Talk to enough of them and you'll realize that members of the traveling set are prone to exaggeration and easy description. It's simply common nature among those crowded in the hostel bar. When everyone is excitedly chatting about where they've just been, happily dispensing advice to anyone who will listen, accuracy is not paramount. There are no conscious deceptions, its more that people repeat the standards rumors and taglines they heard about the place, whether or not they're perfectly correct. Popular backpacking destinations become known both by the name of the town and a concise description of what there is to do there:
"Iquitos - city in the jungle."
"Mancora - party surf town up north."
"Huaraz - place to trek."
"Cusco - entrance to Machu Picchu."
These little reputation summaries are both technically valid and totally inaccurate. They both publicize and misrepresent places. And they, along with the brief but often outlandish further descriptions that often follow them, cause backpackers to form a certain image of a place before visiting there.
"Huaraz - place to trek. Surrounded by white-capped mountains, absolutely fucking beautiful man. Like fucking Nepal man."
Huaraz is indeed a very beautiful place, that can't be argued with. However, it is not 'surrounded' by white-capped mountains - there are some white-capped mountains that can be seen in one direction, provided it's not too foggy. And, besides not being overly warm and possessing a few mountains that can be hiked up, it shares very little in common with Nepal. But, all that being said, the person who provided me that colorful description wasn't trying to deceive me; they were trying to help me. They likely heard many of those same words from some other backpacker before they went there. Their only fault laid in repeating easy, unnecessarily extravagant, descriptions of places. When I showed up to see the real Huaraz, I wasn't disappointed. It's an amazing place in it's own way, it doesn't need to be fully encircled by Himalaya-like mountains to be worth visiting. You learn rather quickly that these types of summaries will often be punctuated by the lowest, most outrageous but relatable common denominator. And so when I decided to go to Huacachina and people told me it was "the oasis town", I expected a standard village with a little sand nearby. Little did I know this time that this short backpacker tagline couldn't have been more accurate.
Hot, wavy sand as the far as the eye can see and then a tiny lagoon appears out of the nothingness. Coming from three of four directions, you can't even see Huacachina until you're tumbling down a dune towards it. That we came directly from cold, mountainous Huaraz only added to the wonder of this new place (to say nothing of proving the incredible diversity of Peru itself). It seemed that the backpacker summaries had finally described a place perfectly. Huacachina - fascinating and exactly as advertised.