On July 8, 25-year-old journalist Filipe Leite straddled one of his two horses and rode out of the Calgary Stampede under the escort of the Royal Mounted Police to start a 10,000-mile, two-year-long, 12-country journey that he hopes will end on his family’s ranch in Brazil. To understand the motivations for the cowboy's quest, it helps to start with his birth. His father, a cowboy, named him Filipe because it means friend of horses in Portuguese. He rode a horse before he could walk. As a little boy, his father told him the story of Aime Tschiffely, a Swiss schoolteacher who decided to ride from Argentina to New York City in 1925 on a pair of horses. Tschiffely rode over 16,000-foot mountain ranges, down into humid tropical jungles, and slept in Indian villages on his way through Central America. He didn't make it to New York City, but landed in Washington, D.C., where he was greeted at the White House by President Calvin Coolidge in 1928. “Of high adventures, hairbreath escapes, and deeds of daring, there were few; yet in all the annals of exploration I doubt if any traveler, not excepting Marco Polo himself, had more leisure than I to see and understand the people, the animals, and plant life of the countries traversed,” said Tschiffely in an article about the expedition.
Leite said Tschiffely's journey inspired him. The Brazilian hopes to chronicle his expedition in a documentary. For now, he is resting in Delta, Colorado, roughly 1,000 miles from his start in Canada. He estimates it will take him another a year and nine months of riding before he arrives home at his family’s ranch in the small town of Espirito Santo do Pinhal, Brazil. “My horses will be retired there where they will enjoy fresh water and green grass for the rest of their days,” says Leite. “I'm giving them to my little sister. She's six years old now and will spoil them to death.”
We caught up with the cowboy by email to find out a bit more about his journey.
From the road. Photo: filipemasetti/Instagram
WHO: Filipe Leite, a 25-year-old journalist who grew up on a ranch in Brazil.
WHAT: A 10,000-mile, 12-country journey from Calgary, Canada, to Espirito Santo do Pinhal, Brazil, on two horses. Leite travels an average of 20 miles a day and rides for four days straight before resting for two days. He sits in the saddle for about 10 hours a day, switching steeds when he needs to. In cities, he stays at rodeo grounds. In the country, he stays at ranches or farms. The toughest part of his journey so far has been a four-hour walk in the dark through Yellowstone. “I thought I was going to get mauled by a grizzly bear,” says Leite. “It was the worst.”
WHEN: Leite left Calgary on July 8, 2012, and expects to arrive at his family’s ranch in Brazil during the summer of 2014, hopefully in time for the Olympics.
WHY: “The trip was a lifelong dream. I hope to inspire others to follow their dreams. I want to show the world that we can do anything we put our minds to, even if it seems as insane as riding horseback 10,000 miles from Canada to Brazil. I also hope to show how we are all inherently the same—we all want to love and be loved. As a journalism graduate, I also knew I wanted to do a documentary within the Americas that focused on the dichotomy between rich and poor while also highlighting how similar we all are—regardless of religion, creed, or social economic background. Traveling horseback is perfect for this because it allows you to really live with the people in all of the places you pass through. Because I need help in order to find food, water, and the best routes for my horses, I am in constant contact with locals. They open their ranches and farms for my horses and I, and while sitting around the dinner table with them I get to learn so much.”