I was deep in my dreams when Toni woke me up. The taste of the tears from last night was still salty in my mouth, and I obeyed his orders timidly :p
Our tent was drenched in the morning dew, so we decided to let it dry up while we would hike back to Kawah Ratu to watch the sunrise. In fact, our campsite was so far away from Kawah Ratu that the sun was already up when we were half way through the other two craters. There were absolutely no living creatures on these two craters and we were compelled to walk quickly because of the deadly smell emitted from the earth.
Showered in the morning sun, the sight of Kawah Ratu was as breathtaking as ever. Volumes of smoke were churned out with an unprecedented ferocity. Compared to last evening, the crater now looked like a dragon who just woke up from its lethargy and was ready to spill fire at any time. The built up pressure made the earth literally shrieking and I wondered if it heralded an impending eruption. On the other hand, Toni seemed to be completely indifferent to all the noises and led me to a dead tree truck. He asked me to lie down on his lap and “enjoy” the surroundings. The sun was becoming glaring so I pulled down my hat to cover my eyes. But Toni moved my hat away, told me that he really loved me and landed his lips on mine. I couldn’t stand his gentleness (knowing how coarse he was normally) and sat up abruptly.
If the whole scene was part of the movie and I was one of the audience, I would have thought that the spirits of Toni and I had changed place. Toni had absolutely no intention of leaving the place that he distrusted so much just one day ago and suggested that we should walk further back to the hot spring and take a morning shower inside. While he was talking, he looked completely sincere so I was led to believe that he was not agonising me for my crime and truly wanted to do what he suggested. By this time I had reconnected to my cautious wires and told him that the water could be radioactive and it would be better not to risk our health again. He conceded reluctantly, but quickly switched to capturing the colorful stones and tree trunks with his macro lens. He was so close to the ground that I had to warn him of the poisonous gases…
Finally my patience wore out and I told Toni that it was time to leave. Toni walked extremely slowly behind me, stopped at the dead tree trunk again and implored me to enjoy the landscape of Kawah Ratu for one last time. This time I didn’t want to sit down with him any more, but stood with my arms crossed in front of him. As if overwhelmed by the power of the volcano, Toni pulled me towards him and hugged me in his seated position. Touched by his friendliness, I placed my hands on his shoulders and calmed down, letting myself blend into the vast and wild surroundings. At this moment some hikers came into my view, and Toni suddenly exclaimed, “Maybe I’m very shy…” I acknowledged his embarrassment and wondered why he didn’t let me go. But he held me tight, looked me into my eyes and asked in an almost inaudible voice, “Do you want to get married next year?”
In retrospect, I could recall a few times that Toni tried to create the right atmosphere, but I had destroyed them mercilessly… No matter what, I had never thought his proposal would come at such a moment at such a place, but the surprise was exhilarating, and I said yes without any hesitation. Toni let out a sigh of relief and we kissed each other with pure happiness. After a while he looked up again and asked, “You didn’t cry?” I had to roll my eyeballs at such an impromptu question.
Figure 10: I said YES!
Since we had spent quite a considerable time at Kawah Ratu, once the “task” was complete, Toni got up quickly and started hiking with his usual urgency again. I was still immersed in my rapture as a wife-to-be, and jokingly asked him where my engagement ring was, secretly envisioning another surprise where a shiny big diamond would somehow magically appear below one of the volcano rocks. But Toni asked me what an engagement ring was, and told me that he only knew about wedding ring (seriously!!)! I could not be more speechless and only felt lucky for Toni because I said yes so easily~~ (this feeling stayed with me for a few weeks until days before my flight to Germany when my colleagues, who kept laughing at my engagement story actually found out that Germans, at least the traditional ones, really don’t have engagement rings http://monkeysandmountains.com/getting-engaged-to-a-german-part-1-of-german-weddings. This made me feel ashamed of my assumptions and love Toni even more.)
My subsequent hiking memories were filled with lightheartedness, where we dreamed about our wedding and imagined the reactions from our parents, who had been used to shocks when we first brought each other home and took endless flights to visit each other at various places of the globe. We walked along a small creek, where a tranquil stream flew down smoothly and the insects sang songs of joy. We stopped at a waterfall to wash up, and watched beautiful butterflies dancing on our backpacks and clothes…
Figure 26: we survived the hike!
Even though this story is a bit private and I couldn’t help blushing while I tried to record everything down, I really hope this special memory would stay with me because it shined light on my life path and led Toni and me to a wonderful new beginning ❤