Missing in Peru – the story of Carla Valpeoz

Although she is legally blind and can hardly see, Carla Valpeoz loves to travel the world independently. She likes to prove that she cannot be defined by her disability. Her main reason for traveling though, is to see as much of the world as she can before her eyesight totally disappears. She was diagnosed at age 10 with Cone-Rod Dystrophy, a condition that causes a person’s vision to deteriorate over time.

According to CNN, by December 2018, Carla had traveled to about 20 countries by herself. She had studied Arabic in Egypt, worked with abandoned children in Yemen and traveled to remote villages in Indonesia to advocate for indigenous women. Her family said she had always dreamed of visiting Peru, but she hadn’t yet had the chance.

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When Carla heard that her friend Alicia was intending to travel to Lima to take part in a wedding, she jumped at the chance to tag along with her. Carla bought an outfit for the wedding and she set off with her friend in December 2018.

Carla spent the last part of their vacation by herself, hiking Machu Picchu. Even though Alicia advised her not to go alone, Carla set off. There was a window of panic where nobody could get in touch with her. Finally, after 12 hours of silence, Carla replied. She said the wi-fi was terrible, but that she was fine. There was one strange text to Alicia, “I had a big issue that I need to resolve that I’ll do it before I get home,” Carla wrote. Alicia last heard from Carla on December 11, 2018 via text where Carla spoke of her travels “I can’t wait to tell you all about it. It was absolutely worth 100%“.

PHOTO: Carla Valpeoz, a partially blind traveler who has gone missing in Peru, poses for a photo with two men on a peak overlooking Machu Picchu in southern Peru.
Carla and her new travel friends at a point overlooking Machu Picchu

After that, her family did not hear from Carla for a few days. They did not panic until she missed her flight back home.

Carla’s Disappearance

CCTV shows Carla leaving the hostel where she was staying in a cab, in the early morning hours of December 12. She hadn’t told any of her new traveling companions where she was going. She left behind her belongings (including medicines) in the hostel, so it is assumed she always intended to return.

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Later police would learn that she had taken two cabs. The first driver dropped Carla off at a Cusco street where people ride shared taxis headed to the Sacred Valley. The other driver said Carla was in his collective taxi and that she got off in the valley’s first village — Pisac.

A camera outside a drugstore in Pisac captured the last known image of Carla. It shows her walking quickly with her silver folding cane for 14 seconds. This was about an hour after she left her hostel. .She was heading in the direction of the Pisac Archaeological Park, a 9,063-hectare (22,395 acre) mountainside historic site known for its Incan ruins, tunnels, and massive agricultural terraces.

Carla is seen in surveillance footage from a drugstore in Pisac. It's the last known image of her.
Carla was caught on CCTV

No sign of Carla has been seen since. None of her belongings have been found. Carla’s family have searched tirelessly for her since they heard of her disappearance.

Peruvian police first pursued the idea that something happened to Carla in the park in Pisac. They used drones and cadaver dogs and found nothing.

A team of Peruvian police detectives are currently working together to find Carla, along with a special prosecutor and they now believe that Carla never made it into the park. They believe someone took or lured her to one of the many ritual sites in the region where tourists try an intensely hallucinogenic — and sometimes deadly — potion known as ayahuasca.

Carla’s family disputes that she would have wanted to take drugs. They believe Carla was sexually assaulted, kidnapped or was the victim of either human or organ trafficking.”I have no doubt in my mind that my sister was the victim of a crime,” her brother said.

There are other tourists that have been reported missing in the area.

  • Two men were arrested a few weeks after 28-year-old Nathaly Salazar Ayala went missing. They claimed she had died in a zip line accident and that they dumped her body in a river, yet her body has never been located.
  • Jesse Galganov, disappeared while backpacking in the Peruvian mountains in 2017.
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Jesse Galganov

So, what happened to Carla? Did her failing vision cause her to become injured in an accident and have her remains not been found? Did she attend an ayahuasca ceremony and people are covering up her death from that? Or was she involved in foul play? If you have information about Carla’s disappearance, please use the contact numbers on this flyer:

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Additional Resources –

When a solo traveler went missing in Peru, it changed her family’s lives completely

Find Carla Facebook page

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