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  • Writer's pictureMatt Smith

The Land That Time Forgot - Part 1

I’m waiting for the light, literally.   I’d overestimated how long it takes to get here, and with an hour to go before any hint of light stretches forth from the horizon, it’s pitch black.  The beauty of being here, is there’s no artificial light to spoil its wildness.  But with the encroaching gloom of dark winter cloud, blocking a star filled sky; the effect is like trying to find a black door handle, on a black door, in an equally black room with no light.  If it wasn’t for the audible presence of the ocean, the feeling would be quite unsettling.  

I turn the torch on to find a rock, so I can sit and wait.  A slight drizzle blown by a fierce Sou-Wester, brings a windchill factor to an already cold enough morning. I tighten the zips and face North to avoid its icy touch.  The drizzle seems half sleet, half hail, and is gone in a minute, but the wind remains.  It’s interesting when sight is missing that all the other senses heighten.  The roar of the ocean seems excessively loud, drifting in and out with the wind and a wave pattern I cannot see, its spray leaving a metallic, salty tang in the air that assaults my sense of smell.

After what seems an age, a faint glow dispels the blackness to the East.  At last.  I cannot wait any longer, I gather my kit and battered tripod and start scrambling.  The clock is ticking.  For the shot I’m thinking of I need high tide, but high tide makes it challenging.  Vertical cliffs rise fifty metres to my left with a jumble of knife edged, car sized boulders before me.  I have to climb.  The sea roars in, swallowing the space where I was a minute ago, before reluctantly draining back.  Now I can see the swells, waiting for a bit of light was worth it.  Using the tripod as an extra leg, I scramble around the headland in between sets, making it finally to a rock platform, partitioned from the harrowing seas behind me.

It’s more sheltered here, the North facing cliff blocking the winds icy touch.  The seas appear more settled, just mounding waves without the thrashing wind.  I look back,  quite a contrast to where I’ve just been, but back I will have to go eventually and face the surf again.  As twilight broadens, I quell the thought and walk a rolling, knifed edged pavement; not dissimilar to a dinosaurs skeleton one might see in a museum, except this one's made of stone.

Finally I’m here.  A small, semi-circular cove of displaced rock.  I watch a minute, to ensure the safest place to be from the encroaching swells to setup the tripod.  In the half light, it’s an eerie place.  The pitted, jagged rock ledge ends abruptly where the ever moving sea heaves in front of me.  The cliff curves around to my left and off to the North, a vertical expanse of rock.   Lying at its feet, a confused mass of tumbled boulders, playing a never ending game of grab with the sea.  A little off and proud from the cliff, jutting upward like a grasping hand, stands a mound of folded rock, climbing a fraction the height of the cliffs before it, yet three times my height; Its twisted fingers piercing the lightening sky.  Beyond in the far distance, semi obscured by this eerie landscape lies more gentle rounded cliffs, rolling to the sea before disappearing beyond the horizon.  One half expects to see pterodactyls flying over head, as if somehow, coming around that headland takes you back in time to ancient cultures and dinosaurs that once lived together.  A land that time forgot.

Time to get to work.  The weather front seems to be weakening.  An orange glow fades in between the gaps of skidding cloud along the horizon, and a magenta blue casts its light upon the primeval scene before me.  I hurry, time is ticking.    I only have enough time for two long exposures, before the light gathers, changing back to a blue grey.  That blue grey, seems more in tone with this gloomy place, but for it to work I need minutes of exposure, but now it’s too late, there’s too much light.

The sun rises behind cloud, there’ll be no rich red glow on the cliffs today.  All is grey.  The sea more muted now.  The feeling that was, is not; the time portal, vanished.  I make my way back, over the dinosaurs spine.  And then it happens.  The clouds part, the sun sheds forth it’s warming touch.  Exposed rock is lit with an intense orange, as if lit from within the very rock itself.  I race to capture this fleeting moment.  The tripod is not interested, resisting my every effort to set a stable platform.  Seconds pass and finally,  all is set, the camera levelled.  I manage two frames before the sun recedes behind cloud; the blue cloudless sky above, takes its toll on the landscape, painting all in a soft veil of blue shadow. The moment, gone.

I return to the jumbled boulders, but the tide has increased.  There’s no easy way, looks like I’m going to get wet.  I wait for an outgoing surge and take a step, the tripod thrust onto a submerged rock for balance, another step and here comes a wave, and not a small one.  It looks huge from where I am.  I’m not where I need to be. I cling to the tripod and grasp upon the cliff as the wave breaks upon the outlying rock, bursting over.  A surge of swirling surf, washes up to my thighs, trying to pull me off the rock like a long lost possession.  Seconds pass before the tug on my legs ease and it washes out.  I take a step and climb to a dry area, the worst behind me, thank Goodness and Mercy.

Before long I’m back on the beach, tired and bedraggled.  The clouds all but gone, the blue sky dominant, and the wind stronger. Yes, the icy wind still here, flailing my clothes about like a hoisted flag.  I turn back and look from whence I came; but it’s not there, that place, that feeling, that time.  Only around the cliff; yet, as if it were never there, never experienced.  Strange.  I face the deserted beach, and retrace the only footprints left on this cold winters morning.

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