Kourou, French Guiana
5° 9' N 52° 39' W
May 11, 2004 23:32
Distance 43km

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Text written in: English

Kourou (11 - 13 May 2004)

The following morning I was woken up at the horrible time of 5:45. It was almost too early to justify the 35 euros I saved by sleeping here. However I had to take advantage of the situation. Morgan was working somewhere along the road from Cayenne to Kourou and he was going to drop me somewhere from where it would be easy to find a lift.

As usual it was pooring and it did not seem to be a day for hitchhiking. We picked up a coworker and drove through Cayenne. Just after one of the roundabouts outside Cayenne on the way to Kourou Morgan stopped and said that this spot was a good one for hitching. It was raining like hell and it was along the highway with no shelter. He was serious about dropping me here. I asked him if he wanted to drop me about 1 km back at the Texaco station, which seemed a bit more human to me. Thank God he drove me back, so I had a place to wake up dry and access to both food and a toilet.

I asked about ten people if they were going to Kourou and then I got one who said yes. He was working downtown Kourou, very close to where I wanted to be. the rain was really bad and we could hardly see the road. the wipers could not handle this downpour, so we had to slow down a bit. he dropped me at another Texaco petrol station downtown Kourou and I waited for the rain to stop.

The Kourou Accueil was on Avenue Charles de Gaulle, 500 meters from the Texaco station. It was about 9:00 when I arrived. They had 4 rooms with 5 beds each and they were air conditioned! And to make it even better, there were hot showers. The last hot shower I had seen was ehh, well, I can not even remember! So I showered and rested a bit, waiting for the rain that had begun again to stop again.

The previous day I had made a reservation for a free three hour guided tour of the European Space Centre, which is situated 6 km out of Kourou. I started walking but I got two rides in the direction of the space centre after I started waving my Space Centre flyer for fun to card that came past. Hitchhiking is indeed quite easy here in France.

The European Space Centre, Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG), was built in 1964, after they had to move out of Algeria when it became independant from France. It is 900 square kilometers big. The site was chosen here because it is close to the equator which gives advantages for launches of satellites that are going to circle around the equator. The speed of the earth is the highest around the equator and makes each easier for rockets to get out of the atmosphere.

The Ariane Rocket is a rocket made for launching satellites, mainly telecomunications and military satellites. The 3 hour tour was very interesting. We first visited the control center and saw a good documentary about the development of the Ariane Rocket. Afterwards we went to another control center, the launch platform and saw the huge hangars where the rocket is assembled. Unfortunately there was no launch to be seen. They have about 8 a year. It takes only a month to assemble a rocket and it only takes about 45 minutes to get a satellite into its position. It was a really fascinating tour, with lots of security and a good explanation in English. It was allmost a private tour. There was one German guy who also did not understand too much French, so we got a special English tour for the two of us.

After the tour was finished I had about two hours left to spend in the fascinating and very informative Space Museum. Explanations about the universe, the first rocket lanches, landing on the moon, the working of satellites, scale models and a planetarium were just a few things to be seen.

Hitching back to town was even easier then the other way around and after a nice Vietnamese dinner for not suck a nice price of 9 euros it was time to go to bed. It had been a long but fascinating day.

Photos / videos of "Kourou (11 - 13 May 2004)":

Launch platform Space Centre Kourou Space Centre Kourou Space Centre Kourou Space Centre Kourou Control Centre Space Centre Kourou Control Centre Space Centre Kourou Control Centre Space Centre Kourou Space Centre Kourou Kourou Harbour Museum Space Centre Kourou Kourou Harbour Kourou Harbour