When I found out that just outside Sucre was a Parque Cretácico (dinosaur park), my inner 6-year-old took control and all of a sudden I was spending a hot afternoon in southern Bolivia clambering down into a gully to get up close to fossilized dinosaur tracks.
Across a limestone slab 1.2km long and 80m high, Cal Orko cliff proudly displays more than 5,000 footsteps, with 462 individual trails from about 15 species of dinosaur. 68 million years ago this cliff was a (flat) lake surrounded by a forest – and the wet earth absorbed the footsteps of the dinosaurs as they went about their business. Then over millions of years, the tectonic movements of the earth’s plates pushed the now dried lake and it’s preserved footprints to a vertical resting place.
Getting to the park is easy and cheap in a micro (colectivo bus) for 1.50 Bolivianos. When you get to the end of the line – and the next door concrete factory, you are there. In fact the Fancesa concrete factory is responsible for the discovery of these tracks. The company mined away sedimentary layers in the cliffs surrounding their factory for use in the production of concrete. They did not go as far down as the footprints as that rock was not suitable, and on the open surface of the cliff, gravity, rain and tremors from nearby explosions had their impact – a wall of rock fell and revealed the footprints, made so many millions of years before.
In 2010, a section of the cliff eroded away which destroyed some of the tracks, however it also revealed another layer with more tracks underneath.
Guided tours will lead you down to the quarry at the bottom of the cliff (wearing compulsory fire engine red hard hat) and explain the different footprints and the dinosaurs that made them. After struggling back up the cliff many photos later you are rewarded with life-size models of the different dinosaurs, complete with audio of what it is thought they sounded like…
I didn’t care. I loved all the dinosaurs, cheesy or not. My inner 6-year-old was delighted.