Archive for the ‘Venezuela’ Category

The Rising Oceans

Friday, March 16th, 2007

   I am sitting in an internet cafe in Punta Arenas, Chile, right now, doing web searches to figure out just how big of a problem sea level rise will be. The sea level has already risen over the past century, although only about one inch. As more glacial ice melts, what will it do from here on?

Monterey Bay and Research Station
Malibu, CA
La Paz Shoreline

   The most likely result is not that bad – maybe a foot and a half this century. This could be very bad for many places I have visited – especially along the Caribbean coast—and also make storms much worse, not to mention erode some nice beaches. But I might not call it a disaster.

Mazatlan Coast
Beach at Placencia
Coast at Omoa
Panama City
The San Blas Islands

   The problem, though, is that it takes a long time for ice sheets to melt, and we don’t really know how long that is. In the ‘long run,’ which could be centuries or millennium, with a likely 3 degree C warming, the ocean could rise 80 feet. We don’t know if it is centuries or millennium, because computer models for ice sheets are very inaccurate. If it is centuries, as some argue, the oceans could rise much faster than we would like – maybe a foot a decade. And, again, we don’t know, but, well, do we want to find out?

Cartagena sits barely above sea level
Santa Fe Coastline

   As I have said before, I am in Punta Arenas right now. Punta Arenas sits on the shore of the Straight of Magellan on the southern tip of South America, and is just one of the many cities on the coast that I have visited. Throughout this entry I have interspersed photos of the coastlines I have visited on this trip – take a look at them and envision what a 1 foot, 10 foot, or 80 foot sea level rise would look like.

Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales Shore
Punta Arenas Shoreline

Travel Update – Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Welcome to update 4 from Ride for Climate!

    Since last update, I have biked across Colombia, Venezuela, and northern Brazil, traversing the Andes, the Amazon, and crossing the equator. I crossed the ‘half-way’ point of this trip in Venezuela, and the trip odometer has passed 9,000 miles. Ride for Climate continues to reach a wide audience, and since last update, I have visited schools and appeared in newspapers and television in almost every major city I have visited. I write you now from the banks of the Amazon River (map).

Campsite in la Gran Sabana
Rain is good for some things
Chicamochoca River Canyon and Cactus

   Below are entries from the past three months.


  • 5/28 Elections in Colombia
  • 6/5 To Medellin and into the Andes
  • 6/12 Medellin to Bogota – lots of rain
  • 6/19 Bicycles in Bogota
  • 6/19 Mountaintops and Climate Change
  • 6/26 Bogota to Bucaramanga
  • 7/5 Bucaramanga to Venezuela

  • 7/12 Is Oil Good for Venezuela?
  • 7/12 Cars and Politics in Caracas
  • 7/18 Floods and Climate Change
  • 7/26 Biking with Tom Hunt
  • 7/27 Coral reefs in Venezuela

  • 8/15 Into the Amazon and learning Portuguese
  • 8/22 The future of the Amazon?

    A bombero celebrates his birthday in Medellin, Colombia
    Bicycle commuters in Bogota, Colombia
    A bike is faster than an ambulance in Caracas, Venezuela
    Truck full of kids yelling ‘gringo! gringo!’
    Entering an indigenous reserve in the Amazon


    Cartagena sits barely above sea level

       Due to rising sea levels, many of the coastal areas I visited, and especially the historic city of Cartagena in Colombia, are at risk. The water source for Bogota, Colombia’s capital, is also at risk (see journal entry), as the ecosystem that supplies the water sits at the mountain tops and may not survive global warming. This would also undoubtedly cause extinctions. In my journals, I also wrote about floods in Caracas as well as potential droughts in the Amazon – there is a chance that global warming will cause the Amazon to dry out. I also wrote about the coral reefs that I visited off the coast of Venezuela – these too are at risk.

    The Paramo - a strange grassland at the mountaintops
    A healthy reef
    Nice forest - look at the diversity of trees!

