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Jack Tame’s hair-raising travels

The newshound’s hair-raising travel tales aren’t for the faint-hearted

Before heading back into the political jungle hosting another year of Q+A, Jack Tame thought he’d like to spend time with wild beasts of a different kind – ones, he jokes, who are much less intimidating than those he interviews each week.

For three weeks in January, Jack and high-school mate Matt Bishop rented a 4WD and enjoyed an adventurous road trip through South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland).

The pair hiked up 3000 metres to take in incredible views along some fairly precarious bluffs, scuba-dived with tiger sharks and went on safaris where they saw a white rhino that had tragically been shot for its horn merely two hours earlier.

But for the 36-year-old news junkie, he’s always keen to get a sense of a new place by doing the ordinary things like visiting the local supermarket.

On top of the world with travel buddy Matt.

“When you go to famous tourist sites, you know what to expect. I find supermarkets fascinating because I’m so interested in seeing what products are stocked in different places,” says Jack.

“In southern Mozambique, when you go down the cleaning aisle, half of the products are detergents for hand-washing clothes because so many people there don’t have access to washing machines. It’s the sort of thing you totally take for granted living in New Zealand.

“I also love getting a haircut in a foreign place to engage with some of the locals and ask a little bit about their lives. I think it’s fair to say the barber hadn’t cut the hair of many Pākehā before either!” he laughs.

For Jack – who won Best News and Current Affairs Presenter of the Year at last year’s New Zealand Television Awards – it’s these little “incidental, serendipitous” moments that always stick with him when he travels.

One day, in the middle of Zulu country, he stopped for coffee in a gated community designed as a perfect English village, where almost every house was adorned with carefully manicured primroses out

the front.

“It was like a slice of the Devon countryside or an episode out of Midsummer Murders,” he recalls. “The streets had names like Elderberry Lane and Badger’s Hollow. But just five minutes down the road, Zulu women were carrying baskets on their heads.”

View to thrill: Jack on the edge of the Drakensberg Mountains in Lesotho.

At the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, the pair turned a corner and a massive African elephant wandered just five metres away from their car. It was the only “nervous” moment they had with animals, but sensed it didn’t see them as a threat.

“Of course I’ll remember the African elephants and herds of zebras and giraffes, yet one of the things that was most memorable and shocking was when we came across a rhino that had just been killed,” says Jack.

“The bullet wound in his side was fresh. Evidently, the poachers had taken his big horn, but they’d fled before collecting his smaller one. And before anyone could come back, the park rangers hacked it off with an axe.

“It’s the sort of thing you feel like only happens in the movies. But our guide was completely unshocked and said it happens all the time. I think South Africa loses a rhino to poachers once every 36 hours on average.”

Another cliff hanger for Jack!

Jack finished his intrepid holiday with an “extraordinary” few days hiking Tugela Falls and Cathedral Peak in South Africa’s awe-inspiring Drakensberg.

Anyone looking at his jaw-dropping Instagram shots (showing him casually perched on mountain ledges) might assume the affable broadcaster doesn’t struggle with a fear of heights.

“No, that’s not true!” he insists. “I have a very healthy fear of heights, I think. But the photos make it look more dramatic than it actually was.

“We did end up on some high cliffs, where you’re carefully putting one foot in front of the other and not stepping on any loose gravel. If some of those hikes were in New Zealand, they may have had safety barriers erected.

“And it’s probably good my Mum isn’t on Instagram.”

Showing off his nerves of steel!

Part of the reason Jack wanted to travel and get as far away from New Zealand’s day-to-day news cycle was to have a “reset and refresh” before hosting the political current affairs series during election year.

“I felt like I needed to have a really good break because it’s going to be such an intriguing, busy time,” he reflects. “I’m so excited for it. In the first six weeks of 2023, the whole election race was upended and changed.

“There is so much on the line for this one, especially after the events of the last month, where Cyclone Gabrielle has caused some massive challenges,” explains Jack, who has covered this country’s elections since 2008 as well as the last three US elections.

He adds that it’s such a privilege to be able to travel and learn about a new place, especially after the last couple of years.

“Obviously, I’m interested in the politics of the place when I travel somewhere and I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a country like South Africa that has so much promise but so many entrenched problems.

“While we were there, everyday there were power blackouts because they can’t provide electricity for the whole population. So, like between 5am and 7am, and 4pm and 6pm, they’d say, ‘We’re going to have a blackout in Durban or Johannesburg or the North East.’ That’s crazy for a country that has the resources that South Africa has.

“And I think the reason Johannesburg is considered unsafe by people is because there is such a stark difference between those who have wealth and the poor,” muses the Newstalk ZB host.

Not a politician in sight for the I host!

“In that part of the world, they also have big problems with corruption. Especially in Mozambique, where there were signs everywhere saying, ‘Please do not bribe the guards’ or, ‘This is a no-bribe zone.’ For a lot of people, that’s been a part of their society for a long time.”

Reflecting on his journey, Jack says he was reminded of the T.S. Eliot quote, which begins, “We shall not cease from exploration…”

“The thrust of it is, the more you travel, the more you see of the world, the more you learn about your own home, the more you appreciate it. My trip really reminded me that New Zealand is paradise.”

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