Sunday, July 20, 2008

his birthday but my surprise

It’s been while since I last wrote and now it’s a little daunting to think about all the stuff I want to write about to catch up. But it should be fun to recount all the memories because the last month has proven to be absolutely amazing. And what kick started the amazing adventure is the long holiday weekend that I took advantage of with Jason to celebrate his birthday on June 14. I had been scheming behind his back to put together a surprise, a book that included letters and pictures from his friends and family to celebrate his first 30 years of life. The response was great and I spent the two weeks prior to his arrival back in South Africa (he’d gone home for a visit and a conference) putting together his masterpiece. I finished the book the morning we departed for our mountain getaway – a long weekend of hiking in the Drakensburg Mountains near the Bergville area. We set off in our little rented Volkswagen Chico with a big box wrapped in fun African paper and Jason’s interest peaked. Little did I know that there was another surprise packed in that car.

Saturday was actually Jason’s 30th birthday and I was so giddy to give him his gift that there was no way we could hike before he opened his present. Mission accomplished: he had absolutely no idea that this was the big surprise I had been planning. We spent awhile just going through each page, reading the letters and looking at the pictures and reminiscing about his life. It was a great way to start the day. Then we finally climbed out of our reverie and headed for a beautiful hike in the Cathedral Peak area, Rainbow Gorge. The main attraction of the hike is this massive boulder that is suspended in air by these other two huge boulders and then a waterfall that creates all these rainbows from the mist. However we didn’t quite make it that far, partly because I was a bit of wus and got tired of crossing back and forth over the river. I fear falling in and injuring myself severely because of the terrible shoes I have – old running shoes with no traction. Although Jason was patient, I could tell he wanted to go further but I’d had enough for the day. He’s a good man and didn’t push me so we headed back. I am sad that we didn’t get to see all the beauty and am eager to go back once I have a quality pair of hiking boots and we can get an earlier start.

The next day we decided to hike Tugela Gorge – it’s another beautiful hike that leads to the base of the 2nd tallest waterfall in the world, Tugela Falls. Jason hiked this area about 6 years before with his friend D after he finished his PC service. That time the weather was horrible and they had 2 near death experiences in two consecutive days. We were lucky this time and had amazingly clear weather the entire weekend (this also may have had something to do with the time of year – they went during the raining season!). I was a bit sluggish during the morning part of the hike – 4 hours of hiking the day before so my body was trying to tell me to ease into it. We weren’t rushed to go anywhere so we took our leisure time and enjoyed the scenery as we made our way deeper into the gorge. Finally we made it to the river bed that led us to these caves and a chain ladder that would take you up and over to the other side of the caves towards the falls. We scrambled over rocks and boulders and checked out the caves but there were quite a few people going up and down the ladder so we decided it was a good time to take our lunch break.

After we finished eating we were just lounging on our rocks when Jason stood up. I was not ready to continue hiking so I asked him why he was standing. He mumbled something about stretching I think and then draped himself across my lap. I was looking down at him and he asked what I was thinking about. I’ve always promised that I would answer that question honestly and not make anything up to be more intelligent or romantics so I was truthful and said his baseball hat. We play this game a lot so I knew it was my turn to ask him what he was thinking about. Thanks to my inability to recall what is said at important moments in my life, I don’t have a clear recollection of the way Jason actually phrased this next part. Essentially he said that he loved exploring and traveling the world with me and that he would like to do it for the rest of our lives (I only found this out after I’d told the story wrong a few times and he finally corrected me). I agreed and said that I wanted that as well. I do remember him saying, ‘on that note’ as he reached down for something. At that moment my eyes must have gone to the size of saucers and as he brought up the little box he asked me if I would marry him. All I could reply was ‘really?’ which I repeated over and over probably ten times. We opened the box and as I’m staring at the ring he had to ask just to be sure if my answer was yes. Of course it was/is and I gave him a huge hug and a kiss.

As I’m admiring the ring he asks if I know whose it is. I guessed his grandmother and he shook his head and told me it was my grandmother’s. Immediately I knew it was my Tata’s and that’s when the tears came to my eyes. (I’ll give you the story of the ring later.)

We basked in our little world for a bit longer and then decided to finish our hike up the chain ladders. We continued on for awhile and although we didn’t get to the base of the falls, we did manage to find a few amazing sites like this huge boulder that was cracked straight through. Eventually we had to head back before it got dark and the entire time I just kept asking questions about his plan and daydreamed a bit about the possibilities for the big day and our life together.

The next day we ventured out again to climb to the top of the Tugela Falls. According to the backpackers you should only take the hike with their guides but the park itself doesn’t mandate that so we decided to venture out on our own with a couple other guys, Johnny and Roy, we met at the backpackers. The hike was a lot of uphill but fun with our new hiking partners. There were a set of chain ladders, more intense than the day before but it was worth it when we got to the top. There was some ice and snow (remember, it is actually our winter) and we had a few snowball fights along the walk. The little river that leads you to the falls doesn’t seem like much but when we got to the edge of the amphitheatre it was breathtaking. We stayed at the top for awhile just enjoying our surroundings – our friends made a snowman, we ate lunch, took tons of pictures, took our shoes and socks off and relaxed before gathering up our stuff and heading back down the chain ladders and the mountain.

And that, my friends, is the description of one of the best weekends in the world. Jason also wrote about it on his blog so you may want to compare our stories if you’re interested – check out the link on the right side of this page. We haven’t set a date just yet but we have our hearts set on tying the knot in Puerto Rico in late December 2009. Stay tuned for updates…


Anonymous said...

WOW!!!!!!!!! What a great story. I love it and you.

Anonymous said...

Love, Mary Alice

Nattyvonne said...

i cried a little, i shamelessly admit, at reading this. awesome! yeaaa!!!