Dinosaur tracks

Sucre has a relatively new attraction: dinosaur tracks. We decided to check them out on Tuesday morning. We went to the plaza to wait for the “Dino-Truck” which arrived ahead of time (a bit unusual for Bolivia!). It transported us outside the city to a concrete plant. Behind the plant were the tracks.

Apparently the tracks were discovered by accident as workers were detonating rock to use to make concrete. At first they didn’t think they were anything, but some scientists and university students confirmed they were dinosaur tracks. And they weren’t just little tracks. This is the biggest collection of tracks together anywhere in the world. There are more than 5000 spanning a huge rock wallface. The second biggest such find was in Germany, but that site has only 240.

We were fitted with orange safety helmets (they still do concrete work near the dinosaur site) and joined the English-speaking group. Our guide spoke pretty good English and was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The tour started with some basic information about how the tracks were formed: they were covered by a layer of volcanic rock, and successive layers of other types of rock. In the ancient past, two tectonic plates collided, forming the Andes. This huge collision shifted what was once horizontal layers of rock and made them vertical.

Our guide then showed us models of the different types of dinosaurs whose tracks we would see. Among them were triceratops, brontosaurus, and many others whose names I’ve forgotten. He drew in the dust to show us the shapes of their tracks.

Then it was time to approach the rockface. It is really huge. At first it’s hard to see the tracks, especially in the morning because of the angle of the sunlight. But as our guide showed us the tracks using light reflected from a mirror, they became much easier to spot. The tracks were everywhere. Some were quite big and paths criss-crossed.

This rockface is apparently a goldmine of tracks. While the top layer has many tracks, the layers underneath apparently have tracks as well. Over the last 5 years, some parts have worn away, revealing new tracks underneath. This is both good and bad. The problem is that the Bolivians still haven’t put together the money or organization needed to study the newest prints, or to preserve them. They have a dream of using silicon to harden the rock and preserve it… but that will take money.

But it sounds like many of the right key players are on board (the mayor, tourism board, etc). Hopefully it will all work out. And thankfully it seems the concrete company recognizes the importance of the site and has worked with the tourism people to minimize the impact of their work on the site.

Later in the day we visited with a missionary named Joanne who works here in Sucre that Yoli knew from her previous job in Santa Cruz as a secretary at the mission office. She was very accomodating and we had a nice visit with her.

From there we went to the Supreme Court of Bolivia. This is the one branch of government that calls Sucre home, while the other two are in La Paz. There was a big park nearby which we walked around in. It was very nice… Sucre has some of the nicest gardens in all of Bolivia’s cities. In the middle of the park was an Eiffel Tower you could climb. But there were several couples already at the top making out, so we decided to skip that.

We ran out of time Tuesdasy to see the Casa de Libertad, so we went Wednesday morning instead. It was interesting to learn about the birth of Bolivia, and to see all the presidents. Bolivia became independent in 1825, but they’ve already have over 60 presidents thanks to numerous coups and assassinations. (For those of you keeping track, the U.S. is like 40 years older and has had only 40-something presidents)

We have managed to avoid being hit by any water balloons, but we see kids with them all the time. Another interesting site this morning was of some sort of protest. Apparently some people lost their jobs (we’re not sure what the jobs were) and one person was being interviewed by a TV reporter. That marks the second TV interview I’ve witnessed in Sucre.

We also went to the cemetery here in Sucre, which is absolutely beautiful. Upon arrival, you get mobbed by kids who want to be your tour guide through the cemetary. Yoli chose the one who spoke most clearly. He showed us many burial places of former presidents and dignitaries, and told us their stories. It was a nice way to spend some time.

Later today we will ride a bus to Santa Cruz. The trip should take 16 hours or so, and we’ll arrive on Thursday morning. While there are various blockades in the Yungas area near La Paz, the campesinos apparently haven’t yet tried to block the roads between Sucre and Santa Cruz, so we should be all right.

About Josh Renaud

Josh Renaud is married to Yoli and together they have four beautiful niƱitos. Find him on Twitter (@Kirkman) or Google+.
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One Response to Dinosaur tracks

  1. Shell says:

    That’s really interesting…I’ve always thought dinosaurs were fascinating. The La Brea Tar Pits out here in California is a good dinosaur museum. Like you said, it does take funding to put a museum together or preserve something like that.