Kees Hendrickx

Recording Artist / Producer

Brazil : Rio De Janeiro – Ihla Grande – Paraty – Iguazu

Brazil : Rio De Janeiro

So after nearly being killed by our cab driver who brought us to our hostel from the airport, we officially arrived in Rio. Next morning we got up at 8.30(!), had our first Brazillian breakfast and decided to check out the beach. we walked down Rue Santa Clara straight to the famous Copacabana beach. First thing I noticed here is that the place is full of insane drivers, I´ll just have to get used to this because these guys are probably as good as it gets when it comes to drivers in South America. At least they are al crazy which makes their road system work… I guess.

Copacabana is the place to spot beautiful people they write in every tour guide, travel blog and forum on the internet. After the umteenth granny in a thong and all the guys wearing speedos, I´ve come to the conclusion that their view on beautiful is alot different to mine. What was beautiful there was the view, the islands in the distance and the long white beach. This is when we thought to ourselves: We´re in Rio, South America, and it´s amazing.

A little further down the beach toward Ipanema there was a bodyboarding competition on. Bodyboard de Mundial. We sat down for a while and enjoyed these brilliant surfers do their thing and moved on to Ipanema beach. By this time the weather started to picking up, unfortunately it started picking up the Irish way by slowly starting to drizzle which then turned into a full proper downpour. Nice. Rio the city of sun. To get out of the rain we visited the fort Copacabana, a fully functioning army barracks with a huge cannon facing out to sea. Interestingly the guns were only ever used to fire on fellow Brazillians and Rio itself in the revolt of the Tenentista movement. The fort is mostly run by young soldiers who as part of the conscription serve at the fort.

Here I am lying in my hammock having a cold Itaipava beer, tastes pretty good. I can look out the open window in our porch and watch the people on the street. It´s 8 o´clock and it´s still pretty busy here. The appartment block across the road´s security gates never seem to stop opening and closing. Its weird, every house or apartment has huge security gates and at least one security guard on duty. Susan and I did a city tour today, joining the thousands of fellow travellers each year that follow the usual tourist trail. It has to be done doesnt it. We only have 3 days and we want to see the highlights. Christ the Redeemer, the Fujica national park, the Lapa steps and nearby Favella. And of course countless amazing views that I would never be able to do justice even trying to describe… so I won´t.

After being in Rio for a while you get the feeling that maybe this city is safer than you thought. That the information you get from the media and internet are exagerated and blown out of proportion. That is until you visit a place that brings you back to reality. It is really a fucked up place. Kids seem to sleep and hang everywhere, on the beach, in the parks, under 18th century aqauducts, as the tour driver drove through a petrol station I even saw one lying next to a petrol pump. And no, he definately did not look like a petrol pump attendant, or as I used to call myself a fuel distributor. It is clear that this is still a very dangerous place. Funny as I am writing this, Jeff our hostel manager is explaining to a girl how to punch someone in the throat and balls for self defence. I´m listening intently to his advice. I think my karate skills will kick in if anything does happen, at least I hope. Any way, my beer is gone and it´s time to get ready to go out and go for a few drinks and to go ag daimsaigh in wonderful and weird Rio.

Transfer : Rio De Janeiro to Ihla Grande (Listening to Bill Fay – Life is People)

Next day we got a transfer to Ihla Grande from our our hostel. We had to pick up a few other people for the trip so we got another little tour. The driver knew all the shortcuts and they happened to be through all different favellas. All through this I was listening to Bill Fay´s album Life Is People . We passed a scene on the street with many policia on one side and a gang of homeless people on the other side. City Of Dreams, was playing and it includes the line Street sweeper in your city of Dreams… and I´m waiting for the city of God”. It really hit me, music always seems to be able to capture a moment perfectly. The policia constantly in a battle to make this city beautiful and safe for its people and visitors and the homeless and poor trying their best to survive. Citade Du Deus, who really is the street sweeper in this city.

Once weve picked up the rest of our transfer posse we hit the highway. We have another typical Brazillian driver so we tear out of the city like a bat out of hell. Soon the houses and buildings thin out and are replaced by large palm trees and ragged bushes. Every now and then we pass through a small town in which the whole population seems to have come out to watch all the cars pass. Some even brought out their couches to sit on, others, maybe not as well off, are sitting on some plastic garden chairs. Each to their own I suppose.

To get to Ihla Grande we catch the ferry from Angra Dos Reis. We unload from the minibus and are asked to line up in a somewhat conveyer belt like fashion. The boat is not there yet so we need to wait for 15 minutes. The pier is full of local fishermen, ferry captains and kids playing soccer, they try to keep the ball up for as long as possible before one of them has to jump into the water to retrieve it. The boat ride to Ihla Grande is pretty comfortable and takes just under an hour. Spectacular mountains and blue water all the way of course. Then we see Arbaoa, the main (and only) town on the island, its jaw droppingly gorgeous. The main street is more or less the beach, everyone is smiling and the sun is scorching. The Dutch guy who was part of our transfer posse told me that when he saw Arbaoa in the distance from the boat, Coldplays Paradise started playing on his ipod. Once again, music chooses its moment to perfectly capture a moment. One he will no doubt retell back home.

