Sunny days and intense rays

As yet another week whisks by here in Cape Town I can’t help but reflect on my feelings when I first arrived and my feelings now. I remember feeling frightened by high crime rates, constantly feeling as though I had to watch my back. But as time has passed and Cape Town has become more and more my home, I’ve realized that saying goodbye to this place will be heart breaking to say the least. Four months is just too short of a time frame to indulge in everything this city has to offer. But one thing that has changed for the better since I first arrived is the weather! Which brings me to my weekly update.

Last Thursday the sun came out to play and I enjoyed a beautiful two hours chatting on the Jammie steps with my back facing the sun and listening to the live music event taking place. But as I sat there basking/baking in the sun I came home to realize my entire back was covered in a heat rash. And as much as I enjoyed soaking in that heat, I had given myself a little dose of sun poisoning. If there is anything in the world that makes you miss home aka mom, it’s being sick away from home. But after some advil, a nap, and laying frozen tortillas on my back to ice it, I was able to make it to volleyball practice that evening. 

The following day was a rather productive and much needed cleaning day! Considering its spring time, my roommate and I spent ample time cleaning the room, doing loads upon loads of laundry and just getting our lives back in order. Also, dryers aren’t really a thing here. So everything has to be hung up to dry which means you have to account for the weather. Shoutout to the sun: you may have scorched my back but at least you’ll dry my clothes. 

Saturday, our exchange program headed out quite early for our West coast excursion. We drove to a Khoi San village or museum of some sort that took us around and explained the ways in which they lived off the land. After that we headed to a winery for lunch. Unfortunately the hanger set in (hunger/anger) due to the food taking an hour and half to come out. BUT, it was a beautiful area and also happens to be the place where Rocking the Daisies will take place (a music festival in October). 

Hut

Sunday I woke early to head out to Camps Bay for a glorious day spent playing beach volleyball. I made sure to apply plenty of sunscreen so I didn’t have a repeat of earlier this week. We played a TON of games and I even took a dip into the cold Atlantic. It was incredibly refreshing, but not for more than about 5 minutes max! 

Camps Bay

This Monday I had another wonderful day spent in Nyanga township working with children in an after school program called SHAWCO. Today my group took the grade 4’s to the library which is quite popular. They were a bunch of crazies on the bus ride over, running about and yelling out the windows. But when we got to the library, the settled down a bit and picked out their books. As volunteers we go around and have them read to us to check in on their reading comprehension. At the end of the day I’m always quite exhausted but I’ve started developing really wonderful relationships with the kids. It’s truly a wonderful feeling to return every week and see your students anxiously awaiting your arrival. Every week I try and bring a camera, phone or go pro to try and document my experiences with them, and my gadgets are quite the hit. All of them love posing for photos and videos. My goal is to splice together footage and show it to them on the last day. 

DCIM100GOPRO IMG_1013

Next week marks our spring break and I will be headed to Swaziland, Mozambique, and Kruger! It is a 10 day trip and I will most likely be off the grid for the majority of it. So look our for my next post in two weeks time!

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