Dec 092018
 


So despite it being a very, very short 40 hour stop, I really enjoyed my time in Johannesburg catching up with friends, and was ready to begin the trek up to Cairo. I kinda joked that I would book this routing (which I got with United miles) but at the end of the day I decided why not! It could be an adventure…right?

10:30 flight was just late enough that I could sleep to a reasonable hour, have coffee at Starbucks, and head to the airport with just enough time to spare before my flight. Everything with the train went super smoothly, so I actually got to chill in the lounge for 30 minutes even before heading to the gate. I was surprised to see the bartender that I’ve gotten to know well there so early in the day, and it was more than mildly embarrassing when he brought me a glass of wine at 9:30am and I had to politely decline.

Not sure what it is, but regional flights to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi always seem to go from A1-A3 in Johannesburg, which are super ancient gates in the old part of the airport. They have almost zero seating, definitely zero air conditioning, and you can’t help but feel like it’s regional flights getting second-class treatment. Regardless, off we go on an adventure!

South African Airways flight 22
Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB) to Harare, Zimbabwe (HRE)
Depart 10:30, Arrive:12:05, flight time: 1:35
Airbus A320, Registration ZS-SZA, Manufactured 2013, Seat 4F
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 133,953
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,654,015

Business today was five rows of 2×2 seating, and only four of the 20 seats were occupied. First due to “air traffic control” and then due to “baggage loading issues” we left the gate almost an hour late, reducing my 3.5 hour connection in Zimbabwe to 2.5 hours. 3.5 hours was already cutting it super close to leave the airport and meet friends for coffee or lunch, but with 2.5 hours there was no way it was going to work. Grrr, the one time you really need things to be on time…

That said, regional catering on South African has gotten super miserable. Not sure what this was supposed to be, but some overly ripe fruit and fried pastries was just nasty. I sent it back, and opted for another glass of wine…

Welcome to Harare, Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport!

Despite immigration being super quick and getting my visa quickly, by the time I got through I only had 2:15 until my next flight. I debated chancing a quick taxi to get lunch, but best case I could have sat somewhere for 30 minutes. It just wasn’t worth risking, especially given I had a connection in Cairo, and missing my flight could cause lots of drama.

Nevertheless, I got to see the wildlife of Harare Airport:

Air Zimbabwe transfer desk. Like their flights, it was suspiciously absent of any signs of life…

Went back through immigration (who didn’t like my boarding pass printed in South Africa, and tried to suggest that I owed a “fine” – silly guards, this ain’t my first rodeo) and eventually found the South African Airways lounge. Now, normally I love my lounge cheese and crackers, but I wasn’t touching the cheese in this lounge with a ten foot pole:

The sandwiches and…sausages? on offer didn’t look any safer:

Also, a quick glance through the lounge windows to the runway didn’t give any more hope….

Fortunately, when I took the short walk to the gate my Ethiopian Airlines plane was right on time, and boarding happened right on time as well!

Ethiopian Airlines flight 654
Harare, Zimbabwe (HRE) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD)
Depart: 15:35, Arrive: 20:35, flight time: 4:00
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, Registration ET-AOV, Manufactured 2014, Seat 3L
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 135,876
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,655,938

For such a new Dreamliner, the seats being a disappointing 2x2x2 configuration was really sad…but hey, United does the same thing, so can’t complain too much. Plus, over half the seats were empty, so there was a ton of space, and on a four hour daytime flight this was actually quite a nice seat:

Reasonably roomy cabin:

Pre-flight proper champagne was offered….

Quite a small pour, and warm, but hey…TIA…

Five minutes later, seeing my empty glass, the crew came by again. “I see you like the champagne. Can I maybe get you much more?” I was definitely liking this crew!

Right when the door was due to close, a commotion broke out by the door. Seems someone didn’t have the right visa for their destination, but despite that he was trying to FORCE his way past the gate and flight crew and onto the plane. Lots of yelling in Arabic, occasional english, and eventually Zimbabwean security hauled him off the plane. Nothing like a little excitement before departure. Only part that concerned me was him screaming “my bags, my bags” as they dragged him away and closed the door and we were underway…

Dark clouds on departure indicated a very, very bumpy climb out of Zimbabwe:

Love the scenery of the dark clouds and the sexy Dreamliner wing.

