Cayenne Travel Blog

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May 31, 2007
Hotel: Central Hotel; Cayenne, French Guiana; 67 Euro
We were finally able to pick up a rental car this morning, the local Europcar office was at the Mercure hotel nearby and they had a car. We ended up with a Renault Twingo, which although isn't the smallest car I've driven (Smart), it probably was the least featured. It only had a clock and a speedometer. No trip odo, and the A/C only worked sporadically (usually when the windows were down). But we only needed the car for a few days so it would suit our needs. Our first stop was the Centre Spatial Guyanais, the European satellite launch facility just a few km out of town.
The CSG was established back in the 1960s as the launch site for the European Space Agency; Kourou is a unique place being both near the equator, low population density, out of the hurricane tracks and it has large ocean frontage both north and east. Launches here can be 15-20% more efficient than from Cape Canaveral. The space center offers free daily tours, but this requires calling ahead a few days in advance. We hadn't been sure of our plans, so hadn't called, but there is a museum there that can be visited anytime. The approach to the CSG is impressive, with a Ariane 5 rocket (which so much resembles a huge dildo, batteries not included) towering overhead. The museum itself was pretty interesting, with old space hardware, Ariane models and dioramas, in English and French.
An odd price of admission, 6.10 Euro. It was raining when we came out; we waited for it to die down, which it did until we were halfway back to the car, even running we managed to get soaked!

We took a detour to the Reserve Animaliere near Montsinery on the way to Cayenne. This was about 10-15km off the main road, the LP book had mentioned it was a neat place to visit. The weather had cleared again but still there were a few menacing clouds about. The entry fee to the reserve was quite expensive at 12Euro, so my friends decided to wait while I walked around inside. It was a pretty impressive place, probably my only chance to see some of the native animals, but still quite depressing with the cages, most had really thin mesh which made getting photos difficult. They did have a wide range of animals; snakes, caimans, sloths, ocelots, jaguars, monkeys, macaws, etc.
The trails were pretty muddy and stinky, probably not mud but monkey poo. It started raining again so I headed back out and we left for Cayenne, still about 40km away.

We soon hit the Cayenne suburbs, and associated sprawl. The center of Cayenne itself isn't very large, only a few dozen blocks on a side. We drove into the center, which had lots of old colonial style buildings mixed with ramshackle new construction. We found the Central Hotel and got a triple room for 67Euro. Then we all had lunch at the Crepe In across the street,very good sandwiches! We spent most of the afternoon wandering around town, passing the Place des Palmistes, the Hotel de Ville,and up to the fort, which is now off limits to the military. As we were walking down the street to the cathedral, but who should we run into but Diane, the American woman who we had met on the way to Paramaribo.
She had gone to the Galibi beach to see the turtles nesting, this is the peak time of year. We continued to what looked like a beach on the map, but turned out to be a huge stinky mudflat. Not impressed with the beaches in the Guianas at all! We then decided to drive out to some of the suburbs to check out the beaches there. The first one, the road dead-ended literally in the surf; there had been some major beach erosion here and several abandoned houses had collapsed. As we were standing there filming the surf a huge wave came up and nearly soaked us! We kept driving down the beach road and finally found a nice stretch of sand in Montjoly. There were several people on the beach including a French guy and Brazilian girl getting frisky. They kept looking around to see if anyone was watching! The sun was setting and turned the sand a golden color; finally a nice enough beach! The water still was murky brown though, certainly not the Caribbean. We headed back into town, looking for a restaurant that was actually open and/or serving food. Finally found Les Pyramides, an Egyptian place. Wasn't too impressed though we did have a Lebanese beer that was decent.
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photo by: IvanR