“Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.” Carl Sandburg
Marriage proposals are meant to be special aren’t they? The man picks out the perfect ring, picks the perfect moment and delivers the perfect lines to his girl. She says yes, and all is well in the world. No pressure then, eh?
We got engaged in July 2010 whilst on a trip to Peru. I had decided to propose to Laura about six months earlier, and picked Peru as the destination of choice. I wasn’t too sure when or where in Peru, but I knew that Peru was the place to do it. We were booked into a Peru homestay on Lake Titicaca and I figured if there was a good moment I would do it then. And then it all came together. Almost deserted island, sun about to set, cliff edge not too far away. This was it!
Love On Lago Titicaca
I suggested to Laura that we take a walk down to the cliff edge to watch the sunset, she agreed and went to the toilet. This was my chance to get the ring out the bag. A short window of opportunity. Into the bag I went, delving to the bottom to un wrap the ring box from my coat in the bottom. I got it, brought the box out of the bag and the toilet door lock clicked ‘unlocked’. She was coming into the room! I immediately dropped the ring into the bag and zipped it up, no dice this time.
“Shall we go then” she said, unaware of my racing mind! A mumbled a “yeh ok”, and then the brainwave. Forget the camera Barry, you’ll need to come back for it! So off we went, 2 minutes into the walk I curse myself for forgetting and run back to get the camera (and ring). Result. Out comes the ring box, and then the next problem! I’m wearing walking trousers and a fleece, no matter which pocket I put the ring box in, its going to bulge and be obvious. It won’t fit into my camera bag. Where will I put it? Inevitably there was only one option, so down my underwear the ring box went. That’s right, I put the ring box in my underwear.
Off we trot to the cliff edge, Laura failing to notice me walking slightly like John Wayne. And from then on it was perfect, the sun was setting, we took some nice photos, the cliff edge was great. I got down onto one knee, pretending to take a photo, and then I hit out with the classic line….
“Well, while I’m down here…I’ve got something to ask you.”
And that was when the tears started. I blurted out what I needed to say, and waited for a response. And waited. Finally she said “of course!” and the job was done.
What happened after was not expected. Normally after you get engaged, you have a glass of champagne. Maybe a nice meal, call a few friends, you know something romantic. Not for us. As we, a newly engaged couple wandered back to our Luquina homestay, we were confronted with a scene I will never forget. The father of our family for the evening was trying to control a rowdy donkey. That’s right, a crazy donkey whilst his wife did her best to hold the rope which kept the donkey from running off.
I was beckoned over to the father, and as I got closer I realised he wasn’t trying to control the donkey, he was trying to get the biggest sack of potatoes I had ever seen onto the donkeys back. I could see the donkey’s point of view in all of this, no way would I want that on my back. So only five minutes after proposing, I was essentially wrestling a donkey whilst the father tried to put a sack of potatoes on his back! Awkward.
Anyway, it turns out I am not a very good donkey wrestler, and I was quickly demoted to picking the sack up whilst he wrestled the donkey. Fifteen minutes later, mission accomplished! One annoyed donkey with a sack of potatoes on his back, job done I thought, and looked forward to a quick nap before dinner. How wrong I was, my work for the evening was only half done!
Now I had to take the donkey up to the top of a hill, in the dark. Incredibly, we got to the top. Job done I thought! Again, wrong. Before I knew it, he had emptied the sack of potatoes onto the hillside, and we were down on all fours spreading the potatoes out. At this point it is dark, windy and Laura is wearing her brand new engagement ring whilst spreading potatoes out on a windy hillside in the middle of Peru. I’m an old romantic I know.
After about 20 minutes, all the potatoes were spread out evenly on the hillside, and it was time to head back to our home for the evening. It was time for the final flurry for the donkey. Our father was insistent that Laura take a ride on his donkey (quite what the donkey thought of it is anyones guess). So to cap off a quite remarkably surreal evening, Laura was paraded down the hill on the back of a donkey. And so caps our engagement evening, what a start to our engagement!