Once upon a time, a half-naked woman dropped a mirror, and now I can go sandboarding.
That’s if you believe the legend, anyway; the ancient myth behind the creation of Huacachina, an oasis in the middle of the Peruvian desert.
Supposedly, the oasis was formed when a princess (disrobing for a bath) spotted a local hunter watching her from afar. Horrified, the princess fled... leaving her hand-mirror behind. As if by magic, the mirror melted and bloated in the sun, becoming the oasis--a pool of water in the barren grip of sloping dunes.
No longer patronised by princesses and perverts (well, not by princesses at any rate), Huacachina has since become a bit of a tourist trap--albeit a gilded one. Beautifully surreal in its desert isolation, the town could pass for a mirage. Little boats skate along the greenish-blue oasis water, while sandboarders and dune buggies skid across the surrounding dunes. At night, the sand-surfers come in to party, and the tiny settlement fills with karaoke thrums. It becomes a whole different kind of oasis: a chaotic mix of music in the middle of the desert night.
Supposedly, that poor princess is still in Huacachina, having since decided to become a mermaid and move into the oasis for reasons that presumably made sense to her at the time. Sadly, she isn’t available for comment to passing tourists, or I could have asked her:
Just how did you plan to bathe before there was an oasis here?
As with all things myth and legend, asking too many questions spoils the show. Best to grab a board and go slide down a dune instead.
>The Huacachina oasis actually started to dry up toward the end of the 20th century, but it was saved by a cadre of Peruvian businessmen. Anxious to protect the lagoon’s valuable tourist revenue, they spearheaded a project to raise the water level... by pumping in water from a nearby farm.
>Yes, I went sandboarding and no, I’m not very good at it.
>Most sandboarding lessons in Huacachina come with a free dune buggy tour. Don't miss the chance to go leaping Mad Max style up and down the dunes with a crazed Peruvian driver.