Once we got about 20,000 feet high things smoothed out a lot, and off we were to Ethiopia!

Unusually, a choice of snacks was offered before the meal, of kolo (a roasted ethiopian grain/nut mix) or crackers. I went with the crackers hoping they would be the airplane-shaped crackers ethiopian sometimes serves, but these were ok as well, and a nice change.

I went with the “beef” starter which was a very few tiny slices of marinated beef. Odd, but mildly tasty.

I have to say, I never expected the first time I was served General Tsao’s Chicken on a plane would be on Ethiopian Airlines. Very bland, no spice, but interesting…

Now that is a seriously huge cheese plate…and a small opera cake to finish it off.

Overall, nothing at all special about this flight, but it was solid, comfortable, and the food was filling. All things considered, I was very happy with the flight, and glad to be 2/3 of the way to my destination for the day. While it was nice to break up the longhaul to Cairo into several segments, I was starting to get pretty tired!

Got to Addis, and of course we got a bus gate, but fortunately the wait wasn’t too long, and the walk to the gates wasn’t terrible either given the delay out of Harare. Unfortunately, the queue at security was atrocious, and I didn’t realize that Ethiopian now has a special boarding area for business class only! This must be new in the last year, and would have saved me a lot of time and stress.

That said, despite the long security queue, it moved super quickly with lots of “helpers” helping clueless passengers to properly load their items onto the x-ray belt, so overall, it wasn’t terrible. ANOTHER bus to the gate where I was told about the special business class line/bus for next time, but hey, at least we were off.

Ethiopian Airlines flight 604
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD) to Cairo, Egypt (CAI)
Depart: 22:05, Arrive: 01:20 next day, flight time: 4:15
Boeing 737 MAX-8, Registration ET-AVJ, Manufactured 2018, Seat 2L
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 137,407
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,657,469

I admit before this flight, I was a little nervous about flying not just on a 737-MAX aircraft, but one that Ethiopian Airlines had received just THREE DAYS ago and had only had 8 passenger flights before. Nervous? Why? I fly a lot, right? Well, the 737 MAX crash of Lion Air in Indonesia last month may have to do a little with that, especially when you consider that yes pilot error was probably involved…but only in that they were reacting to a flaw with the aircraft. Eek, I just hoped Ethiopian would have the skill to deal with any such issues.

Business class was a few rows of 2×2 seating, but again less than half full. Well, after we had to get rid of the couple who sat down in my seats and wanted to know why. They got to them first, so why couldn’t they sit in them! No amount of explaining to them that not all seats are the same, and aren’t first come first serve would assuage them, but finally when they were told they could either take their assigned seats (in the very last row) or get off the plane did they move. Heh!

Not bad seats for a regional flight:

Another glass of warm pre-departure champagne:

Menu was almost identical to the previous flight (which is odd, since usually flights into a hub are different than out of a hub, but whatever) so I went with the options I hadn’t tried.

The watermelon and feta salad was….ok?

The beef was massively overcooked and like leather, but when I added the tabasco sauce I finally figured out why they give you so many condiments…and the ketchup made the potatoes quite good as well! At least I finally understand why Ethiopian gives you that weird large condiment tray on every flight.

Same cheese and crackers, just a smaller portion:

We arrived in Cairo about 10 minutes early, which was good, because I only had six hours until my flight to Munich. Too long to spend in a lounge or waiting area, but barely enough time to justify I hotel. I had decided to risk it, and my goal was three hours of sleep. Fortunately, there was zero wait at immigration and I was through in maybe 10 minutes.

I had asked the hotel to have my key waiting for me a few days ago when I was there, and shockingly (given the usual Egyptian inefficiency) it was ready and I was plane to room in under 20 minutes. Even after a shower, I was in bed in under 45 minutes after landing…which gave me 5:15 until my flight left in the morning.

I went with three hours on the alarm, figuring if anything went wrong 2:15 wouldn’t be enough time, and off to dreamland I was….

Oct 152015
 

Hotel shuttle to the airport got me there right when I wanted to, and already had my boarding pass from the previous evening so was able to head straight to immigration. Almost no line, and in probably 10 minutes I was inside the departures area…and not a second too soon. I believe in being completely honest about travel, and something about Ethiopia and I didn’t get along.

