Lucy, with a selection of her favourite specimens from the Bone-gaining expedition
Lucy, with a selection of her favourite specimens from the Bone-gaining expedition
Although participating in the Saunders Stampede Rogaine under the guise of an ordinary competitive team, our family was actually on a very different mission last Sunday. We were under the compelling, intrepid leadership of 4-year old Lucy, and were really on the hunt for dinosaur bones.

A steep hill somewhere on course. The orange hats are a useful competition strategy as they bear an uncanny resemblance to control points.
The first kilometre or so was rather hard going, as our trek was along an ordinary road. This terrain was not at all conducive to ‘bone-finding’, and rather boring for young archeologists. Lucy was finally convinced to get up from the ground where she was lying, kicking the dust and screaming; “I don’t want to do walking!!”, when she noticed a rocky cliff off to the side of the road. The mood changed instantly as four energetic children scaled the stony outcrop with the adults frantically trying to make sure any falling members were caught before too much damage was done. Although there were no fossils to be found in the rocky terrain, the boost in adrenaline was exactly what was required to reboot the mission with a positive attitude.

The first artifact was discovered by Reuben on a knoll, west of control 40. It was undeniably the tail-bone of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. An amazingly well-preserved specimen, as three bones were still articulated. This gave a good indication of the physical appearance of the prehistoric creature. In close proximity to the first find, Lucy uncovered some long bones, most probably from the same dinosaur’s fifth digit.

Sightings were lean for the next few kilometres. Walking along the ridge tops provided some other pleasures however, for example; incredible views over beautiful scenery and a biting cold wind that made us feel really alive! Finally our navigators (Dad and Madeline) led us back down into the valley. Another challenge awaited us here; how to get across the swollen creek? Stephanie, the only one not to have acquired wet feet yet, was determined to try walking through the marshy rushes. She didn’t get too far before she joined the ranks of soaking socks. We contemplated removing shoes, socks and pants and crossing the river swimmingly, but mum thought it was just too cold for that. So our gallant navigators blazed a trail up over the ridge to a different part of the river where the banks were steeper and the swamp was less significant. We came to the perfect crossing spot just southwest of the ruins. There were two possibilities. Madeline found a stepping-stone crossing and Stephanie discovered a fallen tree bridging the gap. Both opportunities were explored and tested as the kids crossed the river over and over again.

Time, spent playing at the river and the ruins, seemed to disappear way too quickly. Our timekeeper (dad) realised we were halfway through our pre-determined course with three hours to go. Perfect really, but we were aware that we could all be slower as we got tired, and maybe struggle to make it back on time. This has happened to us before (20 minutes late at the ‘More than Morialta’ rogaine)! So our motivator (mum) got everyone back walking and pursuing our archeological mission. She made the most amazing discovery on a summit, between controls 52 and 60. There, beside a grassy plant lay a skull. Lucy immediately identified it as belonging to the T-Rex family. Other skeletal remains were found in this vicinity. These were quite decayed, obviously dating the animal as the oldest specimen located thus far. At this stage our pockets were very full with priceless artifacts. The mission was turning out to be very successful indeed.

As the hours ticked by, we followed our planned path back down to the plains. Through salt-bush (and yes, the leaves tasted really salty!) and rich, red sandy bliss. Reuben left trails in the dust for us to follow and Lucy sifted handfuls of sand through her fingers, watching the wind blow it away. We slowly made our way towards the hash house.

Unbelievably, the most significant discovery was just before the finish line. We could see the red FINISH flags flapping up ahead, when a shout pierced the silence. Right there in front of us was, would you believe it, a dinosaur graveyard! A wide assortment of bones lay strewn among the grey, salt-bush plants. Beautifully preserved skulls, ribs, even scapulas and acetabulums! We climbed the last rise to the finish line, our arms brimming with precious, prehistoric specimens. As we walked we could hear Lucy heave a deep sigh and mutter ecstatically to herself “I am so, so, so, so happy”.

On Monday the children at Lucy’s kindy were lucky enough to see and touch real T-Rex bones. Bet they all wished they could have gone rogaining (or “ro-gaming” as Lucy calls it) too.

‘Til next time,
The Dumuid family