MIZU MISSION: AFRICA

Mizu Mission: Africa with Julian & Joaquin Azulay
words / maggie magellan

On August 14, 2010, Julian and Joaquin Azulay returned home to their native country of Argentina after camping and surfing their way across the Americas. It may seem like just another day to you and me, but for them, this date marked the start of their life journeys. “It was a trip that changed our lives; we came back knowing that we were meant to capture and communicate to the world all we had seen… all we had experienced,” says Joaquin. Motivated by their passion for surfing and adventure, the two brothers took to the world of documentary filmmaking in search of new cultures, new waves and new adventures. What started out as a simple passion project between two brothers soon became a new way of life that they have dubbed “Gauchos Del Mar.” It’s their way of communicating through film the social and environmental messages of countries both near and far. Their films depict different cultures and mindsets; portraying the world, it’s people and sceneries through a lens harmonious with nature. With excursions through North America and South America under their belts, the Gauchos Del Mar headed to Africa… and that’s where Mizu comes in.

Early last year, Joaquin reached out to Mizu explaining their plans to take on the continent of Africa; a two-year excursion that would begin in Spain and take them down the west coast of Africa along the Atlantic Ocean toward South Africa, with a possible return up along the easternmost coast of the continent toward Tanzania. Africa is the second largest continent on earth in both area and population, but is still considered to be one of the least explored (it also happens to be widely regarded, amongst certain groups, as one of the last remaining undiscovered surf spots). Although the Gauchos Del Mar may use surfing as an excuse to travel, behind the secluded beaches and eternal search for that perfect wave is a deeper intention to present new cultures and new outlooks, and to spread the word of environmental and social goings-on within different communities and civilizations around the world. It was a no-brainer for Mizu to hop on board and provide support. They knew they couldn’t sit by and let this kind of mission take place under their nose; they had to be a part of their journey. After all, a Mizu Mission is an adventure with an environmental heartbeat at its core.

And so, they loaded up their four-man crew with enough Mizu product to see them through their two-year mission… with one condition: Enjoy the journey, leave nothing behind. Going completely single-use plastic free in a largely underdeveloped continent is no easy feat. Although safe drinking water is available in some urban areas, rural villages along the coast unfortunately are not so lucky. With health and safety at the forefront, we encouraged Joaquin and Julian to look beyond the impractical task of going waste-free and refocus their sights on the bigger picture: reusing and producing less. “It starts with being conscious of what you consume and how you do it,” says Joaquin. He explains that buying from local markets and buying only what you need is a great place to start. “There are a million and one options a day to reuse if you’re open and aware: when eating out, bring your own cutlery, take your used or empty bottles along to the restaurant with you to refill; and fill up whatever you have on hand, even if it’s an old plastic bottle. The idea is to reuse as much as you can instead of buying a new bottle in its place.” The crew loaded their truck with 250 liters of refillable water tanks for when their pursuits take them away from civilization for extended periods of time. And if they get desperate along the way? “We just pour some drops of bleach into any water we suspect may be dirty to avoid any disease or contamination, “says Joaquin. “Pollution is everywhere, but in Northern Africa plastic pollution is a serious issue and it’s important for us to share that with western cultures. Although we may not be able to change it, as travelers and passersby we can all do our part to not fuel it.”

 As for getting from country to country, their vehicle of choice is an old 1985 Unimog that at one point served as an ambulance for the German army. They spent almost two months in Spain gutting the vehicle and transforming it into their new home on wheels. “We want to show Africa from its roots up – the villages, native peoples, wildlife and landscapes that make Africa what it is, and we thought the best way to capture that was to travel by vehicle,” says Julien. They sleep in it, cook it in, and travel in it. The best part? The old Unimog only reaches speeds up to 60 km/hr so they truly get to experience all the nooks and crannies of the vast continent along the way. However, as wildly adventurous and culturally immersive as that sounded, we couldn’t help but think about the dangers that lurk along the uncharted and destitute open roads of Africa. With the world news reporting on stories of rebels, kidnappings and lootings in impoverished parts of the continent, we asked the brothers if they’ve ever felt their safety threatened. “We are not afraid on the road. We were told that Mauritania is one of the most dangerous countries in Africa, but in our experience we have met only the kindest people who’ve invited us into their homes and shared their food – even when food was scarce.” They tell us a particularly fond memory they shared with a few local village kids while in Mauritania. The kids had just caught some fish and were returning home, thirsty from the burning hot sun, when they spotted the Unimog. Seemingly unusual and out of the ordinary, their curiosities lead them to approach the truck. Although the language barrier prevented them from communicating, they shared some laughs, showed them around the truck and snapped a few pictures. “We never did catch their names, but their smiling faces are a memory we will always keep with us,” says Julien. Those encounters of pure simplicity embody the brother’s pursuit and philosophy of “simple living” and are something they portray throughout each of their films.

Although they’ve only just begun their journey, Joaquin says that meeting locals and sharing their culture has been one of the most rewarding experiences of the trip so far. Joaquin recounted another brief encounter with a local Bedouin named Abidin – a Bedouin is described as a “nomadic Arab of the desert” (don’t worry, we had to look that up too). Abidin spends his life alone in the middle of the Sahara Desert, isolated from modern day civilization. He lives in a self-built Jaima (tent) and cares for his adopted family of camels – day-in and day-out. The Gauchos Del Mar went on to spend two nights with Abidin, drinking Saharaoui tea, sharing laughs and learning of his chosen way of life… a way of life so foreign to many of us. “There’s so much out there to share and learn, it’s important to open our eyes to the many ways of life and show respect and understanding to all those who differ from us along the journey.”

As for the rest of their epic adventure saga, Joaquin and Julian still have one year and nine months of winding roads, secluded surf breaks, remote jungles, unmet souls and untold stories ahead of them. Although they admit it wasn’t easy to leave behind their lives in Argentina for two years on the road, what keeps them going is their dedication to their cause and their hope to share the world with anyone willing to open their eyes.

Want to follow the Gauchos del Mar through their excursion across Africa? They can be found on Instagram @gauchosdelmar and their website gauchosdelmar.com. Want to see their recent award winning film? It can be found on Netflix worldwide under the name “PENINSULA MITRE.”