to walk through the trail, buttoned and booted. For plain cotton offers no protection against the bristling swarms that form a cloud around your head and settle in stubborn waves to jab through cloth and skin. The mud runs dry and the bamboo hangs low, for the forest that swallowed the village seeks to reclaim every last inch that was lost, even this meandering strip of soggy land that transects the swamp.
It sucks to waddle on the shore, dripping and honking like a stuffed goose while chestnut kites drift a hundred feet above in slow and easy circles. The high sand glows with ochre warmth, fuelling the feeding frenzy of beachfleas and kelpflies that gather to take apart the solid goodness of stranded flotsam. The wetter grains below gleam with the shallow flow of minute channels, which stream into pools where tiny fish assemble in illegal numbers.
The sand gives way to mud – fine, dark and rich with life and its disassembled parts. Wedged between a soft minefield of mangrove roots, the sediment is firm, compact and supports both detritius feeders and the long-billed waders that probe with sewing machine precision for buried meals. Misaligned strips of bare rock interrupt the gentle curve of the coast, forcing tired feet up on crumbling formations draped with slippery thalli and the shells of slow grazers. Layered lines of blue, green and gray segment the outlying waters before a fall off into the deeper colours of untrodden depths. It hurts to come again and again, to see so little amidst so much, and suffer the strength of weak bodies that battle with invisible foes to no avail. The bites are fleeting and the sweat dries off in the evening wind but the pain sinks in when you are head over hills in love with this moment and yet too far to sea this heart and all that it fills.