As I mentioned earlier, we were faced with a last-minute dilemma: We needed to get from Addis to Cairo, but the only direct flight left at like 3am…and we both absolutely detest redeyes…especially ones that are 1 hour long. No thanks! We had planned to transit for a day in Yemen, but they weren’t so keen on issuing visas at the time…pulling ours at the last minute. For some reason, a spark went off, and I looked into the possibility of connecting via the newest country: South Sudan. Shockingly, the times were perfect, middle of the day, fares were pretty reasonable…and it all ticketed! The only concern was that visa requirements for South Sudan were very unclear. I figured we could wing it at the gate and get away with it…and that’s what happened!
Ethiopian Flight 490
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Juba, South Sudan
Depart 11:05, Arrive 13:05, Duration 2 hours
Aircraft: Boeing 737-700, Registration ET-ALM, Manufactured 2004
There was a bit of confusion when we got to the airport. Ethiopian’s website now listed this flight at noon, as did a few flight tracking apps, but the check-in agent, the airport monitors, and all other “official” sources still listed it on time at 11:05. Guess what happened 😉 So, we checked in at the international terminal in Addis…only to be sent to the Domestic terminal. Seems that certain flights – with little rhyme or reason – still depart from this terminal. Computers were slow, eventually they checked us in (the walk between terminal is 5 minutes or so max) and immigration was a breeze, and we were in the lounge. Free water and diet coke made us happy while we waited. This whole time – NOBODY knew when the flight would really leave. The lounge was outside security, so we took turns clearing security to check at the gate.
As predicted, the plane had come from Rome, and we ended up boarding around 11:45.
On the taxi, we went past the airplane graveyard/etc in Addis which had a few interesting relics:
After a pre-departure mimosa (one ONLY – no you may NOT have another) we were off, and served a gourmet lunch snack consisting of several fried bits:
Ok, so I lied. Posting the pic I just realised I’d switched to Champagne at this point. Not knowing what was in store in Juba, I figured I’d better pre-game at least a little bit! Flight was quick – under 90 minutes, and soon we were landing and ready for an adventure! Deboarding was quick, walked to immigration, which was an absolute zoo. We’d landed at the same time as another flight, and it was chaos in the small room. The whole room was maybe 50 square meters….though I doubt it was that, and filled with at least 200-300 people. We managed to shove our way forward to the counter, and yes…we could have visas on arrival. $100 each for US citizens. We paid, waited and eventually got our passports.
Tried to get out of the immigration hall, but not so fast. You must go back and sign the guest book! Huh, guest book? We went back, I think I wrote down Homer and Marge Simpson or some such thing, and they let us out. All in all quite strange, but the visa on arrival was a real and proper sticker, so at least we got a cool souvenir. The driver our “hotel” had promised was nowhere to be found, so after a bit of waiting and negotiating with the local touts we got the same price they had offered from a driver, so we were off to the hotel.
I say hotel loosely, because the “AFEX” isn’t so much a hotel as a temporary living quarters. Having just come from Djibouti and being on a military base – it felt quite similar. Several security checks to get onto the “camp” and then lots of “no pictures” signs once you were there. Our rooms were even containers….so my “CLU envy” from Djibouti was properly resolved. For those not in the know, a “CLU” is a “Containerised Living Unit” which is basically a shipping container turned into a room.
There’s not a whole lot to do in Juba, as was confirmed by the person who ran the camp…who was completely mystified what we were doing there. He helped us get a couple motorcycle taxis into town, and I’ll try and post a video of that later was fascinating bumping around the dirt roads to the “JIT Hypermarket” to get some water, and just see a bit of the town. Fascinating place!
The rest of the evening was spend lounging by the banks of the White Nile river, drinking the local brew, and just relaxing. We had a busy few days ahead on the way to Cairo!