Kees Hendrickx

Recording Artist / Producer

Argentina : Iguazu – Buenos Aires – Bariloche – Mendoza Chile: Puerto Montt – Pucon – Santiago



The hostel manager is a Fernando Torres lookalike and super nice guy who gives us alot of tips on how to view the falls. We´re happy to follow his advice and the 2 days exploring the falls are unbelievable. A really impressive area. The hostel is a really buzzing place with a pool and a nice relaxation area. We share a room with a German girl and a strange Columbian woman who nevers seems to get out of  bed until at least 5 o´clock in the evening and doesnt want anyone to come into the room when shes asleep. It turns out she´s an actress and singer who performs in bars in Iguazu. Obviously Iguazu is the place to get noticed as an actress or performer, who would have thought it. Our first night in the hostel has been more or less booked out by a group of law students from Buenos Aires who all hail from Europe, Spain, France and Austria. Amazingly each one can speak the others language fluently and all of them seem to switch languages all evening. Às I hear them doing this I think to myself “What have I been doing with my life!”. We had a savage BBQ that night. A massive burger with bacon and fried egg. As savage as it was, I was going to regret this very much later.

Transfer : Iguazu to Buenos Aires (listening to The Welcome Wagon – Welcome to the Welcome Wagon / Precious Remedies Against Satans Devices)

Welcome To The Welcome Wagon is the perfect album to listen to when your travelling on a night bus to Buenos Aires and you have a bad feeling you´re going to be sick. Oh God please don´t let me get sick! I´m not religious at all but this music can soothe, just have a listen to the opening track and try to keep the tears away. Anyway, unanswered prayers later and that savage burger caught up with me in Buenos Aires. After a half day visit to the German (supposedly english speaking) hospital and talking with the only english speaking doctor who spoke no english and after shitting in a little net, I spent the next week lying in bed. Luckily we moved out of our 6 bed dorm and into a 4 star hotel, as you do. Funny thing is, the 4 star hotel was only 2 euro more than a double room in the hostel we were staying in. Once I got better I was able to see some of the city. By this time Susan knew every little street so was able to show me around like a guide. There is a great 2nd hand market on Plaza Dorrego every Sunday where they sell everything from antique cameras, massive bronze horse heads, original Dante´s Inferno prints and original mono Beatles records. Unfortunately, since everyone now has the internet they now know how much an LP is worth and everything was way too overpriced. Still cool to browse through though. Some great bands were playing on the street, one in particular called El Metodo were excellent. There really is a great atmosphere around the music here. They did not have any CD´s with them which was a pity, I´ll have just have to look them up on the web. Tango y Jazz – El Método

At our hotel the staff were a weird bunch, I think they didn´t like the fact that we were backpackers coming to stay at their posh hotel. They were extremely rude to us at times and seem to speak english when it suited them. We would order something for room service and they would babble away in spanish, but when they brought it up to and wanted us to sign the bill and get a tip… lo and behold…the english seemed to spring from them like it was their mother tongue. Of course I´m exagerating but they definately had an attitude towards us. Of course it probably didn´t help that I was dressed in a hoodie the whole time, but it was the only jumper I have with me and its actually pretty cold in Buenos Aires.

The Argentine rugby team, the Puma´s, were playing New Zealand the weekend we were there. It would have been a great match to see. New Zealand trashed them in the end but the atmosphere would have been something special. The day after the match we read that the New Zealand team officials were mugged outside their hotel. A motorcycle gang held them up right outside the hotel. A great representation of how this city really is.

Transfer Buenos Aires to Bariloche ( Damien Dempsey – Seize The Day, Rachel Yamagata – Happenstance)

As we left Buenos Aires I got a real urge to listen to some Irish music (not your U2 shit of course), I put on Seize The Day by Damien Dempsey. He can describe everything so vividly, as we passed more slums and weird neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires, I listened to him sing about growing up in a drug fuelled estate in Dublin. Looking outside I think it could easily be here, then again every city throughout the world seems to be the same. All rife with drugs, violence and poverty. I have noticed that the Argentinians are very nationalistic, every house has a white and blue flag hanging from it. With a history like they have, Damien Dempsey`s songs are very appropriate. As he sings about the great Gaels of Ireland I wonder how hard the Argentinian people had to fight for their Independence throughout civil wars and the Dirty war. As one of the locals later told us, Argentina has and will have its ups and downs but Argentinians stay Argentinian.

