After Christchurch, we felt that going straight to another city with miserable weather would be rubbish, so we took a little diversion via Lake Tekapo.
It was a beautiful day and when we came over the hill and saw the lake, we couldn't believe our eyes. Apparently, when the glaciers came through these parts they churned up the surrounding rock so that when they receded, the lake was left with the sediments of those rocks suspended in the water, and that sediment gives the lake this amazing turquoise-blue colour.
We spent the day meandering around the lake getting sunstroke and I hold that fully responsible for what happened next. Well, I guess entitling this blog post "I proposed!!!!" may slightly remove any element of surprise, but we're still building up to that.
For aaaaaaaaaaaaaaages I'd been thinking about doing it but it's a big decision and I have a Y-chromosome, so these things are never as straight forward as one would hope. Marj had been so excited about this trip for so long, that I thought that this would make it perfect for her - and me - to propose at some time whilst we we're in New Zealand. After I ran this through my head a few times and shocked myself by realising that I was still there and not on my way to book a single one-way flight to Peru, I knew that I was ready to do the deed. Of course, by this time, there was only a couple of weeks to go before the trip.
When I was in Amsterdam with worky folks, we'd gone along to a tour run by Gassan, the diamond polishing people (something which I didn't mention because Marj may have got ideas and spoiled the surprise). Obviously it was a sales pitch to buy a diamond from them, and it seems to have worked, because I was planning to go back and buy a shiny ring from there.
So, with only a few days left before we set off for New Zealand and work on my back to get stuff finished before I go, not to mention Marj trying to get me to be organised for the first time in my life and pack more than one day before, I find myself in the situation of having very little time to actually sneak over there to buy it. Somehow, I couldn't think of a good way to phrase "I'm just popping over for a one night, unplanned trip to Amsterdam before I have to spend three weeks alone with you" to Marj, and so I left for lord of the rings country ring-less.
Throughout the trip, I spent every spare second I had with one eye looking out for the nearest Jewellers and in Taupo I got a few hours to myself whilst Marj recovered from jumping out of a plane and it was there that I spotted the ring I wanted. It was exactly what I would have asked Gassan to make for me and was perfect in almost* every way.
Maybe it was my new found confidence or maybe there is a God and he really does hate atheists but I swear to you, the second I bought that ring and left the shop, suddenly I was the most attractive man on the planet. Every girl on the street was seemed to look me up and down like some virtual reality Lynx advert. I dropped into a shop to buy a drink and the girl at the counter was the most flirty person I'd ever met in my life, I couldn't believe it.
Gentlemen, there is something going on here. It's a conspiracy. Somehow, THEY KNOW. They're just toying with us.
Of course, none of this afected me in the slightest. I had just officially made my decision. Before was a decision in principal - this was a decision made. Nothing could stop me now - although they did seem to be trying very, very hard.... ahem, as I was saying, nothing could stop me now. It's too late for me now - I only write this to pass on the knowledge to my brethren who are still single. For the love of FHM, just PRETEND you're about to get engaged!!!!
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah; I had a ring and I had a plan: Milford Sound, one of the most beautiful places on Earth seemed an appropriate location to propose to the most beautiful girl on Earth. That was a few days away yet, so I had to keep the ring stashed** and my excitement down.
But then came that night at Lake Tekapo. We were still a few days away from Milford and we'd decided to go out star gazing. I knew that I'd see a different set of stas in NZ*** and was looking for an opportunity to see them, and I'd heard that there was an observatory a Tekapo, so we loaded up the car with jumpers, wolly hats and blankets, plus a couple of beers and a bottle of wine, for-no-reason-what-so-ever-honest. Just before I left, I nipped back inside because "I forgot something" and grabbed the ring - just in case.
And I'm glad I did. There we were, sat in the back of the car with the boot opened and the seats down and a few stars came out... Then a few more... Then the night sky lit up with a million-million more stars than I never knew it was possible to see. There was absolutely no light pollution and the sky was bluish rather than black with layers upon layers of stars and galaxies and a whole universe of who knows what each with a different colour like you've never seen.
I was gonna save it for Milford Sound, but you couldn't beat that night.
We get out of the car and stand in the dark, hugging each other under a blanket we'd borrowed from the hostel room (a particularily fetching shade of pink, I might add) and Marj says "Tell me something romantic".
"Hmmm", thinks Darren's brain, "You have no idea... This is it." My heart starts beating rapidly and I drop the pink blanket and lose the hat as I go down on one knee (Not that it made any difference as it was pitch black anyway!). Later on, Marj told me that a fast beating heart followed by a drop to the floor usually implies cardiac arrest and at this point, she was about to call an ambulance. Fortunately, I was able to get across the big question. This all happened on the 28th of November, but because Marj wanted to tell everybody herself, she asked that I didn't blog it until later. Typical, the most important, bloggable event of my life so far has happened and I received a gagging order! She's changed her mind now though, so I'm free to write
Did I mention that she said yes? Well, she said yes On reflection, its a good job she did: it would've totally ruined the second half of the holiday. Not only did she say yes, but she then spent the rest of the night screaming across the lake "Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaay" like a banshee that's just won the lottery. I think she was pleased.
So there you go, this is the official announcement - we're engaged.
* - Being free would have removed the need for the "almost" here.
** - Interestingly, during this time, I did find myself sneaking away from Marj and removing the ring from its box just so that I could stare at it , stroke it and whisper "My precious". Strange that. This country must be getting to me.
*** - Although nothing could prepare me for Orion being upside down