I got to the lounge I usually go to, and she told me “yes, but there is a better lounge you can access” which nobody had ever told me before. I’ve always been Star Alliance Gold, and always in business or first out of Addis, so how this was news to me I don’t know…but it was. The problem was, she insisted I go use the nicer lounge, and I was rapidly losing the battle against…something I’d eaten the day before. I don’t know if it was the hotel pizza, or the plane lunch, or the bar snacks at the hotel,  but by the time I found the nicer lounge it was not a second too soon.

Disaster averted, it was time to check out this lounge. Did some re-arranging of flights for later in the trip on the internet which had quite good speed, and enjoyed a diet coke or two. The most notable features that made this lounge better than my usual one were that it wasn’t a dark dungeon and was actually well lit, had a group of people sitting on traditional chairs burning incense, drinking coffee, and eating what looking like popcorn in some sort of quasi-traditional setup, and had plenty of power outlets. It also definitely improved my impression of Addis airport immensely!

Soon, it was time to board. Out of the lounge, through security, to the gate, and no plane anywhere to be found. Agent told me boarding was at least 30 minutes off, so why don’t I go back to the lounge. Out of security, to the lounge, a little bit of blogging and another Diet Coke, and finally back through security and to a bus to board. There was a special bus for business class…all three of us. Yes, the plane seats 28 in business, and only three seats were taken.

Ethiopian flight 602
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD) to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (DXB)
Depart 10:55, Arrive 15:30, Flight Time: 3:35
Boeing 777-300, Registration ET-APY, Manufactured 2014, Seat 2L

First impressions of business class on the Ethiopian 777, my first time on their long-haul business product. Middle seats in business, who does that anymore, ugh, it’s almost as bad as United:

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Similar to my Turkish flight a week before, they had the footsie seats which went completely flat, but where you were very likely to end up playing footsie with your seatmate as you sleep:

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Settled in with bubbles in what basically felt like a private plane…couldn’t even see the other two in business:

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Amenity kit which, while not super fancy, makes a great case for storing the small stuff I tend to keep in my carryon. Just big enough, but not huge. It’s now beat out amenity kits from ANA, Lufthansa, Swiss, and South African which I used to use. I feel it’s that well-designed!

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Today’s menu:

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More airplane-shaped crackers with bubbles as as pre-lunch snack:

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The salmon starter wasn’t bad, and the salad was decent as well:

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The Cape Malay Chicken Curry, however, was absolutely delicious despite being a bit scary looking:

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But once again delicious cheese…glorious cheese…and they refused a second serving. Grrr!

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Arrival at Dubai involved a pretty long walk to immigration through several escalators, and the line was about 10 minutes as well, but stamped into the country with no issue at all. That is, until I passed the immigration desk and a woman in an abaya started pointing at me and screaming HARAM! HARAM! HARAM! It took a minute to figure out what was going on, but I think she’d seen the rather large tattoo on my arm (and I’m sure wearing shorts wasn’t thrilling her either) and had decided to make sure everyone knew just how awful I was. Thanks! Fortunately nobody else seemed to care.

Stopped at the ABM for some cash, and into a taxi for the ride to the Sheraton Dubai Mall – my first time at this property. I think every time I’ve visited Dubai I’ve ended up at a different hotel. Since this was a relatively short overnight I wanted somewhere convenient. I had some shopping to do for the rest of the trip (mainly something warmer for Mongolia) so being attached to the mall seemed a logical choice. Upgrade to a nice suite:

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The room was quite large with a bedroom, large bathroom, huge walk-in closet, and a sitting room with a couch, tv, desk, etc. Much more space than I needed, but extremely comfortable. Headed down to the attached mall for the shopping, and could have been anywhere in America. They even have Shake Shack now…Michelle Obama would be so proud!

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Stopped at Starbucks for a quick caffeine and snack. No clue how I was hungry, but I was, so…

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I still had a couple of hours to kill, so stopped by Ski Dubai to embarrass myself. The only place in the world you can go skiing inside a shopping mall. This was my third visit, and I keep hoping to snap a picture of a woman in an abaya going down the slopes, but they remain elusive. Perhaps on the next trip!

