A man who was missing for five years has been found more than 6,500 miles away in the Amazon jungle.
Anton Pilipa disappeared from his Vancouver home in 2012, he then spent the next five years trekking across two continents – mostly barefoot.
He was spotted by a Canadian-born cop who initially thought he was beggar because of his unkempt appearance. He was carrying no ID, however with the help of a number of international agencies and embassies they were able to discover who he was and reunite him with his family.
His family had almost completely given up hope of ever seeing Anton again, when they received the call.
His brother Stefan told the Daily Mail: “I was stunned. I told myself that he was dead. Because that was the only thing I could come up with that explained his absence.
“But in my heart of hearts, I didn’t think he could be. I feel amazed that he’s alive and had made it that far.”
The former humanitarian worker, who has a history of schizophrenia, managed to travel through at least ten countries including the US, Panama and Argentina, seemingly without a passport and wearing just the clothes on his back.
Stefan told the paper that his brother’s bizarre goal was to get to the National Library of Buenos Aires in Argentina, however when he made it there he was turned away, due to his lack of identification.
This led to him continuing his journey and heading to Brazil, where he was eventually found.
His family then set up a GoFundMe page to get Anton home, raising over $12,000 in total.
He survived by picking fruits and berries and looking for food and clothes amongst rubbish. He also said he relied on the generosity of strangers.
The Amazon jungle is filled with poisonous spiders and snakes, not to mention other dangerous animals like jaguars, however, Anton managed to make his way through unharmed. He did lose all of his toenails, though.
He told the BBC: “I’ve never felt alone,’ he said. ‘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.”
Before his illness, which his family say he struggled to get the correct treatment for, Anton had worked in humanitarian aid all over Canada. In 2011 he was charged with assault and weapons offences, and fled the country shortly before he was due to appear in court, the Daily Mail reports.
His family don’t believe the charges had anything to do with his choice to disappear – his borther said: “The timing is suspect, but was he trying to avoid the charges)? I don’t think so. He was restless. That is the major form of his mental illness.”
His family spent years looking for him, before he was eventually spotted in November last year and his family were originally tracked down just before Christmas. Anton has now returned to Toronto and lives with Stefan and his family. He is now on medication for schizophrenia.
“Everybody is very happy and supportive. The amount of support pouring in is incredible,” Stefan added.