       One topic I have not discussed in my journals, but hope to do so, is the possible spread of tropical diseases. In Colombia and Venezuela, the majority of the population lives in the mountains, where it is too cold for many tropical diseases such as malaria or dengue. As the climate warms, more of these centers may be exposed to such diseases.

       I am currently working with people in the U.S. to plan the next phase of Ride for Climate – a loop around the United States to promote solutions to global warming. I will be sending you all an email shortly about this project and asking for your help, so stay tuned!

        Over the next few months I will be stopping in the following cities: Iquitos, Yurimaguas, Huaraz, Lima, Cusco, and La Paz, as well as potentially other locations. If you know of people along the way that would be interested in hosting a ride for climate presentation (or simply help with a place to stay), let me know.

       I am currently taking a boat up the Amazon River from Manaus into Peru. From Peru, I will bike across the Andes, and then follow the mountain range south crossing Peru and Bolivia before crossing into Argentina and Chile, at which point I will send out another update.

       Thank you again to everyone who has helped with this journey, and feel free to send me an email! Best,


    Miles by country:
    Colombia: 1,123
    Venezuela: 1,188
    Brazil: 651

    South into the Amazon

    Tuesday, August 15th, 2006
    Welcome to la Gran Sabana - a high grassland in southeast Venezuela

       Heading south from Puerto Ordaz/Ciudad Guyana (the city seems to have two names), I followed the only road that connects Venezuela and Brazil. Thinly populated, this road follows jungle before climbing into a region known as ‘La Gran Sabana,’ a high grassland with strange flat toped mountains and many rivers and waterfalls. (This is where Angel Falls, the world’s tallest waterfall, is found – it was too far off my route, though). I slowed down through this part, camping on the high mesas and swimming in the many pools, meeting vacationing Venezuelans at the same time.

    Venezuelan vacationers who helped me out
    Kama Falls
    Campsite in la Gran Sabana
    Campsite sunrise
    lots of waterfalls and places to swim in la Gran Sabana
    La Gran Sabana
    Swimming with teenagers near Boa Vista

       Entering Brazil, the road descended from the mountains into the Amazon basin, where, after two days of riding, I arrived in the city of Boa Vista. Before entering town, I went swimming with a few teenagers (photo right). I asked the kids if I should worry about piranhas or crocodiles, to which they said ‘don’t worry about it.’

       In Brazil, unlike almost every country I have visited, the language is Portuguese instead of Spanish. Fortunately, Spanish and Portuguese are very similar languages, and sometimes I almost understand what people say. Also, some important phrases, such as ‘where is the fire station’ are almost the same in both languages. In Boa Vista, where I stayed for two days, I gave a talk at a middle school. I was able to say a few words in Portuguese, and, whenever what I said was unintelligible, the teacher next to me would repeat what I said in Portuguese (many people here understand Spanish). The bombeiros (firefighters), who I stayed with two nights, also had time to help me congegate verbs, and, when I was interviewed by the local television, I mostly understood the questions and gave responses that might have been understood.

    Bombeiros da Boa Vista teaching me Portugues
    Escola Eulclides da Cunha in Boa Vista
    Note that I am trapped in the corner.
    Crossing the ecuator

       Continuing south, I followed the only major road through this section of the Amazon. While most of this region is pure jungle, and there are very few people and towns, about half the time the roadside is cleared for cattle grazing. The cleared land, however, did make it easier to see the many types of birds (The shot on the right shows me crossing the equator).

    Roadside cleared for cattle.
    Tree full of tropical birds

       Further south, however, a 75 mile stretch of road is indigenous land, reserved for the native peoples, and this is pure jungle. The natives do not like outsiders on their land, and you are only allowed to pass this section during the daytime, and you are not allowed to stop. In talking with people on the road (talking in Portuguese, where we had to say everything a few times), I was amazed at how afraid everyone was of the Indian reservation and the jungle. Most said I would not be able to pass through this section of road. I thought that this was just prejudice against the natives. Before I entered the reserve, one man told me I would be ‘killed and eaten’ by the natives, and then he added something that I didn’t understand and acted out some type of animal with large claws attacking me. I was ready to dismiss what he was saying, but then he said ‘and, this woman had her husband killed and eaten by the natives.’ The woman walked over and confirmed what the man had said. At this point I reconsidered traveling slowly on a bike through the reserve.

