Sixty-five million years ago several dozen different types of dinosaurs lived in Southern Africa. Compared to the Americas, Africa cannot boast nearly as many Jurassic inhabitants. But most of the dinosaurs which did inhabit Africa were found mostly in the southern region, and the remains of them “abound” in Lesotho according to the Lonely Planet guidebook. Based on this description we thought we could just walk around and look at the ground and see the footprints the guidebook mentioned. Not quite.
Mike and I set out for Leribe, a two hour drive north of Maseru, on Friday morning. Based on my research Leribe is the best place in Lesotho to see the dinosaur footprints. I should mention that we attempted to visit the Tourism Information Office in town before setting off. After spending an hour trying to find the office, then finding out the office was closed, then finally being told there were no maps of the country in print, we decided to take the horribly ambiguous directions provided in the guidebook and wing it.
When we got to Leribe we started asking everyone we could find where the dinosaur footprints were located. The 10+ people at the gas station didn’t know. The two police officers doing traffic security checks weren’t sure what a dinosaur was. The group of mothers attending a school sports competition looked at one another perplexed. Obviously NO ONE comes to see the dinosaur footprints! Mike had the idea of asking where we could find the school, “There has to be a Social Studies teacher who should know something about this.” So we got directions to the school.
As we pulled up to the school (I was driving) I said, “Where should I park?” Mike instructed, “Under the tree, just look like you belong here. You are a white woman at a primary school in the middle of nowhere in Africa. They will be so surprised to see you here no one will care whether or not you have the right to park here. Stay out of trouble while I go ask for the Social Studies teacher.” The staying out of trouble was the problem. The next thing I knew there were fifty kids all around me asking me to take their picture, and subsequently forgetting they were supposed to be plowing the fields (what we might call manual labor is more like chores here):
Mike returned with obscure instructions to keep heading up the mountain toward the next village and to ask the kids tending the cows and sheep along the way if they could help us. This proved to me that tourism infrastructure could definitely stand to be improved, particularly given that this was one of the very few attractions available in Lesotho.
Along the path we met Paolo, who was tending sheep, and was excused from his duties temporarily by his father to guide us to the top of the mountain. We began climbing over rocks, some of which had water coming down them, making them particularly slippery. About thirty minutes into the climb Mike asked Paolo, “Are we almost there?” At this point I should mention that Mike had put his complete trust in my ability to plan this trip. He told me, “You can plan anything you want and I will follow. You are the expert, so I trust whatever you want to do.” When he asked how much further we had to climb I began apologizing profusely for him having blind faith in me. At that point we were about halfway there. Here is the view from that stage of the climb:
Eventually we reached the location of the “dinosaur fingerprints” as Paolo called them. These pictures don’t really do it justice, but hopefully you can recognize the outline of the prints which are more of a light brown against the darker gray background:
And then here is a close up:
In the end Mike enjoyed the hunt for the dinosaur fingerprints. After we descended the mountain he said, “Thanks for making me do that. Regardless of what else we see here, the dinosaur fingerprints will definitely be the highlight of this trip.” While I do believe he meant that, it may have also been a veiled complement in an effort to make sure I wasn’t going to force him to learn how to charm snakes or walk on burning coals next. Maybe on our next trip, maybe.