Coming into Bariloche you can be forgiven for thinking you just arrived in Switzerland as their main sqaure is modelled on a Swiss town square. It has the wooden houses, large beams and huge snow covered mountains in the background. Very strange but cool. San Carlos de Bariloche is well known for harbouring Nazi`s after World War 2. Even as recent as 1995 a former Commander of the Waffen SS was caught here after giving an interview to a local reporter about his involvement in a mass execution in Italy during the war. He told the reporter he taught enough time had passed and he could now talk about it. Obviously there are many people that would disagree and he was convicted of war crimes the next year in Italy.

Apart from being a Nazi town, Bariloche is also unbelievably beautiful. It is surrounded by huge snow covered mountains on every side and is well known for being one of the best places for winter sports in the world. Obviously we didnt know any of these things before we came here. It was a nice suprise. On the first day we explored the town in the morning and took a guided tour in the afternoon. The tour took us to the best views and usual touristy spots. We also learnt that one of the islands just off Bariloche was used to develop an atomic bomb by a German scientist. The whole island was his labarotory and no one was allowed on to it. Very James Bondesque. The project was never fully finished and the laboritory was shut down, but who knows, maybe thats what they want us to think. Its obvious that the Argentinian government at that time had close ties to Nazi Germany.

The next morning we decided to catch a local bus outside our hostel to Catedral, the biggest ski resort in South America. We walked to the bus stop at 9.15 but just missed the bus we needed. We stopped every bus that came along and every bus told us there was another bus coming in 5 minutes. An hour later we got on our bus and headed to Catedral. It was cool to go up the ski lift and into the snow. Crazy to think that only just over a week ago we were walking around in shorts and sandals and now had to wear gloves and hats. An amazing continent. In the afternoon we walked around Bariloche and checked out some of the local chocolate stores, which weirdly enough they were also famous for. We may aswell have been in Switzerland. Damn Europeans colonizing everything.

Bariloche to Puerto Montt
This was a short border crossing but one of the most interesting so far. Once you cross the border into Chile, the landscape, houses and people change dramatically. Towns made of wooden shacks, more people standing doing nothing (this was pretty normal by now) and alot were chewing on these long green stems with red in the middle which looked like rhubharb but were not sure what it was.
Once we came into Puerto Montt this changed because there were huge volcanoes and mountains surrounding the city. Puerto Montt was a very strange place. From the moment you arrive there it looks dodgy. Shacks everywhere covered in graffiti and it looked like one big shambles. The hostel we stayed in which was run by an old lady was very nice. More or less a house in which you stayed in one of their rooms. The old lady was really nice and spoke english, always a plus. The kitchen had an old cooker which used wood to heat the whole house. It was still freezing there and she shoved in a gas heater the next night for us.

The next morning a crazy South American collected us from the hostel in a dodgy mini bus and we were off. You could see straight away it was going to be an interesting tour with this guide, we picked up the rest of the tour posse around the city of Puerto Montt. Then the tour guide / driver kept getting calls and we had to turn around to collect more people at the bus station twice. It was all very well organised. The second time we picked up more people we did not have enough space on the bus so the children who were on the tour had to sit on the parents laps for the whole tour. Safety first is the South American way after all. After that it turned out there were two different tour groups on the same bus, for a while the guide was unsure of what he should do so instead of splitting the 2 tours as you normally would he decided to combine both tours into one big tour. I still dont know which one we actually did but we got to see all the main points of the area. The active volcano Osorno being the main attraction. For lunch our guide brought us to his Aunts house , at least thats what it seemed like, it was a small house at the side of the road with a stairs going up to the living room area where a large table was set for all of us. Not in a million years would you have thought this was a restaurant or stop here if you did know, but we were glad we did stop. The food was delicious and the home made wine went down very nicely. The people on the tour were all South Americans and only one spoke very basic english. Even the guide didnt have a word of english. Strangely enough we felt very at home with the group and in a way it felt like we were estranged cousins from abroad visiting their relatives for the first time. It was a great experience and it showed us the warmth of the South American people. What we saw that evening after the tour was the complete opposite though. As we were walking down to the bus station at twilight, we heard a window smash across the road. I looked and a young man was standing outside the freshly broken window. All of a sudden 2 guys run out from the building and without a word said they start laying into this guy who fell on the ground and actually started kicking and stamping on the guys head. I looked away in disbelief for a second and when I looked back the second guy had picked up a 4×4 piece of wood and was walking towards the guy on the ground. I sincerely hope it was to patch up the window for the night but I doubt it somehow. It was quiet a shock as we had such a great day earlier. In Ireland there is always alot of shouting whenever a fight happens but this was so silent it was quite eerie. It was a stark reminder to always be on your toes here.

