A little under two hours drive from where I live is an amazing site where some of the longest dinosaur tracks in the world were discovered, some 25 years ago.
The site, called “Pedreira do Galinha” lies on the outskirts of Fatima, and contains hundreds of Sauropod tracks (you know, the long necked and long tailed ones from this scene in Jurassic park).
The ones shown in the clip ^ are Brachiosaurus, a member of the sauropod family, so you can get a feel for the size of them compared to us tiny humans.
There’s a small visitor centre on site where you pay a modest entry fee, and then you head off up the hill and around the edge of the giant slab where you’ll see the tracks. The views up there were pretty cool too.
The tracks were discovered in 1994 (funnily enough the same year I started university to read Archaeology) and are incredibly well preserved. Not only that but they are the tracks of multiple animals, walking around in different directions, in what was then a muddy riverbed.
The weight of their enormous bodies pushed the mud up around the edges of their feet, and over time sediments built up on top of them, turning them into stone and preserving them. You can see the impression of their toes in some of the prints.
One of the longest tracks here is around 147 metres long, and it’s an incredible feeling to be walking footstep by footstep, with an animal that last walked here around 175 million years ago.
I could here that tune from Jurassic park in my ears as I walked the route, stopping to take pictures of these enormous footprints. The largest one I guessed was around 60-70 wide, about 3.5 of my shoe lengths.
There’s a section where you’re allowed to walk onto the main slab, staying within the guide ropes, and then you can lap the outside of the whole slab, as long as you don’t cross the yellow line. Be careful of falling debris from the cliffs though…
As soon as I got my eye in, it seemed that everywhere I looked were more and more tracks, there are literally hundreds of them. Some were really obvious and close to the boundary, some were partly obscured by small rocks and dirt, and some you were walking on. Some appear in small clusters, and others you can follow by eye off up the slab in a pretty straight line.
Information boards line the upper trail around the slab, with pictures explaining how the tracks were formed and luckily for me, these had English (and French) translations.
Back at the visitor centre there’s a huge metal sculpture of a dinosaur and some out-buildings and terraces which look like they’re there for group tours and maybe school visits.
There’s a short video you can watch in the visitor centre (in Portuguese but it’s easy to follow) and a small gift shop where I was hoping to buy a guide book, but the images weren’t great and there sadly wasn’t anything in English either.
The guy at the counter told me of some more dinosaur track sites, one of which is up near Coimbra with three-toed prints, so I’ll have to add that to my list of places to visit too 🙂
Oh and there was no internet connection there, so I couldn’t get online to tell my friend Rachel about the gift shop where I was going to buy her son a guide book. I don’t think this lack of internet icon has ever been so appropriate 😉