high altitude trek or a huaraz haircut?

julie's birthday party in huaraz in peruIt can be so nice to take time out and treat yourself while travelling, so when Intrepid Express reader Julie Davis discovered she would be in Peru for her birthday, she figured the ideal way to feel pampered would be to have a haircut. But that was just the start of her birthday celebrations…

“My birthday was never the best time of year, as it is in December and most of my friends went away on holidays when I was younger. So when I was travelling through South America heading to Brazil, I decided that my birthday celebration could wait until Carnival. After all, I was travelling on an overland adventure and the trip itself was my present.

We found out that my birthday coincided with our stop in Huaraz, Peru, where there would be hiking and a deadly mountain bike ride, but most importantly we would have 2 nights in a hotel. Straight away I was excited, as we had been camping a lot up until then, so I was looking forward to a nice warm shower and a comfortable bed. I do love camping, but you do miss the little comforts of a nice bed and bathroom.

I opted out of the mountain hike for my birthday, and instead I slept late then headed to the local markets and walked around the town. After returning to the hotel I decided that it would be nice to get a haircut (it had been a long while since I had one!). The problem was I didn’t speak Spanish and therefore didn’t want to ask a hairdresser. So I asked my roommate if she would cut my hair. She was a little concerned as she’d never cut hair before, but I wasn’t worried. The only dilemma was we had no scissors.

I asked everyone I knew if they had a pair of scissors I could use, but unfortunately we had no luck. Our driver then came down the stairs and I asked if he had a pair of scissors. He said yes and asked what for – I then informed him of how my roommate was going to cut my hair. He said “I don’t think so, come with me.” I was a little puzzled as to where we were going and a little worried that he was going to cut my hair. You must understand our driver was practically bald!

We went into this little pub and I became more confused. He said that he was hungry and needed something to eat. I had already eaten so I didn’t have any food, but he then brought me my first birthday drink which was really nice.

After he had eaten 3 fresh, whole chillies for lunch, we then continued walking through the market to the other side of town where we came across a store that looked very lovely from the outside, but I couldn’t tell what it was. As we walked in I realised it was a hairdresser. He took me inside, spoke to the girls in Spanish and had organised my haircut – it was amazing! He then also had a haircut, which I still laugh about today as I didn’t think he had much hair as it was!

It was just so special to be able to be in a proper hair salon and they even gave me a 10min head massage. It was fantastic. Though the funny thing was that the young women in the hairdresser shop asked him if he was my father! He was obviously so upset that they thought he was that old!

After my hair being cut we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for the night event, which I thought just meant a truck dinner. However, we ended up at a really nice restaurant. Unfortunately some of the group that went hiking returned with altitude sickness, so they couldn’t come out but wished me a happy birthday beforehand.

After our meals we could hear singing from the kitchen and as the staff walked out there was a birthday cake with candles and the waiters were singing Happy Birthday in Spanish. I was like WOW, this is fantastic, but they walked straight past our table. At that moment I thought that’s OK, I wasn’t expecting a cake anyway. That was when our guide hopped up and ran after the waiters because they had gone to the wrong table with the cake, as there was another birthday party there that night. It was so funny when they bought it back around I made a wish and blew out the candles. It was a massive cream cake and was very delicious.

After dinner most people went back to the hotel apart from 8 of us, who decided we would go out to a bar. We found a pub called Xtreme Bar and when the people on my trip mentioned to the staff it was my birthday, they announced it was a tradition for them to make a cocktail up for the birthday girl. I wasn’t a big drinker, but thought OK, after all it’s a tradition. As I watched them make this drink I began to count the shots of alcohol that was going into the shaker and I counted 11 different liquors! I have to admit I was a little worried at this point.

They gave me the shaker and said “Happy Birthday!” To which I took a sip and my head exploded it was so strong – I couldn’t drink it. I gave it to everyone on my trip and there was only one person would could actually take a proper mouthful! However, I didn’t want to offend them by not finishing it, as the bar didn’t charge me for the drink. I kept sharing it through the group and by the time we had almost finished it everyone was up on the bar dancing and having such a great time. It was only when the waiters told us we must leave that we realised it was 2am in the morning and we had to get up in 4 hours.

I have to say the next morning there were a lot of headaches, but all in all it was one of the best birthdays I had ever had!”

Tour Peru with Intrepid on trips like these great small group adventures:
Quito to Lima – 20 days
Majestic Peru – 15 days

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* photo: Julie’s birthday party in Huaraz, Peru

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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