Sunday, March 09, 2008

Alien hunting

The long straight.
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Without a doubt, the outstanding memory I have of our Vegas trip is the day we went out into the desert. Fittingly, because we were to drive along the Extra-Terrestrial Highway which skirts Area 51, we first visited the Atomic Testing Museum, incongruously situated not far south of the The Strip in Vegas, where we browsed 50s propaganda, watched movies of nuclear tests, and sat rigid on bleachers in a replica bunker in the darkness through a simulation of such a test - complete with air-blast and special effects.

But once we'd shaken off the traffic jams and the heat of The Strip, we were in the desert, a desert which grew more and more desolate as we headed east and north for almost 150 miles to the township of Rachel, home to a shifting population of 80, some of whom make a fair job of being obsessed with aliens. Actually, the alien bit was perfectly believable - if I spent a night or two in that wonderful silence I'd see anything. The silence was profound and exquisite, making me aware of the blood singing in my ears and of how much noise we have even in our remote places. Here there is no life, no water, no birdsong, and on this day there was no wind. (We did see some black cattle wandering the range at one point, but mostly there was nothing at all). You can see the rest of my pics here.

Suddenly I realised what forty days and nights in the wilderness would be like. And how terrifying to return to ordinary life after such an experience. And I knew just a little of what the servicemen from the Desert War in WW2 meant when they said how much they'd loved a place where many of them suffered hugely. It is ironic that such an area is associated with nuclear testing - the biggest of bangs in the profoundest of silences.

As we drove home in the gloaming we could see the lights of Vegas like another world. Funny - most of the people in our hotel would probably have considered us crazy, had they heard of our day. (Though a friendly bar attendant was glad we'd gone). And for those who might ask: No. I said not one word to the test veterans at the museum about the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Not a word.

But I thought plenty.


  1. I think this day sounds wonderful and I love all your pics. I am certainly looking forward to visiting a desert later this year!

  2. Don't tell me you are mellowing as the years pass!