The ongoing World Cup in Brazil has, undoubtedly, assumed a pilgrimage status, attracting personalities from far and near who have different reasons for visiting the country. While many visitors have made impromptu preparations and arrangement ahead of the 32-day event, Filipe Masetti Leite, a native of Brazil who moved to Canada at the age of 10, undertook a 700-day journey to attend a World Cup finals being hosted by his country.
Having been inspired by a story his father once told him about Aime Tschiffelly, a man who travelled on a horseback from Buenos Aires, Argentina to New York City, Leite, now 27, couldn’t think of a more perfect way than to discover the Americas through a trip on horsebacks, something he has always dreamt of.
Leite, who has a journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto, left Calgary, Canada in July 2012 with his sights set on arriving in Brazil for the world’s biggest sporting event two years later thanks to the support of a few sponsors and Outwildtv, a production company.
The 15,000-kilometer journey, which lasted about 700days on the road, took him through 10 different countries. His six pairs of boots and 240 horseshoes are testaments of the rigours he and his horses have encountered during the trip.
He came across a grizzly bear while riding through Montana and experienced an earthquake in Bolivia. He battled the elements, riding through snow, wind storms, and extreme heat and humidity. There were nights where water was hard to come by.
The most difficult obstacles he overcame were the bureaucratic issues during the trip. He was unable to bring his horses through Panama. His horses were initially quarantined upon arrival in Brazil.
He kept on riding, sharing his adventure with his mother, father, girlfriend and the hundreds he met who went out of their way to help him out. The ride has taken him through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, including Montana’s Rockies, Yellowstone National Park, the Chihuahua Desert, Costa Rica’s coast, Bolivia’s Andes near Lake Titicaca and the Pantanal in Brazil. He has forged relationships with people at every stop along the way.
For Leite, the experience has made him a stronger man. “I have learned that I am stronger than I ever imagined. This trip has required so much mental strength. There have been moments where everything around you is falling apart but you can’t break down because your animals depend on you. We faced many challenges that may have driven people to quit,” he said.
While he hopes to build a statue of the three horses in Barretos, the site of the longest rodeo in Latin America, he feels extremely grateful to the horses that made his dream a reality.
“Frenchie, Bruiser and Dude are warriors and the true heroes of this journey,” Leite said.
After arriving in Brazil, Filipe put on an iconic yellow and green No. 10 jersey. After all, current No. 10 Neymar and El Selecao are favorites to win the World Cup for a record sixth time.
While urging people to always follow their dreams, Leite hopes to produce a book and a documentary on his experiences.
“I hope my journey inspires others to follow their dreams,” Leite said. “As a journalist, I also jumped into the saddle to show how kind humanity can be. Whether I was in Canada, Mexico, Guatemala or Peru, people took me in like a family member and helped me so much. I will produce a documentary alongside OutWildTV and write a book on my experience these past two years. I love the power documentaries have to instill hope, create change and inform people. It is an extremely powerful tool I hope to use my entire life,” he said.
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