It's funny how we can go through life blissfully unaware of certain things. Sure, we've heard about them and know there are actually people out there who devote their lives to the topic, but we pay no attention - until they come up and slap us in the face.
Aliens slapped me in the face this week.
I've heard of aliens of course. I've watched ET; I've heard reports of spaceship sightings. I even knew that Roswell, NM was a major UFO center. But, like most Americans, I didn't really pay attention to all that jazz, because alien stuff was… well, alien stuff was for weirdos and off-the-wall freaks, not people like me.
But now I've come face-to-face with mysteries I simply can't solve any other way. Were there aliens on earth at some point?
We're now cycling through the desert of southern Peru and, I've recently learned, this is one of those mysterious places on earth with many unexplained phenomenon. I have to admit the alien theory is starting to make sense.
My first encounter with the mystery came at the Ica Regional Museum in the form of coneheads. Always before, the word "coneheads" evoked memories of Dan Akroyd on Saturday Night Live, but now... no. Now, whenever I hear that word, I'll think of the elongated skulls found throughout Peru's coastal desert.
Click here to see a slideshow of the Ica Regional Museum
The traditional explanation for the conehead skulls is banding. Starting from infancy, the heads are tightly wrapped in order to force deformation of the skull - elongating it over time. That explanation works for some of the skulls at the museum - you can see the marks of the bands on some. But others are perfectly smooth. Natural. Born that way. Could it be a fluke that some babies were born with naturally elongated heads? Why not today?
My brain started working; trying to make sense of the puzzle.
The next cog in the wheel of mysteries came in the form of rocks at Dr. Cabrera's Stone Museum. Carved rocks that have been dated to around 2000 years old. Rocks with carvings that depict extraordinarily advanced medical procedures like heart transplants. Rocks that show a very advanced society from two thousand years ago.
Click here to see a slide show of the mysterious carved rocks
Who carved those stones? The coneheads? Other people? Who were they and how did they know all the knowledge they carved into their stones?
Many people claim shepherds carved the stones as they wandered the desert taking care of their sheep, but I wonder how humble shepherds could have known the intricate anatomy of the heart. The small fist-sized rocks could have been carried by shepherds, but the massive carved boulders? I don't buy the shepherd theory.
Were there aliens on earth thousands of years ago?
And then came the Nazca Lines - a mystery of astronomical proportions. Lines scratched into the surface of the earth two thousand years ago that create gigantic designs you can only see from the air.
Click here to see a slide show of the Nazca Lines
How did the ancients make those lines that have withstood thousands of years of wind and rain? Why did they make them?
Our basic presupposition is that people on earth two thousand years ago didn't have air planes. They didn't have helicopters or hot air balloons either. So how, I ask, could they have seen the designs? And if they couldn't, who could?
Many people feel the Nazca Lines were religious symbols meant for the eyes of the gods; others feel the area is a gigantic calendar of some sort. But many feel the Nazca Lines were landing strips for alien spaceships.
And so - my mind is reeling. Intellectually I want to maintain this alien theory is hogwash. Aliens? Really? On earth? Who are you kidding?! But yet... maybe there is something to that theory. Maybe there was some sort of extraordinarily intelligent species on earth thousands of years ago. They had conical heads and carved rocks to teach us what they knew, then they flew away in their spaceships.
The theory works - almost. But then, as my husband pointed out, if this super-intelligent species existed on earth, surely we would have found traces of them: a town? Medical instruments? Parts of their spaceships? All we have are some carved stones, several elongated skulls, and mysterious lines scratched into the earth.
I'm not sure what to make of all this. I'm relatively certain my brain will be spinning as we cycle south away from this area. I'll try to fit the pieces together as well as I can with my human limitations and I'll try to come up with some explanation that makes sense to my human brain.
But maybe, just maybe, there is no such explanation - because the alien theory is the only one that works.
Maybe it really was aliens who slapped me in the face.
Nancy Sathre-Vogel is currently cycling from Alaska to Argentina with her husband and twin sons. She is documenting their journey for Guinness World Records at www.familyonbikes.org and has a regular column in the Communities to the Washington Times. She is also the World Bike Touring Examiner.