Ahu had more time to worry about the appointment of Ahuahu to the village council as on the following day Ahuahu was sent for by the chief and returned some hours later with a worried look on his face.
Ahu was weaving a basket as he returned as he sat down beside her. She smiled at him and said, “So they want us to plant more oca roots so we will be well fed, do they?”
He smiled back, shook his head and spoke quietly to her. He sat so close that she could feel the warmth of his body against hers and she had a feeling of desire for him as he reached around her to touch Hekehoru who was playing with the small pieces of reed.
“I have to lead a small party to investigate reports of sighting of pakeha to the south of here.” He pointed to the south east where there was a long stretch of coastline before the big river estuary half a day’s journey away.
“Is it the smelly, pink faced men again?” asked Ahu looking apprehensive.
“It could be nothing but strangers fishing from further south who have been blown off course and have now gone again. It is my job to find out. We will set off tomorrow.” Ahu paused then he went on. “I have suggested I take Kamaka with me so that he feels involved with the work.”
Ahu tried not to smile as she said, “Why don’t you go and ask him now as you have not had a discussion with him yet about the village council.”
Ahuahu hesitated a little then agreed with Ahu and went to Kamaka straight away.
Kamaka was quite happy to go with Ahuahu when they discussed the expedition. “I missed out on seeing the pakeha last time” he grinned “perhaps I can judge myself how ugly they are.”
“I was concerned that you would not approve of me being on the village council,” said Ahuahu.
Kamaka laughed outright and slapped Ahuahu on the shoulder in his normal way. “They asked me too, but I declined the offer as I had too many other family concerns as you are aware. It was me that recommended you.”
Ahuahu shook his head with a grin, “Even Ahu did not guess that. But who else should we take with us on this investigation?”
“How about we take Aata and Hunapo, even if we find nothing it will still be good day hunting.”
“So you think it is but a test?” Ahuahu said disappointed.
“Perhaps, but whatever we find we should try to make it worth our while.”
The two other young unmarried men were pleased to be asked to accompany Ahuahu and Kamaka and they all set off the next day travelling south parallel with the sea over difficult terrain with a succession of deep valleys leading down to the sea. Eventually they headed for the coast and looked for signs of disturbance in the dunes, of trees felled and fires lit. Most camping spots were old and appeared to be used by Maori like themselves where campfires were carefully extinguished and covered. There were no signs of footprints where there were solid imprints rather than bare feet, which was a sure sign of the ugly pakeha trampling through the terrain. They kept going south until they reached the Big River estuary. They could see a few boats in the water fishing in the tidal stream from villages’ further inland. They advanced to the river’s edge and spoke to one group who had just come ashore. They told them they were from Black Sands and of their search for the pakeha. The fishermen shook their heads and started to return to they boat.
“What’s the fishing like here?” Asked Kamaka.
“It is good for us but bad for you.”
Kamaka laughed, “That is a good answer.”
Ahuahu pointed to the wooded hill overlooking the river, “Is your village up there?”
The man suddenly looked frightened. He shook his head “That is a sacred site. It is better for your health that you return by the beach the way you have come.”
Ahuahu nodded, “May the gods be with you.”
They took their leave and returned to the beach to make their way back to Black Sands.
After they had walked a little way along the shore and were out of sight of the river. Ahuahu stopped and then said “We should accidentally see this sacred site. I did not like the look on that man’s face.” Kamaka nodded in agreement.
“Will you take Hunapo and check it out?” asked Ahuahu. “We will slowly walk along the beach in case they follow our tracks.”
Kamaka and Hunapo then set off inland immediately while Ahuahu and Aata made their way along the beach. Some time later just as Ahuahu started to get anxious, Kamaka finally appeared with an excited Hunapo.
“The pakeha have been but they have been eaten.” Kamaka then produced a buckled shoe from his pack. “Fishing can’t be that good at the estuary.”
Pakeha - Foreigner (normally white men)