Koalas in Bolivia?
comment Comment Written by on November 24, 2008 – 11:06 pm

What do you do when you get off a night bus in a chilly Bolivian city at 5am when there are no couchsurfers in town? You rely on your guidebook and book into the only place that it says isn’t freezing at night: the Koala Den.

Despite my fear of the cold and the den’s billing as “warm and cosy”, this was not an exciting prospect. I was in Potosi, a traditional Bolivian mining town that claims to be the highest city in the world, and yet was checking into a clearly Aussie-owned place called the Koala Den. Could this be the furthest thing from going local? I was disappointed with the Lonely Planet for writing off everywhere else in town and I was disappointed at myself for falling for it.

But I was wrong. On one count, at least. Sure, the hostal was full of travellers, with a DVD library of American blockbusters and a fair few Australians, but, to my surprise, it was Bolivian-owned and staffed entirely by locals.

Why the name? “Because,” explained the receptionist, “the miners here are famed for chewing coca leaves. Just as koalas chew eucalyptus.”

Ah ha. Proof that you should never jump to conclusions.

In fairness, it turned out to be a very sweet place: cheap and friendly. The Aussies were ok too.

I’m only kidding. Aussie travellers are always fun. I’m not avoiding other travellers because I don’t like them, I just hate being trapped in bubble, which is how it can feel in many of the hostels out here. There are less travel networkers in Bolivia and I am struggling to get off the gringo trail.

Here’s hoping I’ll have more luck in Sucre, the nation’s capital, where I’ll be meeting a Couchsurfer called Laura. Her profile pics is nothing more than a rather seductive pair of lips, so I’m rather intrigued…

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