Latin America’s mysterious walking man or ‘El Caminante’ has arrived on Chilean soil. Six years ago Martin Hutchinson, a 52 year-old U.K. resident purchased a one-way plane ticket to Cancún, México, and since then has been traversing the continent on foot.
“I think if I left England with this in mind, I would never do it,” Hutchinson told The Santiago Times. “Now it sounds like nothing.”
Originally hoping to hitchhike south, Hutchinson’s plans changed when no one picked him up. Refusing to be discouraged, he decided to embark on foot.
Now he journeys between 18 and 50 miles a day toting nothing but a rucksack and a British flag. He arrives in each new location without contacts and camps out or is offered a place to stay by locals.
In northern Chile, Hutchinson described the local population as particularly warm, giving the example of a woman he met early in the morning in Puerto Viejo.
“It’s 2:30 in the morning and I arrived to this town and it’s pitch black,” Hutchinson says. “I look for a place to put my tent, and this woman asks what I’m doing. She came down and asked me, ‘would you like a cup of coffee?’”
Hutchinson concluded that, “if I needed something, those people would help you without question.”
In the past six years, Hutchinson has generated his own kind of cult following. Upon arriving in each new location he approaches the local news office offering himself for an interview. Once he’s featured on the news, Hutchinson volunteers to talk to schoolchildren. In his epic journey, he’s given speeches at over 1,000 schools and universities.
“(People say) you’re crazy for walking,” Hutchinson said. “Then why are these people in the gym, on a machine and they’re paying for it? It’s all completely negative energy. You’re only doing it for your own vanity.”
As of mid-January, Hutchinson was staying in a fire station in Concepción, Chile and heading south to Temuco. Despite suffering knee pain and arthritis, his plan is to continue walking for another four years.