And this is my life: South Africa

“Its the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday, and then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today, and that someday is yesterday and this is your life.” -Nathan Scott

It’s still very hard to believe that every morning for the past three weeks now, I’ve been waking up in Africa. But what’s even more surreal is that these three weeks will continue on for five months. After years of dreaming of this experience, my time has finally come. I am here. I am in Africa. This is my life. 

To catch you all up to speed on my activities, my mom and I had an amazing last week together exploring Victoria Falls and the beautiful city of Cape Town. While in Zambia we stayed in a very charming place called the Munga Eco Lodge. There we went on micro-lite flights, sunset cruises, and got absolutely drenched by the “mist that thunders” at Victoria Falls. Once we finally arrived in Cape Town, my mom and I both had our first realization that although this was our final destination, this would be the point where we would be parting ways for a while. So we really took advantage of few days we had left together. We explored Cape Town by car the first day and driving on the left side of the road proved to be an adventure in itself. We went to see the stunning landscape of theCape of Good Hope and Cape Point and all the cities we passed along the way (Noordhoek, Camps Bay, Clifton, etc). We stayed in a marvelous boutique hotel called Rouge on Rose, located in the BoKaap area. There we were able to walk along Long Street, Kloof, & Adderly, explore the V & A Waterfront, take a ferry out to Robben Island, enjoy delicious meals, drink one glass too many on Wine Wednesday, and make precious memories together that I will cherish for the rest of my life. This was by far the most amazing trip I have ever been on and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else by my side. Love you infinitely mom! And thank you for enriching my life in immeasurable ways. 

But just as one adventure ended, a new one began! And although I had to say a tearful goodbye to mom, I gained a new family here in Cape Town; my roommates at Roxburgh and Bolihope. In one short week we’ve explored the peninsula together, discovered the ridiculous affordability of alcohol, and created friendships that feel like family. 

Machaba Camp: Our home in the African Bush

It’s an incredibly challenging task to properly summate one of the best experiences of your life, but for the sake of my friends and family anxiously awaiting an update from “Off to Africa: Pam & Mia’s Excellent Adventure”, I will try my very best. I think the last most of you heard involved our troublesome flight situations. Yet, despite the numerous mechanical errors, several delays, 2 lost bags, rearranging of our entire itinerary, 26 hours spent flying and the additional 15 hours spent living out of an airport, the utter exhaustion and sense of defeat suddenly disappeared upon arrival at Machaba Camp. First let me set the scene for Machaba so you can have a better understanding of where we were, but to be honest, I don’t even entirely know.

After arriving in Maun, Botswana (from JoBurg, South Africa), we touched down in the smallest airport I have ever been too. We walked through customs???? Which was more like filling out a simple info sheet and acquiring another stamp for our collection. We then were greeted by our pilot and told to go through security, which was definitely more to show that they had security than to really be security. We were driven out to our “bush plane” with another couple. The plane had one propeller on the front and 6 seats including the pilot and copilot seats. We were slightly disconcerted that the pilot said we were a little heavy (due to the other couple’s overpacking), but off we went. The couple with us was dropped off at another camp site aka a landing strip in the middle of the African Bush and I got to move up to the co-pilot seat for the duration of the flight!

Bush PlaneDCIM100GOPRO

We were officially in Africa. We could see our shadow flying across the Bush and noticed a few elephants walking about! The twists and turns of the Okavango Delta were beautiful glistening reflections of the sky and the elation my mother and I felt was through the roof. As we touched down on our isolated strip of dirt, we noticed a safari car was waiting; to retrieve us but also as the pilot informed us, to make sure there weren’t any animals on the runway.

We had finally made it.

At this point I am going to apologize for the length of this post, but I fear that if I skip and over generalize I will not capture the true essence of Machaba Camp.

Machaba was comfortable. The staff was incredibly nice and more importantly personal (Elka, C, Sean, Leopard, Mr. T, Masale, Butata, & Carter are just a few). The tents were incredible (minus the big hairy spiders) and took glamping to a whole new level. But after all our traveling we finally had found a place to call home that felt like home too. There was a “living room” and “dining room” tent that was central and connected that opened up to part of the delta. Here we sat to chat, relax, eat, sit by the fire, and watch for any wildlife. But before I get into all of that we had to quickly set down our stuff and jump in the car to meet up with our safari group for the evening game drive.

