Filipe Masetti Leite during his trek through the Rocky Mountains on his final long journey. Photo submitted
Local Journalism Initiative
During the last leg of an eight-year horseback trek crossing the Americas, Brazillian Cowboy, Filipe Masetti Leite, spent five nights outside of Hinton at the Old Entrance Bed and Breakfast.
This final trip will take him back from the Yukon to Calgary, arriving on Friday, July 3 — the date the Calgary Stampede would have held the 2020 Stampede parade.
Despite the Stampede being cancelled, Masetti Leite was named the honorary Calgary Stampede parade marshal for 2020.
“What are the chances that the year the Calgary Stampede gets cancelled, for the first time in almost a century, there’s a cowboy riding in on horseback,” Maseti Leite said.
His final stretch will celebrate everything that the Calgary Stampede stands for, Western Heritage, and the horse and the cowboy way of life, he added.
“I just want to be a beacon of hope and represent this rodeo and this culture that I live and grew up in,” he continued.
Masetti Leite first saddled up to start his trek in 2012 from the Calgary Stampede’s centennial celebration.
His first destination was the Hospital de Amor in Barretos, Brazil, where a five-metre tall monument can now be found of Masetti Leite and his horse. Through his trip, Masetti Leite raises funds for this hospital that treats children with cancer and talks to people along the way of the importance of an early diagnosis of childhood cancer.
“In Brazil and all over Latin America, we end up losing a lot of kids because they’re getting to the hospital too late and this hospital is a state of the art facility that could be found in Sweden or Canada or the U.S.,” he said.
Raising funds for the kids in the hospital is also what kept him going while he was riding through storms, hadn’t been able to shower in weeks, or while making his way through dangerous situations.
“You have to have drive, otherwise you don’t do this. Everyday is a mental war, it’s tough,” Masetti Leite said.
After his first trip to Brazil, he made his way down to the most southern tip of South America before heading back up north.
When all is said and done, Leite will have travelled more than 25,000 km.
Steeds Mac and Smokey set out on May 20 to take him from Grande Prairie, Alta. to Calgary.
While Masetti Leite rode alone for the majority of his journey from Calgary to Brazil when he first set out in 2012, he’s had many friends ride with him along the way and his final trek is accompanied by his girlfriend.
“My girlfriend, who I met in southern Patagonia on my second trip, she’s driving a motorhome that was leant by a couple out of Claresholm, Alberta and it’s a support vehicle where we carry hay for the horses, feed, water,” Masetti Leite said.
Throughout Alaska and the Yukon, they travelled through some extremely remote areas and the support vehicle made it easier to take care of the horses along the way.
“The animals’ welfare is always number one, without them you don’t travel a single kilometre and they become your kids you know, you love them so much,” he said.
The exciting part about having company along for the trek was being able to share it with someone, he added.
“Sometimes you’re up on this beautiful mountain looking at a gorgeous sunset and it just doesn’t seem to have the same colour. It’s not the same as sharing it with someone that you care about. It’s amazing,” Masetti Leite said.
Travelling through the Yukon was a dream that very few people, even few Canadians, get to experience, he added.
Throughout eight years he travelled through many incredible places but he said Mexico still holds a very special place in his heart.
Nobody celebrated his journey like the Mexicans, with thousands of people saddling up their horses and riding with him.
Travelling on horseback is part of their culture, and what Masetti Leite was doing was special to them, he added.
“Although I was treated amazingly well in every country I crossed, that was the best part of the trip,” Masetti Leite said.
The inspiration for the trek came from a childhood book that told the tale of adventure of a Swedish school teacher riding horseback from Argentina to New York in 1925.
As a child on the farm in Brazil he imagined what it would be like to cross those countries by horseback, swimming through rivers, and climbing mountains. At nine years old, his family moved to Canada and he grew up in Ontario where he eventually studied journalism at Ryerson University.
“My last year of journalism I thought, it feels like everything I’ve done in my life has gotten me to the point to ride back home and capture everything, film it, write about it, and share this story with people and live this dream,” he said.
Masetti Leite turned his dream into his job and started raising funds in 2010. Most of his friends and family told him he was crazy and that the trip was too dangerous, but he continued working towards his dream.
He eventually got the funding and a production company to come on board to film a reality series of his trip to Brazil. During the first trip, they posted a web series with 90 small clips.
A Nashville-based production company filmed a three season reality show, which they are currently trying to sell. Masetti Leite wrote his first book after he rode from Canada to Brazil, which took him two years and three months.
It took him another year and three months to get from Brazil to Ushuaia, Argentina.
He then came back to Brazil to write another book and plan for his trip up North.
His second book will be released this July and he hopes to publish another book about his final journey next year.
“This is my last long ride, it’s been very difficult mentally more than anything. It’s been a 10 year project that I’ve been working on, 10 years is a long time to work on anything, nevermind riding horses through continents,” he said.
His first book is now being made into a movie, which he plans to help out with once his final trip comes to an end.
Masetti Leite also plans to work with a production company on a series and maybe even a documentary as well of the real footage he shot throughout the past eight years.
As a journalist, his dream and end goal is to own a travel show, featuring cultures in faraway places to people that may not know they exist.
“Being from Brazil and coming to Canada at an early age, I was able to see the other side of the coin. My country is the dichotomy of those that have and those that have not is gigantic,” he said.
“I think if some people see the reality of how some people live in the world, it will change the way that they act and deal with things.”
He added that if he learned anything during the journey, it’s that there’s only a very short time people get on this earth to enjoy.
“If you’re not happy, change. If you have a dream, live it. You don’t have the money? Excuses. You don’t have the know-how? Excuses. If you want it bad enough and you’re willing to work for it, you can do whatever you want. You can cross the Americas on a horse,” he said.
Masetti Leite found himself in many life-changing situations over the past eight years and he considers himself lucky to still be alive.
During his first trip, all three horses he brought had major accidents, including getting hit by a truck, falling in a deep hole, and falling in a cattle guard. He stayed in the home of a drug lord in Honduras, saw two people shot dead in Guatemala, witnessed a man trying to kill his wife in the home where he stayed in the capital of Honduras, crossed grizzly bears, swam rivers, crossed the backcountry of Yellowstone, the Andes, and the Rockies several times.
“Once you’re in the situation you just find a solution for the problem that has risen around you,” he said.
He remembered being in the house of the drug lord who he had befriended and having beers with him.
“You’re like, ‘Wow, this guy has a petting zoo in his house, everyone has automatic weapons, and there’s a nine-year-old kid with a pistol.’ It just becomes mundane, but now looking back, yes, I’m very lucky to be alive because I crossed some very dangerous countries,” Masetti Leite said.