    Amazon Jungle creeping over the road
    Entering the Indiginous Reserve

       At the reserve´s entrance, though, a police officer changed my mind. He told me that such attacks were far in the past, and that they would never happen along the road in the daytime – the tribes would harm only people who enter their reserve where they are not supposed to. Ok, I thought, and continued to bike the 75 miles, stopping only to pee and get more food out of my pannier (I ate while biking). The jungle here was thick and alive – I saw numerous monkeys (scared a few crossing the road), a small deer like animal, and heard many sounds that I did not hear elsewhere along the road.

       On the exit to the reserve, I stopped at a building where some of the indigenous people were selling crarftwork. Both of us speaking Portuguese, which is neither of our first languages, I learned that yes, these people still hunt with bow and arrows and no, they do not drink any coca-cola (they did look very healthy). I asked about bicycles crossing the reserve, and the man said ‘it is allowed, but we do not like it.’

       After two more days of travel, mostly through rolling hills, I arrived in the large city of Manaus, which sits where the Rio Negro meets the Amazon River. I will be here for a few days before taking a boat up the Amazon river and into Peru.

    A reminder: Coral Reefs are in Danger

    Thursday, July 27th, 2006

       While biking along the Caribbean coast, Tom and I stopped in a small town of Santa Fe to relax and enjoy some snorkeling. Below the surface, we found an amazing variety of fish and marine life – blue fish, yellow-striped fish, long and skinny fish, ugly fish, many many tiny fish, a school of squids, an octopus, strange flower-like underwater plants, sea urchins, and many others (such as the large fish with the white shirt in the bottom right photo).

    Looking down on the reef
    Marine life

       The basis of this underwater ecosystem are the coral reefs. As I explained in an earlier post, these coral reefs are in great danger from climate change. Higher carbon dioxide concentrations will make the oceans more acidic, damaging reefs, and higher temperatures will likely kill many reefs. The reef on the left below is ‘bleached’ or dead, something that happens when water temperatures get too high. The reef on the right below is healthy. Unchecked global warming will turn more and more reefs into the dead bleached reef shown on the left.

    A 'bleached' reef (it's dead)
    A healthy reef

    Biking with Tom from Caracas to the Orinoco

    Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

       For a week and a half of riding out of Caracas, I was joined by my friend Tom Hunt. Tom, a former college roommate, introduced me to bike touring, and it was great for us to reunite and ride across Venezuela. Although I meet more locals traveling alone, biking with a friend is more fun, and I joked that I was ‘on vacation’ while he was here. The photos below should give you a good idea of the week and half we spent traveling east along the coast before heading south and inland to the Orinoco River (see map).

    Tom on low-traffic coastal highway
    Bikes on Beach, Puerto Piruto
    Oil Refinery and Tom
    Oil and Gas pipelines
    Overlooking the Caribbean
    Beach Sunset in Santa Fe
    Look! Dolphins!
    Snorkling makes you look funny
    Marine Life
    Bomberos of Cumana
    Tour de Venezuela
    Climbing coast mountains between Cumana and Maturin
    The llanos - Venezuela's great plains
    We camped next to Gegorio's house
    Fishermen in the Orinoco River

    To see a group of chidren yelling ‘gringo! gringo!’ click on the video on the left below.

    Young children yelling 'Gringo! Gringo!'

    To see me swing a machete, click below.

    I learn how to use a machete at Gregorio's house

    To see us crossing the Rio Orinoco, the world’s fourth largest river, click on the video below.

    Crossing the Rio Orinoco - the world's fourth largest river