Alex here. The drive from Shirahama to Shingu is finally finished, so here’s my update while Charlie, Risa, and Ayako get settled into our assigned cots in the camp. From my best guess, there are maybe 100 to 120 civilians here.
We pulled into town in the mid-afternoon. We followed a series of winding mountain roads following the Kumano River. Being in a valley, it was difficult to realize just how close we’d gotten before we realized that we were there. The signs to the power staton didn’t have the distance written on them. The first sign of the trappings of civilization was a military roadblock that was seemingly abandoned. My gut wrenched, but once we passed the roadblock, my fears were alleviated when I noted a petrol station fully illuminated with what appeared to be a small convoy of military Jeeps parked out front. The soldiers walking around quickly snapped into action as they noticed our car pulling up. They didn’t raise their weapons or tell us to stop or anything. In fact, they seemed overjoyed as they motioned for us to pull over into the station.
Their leader, a timid-looking Lieutenant named Shinoda approached the drivers’ side window as soon as I stopped in front of the pump. My window was already down to enjoy the fresh, mountain air of Japanese spring. He greeted us with a wave and – upon inspection of the occupants – a laugh.
“Are you the same guy from the Kumano Kodo who was reported the other day?” He asked, leaning against the window sill. I answered that it was very likely and motioned to the passengers, explaining who they were. He nodded happily. “We heard about you. Thank you for coming here,” he greeted us. He instructed one of his men to refuel our vehicle and asked us to step out so that his medic could check us for injuries or sickness. “Don’t worry,” he explained. “We have doctors and nurses at the aid station in town that can help you. We just need to make sure you’re not bringing disease into the camp.”
After a quick once-over and a few questions from their medic, he gave us the all-clear to enter the camp. Shinoda instructed us to follow one of his men in a Jeep. The drive the petrol pump to the camp was fairly short. We followed the Jeep through a long tunnel, sticking to the right lane. The left lane was littered with wrecks. Some had burned. Some were mangled beyond comprehension. The Jeep had no qualms about breaking the speed limit to zip past it all, forcing us to keep up so that we couldn’t get a good look or snap any pictures of it.
The camp itself was on the shore, nestled between the river delta and the beach in an industrial area and port. To get there, we literally had to drive through a small town and across a long bridge. Most of the side streets had been blocked off with barricades, narrowing our options as far as where we could go. It was a good set up, in that the camp at the power station only seems accessible by car through the tunnel. It would make it a lot easier to control who could get in and out. The bridge was manned with a light garrison of a dozen men on either side, protected by sandbags and Jeep-mounted machine guns. A few quick beeps from our escort and they scrambled to the sides, allowing us safe passage. The final checkpoint was the entrance to the camp. During the drive, we saw no civilians in town.
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