Ihle Grande – A perfect paradise. I have often dreamed of a place where everyone smiles, there´s beautiful beaches and great music everywhere. Of course in my dream all the people would talk english too. Not the case here. No one seems to have a word of english. It´s all pointing and guessing really, but that´s great. On the first day we decide to do a trek to a waterfall and a secluded beach on the advice of our hostel manger. She said it was a nice and easy trek. I don´t know what she would find a hard trek because halfway there we were ready to collapse. Blistering sun beating down on as we slowly made our way up the hills covered with large tree roots and little rivers. It was beautiful though. We met lots of people doing the same trek, all wrecked and sweaty and probably cursing whatever hostel manager or local advised them to take the easy trek. Once you reach the waterfall though you are rewarded with a nice cool dip in the pool under the waterfall. Once cooled down it was another 25 minute walk to the beach. Here we tanned ourselves, had a coconut and got a taxi boat back to civilisation. At night there was music everywhere, at the restaurant we dined at our hostel owner happened to be playing and of course happened to an unbelievable guitar player.

The next day we decided to go to what is known as one of the best beaches in the world, Lopez Mendez. This time we decided not to chance to 3 hour trek and took a taxi boat there. Once we arrived, via a smaller beach with some lovely houses and a bar on it, we were amazed to find not a beach overun with tourists and bars every 10 meters but an almost deserted shoreline of pristine white sand. As you walk on this sand it actually crunches like snow. Just amazing. Not to mention the clear blue water, Lopez Mendez really has to be seen to be believed.

In the morning we woke and were already sad to leave this great little island. I´d like to think I´ll be back here someday. The locals may not even realise what a paradise they live in, no big city rush, no stressfull jobs, I´m sure you could easily live here to 100 with the island life they have. They could do with warm water for a shower though.

Transfer Ihla Grande to Paraty (Listening to John Cale – Fear)

We took a bus from Ihla Grande to Paraty, it was a nice journey. Over the mountains and along the coast line. Some great islands with massive beaches and what seems like only one house per island. Imagine, your own private island. Then we took a road more inland and passed through the usual small towns with loads of people standing around doing nothing. I was listening to John Cale´s Fear. The song Buffalo Ballet came on and once again I had to laugh, it included the lyrics ” sleeping in the midday sun”. very apt for this place Mr. Cale.


We got to Paraty at around 5, checked into our hostel and took a walk around the town. All the roads on the old part of the town are cobbled and definately have not been fixed in any kind of fashion whatso ever. This place is lethal even when your walking. Some people cycle which must be impossible, although it seems to be mostly locals and they seem to have this skill ingrained in them. The town is really spectacular, I love history and this town has abundances of it. It became increasingly wealthy when the brazillians used the town as the main port to export their gold from the mines. In recent years Paraty has become more touristy and now is regaining its status and wealth through its tourism. We went to a great little restaurant in the heart of the old town, as we walked in we noticed a stage and hoped that their might be some music. Sure enough halfway through our meal the musicians turned up and played some great samba for us. One thing that caught us though is when we asked for the bill there was an extra 14 Reais added on to the bill. This, as it turned out, was to pay for the musicians that we didnt even know were going to play here but had to pay for anyway. This is common practise and is actually the only pay the musicians get for playing in a restaurant here. It happened again the next night , we didnt mind because we already knew about it but the group of French on the table next to us kicked up a big fuss about it… being french and all. Eventually they paid it and left in a huff.

We visited another amazing beach the next day, one in a little town called Trindade. Another touch of paradise with weirdly enough loads of stray dogs on it. I suppose if you´re going to be a stray dog why not hang out on paradise beach.


Transfer Paraty – Soa Paulo – Iguazu ( listening to Sufjan Stevens – Illinois / Age of Adz / The BQE

This was a 2 leg journey, the first a 6 hour trip from Paraty to Sao Paulo. I put on Sufjan, relaxed and watched the great scenery pass by. Its amazing to see the coast lines disapear and to see the huge farms and forests as we drive inland. Once we hit Sao Paulo the difference is immense, Rio is such a colourfull city but Sao Paulo is very bland and industrial. Kinda reminded me of Warsaw compared to Krakow in Poland. This really is the working city of Brazil. Unfortunately ( or maybe fortunately) we didnt stay here, this is Brazils most violent city. They even have taken to leaving drivers pass through red lights at night because carjackings got so bad. Looking back, I dont mind we didnt stay there… but then again I wasnt going to be driving a car.

We stopped off in Sao Paulo to get another bus in the main bus station to Iguazu. This bus was really shit! It was full of locals who couldnt talk at the normal 60dB conversation level. We got a little bit of sleep and arrived at 11 the next morning. Tough one it was. In the morning I was listening to The Band´s album The Band. As we passed through the country side I saw alot of farmers treshing corn, some by hand and some by machinery. Huge fields, it must take a long time treshing by hand. King Harvest was playing which tells the story of the first labour union being set up in the States and talks about needing the farmers crops to get enough rain to grow tall. Even though it seems so dry here the crops are still massive.

We finally come into Iguazu and its not very impressive. Just an average town which happens to be next to one of the biggest and beautiful waterfalls in the world. Our hostel was on the Argentinian side of the waterfall and to get there we needed to get a seperate bus which stops at the Brazillian border where we get off and get our exit stamps. Then you catch another bus which drives around 100 meters up the road and we get out and do it all again to enter Argentina. Argentinian soldiers seem alot more apprehensive and really like to wave their guns in your direction. The Brazillians dont seem to be too concerned on who leaves or enters their country. We get off at the main bus station and luckily our hostel is only down the road and in walking distance.

To be continued…