Published: June 8th 2011June 4th 2011
Suddenly we are back in the European Union. We are in France. French Guyana is more French than just a French colony. It is a department of France. If you would not know you were in the tropics, you might think you are in the Provence. Of course everyone speaks French, but apart from that everything is directly imported from France. Like the food. ´La Vache qui rit´, roquefort, wines from the Medoc and also the baquettes are in the shops. The problem is that the prices are also French. So we cannot buy it. We can just look at it.
Saint Laurent de Maroni
Also the hotels are expensive, but because we are a little family of four persons (Thijs from Holland, Ben from New Zealand and Linda and me) we can get a family room in Hotel ´La Tentiaire´, so that we can share the costs. A motorkorjaal brought us here from Albina in Suriname, crossing the Marowijne river.
There is not so much to see in Saint Laurent. The main thing is a prison. Prisoners were brought here before they were transported to Devil´s Island in front of the coast near Kourou. In one of the beds
the name Henri Charrière is written. He was the one who wrote ´Papillon´. It is about his escape of Devil´s Island. I remember that I swallowed the book in the seventies.
Charrière was not the only celebrity here. Also Alfred Dreyfus stayed at Devil´s Island. Emile Zola argues in his ´J´accuse´ that Dreyfus was falsely accused, because he was a Jew.
With a taxi we went to Kourou. There is hardly public transport in French Guyana, so you are forced to take a taxi. And like everything it is expensive. Luckily we have a family. And we stay in a cheap hammockhotel near the sea. The hammocks we bought in Paramaribo for only 10 euro.
You can still see how the fire blackened the launchplatform of the Ariane 5 rocket which was launched last week. It is a pity we missed it. Millions liters of water were transported to the spot to cool down the platform. They are just busy to remove the platform. It moves slowly over a rails to the place where the Arianes are assembled. The rocket had two satellites, one for India and one for Singapore and Taiwan.
Every company from whatever country
can ask the Centre de Space Guyanais to launch their satellites. We make a tour over the enormous complex (we arranged that in advance from Paramaribo). We see the platforms of the Ariane 4 and 5, the lighter Vega and the Russian Soyuz. With the Soyuz also manned capsules were brought to the ISS (International Space Station). Mostly communication, GPS and weathersatellites are launched, but also satellites which monitor the migration of animals, like the seaturtles.
Originally the spacecentre was French. It was an idea of Charles de Gaulle, who wanted a strong France. In 1961 it was founded as the CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales), located in the dessert of Algeria. But France lost its colony and had to find a new location. One of the conditions was that it was situated in a hardly populated area and that it was near the sea. Kourou was a perfect spot, also there are no hurricanes here. Moreover it is close to the equator. Because of the higher speed of the earth near the equator it costs less energy to launch the rockets. I suppose it only applies on stationary satelites (like communication satellites), which have a fixed position in
the sky. They are launched in the same direction as with which the earth spins. Circumpolar satelites make a curve perpendicular on the spin direction of the earth.
Afterwards the ESA joined in, the European Space Agency. ESA contributes two third of the money, while CNES comes with the rest. The third party is called Arianespace. We learn how the Ariane is constructed, the capacity of the four motors, where the satelite is, we see the controlrooms and finally we visit the Musée d´Espace. The tour of the complex is free of charge, only for the museum you have to pay. Strange enough you get discount when you did the tour.
With a taxi we drive to Cayenne, the capital of French Guyana where we get a familyroom in Hotel Amazonia where we can cook. The roads are good and we pass pristine jungle with hardly any inhabitants. Next day we head via the RN2 to Saint Georges at the border with Brazil. We just have to cross the Fleuve Oyapok with a motorkorjaal to arrive in Brazil. It takes about 20 minutes.
There are more photos below