Calif. Couple on Biking 'Dream Trip' Missing in Peru. Jamie Neal and her boyfriend, Garrett Hand, both 25, embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December. Couple Found SAFE??? Or, Not.

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Normal Calif. Couple on Biking 'Dream Trip' Missing in Peru. Jamie Neal and her boyfriend, Garrett Hand, both 25, embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December. Couple Found SAFE??? Or, Not.

Post by Wrapitup on Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:57 am

By CHRISTINA NG and DANA HUGHES | Good Morning America – 21 hours ago

Good Morning America - Calif. Couple on Biking 'Dream Trip' Missing in South America (ABC News)

Two young bike enthusiasts from California have disappeared while on a biking "trip of a lifetime" through South America, according to friends and the U.S. State Department.

Jamie Neal and her boyfriend, Garrett Hand, both 25, embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December, according to Neal's boss, Jeff Jerge. Neal works at the Pedaler, Jerge's El Sobrante, Calif., bike shop.

"I'm beyond worried," Jerge told ABCNews.com. "I'm super concerned."

Jerge said that Neal and Hand had known each other for a while and began dating and planning their South American trip last summer.

"It's kind of like it was a dream trip for them," Jerge's wife, Kim Jerge, told ABCNews.com. "It's their first big adventure."

Neal has worked at the bike shop for more than two years. Hand is a fisherman in Alaska.

"They wanted to originally ride from here to South America, and we thought going through Mexico was particularly dangerous, so we talked to them about skipping that, and they did decide to fly down to South America and start their trip there," Jeff Jerge said. "At the point they wanted to leave, we all felt it was potentially dangerous."

As the couple cycled through the continent, they frequently posted updates and photos on Facebook, chronicling their journey. They posted photos of camping, the wildlife and the people they met along the way.

The last post was on Jan. 25 and said, "Finally found Kraft Mac 'n' cheese in South America! Stoked LOL." The couple have not been heard from since.

Jeff Jerge called Neal "very knowledgeable and an extreme cycle lover" and a talented mechanic.
"They had all the right gear," he said. "[The trip] was really well-planned and thought out in terms of the bicycling part."

The U.S. State Department said that according to their families, Hand and Neal had been traveling from Cusco to Lima, Peru, and were expected to arrive in Lima on Jan. 26.

"There's potential that they could be out of service and there's potential they could have just lost contact, but the frequency of their posts before Jan. 25 was pretty close to one another, and certainly there's never been a gap like this," Jerge said. "It really doesn't look good."

A State Department official confirmed to ABC News that the couple had not been heard from in almost a month.
"The U.S. Embassy in Lima is aware of the two U.S. citizens who apparently went missing while on a cycling trip in Peru," a State Department official said in a statement to ABC News.

"Consular officers from the U.S. Embassy in Lima are in contact with the families and Peruvian authorities, and are providing all appropriate consular assistance," the statement said. "The Peruvian authorities provided us all assurances that they will do everything possible to locate this couple. Embassy officers will continue to provide all appropriate consular assistance and to follow developments closely."

On Feb. 13, the U.S. Embassy in Peru issued a warning to Americans to beware of a kidnapping threat in the Cusco area from a criminal organization, but the State Department official did not confirm that the couple had been kidnapped, saying only that an investigation was under way. The Cusco area is near Machu Picchu, and is a popular destination for tourists.

Jerge's bike shop has so far raised $4,000 as a reward for information on the couple.

"We don't know what to do," Jeff Jerge said. "What do you do when people are that far away and you're trying to help them?"

Flyers in English in Spanish have been made up, and Jerge has been in contact with other bikers in Peru to post the flyers. He is planning on reaching out to his distributors who have offices around the world to help get the word out.

"Both of them are just great people, and Jamie is just a good-hearted, fun-loving person with a lot of energy," Kim Jerge said. "She rode her bike to work from Oakland, which is about a 25-mile commute every day. She's a hard worker. She worked for us for two-and-a-half years. She's part of the family."

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Normal Re: Calif. Couple on Biking 'Dream Trip' Missing in Peru. Jamie Neal and her boyfriend, Garrett Hand, both 25, embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December. Couple Found SAFE??? Or, Not.

Post by Wrapitup on Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:02 am

Jamie Neal, Garret Hand missing: California couple disappear in Peru. Peru's authorities launch a search mission amid fears of a possible kidnapping.

Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal left California for Peru in November but lost contact on January 25. The pair had been cycling across South America and posting status updates and photos on Facebook. (Garrett Hand's Facebook page /Facebook)
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PETALUMA, California -- Authorities in Peru have launched a search for a Bay Area couple gone missing late last month while reportedly on a cycling trip through a high-risk part of the country, according to CBS News.

