Environment Field Note

Abstract: This week we are taking a trip to the Andes Mountains in Venezuela. Of course, that is where we have been this whole semester, but we are going to journey up into the mountains on a hike and see what we can find!

How are people connected to the environment?

View of Merida from Pan de Azucar

Some people in Venezuela are connected to the environment in a very spiritual way. This is because many of their ancestors were indigenous people that took very good care of the land. Some people like the beauty of all of the diverse plants and they enjoy the fruits and vegetable their environment can produce.

Some people enjoy the adventures and thrills that living in the Andes mountain range provides. I got a chance to go paragliding, hiking, rock climbing and camping all within an hour of my Venezuelan home! When I went paragliding, I jumped off a cliff with an open parachute.  There was a guide with me, and we floated around the mountains for half an hour before my time was up. What kind of extreme sports are you interested in? Would you ever paraglide?

What makes this environment special or different?

Mérida’s environment is very special because it is surrounded by mountains on all sides. Mérida is a quite a large city located in the middle of the Andes mountains.

There are desert-like environments nearby, cloud forests nearby, and the páramo environment which is found high in the mountains. Páramo environments are the places in between the very tops of mountains and where the forests stop. They have mostly shrubs and grasses (Wikipedia.org).There are many freshwater lakes nearby and even some salt water lakes. There are also a couple rivers. All of these different ecosystems make it a biologically diverse area, which makes it special. What kind of environment do you live in?

What parts of this environment help people to live here?

A view of the mountains

The variety of fruits and vegetables that can be grown nearby help people have a nutritious diet. Do you like vegetables or fruits? Can you imagine if you couldn’t eat them? Special dishes have been created because certain types of fruits are more abundant than others. For example, apples in Venezuela are very expensive because they aren’t very common.  However, bananas and plantains are cheap because they are everywhere.

Can you imagine having a banana tree? The first time I saw the plant that bananas grow on, I was amazed. However, here in Venezuela, it is very common and some even grow near sidewalks in the city. Bananas and plantains are so common here that they make desserts out of them, they fry them like french fries, they bake them, they mash them like mashed potatoes, and they eat them plain. Another food that grows well in this environment is the coconut, which is very good for you! The nutritious food and the protection of the mountains helps make it easy for people to live here.

What challenges do people face living in this environment?

In the mountain environment, temperatures can get very cold in comparison to the rest of the country. The lowlands and coastal areas will stay around 80-90ºF all year round. In some parts of the mountains there is snow, or it can get as low as 40ºF. What is the coldest that it gets where you live? How do you deal with it?

In Venezuela, because it doesn’t get very cold very often, the people don’t have heaters in their house, instead they just put on more clothes and use more blankets. Do you shower in the winter? Could you imagine showering in the winter if your house wasn’t heated? The other day it was 50ºF and raining and we did not have hot water. . I didn’t shower for three days! I started to smell bad, I hope no one noticed!

Tree in the road

In addition to the cold temperatures, there are also problems with trees falling over in the middle of the road, tight, small roads in the mountains where you are literally driving on the edge and mudslides in the wet season. The mudslides will cover up the road and it can take a while for the road to be fixed again. During this time traffic has to slow down and drive carefully over the dried residue. It’s extremely important to be very careful when driving around here!

How have people been adapting to this environment?

Like we talked about earlier, people have adapted to this environment through their taste in food. They have created their own dishes based on what is available and it has become a part of their culture. They also don’t hang their clothes out to dry in the rainy season, which is a few months long around our spring and summer. They own warm clothes to help them deal with the cold weather and they drink lots of warm drinks. Some homes have hot water and the ones that don’t, people shower less and during the warmer parts of the day. Can you think of anything you do differently in each season because of the weather?





A view of my town


Hiking to the hotsprings




Road to the observatory


Me and Anna, another Reach the World traveler!



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