A Canadian man who went missing five years ago has been found homeless and wandering barefoot in Brazil.
Anton Pilipa disappeared from his Vancouver home in 2012 shortly after beginning treatment for schizophrenia, leaving his family in an agonising limbo.
This week, the now 39-year-old was reunited with them, after a police officer spotted him wandering on a highway in the Brazilian city of Manaus.
His brother Stefan told CBC he believes Anton, a former anti-poverty activist, reached his destination 10,000km away on foot, often with no shoes, as well as hitchhiking and hiding in the back of transport trucks.
Anton’s journey will have taken him through Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil.
His aim, it has emerged, was to reach Argentina’s National Library in Buenos Aires. A feat he managed, only to be turned away at its doors.
He was retracing his steps when he was spotted by Brazilian-Canadian police officer Helenice Vidigal in December, who suspected instantly the bearded stranger was not local to the area.
Anton, who had no ID or passport on his person, was taken to a hospital in Porto Velho but fled as the effort to identify him began.
He was located again at the beginning of the year, and thanks to Vidigal’s efforts, his family was tracked down and notified of the miraculous discovery.
Stefan set up a crowdfunder to raise money to return Anton to Canada, and to pay his hospital and consular fees. Friends and family stepped forward to raise more than $12,000 and Anton is now safely back in Vancouver.
Stefan told CBC: “I found myself being really frustrated all the time [during those years], always having that aching question: ‘Where is he? What happened to him?’”
Now he’s back: “I feel amazed that he’s alive and had made it that far.”
Anton told the BBC: “I’ve never felt alone. It’s been a lot of thinking for years, sleeping in the open. It’s very simple to live, we do not need many things.”
“I know that I am very lucky to be alive. I am very happy to be able to return to my family.”