The flight we took earlier this week was through an oil company who sells any extra seats they have to other folks who want to head there. The small airport is in Paloch, a town about 50 minutes from Melut. We had some hassles originally getting on the flight, but we made it here. As we tried to arrange the return flight, along with a couple of others who hoped to travel the same day, we ran into some problems. Understandably they give their employees first priority. But they wouldn’t tell us if we had a space on the flight, we just had to show up. So we did (late, rained on, and mud-stained) to find that there were four spaces on the flight out of the seven we needed. I and a couple did not have as pressing things to get to, so it was decided we would stay the night and try to fly the next day.
We’d been told that this oil company had accommodation where we could pay for a room and stay. We got a ride to the office place and went to the hotel. But, allow me to set the scene a little bit. This area is remote. There is one paved road, and that’s only from the airport to the oil company’s buildings. You walk out the gates and there are villages with tukuls, women pumping water from a borehole, donkeys. You can’t get bottled water from any of the corner shops and you don’t want to drink the local stuff because it comes out brown and, supposedly, carries typhoid. The set-up feels kind of bizarre and surreal.
So we walk in and there is no one at the front desk. We sat there for awhile waiting for someone official looking to come in or walk by. Eventually someone did. After some chatting and things we weren’t given any certain indication that we would be able to stay, but things were looking positive. A little while later we were given plastic VIP badges and told to go to the cafeteria for lunch. We walked in to a rather large cafeteria full of Sudanese men staaaaring at us. Especially the other lady and I. Of the many, many workers we saw there were absolutely no women. Awkward.
We get ushered into a room at the back separated by a curtain. In there we see two 20-something white guys. The first thing I hear them say are “You’re the first white people we’ve seen in three weeks!” So we enjoy a nice lunch chatting with them. I think they were just happy to have different company. We share our situation and predicament and offer to help if they can. Nice fellows. After our lunch we sat and chatted a few more minutes after everyone else had left. So we were able to watch at least three rats run over the counters, onto tables, and eat the bread and other stuff that had been left on the tables. In broad daylight! I’ve seen rats before, but never that bold! Yikes.
We go back to the hotel and the other lady and I ask if there is a bathroom we can use. The man opens one of the rooms and while we were using the facilities they say that this is the room we’ll be staying in. They bring in another bed and we get our stuff from the lobby. But as soon as we put our stuff down we look around and are like “Um…I think this is someone’s room…” The TV was on, there were clothes in the dresser, a towel hanging in the bathroom, toiletries in the cupboard, at least seven cans of air freshener, slippers under the bed. Yeah…definitely lived in.
So we ask the man who told us it was our room and he said that it was fine, this guy was in Juba and we could use his room. We were happy to have anywhere to stay but it was odd and slightly unsettling to be staying in someone else’s space that didn’t know that you were there. And when I tried to access the wireless I asked the guy at the front desk for the password and he said “No password.” I implied that I thought there was one and he said, “No. You try again.” I asked another guy for the code and he gave me an Ethernet cord. We found out several hours later that there actually was a spot to plug in the cord.
We enjoyed another buffet style dinner with our new friends and made it through the night on the sheets that we were pretty sure were not clean. As we showered we were careful not to disturb his towels that were up drying. Such an odd experience. We were able to bum a ride to the airport really early and made it on the flight! Success! My Juba adventures now commence!