September 2002

ihana.com - big trip - diary - guyane - september 2002

 

Prison

Prison fights

Iles de Salut

Tuesday 10 - Friday 13 September

We were soon ferried across the river and saw the french flag flying over the customs building. Entry was super fast, a quick stamp of our passports, nothing to do for the car, and in we drove. A small supermarket opposite, owned by Chinese which seem to have the monopoly on supermarkets here, was full of delicious but very expensive food imported from France. A baguette, paid for in Euros, did the trick before visiting the transportation prison where the famous Papillon was held before being moved to the Isles de Salut from whence he eventually escaped.

A french style road led out of town,a bicycle path on one side, french cars, kids on mopeds, it felt just like being in the south of France! Kourou is the place where the Ariane rockets are launched so we paid a visit to the space centre. We reserved places on the free tour for the following afternoon and went to see the town and chill on the beach where the French space centre workers do sports like kite and wind surfing, there is even a horseriding path.

The lowering temperatures brought out hundreds of joggers but we had a good excuse not to join in, one of the landys tyres was looking decidedly flat and we hadn't got around to repairing the puncture from the previous day either. There was just enough air left to get us to a tyre service centre where two leaking tubes were swapped with good ones from our spares box. Next came the big shock when the guy presented a bill for 40 euros for the 20 minute job, and they hadn't even repaired the holed tubes! After some choice French swearwords we unhappily paid 30 euros (the same job including repairing the holes had cost 10 in Venezuela) and went to find a place to camp in the jungle outside of town, our battered pockets helping us to decide to skip the expensive boat tour to the Iles de Salut.

Ariane 5

Wicked buttons in the control room

New landy engine

Launch tower

After a wicked breakfast of fresh pain au chocolates we spent the rest of the morning looking round the space museum and making good use of the free internet there before going on the guided tour. Unfortunately the tour was all in french and we didn't get to see any rockets or satellites at all, the most recent rocket having launched only three days earlier. We left Kourou late and arrived near Cayenne in time to find a place to sleep, at the end of a track in some jungle nature reserve.

In the morning we did an inpromptu landy service in the jungle before driving into the capital, which is a fair size for a country with just about 200,000 inhabitants. However it becomes a ghost town from 12.30pm until 3pm as the baking heat closes almost everything for a siesta, through which we chilled on the seafront with our now habitual camembert lunch. At the tourist info office we got conflicting stories about the possiblity of crossing into Brasil, we knew there was now a road as Shane, who we'd met in Georgetown, had come that way in taxis and boats. The problem was the two bridgless rivers to cross with the landy. Ho-You-Fat (seriously!) transport services offer a cargo shipping service but only to the French side of the second river. The guy in charge wasn't in the office so we headed out of town and found a wicked seaside campside hidden from the road by an old fortification.

Camembert et pain au chocolat or...

...a minging restaurant?

French style cafe

French Guyane style doris

La Poste

Le puncture

Back at Ho-You-Fat the price of the boat leaving a week later was nearly 400 euros, and this still left us high and dry on the wrong side of the water. As its only 105kms to the first river we headed down the potholed road to check it out for ourselves. At Regina we found a bridge construction site just outside of town and saw a large barge cruising upstream just as we arrived. The guys operating it told us we needed a permission from Cayenne to cross over, so, heartened by the knowledge the means of getting over at least one river existed, we headed back to the capital. The Friday 13th hoodoo struck with yet another puncture, actually our first genuine one - caused by a bit of metal embedding into the tyre, which made us 10 minutes too late for the close of business.

Facing the weekend in Cayenne we got togged up and trolled a couple of the city's bars, sipping a few Stella Artois and trying hard to remember some more of the lingo. The new disco in town was populated by some minging old french hags and a few brazilian hoes, this and the drinks prices made for a short visit.

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