Californian Couple Missing in Peru… or are they?

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Written by Matthew Harper.  Media by Bobby Williams.

Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal of Oakland, California were on a biking trip of the South American country when their families last heard from them on Jan. 25, at which point they were on their way to Lima. Since then, there has been only silence.

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At least, that was the case until Feb. 27, when reports started circulating that the couple had been spotted on a river boat headed for Ecuador. According to Reuters, the Peruvian government released a statement that the couple was not only just fine, but that they were “surprised to hear that they were the subject of an international search.” The statement goes on to say that the two are continuing to enjoy their trek through the Peruvian Amazon.

What had up until this point caused fear, with kidnapping being the most suggested option behind the disappearance, has seemingly now ended with only a little bit of confusion. The story isn’t quite over, though, as Garrett Hand’s mother says that she has still received no word from her son. “Proof of life is my son’s voice on the phone,” she said (Fox News). She continued by saying that although she “appreciates the extraordinary efforts of the media, the U.S. and Peruvian governments, until [she hears] from and [sees her] son directly, [they] will not stop.”

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So while their loved ones continue to search for the little-heard from couple (the Peruvian government told Hand’s mother that a plane would be sent out to look for him to confirm if he and Neal were really on the boat they’re reported to be aboard), confusion is starting to rise in the media as to what exactly happened. Why did the couple’s families and friends completely lose contact with them for a full month? Why, all of a sudden, on the day the story of their disappearance broke, did the Peruvian government come out saying they knew where Hand and Neal were? These questions will likely not be answered for sure until the couple safely returns to the United States.

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The official statement from the Peruvian tourism ministry claims that the couple “was surprised by the concern generated by family, friends and the international community after the cessation of their communications in late January” and that their communication abilities were limited by lack of telephone and internet services for much of their trip (Reuters). Until the families involved hear official word, though, this strange occurrence will remain a mystery


  1. We have personal experience with the violent attacks on tourists in Peru, See below the incidents I am aware of.

    1/25/2013 NBC Today Show interviewed Jennifer Wolfrom, Joseph Wolfrom and his wife, Meghan Doherty(Wyoming Climbing/Camping Group) this morning, who were beaten for two days and robbed by indigenous people near Cusco, Peru (one week ago). According to the Peruvian embassy and the national tourism bureau of Peru, “this just never happens in Peru”.

    This is not, as reported, a rare occurrence. The following people have been attacked or killed:

    Jaroslaw Frackiewicz, 70, and Celina Mroz, 58, professors from Poland, killed and dismembered while kayaking near Pucallpa.

    David du Plessis, 24 from Cape Town, S. Africa (my step-grandson) shot while kayaking on the Ucayali River on 8/25/12. Still recovering with multiple bullets in his body, one in the muscle of his heart. David was left for dead but was determine to not die in the jungle with his parents never finding his body or what happened to him. So he ran for hours with bullets in his head, back, chest, leg to find someone to help him. Finally some remote villagers took him for several hours by river to an area hospital to be airlifted to Lima. We are grateful he is recovering and because he is young will survive this ordeal .In David du Plessis’ case, it was a South African brewery in Pucallya, Peru that paid for him to be airlifted to Lima for emergency surgery and intensive care until his family could reach him. The police were suppose to protect him and didn’t.

    Shaun Mallet, 41, of Stanton, England attacked on 9/9/12 in Pucallpa, Peru and left unassisted in Peru until family request for help.

    Read the google accounts of these victims and you will see what they faced in this lawless country. Reports by Peruvian police regarding other tourists injured and killed have proven to be inaccurate

    I am personally very relieved that missing bikers Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal of Oakland, Ca, last seen near Cusco, Peru, have been located. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE TO PROTECT TOURISTS IN PERU.


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