Our TentThe car

For those of you who have never been on a safari, the feeling of being driven around bumpy trails with open sides, wind licking your skin and flipping your hair is quite exhilarating. I would equate it to the feeling on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, but in real life and in the African Bush. We met up with our group and jumped in their car and off we went! Our guide’s name was Leopard and we were joined with 2 older couples that were extremely friendly, wanting to show us the ropes of proper safari-ing.

I could go into the many and exciting details of the animals we encountered over the next few days but I will try to sum them up into one paragraph. Within the first 2 days we saw things that some common safari goers hadn’t seen in 40 years, that being a pack of Wild Dogs. Our safari experience will always be tainted because we saw some of the most rare animals within the first two days: We saw 2 female lions (walked within 5 feet of our vehicle), 1 male lion, a pack of wild dogs eating an Impala, a leopard eating an Impala up in a tree (stolen from the wild dogs), and another leopard up in the same tree who stole the impala carcass from the first leopard! We saw plenty of zebras, impalas, kudu, letre (I think that’s how you spell it), warthogs, hyenas and their pups, elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, vultures, eagles, hawks, and beautifully colored birds.

The moments that particularly stood out on the game drives were the following:

1. Seeing a magnificent leopard practically posing in the tree with his dead impala in front of him and his big paws dangling off the tree. He had a full belly and we watched him for quite some time. This was a rare sighting and one of the first things we saw during our stay at Machaba! He was absolutely stunning.

Leopard

2. Seeing the wild dogs chase and kill a letre and then return to their den to feed their pups. This instance was especially powerful. We watched these animals acquire their food strategically, just as we watched another animal’s life quickly disappear. The wild dogs ripped and ate this animal alive while we watched no more than 10 feet away. It was horrifying to watch but it really helped conceptualize the circle of life. As humans, we are so removed from the source of our food. We see meat as meat and not as animal or another life. This concept came full circle when we saw the wild dogs return to their den to feed their hungry little pups.

Wild dog

3. On the last day we saw a good number of elephants and giraffes. This was very special for my mom and I because we love these animals and to be quite honest, they weren’t as plentiful as we had anticipated. We saw elephants walk right in front of our car and go to drink water. It was spectacular to see them walk so close to us. The giraffes had also proved to be quite elusive but we ended up coming across a little family of them which was absolutely precious.

Show off Giraffe

4. Hippos seemed to be pretty common but on the last game drive we saw quite a bunch of them. While we were there one of them emerged out of the water and started showing off, opening his mouth and yelling a little bit. Then that same hippo got into a little fight with another hippo and eventually presented the submissive behavior by sticking his rump in the air and swinging his tail around.

5. Lastly, on our way out to the landing strip to leave we came across one last animal when we hadn’t expected to see any! We had found another leopard! We took this as a good omen for the rest of our trip.

Machaba camp had exceeded all of our expectations. It was truly magical and I was very sad to say goodbye. Fortunately, we shared unforgettable memories with each other and the families also staying at the camp. We became close to a family from Cape Town that is absolutely lovely and I now have a sense of comfort and family during my time abroad.

Currently I am finishing this post from Cape Town. I will update my next post with our travels in Zambia(which have already happened). PS we found my bags!

will try to post pictures!

Zebra RumpsCanoeing

My Personal Favorite Shot

My Personal Favorite Shot

 

Enroute to South Africa….. or so we thought?

I’d like to start this post with one of my favorite quotes that directly applies to my current status:

“Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure”

Where do I even begin? I guess I’ll start by explaining our intended route to South Africa. This morning (yesterday?) I woke up at 6 am to finish packing (the curse of procrastination), and left my lovely home in San Diego to catch a flight at 11:15am to Atlanta, Georgia. From there we had barely over an hour layover to catch our international flight from ATL–> Johannesburg, South Africa. How simple and exciting our travels seemed as we boarded our first flight. But from the very moment the pilot told us our plane was too heavy, we should have known we were in for some bad news.