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Also, probably the only Hollister in the world with two twenty foot high television ocean displays outside the store:

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Back to the hotel for a short bit before dinner, and the executive lounge had an amazing spread. Alcohol is available at hotels in Dubai, but it’s also extremely expensive. Not only were drinks in the lounge free, but they were poured very generously. I think I had two glasses of wine, and probably finished off 2/3 of a bottle. Plus, they had tons of tasty bar snacks and desserts:

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Shortly after drinks I was picked up at the hotel by my friend Daniel, a long-time reader of my blog who lived in Dubai. We had met just under a year ago in Bali of all places and did some touring, and then met up again a few days later in East Timor. Now I was on his home turf, and it was time to catch dinner and catch up. Daniel and Rianda picked me up, and we drove a short ways to another mall (because that’s what you do in Dubai) to find some dinner. Car parked, and we set off to find somewhere to eat. Walked past the water show, and it was pretty much people taking pictures and not really looking at the show:

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We managed to grab a delicious dinner at a Lebanese place in the mall, which was blessed with fantastic air conditioning. Lots of great grilled meats and catching up, and regrets that we weren’t going on to Turkmenistan together. Daniel and I had originally planned to do the Turkmenistan part of this trip together, but when they denied me the visa he decided to go on alone and enjoy while I made other plans. After a couple of hours it was back to the hotel to get some sleep because they had to work in the morning and I had an early flight. One of the treats of traveling so much has been meeting people who live all over the world, and feeling like you always know at least someone in all major cities!

Up early the next morning, and off to Oman!

Oct 122015
 

After sleeping in a slight bit, we woke up to this lovely alert from the US Embassy:

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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:

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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?

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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.

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Printed menus for the short flight, a nice classy touch:

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View of N’Djamena just after takeoff, with the airport in the middle:

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The best part of Ethiopian is that instead of some sort of nuts, the welcome drink is served with little airplane crackers:

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The rest of the starter was, well, less than exciting, and tasted about as good as it looked:

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The main was equally as bad, and tasted just about as good as it looked:

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Fortunately there was delicious cheese (served with pretty abysmal Ethiopian red wine) to save the day:

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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:

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Nice comfy bedroom, although no air conditioning. It was cool enough, though, and had a fan:

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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:

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Complete with Ethiopian beer and bar snacks. I loved the bottle of “Cold Gold:”

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Slept great, and had a nice view of Addis from my hotel room in the morning:

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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!

Feb 222015
 

Up early and one last breakfast in the executive lounge. I still wasn’t feeling so hot, and it was a gorgeous sunny day so rather than run around and get myself any sicker I decided to spend a couple hours relaxing by the pool and taking it easy. Shot of the pool from earlier:

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Grabbed a light lunch in the hotel cafe/bar after the pool, and got things packed up and ready to go. Before leaving, I decided to head down to the Executive Lounge for a double espresso. The lounge was on the 10th floor, and I was on the 12th. Grabbed the espresso to go, and was waiting for the lift back up to 12, and noticed a guy standing near the elevator who had that distinct security look about him. Tried to make small talk, and he was having none of it, which only confirmed my suspicions.

Then, the elevator door opened, and emerging in all his glory was the President of Uganda – Yoweri Musevini – wearing full academic regalia / PhD robes…hat and all. Didn’t even know the guy had a PhD, but apparently according to Wikipedia he’s got at least six of them, hah. I have no idea what he was doing in the sheraton, much less in academic regalia, but I guess that will remain a mystery for the ages. If you’ve read my earlier blogs this is my second presidential encounter in hotel elevators in the last four months, the previous being President Xi of China in an Auckland Hotel elevator. It was beginning to seem a rather strange coincidence!

Traffic on the way to the airport was absolutely horrid, and it took nearly two hours to reach the airport. I’d planned on two and a half hours worst case so it wasn’t a big deal, but was still annoying. Check-in and immigration were a piece of cake, and soon I was in the business lounge which featured an actual waterfall. Pretty sure that’s an airport first!

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Boarding was a long walk along the tarmac to our plane:

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Ethiopian flight 331
Entebbe, Uganda (EBB) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD)
Depart 18:20, Arrive 20:25, Flight Time 2:05
Boeing 737-800, Registration ET-ARD, Manufactured 2007, Seat 2C

Ugh, Ethiopian…your planes are even rattier than United’s:

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What a…cute…little amenity kit. Pre-flight beverages were water or orange juice.

