It stands alone, so tall and proud, yet also faded, worn and weather-beaten. A guardian on a cliff edge? Eternally facing out to sea, as if searching. A symbol? A signal? A monument? For what? Why?
According to the Opunake historical guides, the white shipping marker is made of four slabs of totara timber which are bolted together and was built some time before 1890 at a time when sea transport was the only means of access to the town.
Today the shipping marker still stands on the cliff-top watching over Opunake Beach and the coast. It makes me wonder what was it like coming here by ship, seeing the seemingly sheltered cove after maybe days or months at sea? And then facing the huge trek up a rocky cliff as a final challenge before reaching flat land and safety? What are the stories? Were there tragedies, rescues, and were there blessings about this arrival to Opunake?
I believe that at least two wharves were destroyed by rough seas and rouge waves, before the idea of safe landings in Opunake Bay was finally abandoned. The shipping marker, sentinel over the sea, silent guardian of the history that came before us, is all that now remains.