The words seemed to blend together, and then rushed on all at once. The bright light of the rising sun bathed everything in a hyperreal glow, making the moment feel all the more dreamlike.
My best friend then got down on one knee.
There are few stories that I could be happier to write down and, now that our friends and family know that Chris and I got engaged while we were recently in Iceland, I get to share our story here too.
I’ve already written about the lovely things travel blogging has brought into my life: friends, travel opportunities, confidence and, of course, my now-fiance. I first met Chris at a travel blogging conference almost four whole years ago. It’s funny, but our very first conversation wasn’t even about travel at all; instead, it was about music.
Drawn together by our common interests and a week at a surf camp in France, we fell in love, became best friends and have since travelled to over 20 countries together. After taking plenty of weekend trips, last year we set off on our Big Trip. In the course of five months, we lived in a campervan for two months in New Zealand and Australia, became besotted with Japan, explored South East Asia and then, best of all, I got to introduce Chris to my home city of Cape Town.
Iceland was the first real adventure we had allowed ourselves this year after getting back to grips with living (and working) in the UK. As with most trips, I was the one who basically booked everything before Chris had a chance to say no! But Iceland had been on my bucket list for so long, and I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting any longer to see the country.
Since it was our first trip to Iceland, we decided against doing the country’s famous Ring Road. Having a few big road trips under our belts, we had learned our lesson: we wanted to make sure we were spending more time outside of the car than in it. We decided to focus on a few areas instead, so that we’d have plenty of time to explore. We started our Iceland trip by staying in Reykjavik for a few days before heading into West Iceland and then ending off with South Iceland.
One of the places we really wanted to see in West Iceland was the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We spent our first day there exploring Snaefellsjokull National Park, going on a mini hike and even on a tour into the depths of a lava tube. We were planning to end off our day by stopping at Kirkjufell, a mountain made famous due to its coastal location as well as its cameo in the ever-popular Game of Thrones series. But, as we quickly learned in Iceland, the weather can change quickly. The clouds had well and truly rolled in, and, when we got there, we couldn’t see the mountain peak at all.
We decided to try again the next day. Now, I’ve said it before: I am not a morning person. That said, I have let Chris persuade me to capture the sunrise on our travels but this is always done reluctantly on my part – especially if there’s no coffee on hand to coax me out of bed. I should have realised that Chris was being a bit more insistent than normal on us getting to Kirkjufell, but I blame my pre-coffee brain for not picking up on that.
That morning, we packed up our things and set off in the dark. As light started to appear on the horizon, we could see that the weather conditions couldn’t have been more different to the evening before. We had mostly clear skies that morning, with a few clouds scattered across the sky. We were thrilled that we’d finally be able to see Kirkjufell.
Other photographers were already at the Kirkjufell viewing point when we got there, standing patiently behind their tripods waiting for the sun to make an appearance. I enviously eyed their coffee flasks as we chose our spots on the path.
This lone peak, standing at 463 metres high, is said to be the most-photographed mountain in all of Iceland, and it’s not hard to see why. The viewing point is right near a set of mini waterfalls, named Kirkjufellsfoss, making for one of the most dramatic natural landscapes we saw while in the country.
The appearance of a red glow on the horizon set everyone off, with each camera being sent into overdrive trying to capture the unique light. Given this flurry of activity, I was a little confused that this was the moment when Chris decided to step a few metres off the path.
I know I’m setting up the perfect proposal moment here, but, since it involves me, I have to admit that I almost messed up all of it.
I’ve always been adamant that I want to be a responsible traveller, especially as recent tourist-related mishaps in Iceland has caused the tourism board to create an Icelandic Pledge. I had read and agreed to the pledge, which asks tourists to respect the environment by not driving offroad, not taking anything or being irresponsible about the very real dangers of the Icelandic terrain. So, when I saw Chris go off the path, I, naturally, immediately started to reprimand him.
It’s comical in hindsight, as he was only maybe two metres off the path, trying to get a bit of privacy away from the other photographers. But I was in full-on disapproval mode – arms crossed and giving him a piece of my mind about responsible travel. It got to the point where he had to come over to me, put his hands together and literally beg me to come with him for a minute. He claimed to want to get a photo of us and I, with my bottom lip extended in full pout, finally agreed.
He set up the camera on tripod, set the focus (the first shot of a grumpy-looking me on my own is hilarious) and put the camera into continuous shooting mode. We took a few photos together, with me gradually putting on a smile, before he turned to me and told me that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.
Now, if anyone wanted to be with me after pulling an eco-tantrum like that, I think it’s safe to say I’ve found the one.
I feel so lucky as we have the proposal, and the moments after that, all caught on camera. Him asking, me in a permanent smile, us laughing when he put the ring back in his pocket without giving it to me, kissing. I didn’t cry; I just couldn’t stop smiling. I didn’t expect a proposal but the thought that I could spend the rest of my life planning adventures with Chris filled me with uncontrollable delight.
And he couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful spot to ask me.
We shared the news with our nearest and dearest, and, once we were composed, set off for the rest of our day’s planned activities. I remember that I couldn’t stop staring at my ring for the rest of the day and couldn’t stop looking over at Chris. I had known for quite some time that I wanted to marry him one day but now it all felt very real.
To make it all even more special, my dad made my engagement ring. It turns out that Chris had asked him for permission to marry me while we were in Cape Town earlier this year. My dad, a goldsmith, had been keeping aside a tanzanite, my favourite stone, for just this occasion, which is set into the shape of a protea, the national flower of South Africa. This ring will always be a reminder of my dad and of my first home country.
It’s now been a few weeks since our engagement; we’ve celebrated with our London friends and are busy planning our biggest adventure yet. But, looking back on all of the things we’ve done before, I know that our wedding will be just one more adventure in the series of exciting things to come for Chris and I.
I am marrying my best friend, and there is no better feeling than knowing that.
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