Flying into Juba, Sudan looked like flying into a war zone. Smoking fires dotted the landscape and a smoky haze blanketed the horizon as we approached until we could see the shiny dots of tin roofs slowly turning into something that looked like a city.
Juba is a bizarre city of typical Sudanese poverty mixed with a booming NGO economy. We stayed in a stone barracks-type building called a "hotel" that was $130 a night. Five years ago they say Juba had 10 cars- now it had hundreds, most of them Toyota Cruisers tattooed with "UN" or any other alphabet NGO. With the referendum coming, there is a buzz in the air, but otherwise Juba is a pretty calm city.
The airport, however, is a different story. Imagine the most crowded bus station you could ever imagine, with absolutely no organization, no signs, no apparent officials, no lines, and a mob mentality. Somehow we needed to locate our luggage, have them cleared through security and find the exit.
After that sweaty magic act we stayed a night in Juba before catching a Dash-10 flight to Malakal, a backwater town of a half a million an hour plane flight down the Nile.
After a half hour detention by a scruffy man claiming to be immigration who obtained my passport while I was waiting for luggage, and after many unneeded apologies by me (for what- being white?), I was eventually released so that our awaiting ASMP boat could take us on the 4 hour boat ride to the village of Old Fangak.