KOTA KINABALU: A man who walked 120km home to avoid spreading the Covid-19 virus after a trip to Japan shot to fame when his friends shared his story on social media.
However it is the furry friend he found along the way, and not the journey itself that he will always remember.
Alixson Magundok arrived at Kota Kinabalu on March 25 via a transit flight from Osaka to Kuala Lumpur.
He fully expected to be quarantined but was surprisingly told that he could go home after undergoing mandatory screening at the airport.
“I really expected to be quarantined,” he told FMT.
“In fact, I wanted to do the right thing. I didn’t have any symptoms but I certainly didn’t want others to be exposed, just in case.”
To be on the safe side, he went to be tested for the virus at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after spending the night at the airport.
There, after samples were taken, he was again told that he could go home.
“The health authorities told me it wasn’t that they didn’t want to quarantine me,” he said.
“At that time, not so many centres were ready and priority was being given to those with actual symptoms.”
As he did not want to endanger taxi drivers or passengers taking public transport, Alixon decided to walk home to Kampung Mangaris 2 in the northern Kota Marudu district.
“I knew it was going to be tough, but I was willing to do it.”
He planned for his trip to take three to four days but he was prepared for it to take as long as a week.
He was several kilometres into his journey when a brown dog suddenly turned up in front of him.
“You could say the dog found me,” he says, laughing. “I didn’t offer him any food, he just started trailing me.
“After several kilometres, I saw that he was still with me. I knew then that he was going to accompany me on my trip, and we have been buddies ever since.”
Alixon named his new friend Hachiko Luyang, after the famous Japanese Akita dog known for his loyalty to his master.
In fact, he has visited the grave site of the real Hachiko, who is buried in Minato, Tokyo.
“I saw a small statue of a dog on his grave, and it has an uncanny resemblance to my Hachiko,” he added.
Together with Hachiko, affectionately nicknamed Cico, the pair journeyed on, resting at bus stops, abandoned roadside stalls and under trees.
Finally, they reached Kampung Pandasan in Kota Marudu where Alixon’s brother had arranged for a van to take him to a small hut in a rubber plantation at Kampung Mangaris 2.
He said it was difficult not to go straight home, but he did not want to risk exposing his family to the virus, especially his father who has several health problems.
“I am grateful to have Cico for company,” he said. “It’s just the two of us, even now.”
Although his self-imposed quarantine ended yesterday, he is still keeping his distance from his family until he gets an official result from the health department.
He had a second sample taken at the district hospital yesterday.
“I haven’t received any calls or shown any symptoms, but I want to be safe and sure and have peace of mind.
“Only then will I see my family and friends.”
When asked about his new-found fame for making the trip back home on foot, he said he knew of the publicity about him walking so far.
“But honestly I don’t think much of it, as anyone would have done what I did.
“But the chances of finding a dog which was willing to accompany me on such a long journey were next to nothing. Cico is truly a gift from God.”