The US embassy in Lima is "in close contact with Peruvian authorities who are working diligently to find Mr. Hand and Ms. Neal," according to a statement on the case provided to Reuters on Monday.

The statement also said the couple's disappearance did not have any known connection with the February 13 travel alert issued by US authorities warning of possible kidnappings in Cusco and Machu Picchu areas, said Reuters.

Relatives told CBS Sacramento they had not heard from Neal, 27, or Hand, 25, since January 25. It was not immediately clear where they had been last seen; Reuters cited conflicting accounts.

Kim Jerge, the owner of the California Pedaler bike shop that employed Neal, told CBS he was "worried about her" after hearing about US travel alerts about rebel activity in Peru. He told Reuters he feared they'd been taken captive.

Another bike shop worker, Ron Hammer, said the two had been studying Spanish and were tent camping for most of their South American trip, according to Reuters.

Max Hunter, a friend of the two, told The Seattle Times that their last Facebook update was also on January 25, the same day their credit card activity was also reportedly cut off, according to CBS.

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Normal Re: Calif. Couple on Biking 'Dream Trip' Missing in Peru. Jamie Neal and her boyfriend, Garrett Hand, both 25, embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December. Couple Found SAFE??? Or, Not.

Post by Wrapitup on Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:09 pm

Update: Couple missing in Peru has been found

By Richard Dool
updated 5:57 PM EST, Tue February 26, 2013

Garrett Hand & Jamie Neal disappeared during a bike trip through Peru
The couple was last heard from on January 25

UPDATE: An American couple that had gone missing in Peru has been found, Peru's Ministry of Tourism and Commerce told CNN Tuesday.

A young California couple is missing in Peru, and now their families fear they may have been kidnapped.

Garrett Hand and his girlfriend, Jamie Neal, were on what they called “the trip of a lifetime,” biking through South America. The 25-year-olds carefully planned the months-long trip and kept their families posted on their Facebook pages, adding pictures and updates as they traveled.

But the last post from the couple was on January 25 from the town of Cusco, Peru.

Jamie wrote, “Finally found Kraft Mac ‘n’ cheese in South America! Stoked LOL.”

Everything seemed fine. The couple was supposed to ride from Cusco to Lima, the capital of Peru. But more than a month later, no one has seen or heard from either Garrett or Jamie.

Jamie’s sister, Jennifer, tells HLN affiliate KTXL, “I haven’t seen a video of her (Jamie) since January 25th. So to me anything could have happened since then.”

Jennifer goes on to tell KOVR, “I just have this nasty gut feeling that something is wrong.” She fears the worst saying, “They’ve been kidnapped or either being held or something even more terrible has happened.”

Her fear isn’t unfounded. Just weeks ago, the U.S. Embassy in Lima posted a security warning for the Cusco area.

“The U.S. Embassy warns U.S. citizens of a potential kidnapping threat in the Cusco area. The Embassy has received information that members of a criminal organization may be planning to kidnap U.S. citizen tourists in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area. Possible targets and methods are not known and the threat is credible at least through the end of February 2013.”

The U.S. Embassy is working with Peruvian authorities to try and find Garrett and Jamie. There are fliers posted in both Spanish and English, and a reward has been offered for any information.

The Hand family has also started a Facebook page to pass along any information and spread the word about the missing couple.

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Normal Peru says American couple found; family wants 'proof of life'

