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Kerry McIvor-”Miss Adventure”

Kerre’s African journey begins with a spin on a conveyor belt in Tanzania.

The day had finally come. After weeks of preparing and planning for my World Vision Mount Kilimanjaro climb, the departure date was upon me.

It was time to say goodbye to the husband and the old border collie, and head for the airport. I had girded my loins for the journey. New Zealand is a long way from anywhere, but it’s an especially long way from Africa.

Forget the romance of international travel – flying these days is all about putting your head down, gritting your teeth and making the best of the situation.

Our group flew first to Melbourne, then Dubai. After a seven-hour stopover, it was on to Dar es Salaam to catch a connecting flight to Arusha, our first stop in Tanzania.

Incredibly, we managed to get there without too much in the way of drama. However, there was a moment of uncertainty when my travel pillow fell out of my bag as it was going through the screening in Dubai.

The pillow somehow got caught within the conveyor belt. Despite the efforts of the young customs official, it remained stuck. The conveyor belt jammed and the luggage from a plane load of passengers began banking up behind it.

I felt responsible, so I gestured to the official that I would climb onto the conveyor belt and free it. I thought I’d received a nod of approval, so I made my way onto the belt and crawled to where the pillow had jammed.

Judging by the shocked look on the official’s face and laughter from his female colleagues, there’d been a cultural disconnect and my actions took him by surprise.

As I freed the pillow, the conveyor belt started working again, so I was carried back down among the handbags and laptops. I jumped off the machine before the security guards had time to react.

Our arrival into Dar was an initiation into the way things are done differently in other countries. To get a visa, we had to fill in a blue form and a white form, hand them over along with our passports to a uniformed Tanzanian official, then wait with the hundreds of other visa seekers until our names were called out.

It may have looked a little chaotic, and I did feel vulnerable handing over my passport to a man who disappeared into the melee of people, but as a system it worked just fine.

Our passports were handed back with our visas – tiny slips of paper with handwritten notes – and luggage for all 11 of us in the group turned up safely.

We arrived in Arusha just before midnight, and all slept the sleep of the exhausted traveller. Sunday morning was spent visiting the local market, and although I’ve visited quite a few markets around the world in my time, the Arusha version was easily the best in terms of the quality and variety of goods on offer.

New Zealand producers may think they’re doing very well with their “farm to plate” initiative, but the Tanzanians have been doing this for thousands of years.

Fish, meat, vegetables and fruit were arranged by region, so you knew exactly who the grower was, or from which lake the fish had come. The sellers were justifiably proud of their wares, and I wished I could have shopped up a storm and had a bash at the recipes stallholders were happy to share.

In a town where visitors are a necessary evil, it would be totally understandable if there was a bit of tourist fatigue. But, so far, we’ve encountered only friendly and hospitable people.

Courtesy and manners seem to be innate in Tanzanians and it has made for a wonderful first impression of the country.

When Kerre returns, listen to her on Newstalk ZB, Monday to Thursday, 8pm to midnight.

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