I didn’t want to climb yet another Mayan temple. Once you’ve seen five, you’ve seen them all.
Desperately hot and tired, I was being unreasonably irritable towards my patient boyfriend. Why was he so eager to continue in this heat? Why couldn’t I wait at the bottom in the shade of a ceiba tree? We were literally glistening with sweat, and I just wanted a cold shower and an afternoon in a hammock.
Surely not much to ask for?
Muttering under my breath I negotiated the steep stone steps, using overhanging lianas for balance, and eventually reached the top of Temple IV at Tikal in Guatemala. Yep, it was the same as the previous five views we’d seen that morning, just a slightly different angle. Great. Without shade the heat was intense, and having made the required noises of admiration I began climbing back down to the relative cool of the forest.
A strong hand grabbed my arm and hauled me back up. I was going nowhere. Apparently I had to stay and enjoy the stunning, iconic view of Tikal and the endless forest stretching before us. Having no energy to protest I sat beside him, legs dangling over the temple edge, feeling utterly miserable, uncomfortable and cross. We have trees back home, after all. Why were these so special?
Several minutes later my boyfriend decided he’d pushed his luck far enough.
Glancing over at his grumpy, sweaty, hot (not in the good sense!) girlfriend, who felt she was having her ugliest day of the year, if not decade, he still stuck to his secret plan and pulled from his pocket a little red box. Despite dropping continuous unsubtle hints over the past few years I was still totally unprepared for the question:
“Will you marry me?”
Suddenly, I didn’t want to go down. I wanted to stay, gazing at the mesmerising tract of green articulated here and there with pale stone temples, accompanied by a howler monkey symphony. I wanted the moment I had so very nearly ruined to last forever. Or at least until one of us got hungry, and we all know who that would be.
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, although I’m sure the remaining part of the Tikal tour was lovely! I vaguely remember our guide plying us with ‘old spice’ for our multiple mosquito bites, as well as doing a spot of tarantula tickling.
We were bursting to tell someone about the engagement, but being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by strangers, without any access to the outside world, didn’t make it very easy. We eventually tracked down a satellite phone in the back yard of one of the local houses near La Casa de Don David where we were staying in El Remate.
After exchanging a few quetzales we had precisely 60 seconds to drop the bombshell on our respective families, all the while being watched by the local policeman who was enjoying a beer in the shade with the house owner. Calls finished, the men tried to sell us chicken feet and tampons, which we politely declined before escaping to the hammocks that I’d been dreaming of all those hours ago.
Exactly 2 years later and I was ‘glistening’ in a more attractive way as we got married at Durham Castle, my man of course not failing to mention in his speech how I very nearly ruined his proposal. Little did he know that a couple of weeks later he would almost ruin our honeymoon by being detained for smuggling in the Galapagos.
But that’s a tale for another day.