A California couple, Jamie Neal and Garrett Hand, that went missing in Peru last month have been found safe and are currently traveling upstream in a small boat on a jungle river.
“They’re currently in a remote, paradise-like region of the Amazon, which is difficult to access,” said Jose Luis Silva, the country’s minister of tourism and commerce. The couple have not been seen in over four weeks. Authorities have been searching for Neal and Hand ever since.
The couple originally left San Francisco in November and began blogging about their trip, which was a four-month bike route through South America.
However, Hand’s mother won’t believe it until she hears directly from her missing 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 trip was a dream come true for Neal and Hand.
“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.
They shared photos online from their adventure through Argentina, Chile and Peru, 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 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 Neal and Hand. “Proof of life is my son’s voice on the phone and a picture of him holding the missing poster.”
Neal and Hand, both 25, were last seen in Lima, Peru. But some of the areas they planned to visit are out of cell phone and Internet reach, which could explain why they lost communication with the outside world.