Puerto Montt to Pucon  (listening to Ben Folds – Live, Van Morisson – Astral Weeks, Mastadon – Crack The Skye)

After passing through Villa Rica, the town before Pucon we were getting worried, it looked exactly like Puerto Montt, which was pretty much a shit hole surrounded by beautiful mountains and a volcano. Once we drove into Pucon however, we were proved wrong. This place is a small, quiet touristy area and even though it is covered with tour companies none seem to jump out and harass you to book with them. We were very lucky not to come here in summer as it gets unbelievably busy we were told later. In the quiet season the population is 2,000 people and this jumps to over 10,000 in the high summer season. Now though it was perfect. The sun was beaming down as we made our way to the hostel. After booking into the hostel, Susan realised she lost her phone and we quickly went back to the bus station. In our very broken spanish we explained we left a phone on the bus and after 30 minutes of waiting and not being sure if they actually knew why we were waiting there. The bus driver of our bus came with the phone in his hand. He was a jolly fellow and when we tried to give him a tip for being so honest he refused. A real nice man and a nice beginning to our stay in Pucon.

Benny our hostel owner was a 30ish year old surfer stoner who sat around in his hostel all day smoking and laying video games. He was really helpful though. In the evening we took a walk around and came across a lovely beach with black sand. The black sand comes from the volcanic rock that surrounds the lake. It looks really cool.We followed the beach to a little bay where a few boats were tied up for tours of the lake. It had a lovely little walkway all along it with benches and plants. It also had a kind of a rose veranda with two large native american staues. The next day we explored the town some more and went to the hot spring pools at night. These are large natural rock pools that are heated by the active volcano Villarica. The pools we visited were called Los Posones and every pool had a different tempreture, from 35 degrees celsius to 42 degrees celsius. You can really feel the difference in each pool.

The next day we took an area sight seeing tour. Since we were the only 2 people that booked the tour we had our own private guide. Carlos our multi lingual chilean guide took us in his own Jeep… and that was the last we ever saw of the 2 travellers from Ireland.

Luckily Carlos was not a kidnapper and he took us to some great views and excellent viewpoints of the volcano. You could see he was very roud of his town and beautiful area. Also he had more Irish thatn I do, he kept saying to us bi curamach (be carefull in Irish) it was hilarious. He also could speak arabic, japanese, chinese, polish and a host of other languages. At one stage he stopped at the side of the road and picked some mushrooms hanging from a tree. ‘Eat these’ he said, everyone here eats them. Without a flicker of a doubt he munched into his and took a bite out of mine. Suddenly Carlos started chocking and gurgling by which time I though shit he has picked the wrong ones. But of course he started laughing hysterically, great joke Carlos, ya nutter. We visted another spa at the end of the tour and then went back to the hostel. On the way back Carlos told us that the volcano erupted last in 1988 but that it is due to erupt again any day now. I cannot imagine living in a town under an active volcano, your whole house could be wiped away in a few minutes. Definately not for me.

