My legs are stiff and I’m just a touch cranky after twenty minutes of bouncing across the beach in a hot crowded air-deprived SUV. But now that I’ve managed to squeeze over the seats and out the door all I can think is “WOW!” Virgin beach and blue seas stretch as far as the eye can see, a thatched roof lodge with a few A-frame bungalows nestle themselves into the tropical foliage, and a UFO landing pad lies directly in front of me. Wait a sec, a WHAT?!?
It looks like we’re going to address that later as Patricio Tamariz, the owner of this secluded plot of land is leading us into the lodge where we’re about to get a history lesson on this part of Ecuador’s coast. It appears that the immediate area around Chirije, where we now are, was a major center for a pre-Incan civilization. Evidence points to ancient trade with Asia, using the Galapagos Islands as a resupply point. Though this is not a popular theory, the possibility is supported by Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 voyage from Peru to Polynesia in a primitive-style balsa raft. Artifacts of all kinds and burial sites have been found on Patricio’s land and he has hopes of getting an archaeological team out here to excavate the site properly. In the meantime, visitors are welcome to dig for artifacts on their own.
Indeed, so many relics of an archaic society exist right here that it’s impossible not to step on broken pottery shards or remnants of seashell jewelry as we make our way to the on-site museum. Built into a hillside, the museum is small but provides a cool shelter from the tropical sun. “The best thing about this museum,” Patricio tells us,” is that it’s hands on.” We’re encouraged to pick up the tools, pots, and even human skulls that have all been uncovered nearby.
The museum is small, yet fascinating. On display is a spondylus shell; a large oyster-like mollusk with a red interior. Spondylus was once used as currency and traded up and down the coast of the Americas for precious gems and stones. Curious artifacts line the shelves as well. There are small sculptures of men with fu-manchu style mustaches. This might not be of of interest except that the indigenous coastal peoples of Ecuador did not have facial hair. Was this from the influence of Asian trade or something else entirely? Unfortunately, no one knows for sure, but speculation runs wild. And then there are the small toggle-like buttons shaped like short cones with the point sliced off. They tend to have small circles drawn all around them and some say they resemble flying saucers.
Which brings us back to the Ovnipuerto (UFO port). Patricio tells us that many visitors to Chirije report seeing unidentified flying objects after dark. Some even say they have had contact with aliens. The landing pad is a lighthearted acknowledgment of these claims. Believers are adamant that Chirije is an important area for extraterrestrials while naysayers have proposed that these sightings are merely a product of smoking some really strong weed. Do UFO’s truly visit this tiny speck on Ecuador’s map? I’ve not seen one, but you might just have to arrange an overnight visit and judge for yourself.
For more information or to book a stay at Chirije visit: http://www.chirije.com