Hey everyone, this is Randy Roth, I just graduated from LSU in biology this past May and am one of the founding members of HIA. Today was quite a change from the usual routine we’ve experienced so far here in Amatongas. I am not particularly a morning person (at all), but was excited to wake up a little after 4:00AM to get ready to go to Gorongosa National Park. In 30 minutes, we were all piled in the Land Cruiser ready to depart. If you’re not familiar with this particular Land Cruiser, the best way to summarize it would be an adventure every outing. From the temperamental starting, to shocks that allow you to really be one with the road, to the back doors that fit very loosely, with 10 passengers the ride is something everyone should experience once. Slightly over an hour into the drive we turn off the relatively nice pothole filled asphalt and onto a mix of red dirt and gravel skinny drive that winds and leads to the entrance to the national park. Although 29 kilometers may seem like a short distance at home on the interstate, it’s anything but quick on this road. At a low speed, the ridges create a nice steady vibration that causes the back doors to rattle loudly, enough to make you think they might fall off at any moment.  Still somehow Knox always finds a way to fall asleep through this ride that would put most roller coasters to shame.  We finally made it to the gate, checked in and boarded onto the safari truck. As we entered the park we spotted warthogs, baboons, and various types of impalas and kudu. However, we couldn’t help but to notice a front of ominous dark gray clouds coming in hot in our direction. Our driver noticed this and altered our planned route to head toward a shelter in case of rain. Sure enough a few minutes later it starts to pour, and we all moved toward the middle of the benches to avoid the rain coming in around the canopy. Brother Chris in the front passenger seat seemed to catch the worst of the incoming water in the five minutes it took to get to the shelter, which was an old open concrete camp from before the civil war. Wet and cold, we huddled together in a corner to avoid the wind and rain that according to our driver has not happened in a few months. After 45 to an hour, the rain slowed and we hopped back in the truck and continued our drive. We continued to see some foreign species of animals and birds. The rain actually made for a fun ride splashing through deep mud puddles and ruts. After being on the trail of elephants we finally spotted one in the distance through a patch of trees. Upon a closer look, we marveled at the size of three elephants that made their way across the road about a half a football field in front of us. As we pulled up to watch them walk away from the trail, we noticed another one, the largest of the group still to our right. Our driver pulled in a ways in front and off to the side of the trail so we had a clear view of him, but left a good distance as he told us that the elephants were aggressive toward vehicles since the civil war. As the elephant took notice of us he watched and started to trot toward us. We all froze in panic, sure the huge mass was headed right toward us. We waited for the driver to take off and save us from this attack but he kept telling us to be calm, try not to move and stay quiet. Sure enough, it slowed, changed its path and stopped on the road behind us. It paused and stared right at us as if giving a warning, then continued back into the forest. Adrenaline still flowing, our driver started the truck back up and we finished up our tour of the park. We returned to the restaurant at the entrance of the park around 10:45 feeling as if we had been through a full day already. After a good meal and 30 minutes of trying to calculate our own bills and get correct change converting from American dollars to meticais, we all packed back into to the old Cruiser as gray clouds surrounded again. After a brief episode with starting rain and a dying vehicle we were back on what Anthony referred to as the road that feels like “riding a scooter on a washboard.” Looking at Brother Chris’ hands and arms shaking you would believe he was holding a jackhammer instead of a steering wheel. Despite the constant rain, large water buffalo blocking the road, and crazy 18 wheeler drivers we made it back to the mission in one piece a few hours later. Even with a fever, Brother Chris still cooked us a delicious dinner of pasta and meat sauce with sausage before heading to his room. Now we are all winding down, after all the excitement and early start today I’m sure we all will sleep well tonight and be ready to get back to work tomorrow.

Obrigadu (thanks) for the support and much love to all my family and friends back home,

Randy Roth

 


Comments

Laurie Going, Opelousas
05/31/2012 3:55pm

This is amazing. You are so fortunate to experience this. Hope all goes well and your mission is successful. Enjoyed the notes. Have fun, Trey!

Reply
Laura Menard
05/31/2012 4:17pm

Hey Randy! It's Gerry's wife, Laura. Enjoyed your blog. Sounds like you are having the adventure of a lifetime. Give my friend Cristina a big hug for me & keep up the good work! I'll be sure to keep you all, including your parents, in my prayers.

Laura Menard

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Lucy A. Rivero
06/01/2012 8:38am

Love reading your blog!!! It sounds like you are all enjoying the experience and at the same time learning valuable life lessons!!!
Say hello to my niece and nephew - Michael & Cristina.
Lucy

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Ani
06/01/2012 12:02pm

Blog is great. Thanks for taking the time to keep us updated. Love it. Please tell Michael Happy Birthday for me and give my daughter Cristina a hug for me. Thanks.

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Mark Kline
06/01/2012 2:41pm

Happy Birthday Michael !!! Sounds like you guys are having a great adventure. Say hello to Cristina & have a wonderful time !!!

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