This is a journey to the end of the world; an immense land of ice and rock which dwarfs the trifling concerns of any humans within. Patagonia is the beginning of the unknown, a myth infused archipelago which, due to geographical isolation and volatile weather, remains largely uninhabited. For the fibreglass wielding traveller there exist few frontiers more exciting, and early in 2013 two such adventurers, Joaquin and Julian Azulay, took up the challenge.
Known to the world as the Gauchos del Mar (cowboys of the sea), these Argentinian brothers first gained international recognition for their film Surfing the American Pacific, an award winning documentary which captured their journey by road from Huntington Pier to Buenos Aires. For their next adventure they set off from where the Pan American Highway ends, continuing past the Chilean lake district and through the Tierra de Patagones (named by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan refering to the exceptionally large feet (patas) of the Tehuelches Indians who originally inhabited the area).
Without knowing where we were going, nor where to camp each night, we met native people that invited us to live at their places and shared their way of living. Across Patagonia we met “gauchos” (cowboys), algae workers, farmers producing and harvesting their crops as in the old times, with no machinery at all.Joaquin Azulay
"Our main goal was to surf at one of the southernmost areas of the world: “Isla de los Estados," says Joaquin Azulay. "First we travelled with a truck and lived in a tent across Patagonia for six months, where we shared experiences with native people and got to know their jobs, which are different from those that exist in the cities."
Following no clear trajectory the pair meandered down the west coast, documenting endemic flaura and fauna, encountering secluded communities and occasionally discovering a shapely beachbreak or point.
"Without knowing where we were going, nor where to camp each night, we met native people that invited us to live at their places and shared their way of living" says Joaquin. "Across Patagonia we met “gauchos” (cowboys), seaweed workers, farmers producing and harvesting their crops as in the old times, with no machinery at all. As if time had not reached these isolated places and the way of living was meant to be happy, simple and bound together by community."
Geographically fragmented as it is, much of the ocean facing coast is impossible to explore without a water-borne vessel, and thus started the second phase of the journey.
"On reaching the town of Ushuaia, we searched for a way to get to “Isla de los Estados” and eventually found Mono, who unlike other captains, was willing enough to join us in this adventure," says Joaquin. "We chartered his boat and sailed through the Beagle Channel and across the Strait of Le Maire, which is one of the most dangerous seas in the world, to arrive at this uninhabited island. The storms that come from Antarctica are not blocked by anything and hit directly this stretch of sea directly. The weather conditions are constantly changing and forecasts can't be trusted. In one single day you can experience the four seasons. We sailed for three days until we finally got to “Isla de los Estados”, but during the trip we had to take refuge in different bays due to the tough weather and wait for good conditions before continuing. In several moments we thought we had to turn back as the storms had winds over 80kms/hr, rain, hail and snow."
The resulting film Tierra de Patagones is a tribute to this desolate land and the weather worn people within it. Far from the impenetrable labyrinth that is seen on the map, this is a landscape teeming with life, humans living in harmony as a minority.
"The film happens in two tenses," says Joaquin. "The present tense is the trip sailing towards Staten Island in search of new waves where no one has surfed before, and from the boat we create flashbacks to the past, to different places of Patagonia where we camped and explored the coast in a truck. Each clip in the past has the aim of leaving a message with the audience, acting as a unit itself and as a continuation of our exploration in Patagonia."
We walked those two hours once again with boards, gear, tripod, cameras, food and our will to surf a perfect wave, maybe virgin. It lasted for 3-4 hours until the tide dropped and the wave stopped working. It was an unforgettable session of cold 4-6 ft walls, shared by two brothers and some sea lions.
As with any foray into the unknown, the journey was a series of setbacks and challenges, punctuated by moments of triumph; patience being the key to good fortune.
"Patagonia is full of surprises; tough, windy and desolate and constantly changing. But if you wait for its good conditions, when the tide, swell and wind match, it can provide perfect waves with empty lineups. One day with no waves we were walking along the coast, filming animals and landscapes in a private Estancia (farm) and we saw a very small wave peeling off a flat perfect reef. We thought that if the swell came straight from NE, SW wind and high tide we could score a new wave. A week later this happened. We walked those two hours once again with boards, gear, tripod, cameras, food and our will to surf a perfect, maybe virgin, wave. It lasted for 3-4 hours until the tide dropped and the wave stopped working. It was an unforgettable session of cold 4-6 ft walls, shared by two brothers and some sea lions.
Tierra de Patagones will be premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival on April 27 (3pm), and at the San Diego Surf Film Festival - May 9 at 7pm.
For more pictures information and videos of the trip, visit the Gauchos del Mar website HERE.
You can also follow the Gauchos on Facebook.