Southbound at 35000 feet, crossing over into Algeria at sunset. Last sliver of the sun has dipped like a sleepy goldfish below the clouds lining the west horizon, and the sky has darkened into an even more impossibly deep red. Below, on an outcropping into the otherwise barren coast, a pair of lonely refinery towers flicker like birthday candles left to burn when the hostess became distracted by more important matters.

Ahead, over the Atlas mountains and across the Sahara, the map traces improbable names that I know only from fairy tales and conference room trivia: Algiers, Tamanarasset, and Ouagadougou. And Oz and Asgard and Tatooine – or at least might as well be. But they’re down there. For real. Peering through the dark window, of course, there’s nothing below to even indicate that earth is still there. We’re a pressurized metal tube, blasting through the air six miles above fairyland, as distant and impossible to it as it is to us.

And so here we are.

It has taken us a bit longer than we expected to get this far. Something about France, I’m led to believe. As the British Airways folks explained, there was “a problem with France”, and rather than flying the direct route straight down the of the Loire valley, we’d have to take a little detour. Like, for example, back out over the Atlantic, down through Spain turning a right at the Pyrenees and left at Cadiz, resuming our normal course once we we’d put Gallic territory (and air traffice control) safely behind us. Adds another hour to the trip, but hey we’ll get to Accra anyway.

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