A week ago we emptied our wallets into the petrol tank, climbed into the car and drove up to the Northern Drakensberg to celebrate our anniversary. Myself and the long-suffering, excellent-coffee-making partner in crime have been together for a decade, setting many a kitchen fire alight together, adopting many (too many) a rescued pet (mostly cats and two dogs who are now outnumbered by said cats) and owning a mostly-upright home together.
The Minister of Boyfriending booked the accommodation as a surprise. We were both looking forward to a weekend of relaxing somewhere surrounded by the sounds of a lazy, wintery nature without being disturbed by The Hunger Choir of Kittens or being knocked over by the 40kg cat-chasing, bum-licking enthusiastic jumping sack of fur known as George the hound, and generally just enjoying some solitude. We stayed at a lovely place, Berghouse Cottages, up a gravel road at the top of a hill, surrounded by the majesty of the berg. A place with Shetland ponies. Nay (neigh..), better, a place with BABY Shetland ponies (which are really just an arrangement of very fluffy long fur, 4 twigs for legs, a nose for snuffling and not much else, but enough to pop those ovaries with cuteness if you have ’em!).
We stayed in a little cottage with a fireplace and a verandah that overlooks the mountains. And the ponies. Which I sat looking at, armed with coffee in one hand, carrots in the other, while plotting the ways in which one could reasonably be shoved into a car and snatched away to add to the menagerie at home (until I saw one poop – no thanks, our George Droppings are quite enough to shovel through).
I was quite ready to do as little as possible when we arrived. We were given a hiking trail map and activity brochures when we checked in, and looking at them was as much activity as I was prepared to invest. However, Gareth had other plans and suggested a walk. I reluctantly agreed, panting and sighing and shuffling most of the several hundred or so metres to a pretty tree. Upon reaching it, I promptly declared that it was too hot, the sun all the wrong angle for nice shots and that I wanted to moan my way back to the cottage. I offered to trudge back for another attempt at a walk later in the afternoon and a somewhat strained Gareth agreed.
We returned at about 4pm. When we got to the tree Gareth insisted we go over one hill, to a distant tree on top of another hill. He was determined. I was promised that a picturesque river was probably beyond the hill that the distant tree was sitting on. So off we went. Going over the first hill, we didnt realise that the landscape had been burned in fire breaks so the closer we got, the more irate Gareth was getting as we both noticed that that escarpment was a blackened and sooty carpet instead of a golden swaying veld. Doh. But Gareth perservered. He was set on this bloody tree, I didn’t know what got into him, so we carried on. We arrive at the tree to be greeted by a barbed wire fence. If there was a river beyond it, it was not going to be seen that day.
As we turned to go back down the hill, Gareth dropped from my sight and I assumed he tripped. I looked down and there he was, doing the whole bended knee thing, nervous and shaky. I was very surprised! And delighted. Considering how many things we have accidentally set fire to (sugar, meringues, oil, bread, dish cloths..) a blackened landscape seems apt for our making it official. I set fire to the kitchen, he set fire to my heart. Ahem.
We toasted to scorched and shiny things on top of another hill, beneath yet another tree, overlooking the same gorgeous view, dotted with the all-important miniature ponies. I had accidentally left my hairbrush at home for the weekend so the all-important couple selfie with ring was vetoed by me. I’m not stylish by nature, but even I draw the line at birds nest hairstyles. And yet with that spectacular hair he still popped the question. That’s true love.