Visit to French Guiana September 17-27 2006

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Compiled by and pictures ©T. Cools 2006.

All movies and pictures are ©T. Cools 2006.  When this is not the case, this will be mentioned.
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Updated February 10 2006

September 17 2006 - Arrival Day


My passion for airplanes is very big, so no holiday without it: This is our Air France Boeing 747-4B3 with registration F-GEXA.
For the specialists amoung you: It has construction number 24154/741.  It took 7 hours 15 minutes to fly from Orly to Cayenne.
The plane was packed, we hardly had place to move.


At the Cayenne-Rochambeau airfield there aren't many movements but there are some nice planes waiting to be spotted: This is a De Havilland DHC-6-300 Twin Otter  from Air Guyane Express Srs 300 reg: F-OIJL with construction number 281.  Previous registration was HB-LSV.

'Google Earth' map with some locations we went to.  Sorry, Dutch titles only.
The waypoints(Dutch titles) on all charts on this page are measured with a Garmin Etrex Legend.  Accuracy is in most cases not less than 6m.

Hotel Atlantis, Nice hotel, but is it a Mercure hotel or not ?


Right: Erowan, our 'field' guide during the whole Guyana visit.  Here, he welcomed us with singing a French balad.  This is one of the most 'devoted' guides I have ever met.
The Takari Tour is the organisation he is working for:

'Planteur', a rhum based liquir.  In fact we were already confronted with it in our 747.


Left, Koen and Marc posing at an interesting object.  Worth to go to French Guiana for and take a picture of it !
Right: McDonald's: From New York to Paris, From Moscou to Singapore, From Timboektoe to French Guiana everywhere you see them,
a McDonald's.  Did you know that 0.1% of the world's population is actualy visiting  a McDonald's each day?  That's about 6000000 people...

September 18 2006 - Picque-Nique along the Maroni river


'Google Earth' map: We went with our motorized boats from Saint-Laurent de Maroni along the Maroni river to our  picque-nique camp.  From there on we went futher to stop in Suriname were some of the boats are constructed by the local people.

We halted along the N1 at Iracoubo.


The church, nicely decorated  by a bagnard.


Freddy Hordies, a herpatologue showing some insects.  I learned a lot about those little creatures thanks to Freddy.
Here's his homepage:


Some other views of Iracoubo with the '8 à Huit' shops which you can find everywere.  They are always run by Asiatic people.
You can even find Carrefour Number 1 products here, I later found out that they are franchises of Carrefour.

The old N1, build by prisoners, could be seen when driving to St.Laurent de Maroni.

Statue, dedicated to the 'Bagnards', who spent, in most cases, the rest of their lifes in prison.
In fact 'the rest of their lifes' can also mean, just a few months...(the guillotine was one of the instruments to shorten this period however...)
(you could be sentenced as a 'liberated bagnard';  then you've got only 8 years to spent in prison, meaning in reality that you had to stay 16 years in French Guiana, most of the Bagnards, some 60000 never went back to France)

This is the story of Henri Charrière, better known as 'Papillon':

The movie from the seventies with Steve McQueen and Dustin hoffman.


 Preparations for departure to our picque-nicque along the Maroni River.



Arrival at our picque-nicque place on an isle of the Marone River.  It was extremely hot that day.  Some of us took a swim in the river.

Erowan and the guy who spoke Dutch(he's born in Suriname)

Here's o movie: Maroni River Dinner


  Contact with Suriname !


 The boat(pirocque) constuction site at Suriname.  The boats are made in a very traditional way at approximately €250 for one meter.
So, they aren't cheap anyway !  The boats last some 8 years(but I presume they are beeing used much longer as you will see later on...)

 Full speed back to St.Laurent de Maroni

Girl looking at the sunken ship.


Some people doing a 'Zen' therapy. Right: From the 'La Tentiaire' hotel, looking at the football field of St.-Laurent de Maroni.  In fact, the local people were playing different matches on the same football field at the same moment that evening...

Dinner at La Caravelle at St.Laurent de Maroni.


At dinner I managed to take a picture of the night sky.  I was totally disoriented.  Constellations are not oriented the way they used to be at more Northerly latitudes !  They should do something about that !   ;-)  I still have to sort this one out...

September 19 2006 - Camp de Transportation at St.-Laurent du Maroni and Sinnamary


Erowan explaining how the history of the prison camp.  Right: Arrival place of the prisoners.


If you speak Dutch, then you 'could' understand the text:  'No Krosbee foe a watra'  The other side of the Maroni river is Suriname.


The entrance of the Prison camp: Camp de Transportation.  Our bus driver called it Camp de Transpiration...  Maybe the hottest place on Earth...


Right: Me posing at the office buildings of the prison camp.


Our French guide(but with roots from Suriname).
She spoke French because some of our listeners were French.  Her father in Law was in fact a bagnard.

Can you imagine this ?  This was a sleeping area for more than 40 people.  It was extremely hot in here(and even today).  Were did the prisoners sleep ?  Just on this concrete floor, Chained to the iron bar...