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Flight was only booked to 8/16 in business, but at the last moment the last eight seats filled up with folks that were clearly local important types. No idea what was going on, and it was a rather full flight so it’s possible they just upgraded people with status or something, but based on how rude they were I’m pretty sure they were DYKWIA types that Ethiopian staff upgraded for whatever reason. My seatmate, fortunately wasn’t bad….except for taking his shoes off and putting his bare feet on the seat in front of him. Gross.

The meal was, however, quite tasty for a two hour meal. Choices were fish or beef, so I went with the beef option. It could have been warmer, but I ate about half of it, which considering being sick was pretty good:

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Continue reading »

Jun 072012
 

Common route right?  Lots of people just happen to fly From Seychelles to Bulgaria  😉   There was a route with two stops, but I chose to add a third one in so I could maximize my time on nicer airlines.  However, even before I got started, there was some rather serious drama.  Flight didn’t leave Seychelles until mid-Afternoon, so after waking up, I went for a 5 mile or so run on the beach.  Absolutely amazing running right along the water lapping on the beach, some serious waves crashing…it was definitely paradise!  Got back to the room famished, pounded over a liter of water, and gave in to the diet coke in the minibar.  It was listed as 500ml for $7 which was a ripoff, but I was willing to pay it.  However, the can was only 300ml.  I figured I’d take my changes.  Make note…

After a shower, I packed my bags, and when leaning over to put the scuba gear away, heard a loud POP in my back, and collapsed to the floor.  Fortunately, I was near the bed so I could break my fall, but still scary.  Sitting there dazed for maybe 15 seconds, I finally used the bed to lift myself up to sitting and assess the damage.  Didn’t feel awful, just really stiff and swollen, and I wasn’t going to miss my flight, so popped some serious anti-inflammatories and called the buggy to take me to check out.

Was honest about the mini-bar, and the agent called the manager on duty.  He offered to reduce the Diet Coke to $6.50.  Let me get this straight…it’s 40% smaller than promised, and you offer me approximately 8% off.  I asked the agent to please call him back and thank him for his extreme generosity, and to please let him know he has an unhappy platinum member whose stay will always be remembered for this act at check-out.  I only honestly wanted a fair price (even $5 would have worked) but the sarcasm was duly noted, and the item was removed completely.  Above and beyond, tho a bit disappointed I had to go through such extremes.

Taxi came for the airport, and the driver requested 600 Rupees.  I was in a negotiating mood at this point, and had put all but 500 rupees to the hotel bill….so I offered 500.  He took it immediately when I said it was all I had, which I was mildly proud of, considering I’d paid 600 for the airport.

Check-in at the airport 30 min later was pretty painless, and immigration was pleasantly air conditioned, and soon I was in the lounge.  No decent food to speak of, but a few Seychellois rums and diet coke eased a bit of back pain, and the slow internet was adequate for some browsing and e-mail checking.  Soon, it was time to board!

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 878
Mahé, Seychelles (SEZ) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD)
Departure 16:25, Arrival 19:40 Next Day, Flight Time: 4:15
Boeing 737-700, Registration ET-ALK, Manufactured 2003
Seat 4A

The most notable thing about this flight is that business only had 3 people in it, and economy might have been 33% full.  The route had just started a week before, so maybe it will take time to come up to speed.  There was a rather cranky family that boarded at the last second, and basically demanded to the station manager to be upgraded, and he gave in.  I’d seen them in the lounge, so assume they were some sort of local VIPs, Ethopian frequent flyers, etc.  To their credit, although they were a bit demanding, the small child was perfectly behaved, and having an extra 3 people in the 20 seats was no big deal at all.

The other strange fact was just how early we were going to be!  I guess everyone got boarded early, so why not!

Upon boarding, one of the stranger amenity kits I’ve ever seen was waiting for us!

Continue reading »

Jan 262012
 

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
Seat: 2L

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:

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Jan 252012
 

The whole purpose of this trip had been to visit a close friend who was working in the region…since we seem to always be his only visitors on these sorts of trips. Somehow, I’m not sure he believed we’d show up in Djibouti…but after Kuwait he also shouldn’t have been surprised! After a great night of showing us around, we had a relatively early morning ahead of us. But first, a shot from the beginning of the last night in Djibouti:

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