“Twitching in Venezuela”


As I lay listening to the dawn chorus here in Henri Pittier National Park in Venezuela I realised that the draw of the birdsong was too much to keep me in bed although it was only 6am. I was wondering if I could recreate the magic of this dawn chorus when I return to the UK and struggle to get up on those dark winter mornings.

I was rewarded by viewing some magnificent birds although I have as yet no idea what they are called until I get my bird guide book. On the way to this tranquil place which is a universe away from the mayhem and traffic jams of Caracas. I can see how oil has enabled some of its people a very comfortable existence as they speed up and down the highways in their oversized 4x4s. Most highways are littered with rubbish and even in the national park you see cans and bottles at every layby. I noticed that here in Puerto Columbia there are a few men gathering up discarded cans in the street en masse. Perhaps slowly people will change their ways as the rubbish and traffic jams deter the tourists that the Venezuelans were so keen to attract at the recent World Travel Market. However with petrol here at less than 10p a gallon it is unlikely that people are going to slow down using the resource that is ultimately going to start running out within their children’s lifetime.

It has only been 4 days away from the UK but without access to the internet or a UK newspaper it feels like a very long time. We have been enjoying the fantastic mountain climate of the little town of Colonia Tovar 1800m up in the highlands. The place reminded me of places like Bariloche in Brazil where the descendants of German immigrants recreate versions of the mother country, complete with German houses and women in traditional German dress serving apple strudel and German sausage.

As the sun comes up over the palms in the distance I reflect on whether the Copenhagen talks will make any difference to life here in oil rich Venezuela. As I compare the streets here to those that are as littered in South London, it is clear that education in both cases can help to bring about real change. However education also makes us more curious about the world so we then want to travel more to see it. I realise that my own carbon footprint is probably much greater than that of your average Venezuelan. Before I left for Caracas I remember noticing the environmental activists camping out in Trafalgar Square and braving the cold to build our awareness of the issues. So I think I need to take some lessons from travel writer Eric Newby whose book I’m just reading, and get on my bike for my next adventure, so that future generations of “twitchers” can also enjoy the dawn chorus.

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