Post by raine1953 on Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:49 pm

(CNN) -- An American couple that went missing on a bike trek through Peru has been spotted "safe and sound," the South American country's top tourism official said Tuesday.
Jamie Neal and Garrett Hand are heading upstream in a small boat on a jungle river, said Jose Luis Silva, Peru's minister of tourism and commerce.
"They're currently in a remote, paradise-like region of the Peruvian Amazon, which is difficult to access," he told CNN.
But even as authorities trumpeted the news, Hand's mother said in a statement that she won't believe it until she hears directly from her son.
"We have not heard from them since January 25, nor have they accessed bank accounts since that time," mother Francine Fitzgerald said. "We have only the worst to consider as to why."
The couple, who hail from the San Francisco area, left last November and began a series of social media posts chronicling the trip of their dreams -- a four-month bike adventure through South America.
"Will be riding my bike in other countries and out of contact for 4 months!" Neal wrote in a November Facebook post before flying with Hand to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
But for weeks, the couple shared photos online from their trek through Argentina, Chile and Peru, showing themselves posing beside their bikes on remote mountain roads, camping out in tents and smiling at the beach.
In late January, however, their Internet postings stopped and calls to their cell phones went unanswered. Family members say no one has been able to get in touch with them since then.
Fitzgerald said both the U.S. Embassy in Peru and the country's interior ministry have called to say that Neal and Hand were spotted.
But that's not enough, she said.
"Let me reiterate, until we have PROOF OF LIFE, we cannot celebrate these rumors and sightings," she wrote on a Facebook page set up to facilitate a search for the couple. "Proof of life is my son's voice on the phone and a picture of him holding the missing poster."
Silva told CNN that the tourism ministry learned of the couple's location from police, who received a report from a clinic in the town of Angoteros after sending out a nationwide alert about the missing couple.
The ministry will send a hydroplane tomorrow to shoot video of the couple and provide proof they're doing OK, he said.
"They have no idea of the commotion they have caused in the media," he said, "because they simply can't communicate with family from where they currently are."
Neal and Hand, both 25, according to a family flyer, were last seen in Lima, the Peruvian capital. But some of the areas they planned to visit are out of cell phone and Internet reach.
The Peruvian National Police earlier told CNN that the manager of a hostel in Pucallpa, where the couple stayed, confirmed to a police investigator they reached the jungle city in early February.
The manager of Arco Iris Amazonica, a small hotel in the rain forest city of Iquitos, told police the couple stayed there on February 16 and told him they planned to travel to the town of Naplo, a 15-day trek.
Peru is known for the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, located in the Cusco region, which attract hundreds of thousands of international travelers each year.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Embassy in Lima issued a security message warning Americans of "a potential kidnapping threat in the Cusco area."
"The Embassy has received information that members of a criminal organization may be planning to kidnap U.S. citizen tourists in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area," the message said.
But it also clarified that "thousands of U.S. citizens routinely travel to the Cusco region without undue incident. The U.S. Embassy remains confident of the Peruvian government's efforts to ensure the safety of all tourists in the region."
Peru's tourism minister said Tuesday that he was "deeply concerned" about the negative impact of reports of the missing American couple.
The reason the couple has been out of touch for so long has nothing to do with any crime, he said.
"These two young people have fallen in love with Peru," Silva said. "They have visited off-the-beaten-path places and it seems like they're having a blast -- so much so that they have forgotten to communicate with their families."
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Normal Re: Calif. Couple on Biking 'Dream Trip' Missing in Peru. Jamie Neal and her boyfriend, Garrett Hand, both 25, embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December. Couple Found SAFE??? Or, Not.

Post by Wrapitup on Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:56 pm

I think it's terrible that they could not take the time to write a letter or text them. No excuses. MOO.

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Normal Re: Calif. Couple on Biking 'Dream Trip' Missing in Peru. Jamie Neal and her boyfriend, Garrett Hand, both 25, embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December. Couple Found SAFE??? Or, Not.

Post by Wrapitup on Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:13 pm

Missing in Peru Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal
WE WERE JUST SENT THIS MESSAGE 13 MINUTES AGO PLEASE SHARE:
I am Peruvian-American and it is disgusting how all these terrible things are happening in Peru. I'm not trying to be pessimistic, for I am also praying for the safe return of these two fellow Americans, but I highly doubt they have been found. Peru is.. it's a beautiful country with beautiful places to visit.. but unfortunately it's very dangerous. In Peru, there is such a high incidence of rape, kidnappings, murder. It's a country where unfortunately even the police whistle and hit on young, underage girls.. a country where robbery occurs in broad daylight and the police could care less.. a country where the police stops cars and asks for a bribe to let you go without a ticket. I don't believe the sightings are a rumor, I believe they are a lie fabricated by the Peruvian government in order to take away the negative image Americans are having on Peru and to bring back tourism as Peruvian economy largely depends on American tourists. However, I pray that I am wrong and that you hear from your loved ones soon. God bless.

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Post by raine1953 on Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:54 pm

THEY ARE NOT FOUND!!!! THEY ARE STILL MISSING!!!!

AND WE NEED YOUR HELP!!

PLEASE BEGIN CALLING YOUR CONGRESSMEN, REPRESENTATIVE, EMBASSY, ANY GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS!!!!
We need to insist that an AMERICAN CITIZEN GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL is witness to this supposed meeting that is going to occur sometime within the next day or two where thethe Peruvian Police and Govenrment say they are going to talk to Garrett and Jamie and take there picture.

WE NEED TO KNOW THEY ARE NOT FABRICATING THIS STORY!!
Pictures have already been leaked to the Peruvian Media that have never been seen by friends and family and were either fabricated or taken off of their camera while they were missing.

