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Monday, 02 January 2012 10:00

Dar to Arusha

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The domestic terminal of Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam is more modest than the intentional terminal. This is saying something since the international terminal is not what one would call spacious or well-appointed. It made for a perfect departure point for Arusha, the hub of all things safari and trekking in the north of Tanzania.

Everyone goes through the security scanner when you first walk in the terminal and, while you don't need to remove your shoes, I needed to give it three tries before belt was off and pockets emptied before I walked through cleanly.

From there, security was rather more lax.

I was wearing my Arsenal soccer jersey and the Coastal Airlines employees checking me in and taking my bag chatted with me about the team. This was common across Tanzania, a soccer-obsessed country like none I have ever visited.

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While the jersey was a topic of conversation, my identification was not. Evidently, the fact that I am an Arsenal fan was confirmation enough that the ticket was, indeed, mine or it is simply not required to know that the person scheduled to fly is the person actually flying. For an American where Transportation Security Administration guidelines are so very thorough due to the realities of flight in the United States, the approach felt rather refreshing.

After checking my bag, it was placed a few feet away on a rolling cart where it stayed with the others in a pile until moments before boarding. When I realized several minutes later that I had left an item in it that I needed during the flight, I walked up, opened it, and took out the item with not a question from anyone.

There are advantages to travel in the developing world.

I grabbed some coffee in a serviceable little cafe a short distance from the gate and eavesdropped on a local pilot of European descent explain to a companion about how he had been flying for more than fifteen years for Coastal Airlines and, given that regional piloting in Africa doesn't offer much upward mobility, had purchased a plane from the airline and struck a deal to permanently lease it back to them with him as the main pilot. An ingenious bit of entrepreneurial spirit in limiting circumstances.

After coffee, I went and sat by the terminal door and chatted with a couple from New York who had flown from a smaller town that day and would have a follow on flight to another small village after arriving in Arusha before starting their safari the next day.

They called us and we boarded the Cesna that would take us to Arusha. The pilot's welcome message was short with no seat belt demonstration or other business no one pays attention to these days anyway. And we were off. The rains came as we taxied and took off, our little plane pushed around a bit in the turbulence but, all in all, a perfect flight before landing at the little Arusha regional airport.

View a selection of photos from the safari in the Under African Skies gallery. Check out the handful of photos from the flight to Arusha on Flickr or view all Under African Skies photos on Flickr.