EcoCamp Huacachina, at the Oasis
The town of Huacachina is oval-shaped, with buildings and businesses springing up around it like a half-moon, opening up to the dunes. The EcoCamp, where I am staying, sits on the furthest edge of the half-moon—the last lodging the dune buggies pass on their escapades into the sandy wilderness.
The Oasis is immersed in myth, with an origin that pushes against what you think you know—if you are still enough, you can feel these mysteries in the breath that moves the sands from one hill to the next. I first heard the story of how Huacachina came to be at a party, where it was told to a spellbound room by a small woman with a weathered face. "There was once a beautiful woman"—she began in Spanish, and to my surprise, all conversation stilled immediately, and every face turned to hers—"admiring herself in a mirror, when she saw a wicked man with a rifle creeping up behind her..." Her arms carried a gun, her dark eyes scowled.
"The young woman cried out and fled, and as she ran, her garments fell away"—the storyteller’s hands fluttered to the left and right, as if sending handkerchiefs into the breeze—"and where her clothing fell, the ground changed to rippling dunes." Her palms dipped and rose, caressing the hills, and we leaned forward to catch her words as they softened. "Tears flowed down her face, and a pool formed in the center of the sands, with life springing up all around it. The hunter was close behind, so the woman dove into the pool and became a mermaid. She lives there still, where she lures the men that wished to harm her and drowns them all beneath the waters of her sorrows."
The storyteller’s hands folded as her story finished, and the room exhaled together. Grown men nodded solemnly, and began to relate tales of those they’d known who had glimpsed the mermaid in the Oasis waters...
You can’t help but wonder about these things as you wander the Oasis and see the mermaid's statue amidst towering, shimmering dunes, and green waters shaded by palm trees. Here, these stories make a person pause.
The Ecocamp hostel is cradled by hills that rise sharply on all sides. It digs tenaciously into the steep grade, with rows and levels ascending, each with a line of airy canvas tents shaded by bamboo structures, and here and there lay little nooks where travelers can pitch their own tents.
The large pool serves as the hub of the hostel, with stunning views of the dunes from the water, and a bar built down into the west side of the pool that puts the bartenders eye-level with the swimmers. In the mornings, an impressive breakfast buffet is served here by the Tikki tables. I take my coffee early, before the town is awake, listening to the breeze that shifts the sands, taking in the ethereal strangeness of the world around me.
Staying at the oasis is entering a community unlike any other, with established rhythms that the guests are invited into—slow mornings, late lunches, afternoon siestas in hammocks or under the shade of the palm trees, swimming or kayaking through the heat of the day, happy hours and ice cream, sandboarding when the day cools, and dune buggy rides in the early evening.
At golden hour, the townspeople and tourists climb the sharp ridges of hills together, to take in the sunsets and linger in the twilight until the last of the colors fade—nowhere to be, except here, which is ever the best place.
My final night, I meandered the streets of the oasis, following the music and laughter until long after dark. I wended my way back slowly, past the towering palm trees, and the waters, and the statue of the tearful mermaid. There were stars glowing above the Ecocamp, framed by the sharp silhouette of the dunes. I let myself in through the gate and saw new friends swinging lightly on hammocks, margaritas in hand, in the midst of conversation and connections we'd remember long after we'd gone our separate ways.
And for a few hours longer, it was only this, only us in this mythical place, with our faces tipped to the stars, our laughter and stories drifting on night breezes, carried into the mysterious quiet of the desert.
(Read more about my experiences in the Dunes HERE)