There’s a happy ending for the family of a Canadian man who vanished in 2012.
Thirty-nine-year-old Anton Pilipa didn’t inform his family of his plan to walk and hitchhike all the way to the Amazon when he disappeared from his home in Vancouver.
Pilipa was found near Manaus, capital of Brazil’s jungle state of Amazonas, wandering barefoot and sans passport or identification documents. He made his way there by walking, hitchhiking and hiding in trucks. His survival was dependent on begging for food, searching garbage dumps and sleeping wherever he could.
The whole journey took Pilipa more than 10,000 miles and across 11 borders.
He didn’t do it to make a point or to raise awareness for a cause, however: he was experiencing mental health issues. And his mind-blowing story reflects the severity of these issues.
According to his brother Stefan, Anton had begun treatment for schizophrenia before disappearing.
“I feel amazed that he’s alive and had made it that far,” Pilipa told the CBC. “I found myself being really frustrated all the time, always having that aching question ’Where is he? What happened to him?’”
According to his family, he made across the borders of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Colombia before he was refused entry in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
That’s when he turned north again and ventured into Brazil.
He was first picked up by Brazilian police in November, who thought Pilipa was homeless. Officials began to work with the Canadian embassy to track down his family, but before they could do so, Pilipa escaped from a hospital and headed for the jungle. He was found weeks later on a highway near Manaus, and his family was contacted via social media. His brother flew to Brazil to bring him home to Toronto, where his family lives.
“He looked really rough. His health was starting to deteriorate. We got him just in time,” Stephan told CBC. A campaign raised more than $12,000 to fund his brother’s trip to Brazil, and for an apartment in Toronto for him to live.
The hope is that he’s also getting the help he clearly needs. While it’s easy to glamorize this story, the real takeaway should be on the severity and ramifications of Anton’s mental health issues.
Cover image: Yahoo News Canada