Late travel writer Bruce Chatwin had been there before him, as described in the adventurous 1977 book “In Patagonia.”
But that didn’t stop Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys from making his own exploratory sojourn to Brazil and Argentina. From it, he and filmmaker Dylan Goch made a surreal documentary called “Separado!” and it’s an art-house hit in Britain.
“We went to a lot of the places that Bruce Chatwin went to — like where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had their last stand — and we met a few people who remembered him, as well,” says the star, who wore a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers helmet during filming.
Rhys won’t be sporting the headgear when he hits Popscene next week, backing his chiming third solo album, “Hotel Shampoo,” which was inspired by his habit of hoarding hotel amenities while on tour with the band. He even created an art installation of the empty bottles for a hometown Cardiff gallery.
Rhys says he made “Separado!” because he was trying to cook up a scheme to go to Patagonia for years.
“I was obsessed with the place and with the Welsh-speaking communities over there,” he says. “And five years ago, I started to play solo shows, so for the first time I was really portable and I could just go anywhere and play.”
The concept was rooted in curious history.
In 1880, a Rhys forebear named Dafydd Jones split from the rest of his clan and, like many impoverished Welsh at the time, relocated to Argentina, where free land was available.
“They became pawns in the colonization of South America,” Rhys says. “They emigrated because of ideology, wanting to set up a free Wales, but the only space left in the Americas was this dust bowl. But they stuck together, became master irrigators and survived many hardships.”
A century went by with no contact between families — until 1974, when a strange poncho-clad Argentinian musician named Rene Griffiths appeared on Cardiff TV, singing Welsh pop songs on horseback.
When Rhys discovered the man was his long-lost uncle, he had his MacGuffin. He set up a South American solo tour and went looking for Griffiths in the Andes.
Culture shock ensued. Rhys had never seen armadillos before.
“So I’d run from them,” he says, sheepishly. “And a penguin took a dislike to us and broke our camera on the first day of filming. But to go to the other side of the world and hear people speaking Welsh? That alone was a pretty insane experience.”