By Josh Wilcox, KF9 Peru

Taking a brief recess from borrower profiles and repayment schedules at Kiva’s MFI pilot partner Caja Rural one weekend in Ica, Peru, I escaped to visit the small town of Huacachina, the “oasis of America”, located just a few miles outside the sandy metropolitan hub of Ica. Having become famous for its natural lake enclosed by sand dunes, the tiny city of about 115 people has become an immensely popular tourist destination not only for its aesthetic appearance but also the sandboarding and dune buggies.

For those unfamiliar, sandboarding is very similar to snowboarding except, yep you guessed it, it is performed on sand. First popularized in California in the 1980s, there are now annual Sandboarding World Championships held in Hirschau, Germany. Who knew???

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As is the case with many natural phenomenon in Peru (e.g. the Nazca lines), there is a legend behind the picturesque beauty. It is said that a beautiful princess was once apprehended while bathing in a pond by a young hunter. She escaped and fled, leaving behind the pool of water she had been bathing in to become the lagoon. As she retreated across the desert, the folds of her mantle flowing behind her became the surrounding sand dunes. Rumor has it that she still lives down in the lagoon as a mermaid.

Unfortunately, while the lagoon has attracted significant tourist dollars, such economic growth does not come without its downfalls. The Ica province has a very arid climate and private landowners near the oasis began to install wells to access the groundwater. In order to compensate for the reduction in the water level and maintain the lagoon as an aesthetically pleasing tourist destination, the city began a process of pumping water into the oasis from a large water tank kept just outside the oasis. Also, with the influx of wealthy tourists from around the world, the city has experienced an increase in petty theft. Those perusing the dunes alone or at night are particularly vulnerable.

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Josh Wilcox is a Kiva Fellow at Caja Rural Señor de Luren in Ica, Peru as part of the KF9 class.

Please check out Caja Rural’s LOANS or LEND to other South American entrepreneurs and JOIN the Amigos de Caja Rural Señor de Luren lending team!

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