|Missing Cyclists Found on a Boat|
|By CHRISTINA NG (@ChristinaNg27) and SHARON STEVENSON||Feb 26, 2013, 10:37 AM|
A young California couple thought to be missing for a month while on a cycling trip through South America has been located on a boat and were surprised to hear of the search for them, according to Peru's tourism ministry.
The couple was found on a slow-moving boat and are expected to arrive at the Ecuador and Peru border Wednesday where they will have access to a phone, according to Miguel Antezana, the communications director of Peru's Foreign Commerce and Tourism Ministry.
The families and friends of Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal, both 25, had been concerned about the couple who had not been heard from in over a month.
The couple was found on the Napo River at a place called Angoteros, according to Antezana. There, they spoke to the police and were surprised by all of the questions. They eventually asked what was going on and the police told them that they were considered missing persons.
The ministry is sending people with video cameras to the location where the boat is going to dock to show that they are alive and well.
Antezana said that it appears that the couple simply did not want to communicate with their families because they could have done so in Iquitos.
Earlier today, Hand's mother told "Good Morning America" that they family had checked his bank records and found there was no bank activity since Jan. 25, the same day as the couple's last Facebook post.
"How is my son traveling without getting any money?" Francine Fitzgerald asked. "How is my son eating?"
The couple embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December.
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 had not been heard from since, which worried their families and friends.
"They would post sometimes several times a day, pictures telling us where they were and then we all noticed that his postings stopped," Fitzgerald said on "Good Morning America."
"Come home," Hand's sister Larkin McGowan pleaded on "GMA." "Your family needs you in California with us."
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.
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According to the National Police of Peru, witnesses reported seeing Neal and Hand leaving Peru for Ecuador by boat in late January.
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.