It’s been more than than five years since Turia Pitt became a household name after narrowly surviving a bushfire during an ultra-marathon that left her with burns to 65 per cent of her body. Throughout her torturous recovery, which involved 200 procedures, her partner, Michael Hoskin, never left her side. The couple, who both grew up on the NSW South Coast, got together at a house party in 2009. “He was the gentle, quiet yin to my brash, extroverted yang,” writes Pitt, 29, who recalls the day he proposed (during a holiday in the Maldives last July) in her new memoir, Unmasked, excerpted below.
On day three on the boat, we woke to a picture-perfect Indian Ocean day. I took my surfboard out and caught a couple of waves – enough to get my heart rate up and feel the exhilaration of surfing a break out in the middle of nowhere. Later, when David invited me to take part in an exercise class he was holding up on deck, I jumped at it. My limbs ached already from a morning and afternoon spent surfing and paddling, but in this place, under that sky, I felt like I couldn’t do enough to celebrate being alive.
‘Turia,’ Michael said, after the class. ‘You have to come down the back and see these manta rays.’ So, here we were, four years after Michael had made his secret vow to his father that he would marry me if I stayed alive, with a diamond ring he had thoughtfully purchased from the mine I worked at before the fire. A ring he had secretly stashed in his daypack as we packed for this holiday – and then checked on every night and every morning since, waiting for the perfect moment to pull it out and pop the question.
If I had ever been in any doubt of how thoughtful Michael was, here was a proposal – a grand romantic gesture – to prove it once and for all.
‘Will you marry me?’ he asked as the mantas swam below. I looked down at the ring, I looked at the beautiful man holding it up and I felt a rush of happiness.
‘Yes,’ I heard myself reply. ‘Yes. Of course I will marry you.’ We slid into the water, and swam with the manta rays. Just the two of us, in the ocean at dusk, in the company of these majestic sea creatures. A moment of pure bliss.
Looking back now, the timing could not have been more perfect. And I don’t mean the moment, the hour or the day that Michael chose to propose. I mean the stage we had finally reached as a couple. I had recovered sufficiently from my injuries to be finally independent. Michael had morphed back from being my primary carer to being my boyfriend. We had a much clearer perspective on life and were like a regular couple again. The proposal, the prospect of spending the rest of our lives together just seemed like the natural progression of things. And that was the best feeling.
Edited extract from Unmasked, by Turia Pitt and Bryce Corbett, published by Ebury Press, rrp $34.99.
For more on Turia Pitt and Michael Hoskin, including their plans to start a family, pick up this week’s issue of WHO, on sale now.