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jorgesanchez Juba - A travel report by jorge
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Juba,  Sudan - flag Sudan -  (( Al Istiwå'¿yah ))
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jorgesanchez's travel reports

Southern Sudan, Africa’s youngest Nation

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Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, is not an exciting city for the traveler; being a young capital it still lacks tourist’s attractions that you can find in Nairobi or Kampala, but its situation, on the banks of the mythical Nile River, compensates it.

Southern Sudan, Africa’s youngest Nation
Southern Sudan, Africa’s youngest Nation
It is very easy to enter Southern Sudan, the newest African country.
I flew from Barcelona, Spain, to Nairobi, and stayed in Milimani guest house (I paid 700 shillings for a bed in dormitory, or about 6 euro), and then, at just 5 minutes walking from there, you can get to the GOSS (Government of Southern Sudan), in the area called Community.
In order to get the Travel Permit you have to pay in a bank nearby 50 US Dollars or 3.800 shillings, and then you need 2 pictures plus a photocopy of your passport. You will receive the Travel Permit within 2 days (sometimes 3 or 4).
You will need the Travel Permit if you fly to Juba, but if you go overland, then you can get it at the border between Uganda and Southern Sudan.
Just in case, I preferred to have it beforehand, so I got it in Nairobi GOSS.
In Uganda you will have to pay 50 US Dollars for the transit visa.

There is a bus everyday departing from Nairobi to Juba, it takes 30 hours (sometimes 32, as it was my case) leaving at 10 AM (sometimes at 11.30 AM, as it was my case, this is Africa) and you will arrive to Juba next day around 5 PM. The bus terminal in Juba is far away from the center. You can board a minibus to the downtown for 1 pound (for 1 US dollar they will pay you around 3 pounds), or a motorcycle called Boda-boda, for about 5 pounds, after negotiating.

Anyway, overland is much cheaper than flying. The plane ticket from Nairobi costs about 25.000 shillings, one way, while the bus journey only 5.000 shillings, and is much fun with the chickens on board and the stops on the road, plus the mechanical troubles in the bus, you will see waterfalls, zebras, monkeys, villages with African huts like in Dogon Country (Mali)... in short, the best of Southern Sudan is the journey to Juba overland.
In the bus journey is included water and food once you arrive to Kampala. In Kampala you change buses.
The bus back to Kampala and Nairobi leaves at 6.30 AM, which is why some people sleep in the bus.

Favourite spots:
Typical Southern Sudan village close to Nimule
Typical Southern Sudan village close to Nimule
Some tourists go to Juba by plane, and they feel disappointed of the city. They miss the best, that is, the overland journey to get there.

After you cross the border with Uganda you will enter South Sudan. The entry is very easy showing your Travel permit to the border authorities. That first Southern Sudan village is called Nimule. You will be allowed by the bus driver to have some free time to eat and change money.

Nimule is not an interesting village but further on you will go across typical villages with round huts, you will see zebras and monkeys along the way, plus waterfalls. The road is OK and when I went there it was being asphalted by a Turkish company. In the past, the Government of Sudan only asphalted the road uniting Juba with Khartoum, so making difficult the communication with Uganda, something that the present Southern Sudan authorities are correcting.

The special moment is when you cross the River Nile through a steel Bridge. At the other side you find Juba.

What's really great:
The steel bridge accros the White Nile to enter Juba
The steel bridge accros the White Nile to enter Juba
Downtown Juba is not interesting at all, that is why I used to walk along the banks of the White Nile River (White Nile meets Blue Nile in Khartoum), especially in the area close to the steel bridge. There I found settlements of people living in spartan conditions, but all they greeted me with broad smiles when they saw me, remembering the proverbial courtesy of the Sudanese people when, many years ago, I traveled to Sudan crossing the country from Eritrea to Chad, through Darfur, experiencing hospitality and sympathy in all the people that I met.
One day, while wandering along the shore of the river, I got thirsty and stopped in a shop to drink something, and then people came asking me with surprise where my car was. So I noticed that the Europeans living in Juba never go to those areas on foot.
I was offered excursion by boat up the River Nile, but being alone the price was expensive, so I refused all the offers.

Selling mangoes in the market
Selling mangoes in the market
There are six markets in Juba. The main one, in downtown, is called Konyo Konyo (a word that has erotic connotations in Spanish). The hugest is called Jebel. Another one is Customs Bus Park Market.

In any of them you will find plenty of stalls selling simple but cheap food and drinks (like delicious mango juices).

In these markets you can grasp the level of life and culture of the local people.

Goods that I saw in those markets were mainly fruits plus vegetables, hardware and building material, clothes, cosmetics, cheap jewelry items, weaved mats and baskets, processed foods, live chickens, rock salt, herbs and spices, medicine made from roots, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, household items, mobile phones, etc. I also saw many African carvings and sculptures, the ones that you see in Nairobi, but more expensive. Practically all that I saw was imported from neighboring countries.

In short, if you do not visit those markets you will not have a good portrait of the country.

Raymok Hotel, for 70 pounds a night in a single room with fan
Raymok Hotel, for 70 pounds a night in a single room with fan
In Juba I advise you a good place to sleep, ECS, meaning Episcopal Church of Sudan, in the All Saints Cathedral premises. It is safe, nice, pleasant, many foreigners working in Juba stay there, and breakfast is included (coffee, eggs, toasts, jam, etc.). The price for a single is 120 pounds (about 40 US Dollars).

There is another place to sleep, close to the Nile River, very cheap, for only 70 pounds, is called Raymok, but there are many Ethiopian girls offering themselves to the foreigners in a sort of disco in a patio with a billiard game.