Prison cells.


The place were Papillon(Henri Charrière-see above) was held prisoner.  In fact on the right picture it is the second cell, number 47 from the right.
Right picture: The place were the Guillotine was operating.


Henri Charrière's Cell number 47 with inscriptions of Papillon on the floor.

  The French, they love to have fun, The prison camps are closed today but they still are doing some 'escape games' !

We stopped on our way on the D9 from St-Laurent de Maroni to Mana at a local souvenir shop in Charvein.  When passing through Mana(after stopping at a local shop) we went further to Sinnamary to go and watch Red Ibisses.


  Location near our dining place at 'Pakira'.


Departure to the estuarium of the Sinnamary River to watch Red Ibisses.


Right: Lighthouse(Roche Brigandin), I don't think it is still working.  The river is only a few meters deep, but on some places only a few dm !

Our boat driver, we had a lot of fun in this at 50 km/h.(GPS!)


Monkey's playing around but on the left picture there's something else.  We didn't believe it was an animal but it sure is !
Here Koen Geukens spoke the historic words: 'JOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUW'.
After that, Alain, our busdriver reminded us with these words every 2 minutes !

On our way back we had a 50km/hour return trip with our boat, here are two movies:

MOVIE HERE: Sinnamary River boat fun 1

Look at those two cars on the bridge, apparently only one can pass through !  This is rather funny !:

MOVIE HERE: Sinnamary River boat fun 2

WWI memorial monument at Sinnamary.

  This is a Red Ibis.Picture credit here:

Although we could observe the Red Ibisses, it was extremely difficult to make photographs
of this bird because of the distance, that's why I included this external picture.

September 20 2006 - Visit To Kourou Space Center

Visit to the KOUROU Space Center on September 20 2006


In the Kourou Atlantis Hotel I met Paul Maley,a well known satellite Solar Eclips observer.
Here I'm talking with him.
Left: Picture ©Marc Hens
Right: ©Koen Geukens

Here's a link with one of our Eurosom meetings were Paul is showing us some satellite observations.

AAnd here's a link to his homepage:

After breakfast we went to the Kourou Space Center.

Ariane 5 mockup.  The CNES office is on the background.


Entrance of the Kourou Space Center museum and gift shop.


_Inide the museum.  Right Ariane 5 EPS stage.

Ariane 1-4 launch family.

This was our(nice looking) tour guide at Space Center.

Max Hauzeur room.  Demonstration by our guide of the launch facilities at Guiane Space Center.


Left: The EPCU S5 Satellite Preparation Facilities.
Right: Road to the sounding rocket launch site.(number 16 on chart, see below)

Old static Ariane (5?) stage.

The old Ariane ELA 2(left) and Ariane ELA 1(right) launch tower and platforms.
The ELA 1 platform is beeing converted to the launch site for the future Vega launcher.(looking at this they haven't even started yet I presume).



Centre de lancement N°3.(number 18 on chart)
The center was actualy preparing the next Ariane 5 ECA flight which will put Optus D1, Directv 9S and LDREX 2 into orbit.
We should have been witnessed the launch but this has now been postponed untill October 12 2006.

Launcher Integration Building(BIL) and Final Assembly Building(BAF)


Zone De lancement N°3 and fence leading to the Ariane 5 launch platform.


Ariane 5 launch tower.(number 19 on chart)


Launch platform with exhaust pit.

Lightning protection tower.

Chart with GPS track and waypoints: Number 16: Road to Sounding Rockets site, Number 19: Ariane 5 launch site.
Number 18 is the Centre de lancement N°3.  Number 17 is the liquid oxygen plant.  The blue line is the track which we followed.
Unfortunately, the chart isn't complete yet, I hope to improve this in the near future.
Chart comes from Série Bleue 4710 'Centre Spatial Guyanais'.


Me standing near the Ariane 5 launch platform.

K. Geukens: President of the Belgian Space Travel Working Group, which is part of
the Belgian Astronomical Association orVVS(Vereniging voor Sterrenkunde)

Here's a movie at the Ariane 5 launch platform:Ariane 5 launch platform


Left: The Ariane 5 road with rail tracks.  At the horizon you can see the Ariane 5 Final Assembly Builing(BAF)
Right: Sight on the whole Ariane 5 launch platform.

Kourou Center

Clear skies at Kourou beach, Obviously, we had 'Dry Season'.

  Well known Dreyfus tower at the beach.  Here's more about Dreyfus: Dreyfus


 'Les Roches': Incredible beautifull beach at Kourou.

Me at the beach.

Me 'holding' the Devil Islands: In fact they are almost 20 km's away.  I never saw something that clear at that distance, even at Cap Griz-Nez !
We went to the Devil Islands(Iles du Salut) on September 21 and 22 to watch to solar eclips.

_Birds at the beach.


Left: Koen and Marc.  That's how hot it can be...
Right: We had dinner at 'Chez Olga' that evening but... apparently we ate at 'Chez Lourdy'...

View outside my Atlantis hotel room that evening.  Nice picture to go to sleep.

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