The Last American Cowboy


This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, February 04, 2004 was originally posted on February 06, 2004.

DAY 109:  Frodo, who fleed like a girl when the caiman got temporarily loose the day before, had the same sort of reaction when he had to de-hook the piranha he caught from the bridge where we were fishing for our early morning activity.  He was too scared to handle the “man-eating” fish until it eventually got loose, fell through the bridge planks and back into the creek.

I shouldn’t have laughed because if I were in his shoes, I would have probably acted the same way — that is, if I had caught anything.  I had no fish to contribute to the group pile.  Meanwhile, Mika, an aspiring tennis star from Holland, was master of the fish with a catch of four.

AFTER A MUCH NEEDED FIVE-HOUR MIDDAY SIESTA, I awoke to find that my fellow New Yorkers had left camp to move on with their shorter time itineraries.  With Pete and Farley gone, I was the only American left amongst the thirty or so people left in camp.

For our afternoon activity, Akuna and another guide put on leather chaps over their jeans to lead us as gauchos (South American cowboys) on a horseback riding tour through the Pantanal.  Each of the fifteen of us were assigned a horse and we all saddled up for our big cowboy adventure.  It would have been something out of an old classic spaghetti western if not for our clumsiness with the horses — it was more like 1991’s City Slickers.

My horse Marivica was a temperamental little thing, never really responding to my instructions.  At first I thought maybe she was just a dumb horse, until I realized that perhaps she was the smarter one between the two of us.

During a group break under the shade, Marivica did what none of the other horses did to their riders:  get down on her knees to try and get me to dismount.  I figured she was a disgruntled employee of the company, but Craig and Kate told me that it looked like she had a bum hind leg.

A broken leg on my horse was on my mind as we continued through the jungles, marshes and vast grasslands of the Pantanal like the riders of the Old West.  But in the middle of a big open plain, my real life western fantasies-come-true had ceased when my horse decided, on its own will, to just stop going.

I kicked her side the way I was supposed to make her go, but nothing.  I slapped her on the ass, and as kinky as that was, nothing.  Everyone else had gone way far ahead towards the horizon, leaving me stranded under the hot sun with an unresponsive horse.  I did everything I could to get her going again that didn’t involved bestiality, until I gave up and waved and whistled down one of the gaucho guides.

“I think she has a broken leg,” I told him.

“No, you just don’t know how to ride.”

With the big boss man watching, my horse got back going again, completely fine and without a limp.  Eventually we caught up with the others that were waiting patiently for me under a lone tree.

“What happened to your horse?”

“I dunno, she ran out of gas.”

EVENTUALLY I GOT THE HANG OF RIDING MY HORSE, even better than the time I went horseback riding outside of Cusco, Peru.  I had Marivica walk, trot and gallop, and I even got my body going with the flow so my testicles didn’t have to bang over and over on my saddle all the time.  Whenever one of the gaucho guides got behind me, Marivica shot off faster than I thought she could, twice zooming me from the back of the line to way ahead like I was the surprise winner in a race on the horsetracks.  I’d yell a nice manly “H’YAA!” and she’d keep her speed up, and amongst my peers, I truly felt like The Last American Cowboy.

But going fast wasn’t all fun; at one point my horse veered off from the grasslands and towards the low tree branches of the jungle, almost as if she wanted to intentionally knock me off like in a cartoon — I prayed I wouldn’t pull a Christopher Reeve.  One time in the jungle area, she went towards the branches and knocked my hat off — I had to quickly break off a branch and flick the cap up towards my head before the horse ran off into the grasslands again.

AFTER A FEW HOURS, the group really started to get the hang of the horses, so much that we eventually went ahead of the guides.  A herd of cattle was nearby and we moved them along like real cowboys of the Old West. 

“I think we should wait up for the guides,” Kate said.

“Nah, they’re right there,” Michael the Aussie said. 

Eventually the guides caught up with us, and together, we rode off into the sunset and back to camp.

BEFORE THE SUN COMPLETELY SET, we had another muddy game of soccer on the dirty field — this time Brazil vs. The Rest of the World.  The Brazilian guides were outnumbered in quantity but not in skill.  As hard as we tried, our united nations could not score one goal against them — in fact, their goalie was so confident the other players would keep the ball away that he just sat by the goal post and smoked cigarettes.  We even tried recruiting one of the Brazilian crew on our team — calling out to him as “Bolivia” — but still, Team Brazil beat us four, nil.

NO DAY AS A COWBOY IS COMPLETE without a night out around a campfire.  After our dinner of fried piranhas, we built a nice roaring one outside the outdoor bar and continued the rainless night as obnoxious tourists.  Two Brits Wil and Louise were also in the camp from another group, and entertained us with their hobby of twirling fire batons like the Maori people of New Zealand.  Deb from the UK also knew how to do it and joined in on the flaming action — others who weren’t experienced just got burned, literally.

I spent most of the night at the campfire chatting with “Poland” — I forgot his name, but that’s what we called him in soccer — who gave me a preview of what to expect when I eventually make it to Eastern Europe. 

Under the full moon of that night, Eastern Europe seemed like ages away; I was still revelling in being in the Old West of South America.

Next entry: Standing Room Only

Previous entry: Caimans and Big Cats

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Comments for “The Last American Cowboy”

  • First?  How did that happen..
    Can’t wait to see what you do in Rio or Santos/Sao Paolo.. it’ll remind me when I was working cruise ships out of there..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/06  at  08:47 PM

  • Woah Erik! World Cup Soccer, Pumas, Piranas, Crocs, fire dancing, drunken parties, Eastern European previews, and horses! What a week!

    My week sucked BTW.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/06  at  11:47 PM

  • Sounds like a great time Erik!  Reminded me of my day-long riding trip in Costa Rica back in ‘94!  I had the horse that liked to bite, and my girlfriend had the horse that liked to roll around on its back in the sand like a dog! - I kid you not!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/07  at  02:11 AM

  • Hi Bud,
    I am very impressed. Now I can say that my son was omce a “cowboy” in South america.  Any, butt/back pains from riding.  Your dad did when he rode a horse in aruba for 3 hours.
    Glad you are having a good time.

    Everybody says hello.  we just got back from International Buffet, we celebrated your Tito Manny’s b-day.
    Next week we go skiing at camp Gaw then to Joe Tejas for your dad’s..

    God bless…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/07  at  02:37 AM

  • Hey, was away in Mumbai on work, had no time to even take a peek at your blog, catching up on lost time now. Have fun!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/07  at  01:32 PM

  • pretty horses (mocking a silent blog reader)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/07  at  02:21 PM

  • heh, that horse is such a character. i think it was too smart for its own good. at least it didn’t get fed up and tried to throw you off. that would have been bad.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/08  at  03:04 PM

  • Hi ErikT…I’m friends with your brother,  MarkyT…

    Sweet website you got going here…I look forward to reading about more of your adventures.


    ps. please dont post anymore picture of your bleeding head…or I might throw up here at work…thanks.
    =D j/k

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/08  at  09:18 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Standing Room Only

Previous entry:
Caimans and Big Cats


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