Yes the Minister of Tourism in Peru says that Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal have been seen in a small town and told people that they were going to take a boat toward Ecuador.

BUT NO AMERICAN EYES, NO GOVERNMENT, NO POLICE HAVE SEEN THEM!!

If Garrett and Jamie were safe enough to talk to locals, safe enough to call the police, safe enough to get on a boat, THEY WOULD BE SAFE ENOUGH TO PUT PICTURES ON FACEBOOK AND CALL HOME!!
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Normal Re: Calif. Couple on Biking 'Dream Trip' Missing in Peru. Jamie Neal and her boyfriend, Garrett Hand, both 25, embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December. Couple Found SAFE??? Or, Not.

Post by Wrapitup on Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:26 am

Wow!!!!!

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Normal Re: Calif. Couple on Biking 'Dream Trip' Missing in Peru. Jamie Neal and her boyfriend, Garrett Hand, both 25, embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December. Couple Found SAFE??? Or, Not.

Post by Wrapitup on Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:55 pm

Missing in Peru Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal
FITZGERALD FAMILY STATEMENT
Francine Fitzgerald, mother to Garrett Hand

February 26, 2013
3 pm PST

U.S. EMBASSY AND PERUVIAN MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR CLAIM THAT GARRETT HAND AND JAMIE NEAL HAVE BEEN SEEN IN LOCAL VILLAGE

We have received phone calls from the U.S. Embassy and Peruvian government that my son Garrett Hand and his girlfriend Jamie Neal have been spotted in a remote village in Peru. The information told to me is that they are on a boat on the river and that they are sending a plane to find them. I am told to expect information by tomorrow sometime.

While I appreciate the extraordinary efforts of the media, the U.S. and Peruvian governments, until I hear from and see my son directly, we will not stop. This young couple is someone’s son and brother, someone’s daughter and sister and United States citizens. We have not heard from them since January 25, nor have they accessed bank accounts since that time. We have only the worst to consider as to why.

Thank you those of you who are helping – friends, family, reporters, officials – and our task is done when Garrett and Jamie are home and safe.

Thank you.

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Normal Peru posts photos of Garret Hand, Jamie Neal; family confirms they are safe

Post by Wrapitup on Fri Mar 01, 2013 4:39 pm

10:47 AM, Mar 1, 2013


By Catherine E. Shoichet and Rafael Romo

INQUITOS, Peru (CNN) - For more than a month, Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal went off the grid.

But new photos of the couple -- who family members had reported missing in Peru -- surfaced online Thursday, posted by officials to prove that the pair were safe and sound, enjoying their South American vacation.

A Facebook page for Peru's tourism ministry published several photographs showing the couple smiling and posing with authorities.

The U.S. Embassy in Lima also confirmed that Hand and Neal were "safe and sound." And Hand's mother released a statement saying she'd spoken with her son.

In Facebook posts Wednesday, Hand and Neal assured friends they were alive and well, and wrote they had been out of contact for more than a month because they had been traveling in Amazon villages without electricity, Internet or phone service.

The couple, who hail from the San Francisco area, left in November and began a series of social media posts chronicling the trip of their dreams -- a four-month bike adventure through South America.

Their online posts stopped in late January, prompting concern from family members. Saying calls to their cell phones had gone unanswered and bank transactions had stopped, relatives told reporters they feared the worst and asked for authorities to help find the couple.

On Wednesday, relieved family members told reporters that the travelers were safe and sound. They thanked the Peruvian government, the U.S. Embassy and others for their help.

"I am so happy today that my son is well," Francine Fitzgerald, Hand's mother, said in a statement. "Now our family will have to process all of this, and I think this will take some time. I can't wait to see Garrett and Jamie walking off the plane and into my arms."

Peru is known for the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, located in the Cusco region, which attract hundreds of thousands of international travelers each year. Some remote areas of the country are out of cell phone and Internet reach.

When the couple was spotted traveling in a small boat on a remote jungle river, Peruvian officials said they were clearly enjoying their trip and weren't aware that their families were looking for them.

"These two young people have fallen in love with Peru," Jose Luis Silva, Peru's tourism minister, told CNN on Tuesday. "They have visited off-the-beaten-path places, and it seems like they're having a blast -- so much so that they have forgotten to communicate with their families."

On Wednesday, a post on Neal's Facebook page said that authorities had taken the couple to a military base, where they were fielding questions and being photographed.

"The Peruvian military gave us our own house to stay in," she wrote, "and food and a bunch of booze to drink."

All the attention was "insane," Neal said.

"I may delete my Facebook when I get home."

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