They started by kicking off fellow passengers and unloading ALL of the baggage in order to take off some of the cargo to lighten up the plane. Once that was all over and done with we were 45 minutes late. So naturally my mom and I were a bit nervous about making the connection, but we reassured ourselves that 30 minutes would be enough. After a 3 hour and 45 minute plane ride we made it to Atlanta. Phew! As we pulled up to the gate, my dear mother made an announcement to the rest of the plane that we have a very tight international connection and if people don’t mind we could just run up to the front…. We made it about 10 rows.. just under half of the distance we needed to make, and surrounded by some very rude passengers. As we waited, we noticed it was taking an awfully long time and NO ONE was moving. The pilot then announced that they stopped the plane a couple feet short, so we braced ourselves as he pulled the plane forward. But still, we waited. 5 minutes later, Pilot: “well folks, when it rains, it pours. Looks like were having some technically difficulties getting the jet way to the plane.” As the minutes painfully slipped away from us our hope of making our flight was quickly diminishing. After roughly 12 minutes they told us all to sit back down! So we sadly walked back to our seats in the back of the plane so they could move the plane to another gate. They had repeatedly assured us that those of us with tight connections would make our flights because “they knew we were delayed.” Just as we were all seated ALL THE SUDDEN THEY FIXED THE JET WAY. And I kid you not, as soon as we reached the jet way my mother and I started sprinting with our duffle bag on our front and our backpacks on our backs (very heavy at that). Our flip flops fervously slapping the ground as we ran from the very end of terminal A to the tram. We were headed to E….. The very opposite side of the airport. Naturally the tram stops at every letter….. B.(7:27hurry hurry)…….. C..(7:29 ahhhhh)……. D…(7:31AHHHH)….. E!!!! Our flight departed at 7:33 and it was 7:32. We ran up the escalator around the corner and to our gate to find the gates had just closed and the aircraft was just beginning to push back from the gate…….. We waved at the pilot trying to call him back as tears were streaming down our faces. We begged to desk attendants to call back the plane…. Nothing. The plane was so close, we were so close, but there was NOTHING we could do. We had missed the flight. 

We were back to the drawing boards. We had to figure out a way to Johannesburg as quickly as possible because everything else we had planned: hotels, safaris, flights, EVERYTHING, depended on us arriving on the flight we just missed. 

After many phone calls, and several hours later we were finally helped by two wonderful Delta agents who looked at every possible route to get us to Johannesburg. We settled on a flight leaving ATL going to Dubai. So with less than 10 minutes to spare, we walked to our gate and boarded our plane. As we sat down we switched seats and mom and I were able to sit next to each other for our 14 hour flight. 

Currently I am sitting in the Dubai International Airport awaiting our flight at 4:40 am to Johannesburg (we switched to an earlier flight which was an adventure in itself). We are on standby with high confidence we will be put on the flight. Most likely all of our arrangements will be delayed a day. But we will deal with that when we arrive in Johannesburg!

Thanks for taking the time to follow my adventures, more to come! Keep your fingers crossed we make this flight!Image

Show it

I swear that everyone I see in passing, old friend, or current friends, is the same story. “How are you?!” I prompt. They respond “Oh I’m really good. What about yourself?” 

“I’m so incredibly busy, but really good. Let’s try and hang out one of these days.”

Sure. It was a nice little convo as I rush onto the next thing in my busy schedule. But regardless of how genuine I’m actually being, I’m writing that off. I don’t follow up. Because I “don’t have the time” . 

I think that the biggest thing I’ve learned in the past year and continue to make myself practice practice practice, is to show the people you love, that you love them, you appreciate them, and really make your interactions and relationships with others high up there on that long list of “to-dos”. When you continually write people off, which I am notorious for, you are slowly knocking that person farther and farther down on that list and whether they care or not you are depreciating their value in your life. So shoot them a text. Follow up. Write them a letter. Give them a call. SHOW that you care. It could be just the thing they need that day. And you probably need them in your life too. 

To beginnings and triangles

I’d like to preface this by saying that I will probably be your run of the mill blogger. I have always been interested in blogging and I’ve finally taken the steps to make my very own. So here goes it.

My name is Mia Montanile. I am 20 years young. And I love life.

Here I hope to express my thoughts, ideas, passions with the intent on impacting others as well as myself. Life is a beautiful adventure but the ride is not always a smooth one. It’s important to always keep your focus upward, and by that I mean progressive and positive. That is where my idea of triangles comes in. I, like many others, have gone through my fair share of trials and tribulations. But those are the very things that make up your foundation of your own personal triangle. It is about this building of self and your own personal triangle. And no matter where you are currently in your life, the triangle will always be building upward. Don’t ever forget that.