salon I’d had a few glasses of wine and was totally up for it. My Spanish was flowing freely and I’m pretty sure the hairdresser did the quickest short hairstyle she could manage to get me out of her damn chair quicker. 20 minutes later, with my ponytail in a bag, we were collecting Mon and Dallas and Anton from their hostel and they were asking if she’d used a bowl to cut my hair and suggesting I needed a lightning bolt scar to complete my Harry Potter look. There’s no glory in doing a good deed. When I washed it out myself it was a bit better and I looked less like Harry Potter and more like my mum. What a way to celebrate aging – cutting my hair to expedite the process of me actually turning into my mother once and for all.

The exact moment when people started questioning my sexuality again.
The exact moment when people started questioning my sexuality again.

The night ended reasonably soon after as we had ‘dinner’ at our apartment which consisted of 2 litres of gin.

The Actual Day

Needless to say, I woke up late on Sunday and got out of bed even later. As I was scrolling through my Facebook messages and feeling like the most loved person in the world, Fish mentioned that I hadn’t even gone out to the lounge-room to find my presents yet. I believe this was his way of making me be the one to get out bed and make coffee, but I did not care! PRESENTS! I honestly didn’t expect it as yesterday had just been the most perfect day ever. I went out to find, sitting on the chair, a soft-toy hedgehog which I’d pointed out in a shop window weeks earlier (which has since been named Darren); the most bad-ass cap we’d both spotted and loved; a hand-made card (in Spanish. Sizzle translates to ‘chisporrotear’ FYI), and some chocolate from the local artisan chocolate shop. WOW! Spoiled much?! Then I opened the card and after some lovely Fish-esque words there was a message that said “we’re not going to La Paz tomorrow…”. What?! ANOTHER SURPRISE! He’d tell me nothing except that our departure from Sucre was being pushed back a night.

The prize for 'Most Useful and Practical Birthday Presents' goes to Fish.
The prize for ‘Most Useful and Practical Birthday Presents’ goes to Fish.

My birthday night was spent with our friends yet again. It was low-key as we were all hungover and in meat-comas from homemade hamburgers. We shaved off Vicente’s hair (bugger paying 10 bucks to get it done professionally when Fish has some sweet clippers that’ll do the job) then went to bed

Vicente's turn. Fish doing a wonderful job hacking off those thick Bolivian locks.
Vicente’s turn. Fish doing a wonderful job hacking off those thick Bolivian locks.

The Biggest Surprise Ever

I could barely contain myself on Monday. All I knew was that we had to be ready to be picked up at midday. We had to pack up our room because we were giving the keys back to Chatty Judith The Land-Lady as well. It’s crazy how far my stuff managed to migrate from my bag in just three weeks. I was distracted from my sadness about leaving Sucre by my excitement for what the hell Fish had managed to arrange without my knowing. And the infuriating bastard was giving nothing away.

We were picked up by a lovely Canandian man named Ed in a dusty van. As we drove out of town we chatted with Ed about Sucre and his life here. He was very careful to give nothing away as he was in on the secret too. All he said was ‘we’re going out to the countryside’. And that we did. We ended up bouncing up a red dirt track (it actually looked like we could’ve been in the Flinders Ranges) and going through a gate into Ed’s property. It was called Sky Hacienda (which means ‘working farm’ and I had a sneaking suspicion we were going horseriding. Then we pulled into the yard of the ‘house’ and I saw the swimming pool, the hammocks, and the most incredible building I’d seen in Bolivia. Turns out old Fishy had booked us into Bolivia’s highest rated luxury hotel on TripAdvisor. 10 points to Fish!

Sky Hacienda. The most magnificent building made by Ed and June. Image courtesy of the Sky Hacienda website. Check out the blog of the construction of the hotel at http://www.skyhacienda.blogspot.com/ Very interesting!
Sky Hacienda. The most magnificent building made by Ed and June. Image courtesy of the Sky Hacienda website. Check out the blog of the construction of the hotel at http://www.skyhacienda.blogspot.com/ Very interesting!

Ed’s wife June came out to greet us and thus began the most glorious 24 hours ever. I’m not even going to bother trying to describe what the building looks like, I’ll let the pictures tell the story. There’s only two rooms in the hotel and we had the best one. King-size memory foam mattress and hand-made egg-shaped bath tub were the highlights. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the pool and the Jacuzzi where Ed brought gin and tonics and beer to us. Then I had a bath (a BATH! You have no idea how much of a novelty a bath is until you spend 4 months in backpacker hostels) and watched the sun set over the hills. June cooks all the meals and she treated us to bruschetta followed by a slow-cooked lamb and creamy mash and veggies and it almost made me cry. Eton Mess was for dessert. DIVINE. We shared a bottle of really decent Bolivian red with dinner and then another one as we sat around the bonfire in the night. I’ve never really been fussed about the stars because I maintain that they will never look better than at Wirrabara. But I have to admit that they were pretty decent out there too.

THE BATH! One of the many pieces of furniture Ed and June fashioned themselves. Clever people.
THE BATH! One of the many pieces of furniture Ed and June fashioned themselves. Clever people.

June cooked us an amazing breakfast and kept our cups filled with coffee in the morning. I asked her a million and one questions about the building. June and Ed were so inspiring, they were pretty much my favourite part of the whole experience (except for the bath). Along with some local builders they built the whole place themselves just from their imagination – no architect’s plans or anything. It is something straight out of Grand Designs. If you have a remote interest in architecture or interior design I urge you to check it out. It got me totally inspired for when I own the Wirrabara Pub (if anyone would like to bank-roll that project please get in touch).

The chimney inside the main room of Sky.
The chimney inside the main room of Sky.

It Continues…

So we’ve left Sucre and we’re back on the road. We’re in La Paz just now and are leaving Bolivia tomorrow. We’ve got one last birthday treat in store before I officially declare my birthday celebrations over. The ever-generous Kaysie and Lol deposited money into my account with the instruction to go and have a nice meal. Well, there’s a restaurant in La Paz run by a Michellin-starred Danish chef and we’ve always wanted to go but couldn’t justify the expense. Now we can! Cheers ladies.

Then it’s back to the backpacker budget!

(The title of this blog is from NOFX’s ‘New Birthday Song’)

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