My birthday is on the 21st of December and this year I was celebrating my 40th.
I wasn’t going to stand for just some plain old dinner in a fancy restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, I still very much wanted that! Fine dining is one of my favourite things to do but this day was going to be extra special.
I also knew that I wanted to get away from our town and fly somewhere amazing.
My fiancé Jayden, is a “I live in the moment” sort of guy. I took it on myself to organise our time away as he has never been great at planning future events. Well, so I thought! Little did I know, that this was the beginning of our engagement story in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Due to travel restrictions and only being able to travel within New Zealand, Queenstown was a place that I had always dreamed of visiting so my choice of destination was simple. Little did I know, when I mentioned it, Jayden’s mind was ticking away in the background. We had watched the ‘Travel Guide’ tv programme together about 6 months prior to this. After seeing how mesmerised I was with one of the locations that they visited in Queenstown, Jayden had already secretly made up his mind right then, that this was the place he would ask me to marry him.
Now, before you even begin to think that this proposal was my birthday present, allow me to continue with this amazing story!
On Saturday the 19th of December, our plane was on the final part of its decent into Queenstown.
We were completely taken back by the beauty that surrounded us. There were mountains in view either side of the plane and it almost felt like you could reach out and touch them.
Flying through the valley to the entrance of Queenstown airport was a spectacular experience all on its own!
We were pleasantly welcomed by the friendly receptionist at the Rydges Lakeland Resort. It was much earlier than our 2:00pm check in time.
We had only expected to leave our baggage there for the time being, however, the very helpful staff allowed us to check into our room 4 hours early!
The remainder of our day was spent exploring Queenstown’s eloquent little town centre which was only a 5 minute walk from the hotel.
The only thing that Jayden had mentioned about Sunday was that he had it covered.
He received a phone call later that day and went outside to talk in private. I knew he was up to something as when he returned, he had the silliest little grin on his face.
It was obvious that it had something to do with Sunday’s plans and I said I didn’t care what we were doing as long as I don’t have to jump off or out of anything!
Sunday morning had arrived and we enjoyed a lovely breakfast in the Rydges restaurant. It is situated on the 5th floor with spectacular views over lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables Mountain range.
I must say, at this point I was beginning to get a bit anxious about what activity Jayden had in store for me.
He received another phone call which left him looking a bit frustrated and unsettled.
Before I continue to keep you in suspense, the call was from Angel, the receptionist at Heliworks!
In the past, I had talked about how much I enjoy helicopter flights.
One of the things that I love about Jayden is that he picks up on everything that I say and takes little mental notes to save for himself in the future.
The reason Jayden was feeling unsettled is because that call from Angel, was to inform him that the flight he had booked had to be postponed due to thick, low cloud.
Jayden had no plan B!
Lucky for us both, the cloud lifted and our trip was back on!
At this point, I still had no clue as to what we were doing. He told me what I should wear and then we headed down to the front doors of the Rydges Lakeland Resort.
Parked out front waiting for us was the Heliworks shuttle bus!
My heart skipped a beat and I looked at Jayden to see that silly little grin once again. I was not only excited for the flight but also to see the beautiful Queenstown from the view of a helicopter. Still, I had no idea where we were going.
Jayden had previously informed Angel about his intentions to propose to me. This meant everything at the Heliworks reception was still rather secretive. For me, the surprises were only just beginning. I had already spoken to Jayden about another trip that I would like to do to Milford Sound. I was then beside myself when I heard that this was exactly where the flight was heading! Surprise number two!
Words just cannot describe the beautiful view of the mountains from the helicopter. We started to come awfully close to the top of a glacier and I was hit with surprise number three. We were landing there!
To Jayden and I, it looked as though there was not enough room to land where our pilot, Matt, was pointing. However, as we got closer, it was much bigger than expected.
Matt shut down the engine and we got out to hear the crunch of the snow beneath our feet.
