The long flight from South America to New Zealand can be broken up by island hopping via Easter Island and Tahiti in French Polynesia. Unbelievably, this route cost little more than the direct option, even though it allowed us to see some of the most beautiful and remote islands in the world. When planning the trip, we also thought a bit of beach lounging would be welcome after the chaos of South American cities.
When the time came after four months of solid backpacking, we were looking forward to Tahiti more than ever. I realise this is a disgusting “first world problem” but the truth is, we were starting to feel travelling fatigue, particularly in the increasingly wintry weather (i.e. “not ANOTHER historic Catholic Church/plaza/viewpoint/museum…I suppose we should really leave the hostel…go on then, let’s take a bloody photo and get it over with”). We were losing our mojo and and aching for the chance to kick back.
Although travelling gives you an unmatched sense of freedom, it rarely feels like a restful vacation: usually you’re knackered from sleeping on busses, hiking up mountains, lugging your bags around etc. Maybe it’s just us, but we both (especially Mark) feel a need to justify taking so much time away from work, family and friends and make the most of a once in a lifetime experience. It is classic “FOMO”- fear of missing out.
So Tahiti represented a hiatus; a few days of high end holiday time in the middle of months of backpacking on a budget.
Mark decided to go all out and treat me to a few nights in a five star hotel (thanks to his friend Ed for hooking us up with his Intercontinental connections).
In hindsight it was clear what he was up to – he wanted to make sure we were in the lap of luxury so he could pop the question. Knowing how my mood is directly linked to hunger, he waited until I was in a blissful state and guaranteed to say “yes”: reclining in a hammock, digesting after stuffing myself silly at the extensive breakfast buffet on the first morning.
No ring to show off yet; Mark proposed with a bit of costume jewellery to avoid carrying an expensive real stone in his backpack. We celebrated as is only right when in Tahiti – with a couple of luminous cocktails and a dip in an infinity pool.
Mark with a flower behind his right ear, which means you’re attached (left ear means looking for love)…
Oh, and later that evening we went into town to continue celebrations and happened to bump into Seb Coe and his lovely wife, who were in town for a local athletic competition. Mark was feeling bold and went up to say how brilliant the London 2012 Olympics were. Before long we were invited to join their table and our new pal Seb was getting the drinks in! Surely a good omen for our betrothal.
Actually this was one of several good signs and happy coincidences: Mark and I first met in the same week five years ago. And we discovered later that some dear friends also got engaged at the same time we did. Love was undoubtedly in the air!
My fiancé (eek!) and I are loving simply being engaged and wholeheartedly enjoying the last weeks of our travels; any wedding planning will wait until we are back to reality (sorry mum).
Another dance show, and another opportunity to be pulled up to embarrass yourself onstage. This time it was both of us!
The days following our engagement (after we had to leave the five star hotel room, boohoo) were spent on the stunning island of Moorea, which is also a surf and dive paradise and where I completed my PADI Open Water course. Mark was pumped after a 4 metre tiger shark turned up on one of his dives! I made do with cuddling some friendly stingrays.
You don’t need a five star hotel to take in views like this.
Happy days indeed.