December 5th was Bronwyn’s
31st eighth 24th birthday, and on that morning we woke up in a sorry state. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing took a lot out of us; we were glad to not have to cycle at all the next day. We had looked into riding from Taupo down to the lovely coastal (and Art Deco) town of Napier, but the notorious hill that we would have to summit (with loaded bicycles) really sounded discouraging, particularly since we were bruised and battered from the journey into Mordor the day before.
Choosing the two-hour Intercity Bus ride was an easy decision to make. We got up for breakfast and waited in a cafe near the bus stop before our departure time. Then the Geisters waltzed in again, as if trying to prove that Taupo really was a small town. We were glad: it wouldn’t have been a true Taupo experience without at least one more run-in with Hermann and Monika.
The driver helped us load our bikes into the bus undercarriage and we were off. What would have been likely a three-day bike ride turned into a relaxing two-hour bus trip, and we were comfortably dropped off in Napier close to the hotel that we had booked for the night in case Bronwyn decided to get really crazy in her birthday celebrations. We checked in and proceeded to explore the town for some early dinner. While we were exploring the Napier shops, we came across a Thai massage clinic and Bronwyn’s eyes lit up: why not have a birthday massage?
Here’s where the story is going to twist around for a bit. Back in July, before we left Bowen Island to start this journey, I had a chance to sit down with Bronwyn’s parents. This was no easy task to do: as anybody who knows us well will attest, Bronwyn and I tend to spend a lot of time together in a fairly high-saturation relationship. Since Dale, Bronwyn’s father, tends to travel a lot for work, finding an opportunity to spend some time with both him and Eva, Bronwyn’s mother – without Bronwyn also being there – is really quite difficult. But I found a moment to talk with both of them about their thoughts about us setting off on this adventure together and if they had anything that they needed me to know before we set off.
Well, about their thoughts, and about whether or not I might have their blessing to ask Bronwyn to marry me.
Not to say that the 40 minutes of conversation I had with them before nervously bringing up my actual intentions was a total misdirection; it’s great to connect with the Churchers whenever there is a plurality of them around because they share great stories and have some really incredible insight into life. And when Bronwyn’s around, we talk about our collective future all the time.
But the idea of marrying their eldest daughter hadn’t ever come up, and after six years together I thought it was about time to clear it with them. They generously and graciously gave me the greatest green light I’ve ever received.
Fast forward to our journey to Napier. I had picked a lovely ring up in Tauranga while we were visiting Al and Natalia under the guise of wanting to have a “boy’s lunch” with Al (see note above about high-saturation relationship), but Bronwyn’s birthday seemed like the right time and place to actually propose to her.
If you’re wondering, I didn’t have the ring with me when I hiked up to Mount Doom in Mordor. Think of the implications, people.
I kept her in suspense for most of the day. As she went in for her massage, I ran back to the hotel room to formulate my plan. I had an hour to put the plan in motion – clean myself up so that we could go out for dinner, organize a misdirection present to quell her suspicions, and get some champagne into her so we could enjoy the night without her reading my mind.
I had a shower and took a cross cutting of a eucalyptus branch I had cut back at Kakariki and wrote a lovely little note on it. I also insisted, much to her chagrin, that she shouldn’t (and therefore wouldn’t) be getting a present until it was her actual birthday back in Canada, so she would have to wait at least eighteen hours longer than she wanted.
The next morning at around 4:30, Bronwyn proceeded to ask me if I was awake until I was actually awake, citing restlessness and excitement for her actual birthday time as the reason for waking me up. I tried to do the mental math in my grogginess: it would be about 10:30 AM back in Ontario where Bronwyn was born, but she wasn’t actually delivered until 2:30 in the afternoon, so I still had time to kill. There was no convincing her of that, so we got out of bed and went for a walk.
There was nothing for breakfast open at that hour, but it did give us some time to head down to the beach and watch the sun come up over the Pacific Ocean. I set up the GoPro to catch the sun coming up and got a simultaneous timelapse on my phone.
It was glorious – the sun came up in the most dramatic fashion I have ever seen and we were treated to a private sunrise.
And I had maybe the most amazing day so far.
We managed to get in touch with my parents to let them know the good news, and my three younger brothers (all of whom had been through the engagement process before me) learned of it in the lead-up to the actual event. We managed to get Eva on FaceTime, but before we could tell her about our engagement, a snowstorm on Bowen Island caused a power out. She kept her left hand out of the frame for the entire call – we were just about to tell Eva when we lost the connection.
It felt like I was still sitting on this grand secret, but this time I had Bronwyn in on it with me. We wanted to let our families know before announcing it to our friends on Facebook or here on onlyamazingdays.com, so it took a while to get around to everyone. Bronwyn’s sister is currently in California and her brother is in Nanaimo, BC. To complicate matters a little bit more, the ring was a little bit too big for Bronwyn, so we had to drop it off at the jewellers for a refitting. We would be at the next WWOOFing stop before we got it back to show the world that we were engaged.
Next: After the most amazing sunrise ever, the most amazing New Zealand bike trail ever – straight outta Napier and down to Havelock North before arriving at the Warren Family Homestead in Maraetotara.
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Middle school teacher on hiatus/budding permaculturalist currently cycling the world. Sometimes he acts in plays and film. Mostly he travels and blogs about it. Christian is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com