How big is Africa? Big enough that if you have to fly from Europe to the southern tip of the African continent, you’d rather do it in a straight line.
No such luck for me. I’m going in a few days via Dubai, and since I’m doing it on my own dime, and the seats are already overbooked due to the Indaba mining congress happening in Cape Town, I’m going in economy. Hurray for me, 16 hours in the air and 22 hours total travel time in a space that would be considered inhumane for the transport of, say, a goat.
I was looking at the map generated on the left from Google Maps, and it struck me that Mali looked like it was about the size of France. I’ve lived in Mali, and it’s more than double the size of France, so I was a little curious. I also remembered a fantastic graphic that illustrates the true size of the African Continent in all its glory, which I now share with you.
Africa, you see, is huge. Yes, yes, you already know that, but did you realise just how huge it is?
Did you know that you can fit China, North America and Europe into Africa and still have room left over?
To get it into your head in a more visual way, take a look at the illustration to the right. If you click on it you’ll get a bigger version, or you can find the original here. As an aside, I found this illustration a few months ago via one of my favourite websites (it caters to my geekier instincts), Information Is Beautiful.
So when you see France, or the USA, drawn the same size as Africa, remember the enormous biases that exist in map-drawing before you let your subconscious come to an automatic conclusion based on the assumed authority of the map you’re looking at. It’s just wrong.
All this to say that crossing Africa is like crossing the height and breadth of America and China – not figuratively, but quite literally – and that therefore it would have been somewhat more enjoyable to do it in a straight line rather than via another continent, especially once you take into account the not-good-enough-for-a-goat travel arrangements.
I’ll enjoy Cape Town, the weather should be pleasant and summery with lows in the 18 celsius and highs in the 31 celsius range, which beats the hell out of the sub-zero Parisian winter we’re enjoying here. There will be good seafood, copious amounts of wine, interesting conversation, bright mornings and late evenings, and all with a beautiful view of the ocean.
In fact, travel conditions set aside, it’s a real privilege to be able to go to places like this in the middle of winter.