Now, although this was an amazing location in what seemed the middle of nowhere, this was not Jayden’s intended spot to pop the question. After a ten minute walk around and many photos, we got back into the helicopter and we were off once again.
On arriving at the highest point of the mountain range above Milford Sound, Matt warned us of the rapid decent and how it was about to affect our eardrums. I completely underestimated what he said.
It was painful!
Once again, I was absolutely taken back by the scenery and could hardly believe my eyes that anything like this actually existed. We landed at the tiny airport and Matt shut down the helicopter. It was time for a short 10 minute walk along the edge of the bay.
We reached the end of the gravel track and I front of us stood the Milford Sound Boat Cruise Terminal. You have got to be kidding! Surprise number four! We were going for a boat cruise through the sounds!
I had to pinch myself just to make sure this all was not just an amazing dream.
We sat on the outside top level of the boat and the first amazing sight was of Mitre Peak.
This is one of the most photographed mountain peaks in the country and the highest mountain in the world to emerge directly from the sea floor.
We enjoyed every minute of the two hour trip. We felt like ants against the share size of the fiords that surrounded us, (if you zoom in on the boat in the photo, you will see what I mean), and the many waterfalls that cascaded into the ocean.
This would also have been a stunning place for a proposal but still, Jayden had something else in mind.
The commentary that came from the captain was the best I had ever experienced. Informative and witty at the same time. I would definitely recommend anyone to do the Milford Sound Boat Cruise with the company, Real Journeys.
On return to the cruise terminal, we headed back to the helicopter where Matt had been waiting for us.
What an amazing trip! Little did I know, that it was not yet over.
We were in the air once again with Matt pointing out the hiking trails and informing us about the areas below us. I must say, he is amazing at his job. And what a job to have!
Heading back to Queenstown, and I just didn’t want this experience to end. We approached the peak of Mount Earnslaw and the chopper changed direction.
Matt pointed to the base of the mountain where we would land once again. Oh my god! He weaved back and fourth down the mountain face and it was the most exciting part of the helicopter flight yet.
There, on the side of the hill, stood three wild deer. We circled around to get a closer look then continued to swoop back and forth on a decline until we landed on a grassy patch next to a crystal clear river.
We had landed at the famous Earnslaw Burn.
I could not believe my eyes. In front of us stood the magnificent panorama of Mount Earnslaw. The melting glacier forms a vast array of waterfalls that cascade down the mountain and form the transparent river that was beside us. I felt something that I never had before. Something spiritual. There was something about this place that was so magical and peaceful.
Then it hit me. This was the place that we saw on TV!
Jayden had really outdone himself here. I have been to many places in the world but nothing really compared to what was before my eyes.
Matt shut down the engine and we set foot on the grass outside the chopper.
My eyes felt as though they were open the widest they had ever been. I was in absolute awe of my surroundings.
Jayden handed his phone to Matt to take a picture of us next to the helicopter and the breathtaking view that was behind us.
Jayden placed both his hands in mine and was looking directly at me instead of the camera. He looked deep into my eyes and began to tell me how much he loved me and couldn’t imagine a life without me in it.
He took a step backwards with his eyes still locked to mine. He unzipped his jacket pocket, pulled out a small black box and dropped to one knee. My heart literally felt like it stopped. My mouth was slightly open and I could feel the cool breeze on my lips.
All this time, his eyes were still fixated on me.
He opened the box to reveal a sparkling ring and the next words he spoke, still play over and over in my mind today.
“Andrea, will you marry me?”
I felt the cool air rush into my lungs as I took what felt like my first breath. I began to feel the beat of my heart that seemed to be completely in sync with our environment.
There was absolutely no doubt in my mind as to what the answer was to be. As I went to speak, I had to clear my throat and it was almost like I had to remember how to talk.
Jayden asked for my hand and he gently placed the ring on my finger. It was a perfect fit! Jayden is a perfect fit. This amazing place was a perfect fit.
As I leaned down about to kiss him, he rose to his feet, embraced me, and gave me a kiss that I will never forget.