After sleeping in a slight bit, we woke up to this lovely alert from the US Embassy:
Soooo, great. Here it was, September 11th, and the Embassy was banning its staff from visiting public open-air markets (aka where we were walking around the day before) and all other public events. Aka, we think there’s a reasonable chance of some bad stuff going down in N’Djamena today, and want you to stay in secure locations. Hmmm, I’m pretty sure that traveling to the airport and getting on a plane is not what they had in mind, and we just had to hope that Ethiopian Airlines wouldn’t take this as an excuse to cancel our flight.
Headed to the airport a slight bit early, you know, just in case the booming airport had transformed since our arrivals and had some sort of luxury VIP lounge that we hadn’t seen on the way in. We took the Kempinski’s complimentary shuttle to the airport (which actually showed up this time) and I’ll admit I was a bit nervous and scanning the sides of the road for the entire drive. No problem at all, and we pulled up in front of the airport.
Baggage check to walk into the makeshift terminal, where the same security officials we’d seen on arrival were waiting. Bags up on a table, they rummaged through them a bit, x-rayed them, and let us into the “terminal” to check in. I say “terminal” because it was more like a makeshift room made of corrugated aluminum and plywood where it was impossible to figure out where the lines went. We eventually found the first one, where they checked your name off a list of people on the flight, and let you proceed across the small room to the actual check-in counter.
Check-in was no problem, then it was to the passport counter, to get officially stamped out of the country. After that, it was over to the security line (which was easy to find, because you know, metal detectors and x-ray machine for the bags). Here they checked that you were checked-in (boarding pass), stamped out of the country (passport stamp) and then they let you through security. Keep in mind that all four of these stations were in one small room that was at most 25 by 25 feet square. You can see how all the lines get mixed and it was hard to know who was going where. There was surprisingly little pushing and shoving, however, and the whole thing was quite reasonable.
After security, through a small covered walkway to the lounge. The “lounge” was filled with maybe 80-100 chairs inside another small makeshift building no more than 15×15 feet square. It felt like one of those portable trailers that schools use to add space in an emergency. There was definitely no VIP lounge here. Oh, and definitely no air conditioning either. I mean, who needs AC when it’s 100 degrees out, you’re in a corrugated aluminum room with 100 people, right?
When walking to the trailer (let’s not continue to pretend it was anything more) we saw our plane parked. But wait, what was this! When we booked, Ethiopian was promising us a 787 flight, which was actually really exciting. Unfortunately, two weeks before the trip they downsized this to a 757, which was a major letdown. But now, parked in front of us was a 777…woo hoo! Unfortunately, after 30 minutes of waiting, a 757 landed as well. Wait, what, why are there two Ethiopian planes at an airport that sees a total of maybe three flights a day? Turns out the 777 was a Hajj charter headed to Mecca…we were to have the pleasure of the 757, which fortunately boarded right on time.
Ethiopian flight 938
N’Djamena, Chad (NDJ) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD)
Depart 14:15, Arrive 20:00, Flight Time: 3:45
Boeing 757-200, Registration ET-AMK, Manufactured 2001, Seat 3L
My disappointment at getting the 757 after all was quickly relieved by some mildly warm bubbles:
I’m not a big fan of bulkheads, but the check-in agent basically refused to change my seat, which ended up not being much of a problem because only three of the 16 seats in business were occupied. For a 757, it had pretty decent legroom at least, and there was plenty of space to spread out and relax. See, don’t I look relaxed?
New airport under construction. The little tan building barely peeking up behind the bus is the waiting shack and the dark hole in front of the bus is the covered walkway into the check-in area. The rest of the “airport” appears to be just a construction zone.
Printed menus for the short flight, a nice classy touch:
View of N’Djamena just after takeoff, with the airport in the middle:
The best part of Ethiopian is that instead of some sort of nuts, the welcome drink is served with little airplane crackers:
The rest of the starter was, well, less than exciting, and tasted about as good as it looked:
The main was equally as bad, and tasted just about as good as it looked:
Fortunately there was delicious cheese (served with pretty abysmal Ethiopian red wine) to save the day:
Flight passed quickly, and soon we were arriving in Addis. There was a special bus waiting for business class, which meant we arrived at the transit counter first. Ian was headed home via Saudi Arabia and Cario (naturally) which meant finding away over to the regional flights terminal. I had an overnight in Addis, which supposedly Ethiopian would take care of my visa and hotel. I ignored the hotel part fearing they would stick me in something grim, but they insisted I take the voucher. Ugh, fine, but the voucher was needed to get the free overnight visa, so no biggie.
Said goodbye to Ian, and was off to customs and outside to meet the hotel driver. I should have looked at the hotel voucher they gave me, because they put me in the Hilton! I wouldn’t have paid $200+ for the Hilton (chain hotels in Addis are outrageously expensive) but for free it would have been fantastic. I had considered the Sheraton which is a really nice hotel, but they wanted more than $300 for the night, so I’d booked the top recommended hotel on TripAdvisor. I rarely stay in small local hotels, but this one turned out to be a fantastic choice.
Unfortunately, the driver was nowhere to be found and I had no way of contacting him. For some strange reason, Ethiopia doesn’t allow foreign phones to roam, so I had no way to email or call and find out where he was. Fortunately, an airport employee called them for me, and they claimed they were just running late because it was New Years Eve on the Ethiopian calendar. After about 40 minutes the driver finally showed up and apologized…and the airport employee asked me for money to pay for the call. Since it was only overnight, I didn’t have any local currency, so I offered him a few US dollars, since that seems to be good anywhere. He got angry and wouldn’t take it, and kept demanding local currency. The driver suggested we just walk away, so we did…
I was staying at the Addissinia Hotel, a small hotel maybe a 15 minute drive from the airport. They looked to have a few dozen rooms, and it was reasonably comfortable. As an apology for the wait on the driver, they had upgraded me to the “Presidential Suite” on the top floor. The living room:
Nice comfy bedroom, although no air conditioning. It was cool enough, though, and had a fan:
After the relatively tiny meal on the plane I was pretty starving. Unfortunately, it was after 9pm, so going out would mean it would be at least midnight before I got to bed. Lots of places were also holding special New Years events, so were full. So, decided to explore the hotel restaurant, which made a delicious Addissiniya pizza:
Complete with Ethiopian beer and bar snacks. I loved the bottle of “Cold Gold:”
Slept great, and had a nice view of Addis from my hotel room in the morning:
Hotel was prefect for a short comfortable stay, and since I had a relatively early flight the next morning was great to be close to the airport as well and be ready to continue the onward adventure to Dubai!