If 70 pounds is still expensive for you, then go back to the bus terminal and tell the people of Kampala bus coach that you are short of money, then you can sleep for free in the bus and have shower next door, also for free. People are really nice in Southern Sudan. That is what I did and even I was brought a bottle of water in the bus. I slept in the last row. There were other people sleeping in the bus, so you will not be alone.

Local people playing domino in the patio of the Akok Hotel, by the Nile
Local people playing domino in the patio of the Akok Hotel, by the Nile
Not far from Raymok Hotel, by the River Nile, you will find Akok Riverside Hotel and cafeteria.

It was my favorite place to drink a beer in the evening, sitting in a chair inside a patio surrounded by mango trees, overlooking the river. I was always the only foreigner. Southern Sudanese people gathered in the afternoons to play chess, domino and drink beers Tusker (imported from Kenya). Some of them danced with Eritrea girls, presumably practicing the oldest women’s profession, but they were discreet and did not bother the customers who were not interested in them.

Prices in Akok River Hotel are cheap; a beer costs 5 pounds and a soft drink only 2 pounds. Food is also available, although I preferred to eat in Konyo Konyo market.

Also close to Akok Riverside Hotel, near the local jail, you will see the famous New York Hotel. In the evenings, I was told (I never went in), they offer a cabaret show with Eritrean and Ethiopian girls dancing (and more).

All Saints Cathedral, in Juba
All Saints Cathedral, in Juba
If you happen to be in Juba on Sunday, do not miss the Mass services in All Saints Cathedral. The father, by the accent, I think is from Ireland. I assisted to the mass service and noticed many European faithful people, probably working in any of the many ONGs in Juba.

Masses are in English, Arabic and Zande (local language).

That cathedral is impressive. Next door you can find the ECS or Episcopal Church of Sudan, offering good and safe accommodation.

Another interesting church (by its architecture) that I discovered that Sunday was Saint Joseph (also Catholic). I went inside and noticed that practically all the assistants were Sudanese. I did not see any European.

People in Southern Sudan are mainly Catholics, followed by Anglicans and lately time by Protestants. In the downtown there is a great mosque, but Muslims represent only a minority in Southern Sudan.

Probably these chickens that accompanied me in the bus from Kampala, were sold to the restaurants in
Probably these chickens that accompanied me in the bus from Kampala, were sold to the restaurants in
I used to eat in the markets, where I paid only 2 pounds for a generous mango juice, plus 6 pounds for a plate with chicken and vegetables. But once I ate spiced injera in Raymok Hotel (the owner is Ethiopian) together with a Tusker beer (all together for 20 pounds). Next day I had lunch in the patio of Akok Riverside Hotel and for 15 pounds they offered me a fresh fish caught in the River Nile, plus vegetables and a cold drink.

Ethiopian food is well-liked in Juba. I was advised to have dinner in the restaurant Queen of Sheba, in Hai Malakal area, with Ethiopian dances and acrobatic performances, which is a place very popular with foreigners working in NGOs, but I did not go since I prefer to mix with local people instead of foreigners. Besides, the prices in Queen of Sheba were too high for my economy.

Other recommendations:
Mama elephant takes care of her baby
Mama elephant takes care of her baby
Since, in order to reach Juba overland you have to call in another African country, being Uganda or Kenya, you do not have to lose that opportunity to visit some other tourist attractions in any of these two countries. Since I went to South Sudan via Kenya, I looked for an interesting additional place to travel in that country where I had not yet being.

In the past I visited Lamu Island (overland from Mombasa), also Malindi plus Lake Nakuru National Park (hitchhiking). Then I paid attention to Masai Mara National Reserve. In downtown Nairobi I made a booking for 300 US Dollars for 3 days with two nights excursion and enjoyed the vision of the main animals of Africa, such as elephants, lions, cheetahs, hippopotamus, leopards, rhinos, buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, antelopes … and many others. And all combined with the visit to Masai villages where the locals performed typical dances and offered local beer to the tourists.

Published on Saturday March 19th, 2011

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Fri, Mar 23 2012 - 02:08 AM rating by mikebarton

Good stuff! :)
I'll have to make the effort and get to South Sudan.

Wed, Mar 23 2011 - 09:32 PM rating by eirekay

Jorge, thank you for taking us on your journey! Many of us will never see these sites but your wonderful descriptions carry us with you!

Mon, Mar 21 2011 - 10:49 AM rating by krisek

Superb report, Jorge. Many thanks indeed for publishing. Your story is narrated so well that it definitely stimulated my imagination - chickens on the bus, walking along the river and people offering rides and fresh fish, the 'working girls', etc. So African indeed! When did you go to South Sudan?

Sun, Mar 20 2011 - 09:36 PM rating by antonioagui

Gracias Jorge por acercarnos otro lugar off the beaten track. Ya te lei el texto en otro sitio, así que me alegro de ver el ampliado con las imágenes.

Me uno a las preguntas de aquí abajo, tengo enorme curiosidad por saber lo que te contaron las gentes de estas tierras.

Un abrazo y a seguir así!

Sun, Mar 20 2011 - 02:51 PM rating by hieronyma

You did it again! I only would like to know how your health did stand this journey. It must have been hot and dusty. What about beggars, street hawkers. What did the priest told you? But you did tell all the essentials. Thank you.

Sat, Mar 19 2011 - 05:59 PM rating by porto

Sounds like another great adventure Jorge and lots of good advice to make the trip memorable, nice one.

Sat, Mar 19 2011 - 05:45 PM rating by mistybleu

A interesting read. Thanks for sharing - a great place to see.

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