Day Fifty Two

We step back in time today, 65 million years in time, thanks to some pleading in my part to convince Chris to go 100 km out of our way to see the many dinosaur footprints found around Enciso.  He really is a very good boy, he gave in pretty quickly, considering he was convinced he was going to be in Pamplona today. 

La Rioja’s vine driven greenery gives way to endless arid plains and the ground turns from white to red.  

Even in modern times, this strikes  me as harsh place to live.  I can’t imagine how they survived in days past when everything had to be done by hand, especially water collection. Closer to Enciso, in a job of hurclean proportions, the hills have been terraced, presumably once for farming but now lying bare.  Thousands of stones were used to shore up each layer – it must have taken generations to complete.

Enciso is a town in decline – from a population of a couple of thousand once, it’s dwindled to a little under 200 at last count.  It’s surprising, given that they are the gateway to a fabulous paleontology find. 

There are dinosaur signs to tracks everywhere, a little challenging to interpret, but we eventually pick one, hike several kilometres uphill, only to find… nothing.

 We’ve somehow managed to start one walk and divert onto another that goes for 13 km before dinosaur footprints.  Hmm, local kids messing with the signs I suspect.  Back we go, somewhat hot and disheartened.  Checking the signs again,  we try for another find, the next village over, and it’s on the way we hit pay dirt – a massive dinosaur replica, scowling down at us from high on a hill.

Sure enough, it’s where our original path should have pointed us, to an embarrassment of dinosaur footprint riches. 

There are massive footprints from a three  toed carnivore set in rock and a series of many footprints from different dinosaurs leading up hill.

 Tiredness aside, I bound up the hill, determined to see it all, grumpy pants a little behind.  Dino bliss – it’s exactly what I’d hoped for, with the added bonus of even more dinosaur models to marvel over.  

The next village offers another set of footprints – all up there are 23 kilometres of findings, footprints set down at a time when this was a steaming alluvial bank, miraculously somehow retained into the transition to rock.  

In my humble opinion, these should be every bit as much sacred sites as any cathedral I’ve seen.  They’re awe inspiring.

Eventually, I’m dragged away to make a start on our journey to Pamplona late in the day.  Along the way we see many eagles circling the sky, and once, an eagle’s nest set into a mountain (the white marked hollow, below)

 Arid plains turn into olive groves, in turn, back into vineyards. We make it further than expected, to the town of Estella, some 40 km out of Pamplona. Dinosaur footprints: well worth the 200 km detour.

Laugh of the day goes to this exchange, which (for a couple who never says “dear”) isn’t aging any time soon.  Me: (on spotting a deer sign) Deer, dear.  Him: Yes, dear.  Much merriment.