Flora and Fauna

When I think of Venezuela, vivid images spring into my mind. In the dark evenings after our supper we sat outside on the veranda, playing our favourite gramophone records and enjoying the glowing colours of the flowers and trees in our garden. The plants included a lemon bush whose golden fruits glowed like lamps. I have never seen lemons like them anywhere else. They were small, more like limes, but they were very sweet. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t pick some to use in my cookery.

There was a banana tree with large leaves that threw shadows on the grass, making it just the right place to put Robin’s paddling pool. Most of the time there would be a hand of bananas in varying stages of maturity. There was a big tree which bore brown fruits that tasted like toffee. The fruit was not very big but the stone in the centre was enormous. Robin loved them. One day, for a second, I was very frightened. I heard a choking sound coming from the garden. I raced outdoors, seized Robin, turned him upside down and banged his back with all my might. Fortunately he coughed up a large stone very quickly. He loved the fruit but it was the first time he picked it himself. I thought they were too high for him to reach. But I was wrong. Because everything was so different we parents had to keep a sharp eye on our children for situations that would never have occurred in the UK.

In the middle of the day after lunch, most of us retired for a siesta and there was no-one about. Robin soon found out that this was the time when the grass was soon covered entirely with iguanas, bathing in the sun. He waited till they were still, then he would rush out of the garden door and chase them. They are nervous creatures. As soon as they were disturbed they would get into a panic, running in all directions and falling over each other, making a noise like pieces of armour clashing together. They fled to the high bushes round the grass and up to the roof. Robin screamed with delight. They often left their droppings. “Can’t we put a toilet there for them so they don’t mess up our veranda?” said Robin.

During the rainy season when the rain really was heavy, often for several hours, extraordinary things happened. One day Bob and I got caught in the middle of an avalanche of storm and wind on the way back home from a visit to a friend. He was driving the Jeep because the road was not good. We had difficulty staying on the track so we went very slowly. After a while the rain died down and suddenly we heard an outburst of croaking going on all about us. Bob put on the lights and we saw an amazing sight. The whole of the ground around us was covered completely with frogs making a riot of noise.

Before this rainstorm, everywhere, in all directions there were nothing but brown trees and bushes. Nothing was green. It all looked dried out. The next day we returned to the bush and saw to our amazement, the most beautiful flowers all over the place.

I had never seen anything change so quickly! The heavy curtain of water brought everything back to life. These wild places near the equator produce startling changes with astonishing speed. This also happens with people. It seems that the environment has a powerful effect on the flora and fauna and the people who live there.