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February 22, 2013 at 4:01 PM

The awful wait after an American couple vanishes in Peru

The poster created by family and friends of the American couple missing in Peru.

Seattle and other West Coast cities are hotbeds of adventurous, outdoors-loving travelers who head off to remote corners of the world.  Most come back safely, full of tales of adventures and misadventures.  But every so often family and friends wait in fear, and despair, for travelers who are badly overdue and from whom there’s no word.

That awful wait is what family and friends are enduring in the case of two young Americans, Garrett Hand, 27, and Jamie Neal, 25,  who were bicycle-touring in Peru in January. The couple from California’s Bay Area vanished in Peru in late January and has had no contact since then. Their loved ones have enlisted the help of the U.S. Embassy in Lima, put information out on social media, and created missing-person posters in Spanish and English.

“They updated Facebook every day, and their last post was on Jan. 25th saying that they had entered the Cusco region,” said Max Hunter, an Oakland  friend and part of the bicycling community in the East Bay,  who’s helping search for Hand and Neal. Hunter added that use of their credit cards also abruptly stopped that day.

“Originally I was hoping that they were stuck in a remote area for the last month and unable to get in touch, maybe due to mechanical trouble with their bicycles.  However, since the last sighting places them in Lima, this seems unlikely,” said Hunter in an email on Friday.

A Peruvian bus company told Hunter that video showed the two leaving the bus station in Lima on Jan. 26, after a long-distance bus trip from Cusco, and getting into a taxi.

The U.S. Embassy in Lima and Peruvian authorities are helping. “Consular officers from the U.S. Embassy in Lima are in contact with the families and are providing all appropriate consular assistance,” said Leslie Núñez Goodman, an information officer at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, in a Friday email.

“Embassy officers are also in close contact with Peruvian authorities who are working diligently to find Mr. Hand and Ms. Neal.  The Peruvian authorities provided us all assurances that they will do everything possible to locate this couple.”

For U.S.  travelers in trouble overseas, embassies and consular offices can come to the rescue (see the State Department website for country-by-country contact information).  Hopefully, there will be a happy ending for Hand and Neal.


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