11/6 What is the Captain?

Start of the Moreport Track to the Captain Bougainville Monument.

18 k

Everyone slept hard last night. There is much groaning and cracking of bones as we all start moving about in the new day. The sun burns hot already, and the sky looks clear. The forest is carpeted in soft grass, thick with ferns, as the slender trees let more light in.

A few ridges in the forest allow peeping views, but when the forest ends it is on a beautiful windswept ridge where one can see out for miles.

A connection of roads leads us to Whananaki, a tiny village at one end of the Southern Hemisphere’s longest footbridge. We go looking for water, and we ask two men we see working on the roof of the community hall. “Oh just fill up here, I reckon. Just go in through there to the kitchen.” The inside is turquoise paint and dark wood floors; probably many the festive dance has been held here. There is a plaque on the wall, explaining the story of the Captain Bougainville, which I had assumed was a person, and never would have guessed was a ship.

We cross the foot bridge- narrow, wooden, rickety, and almost half a kilometer long.

The tide is out, so we are able to walk on the tidal flat rather than the roads once on the other side. Same for the beach- we’ve It it perfectly at low tide, and eschew the actual trail to simply follow the beaches and clamber over the rocky jetties to see if we can reach the shipwreck monument from the ocean.

It turns out we can! The last clamber takes us through rocks draped with Neptune’s necklace, the edible seaweed that John had introduced us to on 90 mile beach.

We climb the pine forested backside of the prominence, and the mown area around the monument is peaceful and inviting.

We all contemplate the ocean in our different ways, and when it comes time to camp, the only place we can is directly around the monument. I dislike the idea, and worry, because I feel it may be disrespectful. There are no other options, though, and after the tents are up, the peacefulness continues. As the light quietly fades, it feels more like a vigil than an imposition, and the thick tall beach grass ringing the site creates a room, a watchtower.

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