That evening we went out with some Austrians from our hostel. They were meeting up with the gang they climbed the volcano with that day. There were 2 Ozzies, 2 French lads and one German. The Austrian guy was really massive and talked english just like Arnold Schwarzenegger, it was so funny. The next morning we woke with massive hangovers and the plans we had of going to the national park went out the window. Luckily the weather was as shite as our hangover so we would not have seen much anyway. That night we took  a night bus to Santiago.

 Pucon to Santiago to Mendoza (Listening to Norihiko Hibino – Sekaiju no Meiq 1 &2, No Ceremony, Fightstar – One Day Son , Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson)

We arrived in Santiago at 7 in the morning and hopped on another bus to Mendoza at 8. This we will never do again! we were so tired from the night bus that the 7 hour journey to Mendoza was horrible. This journey is known to be one of the most beautiful journeys in the world. Straight over the Andes, and beautiful it was, unfortunately after the first bus journey we slepy for most of this one. The border crossing is at the top of the Andes and took around an hour to complete. It is amazing going from the bottom up to the snow covered mountain tops and then slowly going back dopwn into a desert.. The route also includes the world famous zig-zag climb with 48 tight corners on it. It really seems never ending and since the bus can only go 50 kms all the way up it really is never ending. On the way down the argentinian side the views are spectacular, an old railway follws alongside the road on the other side of the river and passes through mountain caves and over wooden bridges, some after collapsing over time. It would have been amazing to see this train run in its heyday.

We get to Mendoza and our hostel is right next to the bus station. Weve taken to getting hostels close to the bus station when we can. Not because were lazy, which we kinda are, but so we dont spend too much money on taxis and dont have to carry our bags too far. Mendoza is the 2nd biggest city in Argentina and is renowned for its vineyards.

On the first day in Mendoza we said we would take a day off. We had been on the go since Buenos Aires and we were pretty beat. We decided to go to the park and read our books in the sun under a tree or something. 6 hours later and after approx 20 kms of walking we were back in our hostel. Our day off had turned into a mad hike around the whole park of Mendoza, which is not small I can tell you. Our day off would have to wait.

We decided to explore this wine district by renting bikes for the day and taking a wine tasting tour of some of these places. We took a bus from the hostel to the wine district where we got our bikes and map from a company called bikes and wines (very original name). They gave us a short explanation of all the wineries and a map to find the places. Our first stop was at a place called Vina Maria where we got our first taste of Argentinian red wine. This was a faily run vineyard and only produced a very small amount of wine each year. The next plaec however, is the biggest vineyard and producer of wine in South America. Trappiche has a huge building with massive gates and endless rows of grape trees. They had a 30 minute tour around the whole vineyard and explained how wine was made and the history behind the company. At the end you get to taste 4 different wines. By this stage we were getting a bit wobbly so decided we needed some food for soakage. The beerhouse was our next stop and here we had some empanadas, the argentinian national food. After getting my bike replaced because of a puncture we ventured off to find some more wine. The thing was, on the map everything looked really close, however in reality the places were miles apart and it took us ages to cycle there. It was also missing some roads on the map so we nearly took some wrong turns too. It just turned out everything was very far away, very very far away. By the time we got to the next place we were sober again. We met some bikers there who told us they made the mistake we nearly did of going down one of the dirt roads. It turned out a policeman sped down after them and told them to get out of there as fast as they could as this was a conflict zone. A conflict zone! in the middle of wine country? very strange. It still seems theres danger around every corner in this country, even for the wine tourist.

Mendoza to Santiago  (listening to Eels – Blinking Lights)

The way back to Santiago was the same beautiful journey over the Andes again but this time we were ready for it. The zig zag road down is even better coming from Mendoza. Everytime the bus took a corner it felt like he drove off the cliff. Its a bit freaky. Once we came to Santiago we got a taxi to our hostel. The hostel was this really hip new place with famous musicians painted on the walls. The place was more or less a hotel and it was as cheap as a hostel. Here we had our relaxing day, we literally did nothing bar take a photo of Susan under the Mc Kenna street sign and visit the local crafts market. All the things they make here are so cool and Susan and I had to stop ourselves from buying loads of crap. All the crap is cheaper in Peru and Bolivia everyone says. Thats what Im hoping anyway.