Home » The road to Machu Picchu starts at 385 lbs

The road to Machu Picchu starts at 385 lbs

written by Carla Powell September 29, 2017
Machu Picchu

This story was shortlisted for the 2017 CBC Nonfiction Prize. Documenting the author’s experience on the Inca Trail with Intrepid Travel, it is republished here with her permission.

Everyone died.

The significant ones. My first boyfriend, my brother, my mom, my dad, my Danish host parents, all four grandparents, my best friend. The roots of my tree. My tribe.

Death by suicide, impaired driver, cancer, broken hearts.

Gone.

Gained?

100 lbs.

It was Krista, my best friend, on the phone trying to say the word ‘malignant’ and it coming out ‘malign’, that made my tree fall. The last root, heaved out of the ground, with a futile sigh.

“Krista, this is important. Did the doctor say ‘ma-LIG-nant’ or ‘be-NIGN’?”

“MALIGNANT! That’s it. Is that bad?” A shattering question that sounded like it was coming from an innocent child, not a 40 year old. The weight of how to answer that question sat at the back of my throat.

I heard a tether snap. In my mind’s eye, a brilliant balloon was sky-rocketing into space, with me grasping at ropes, helpless to hold it to the Earth.

After providing all the assurances and hopeful promises that a friend should, I hung up the phone and fell to my knees beside the bed and stared at the power cords on the floor. Tears welled up. “Seriously universe? You’re going to take my best friend too?” I gasped and I wheezed and had that deep, ugly cry that we save for the most primal moments in our lives.

I fell asleep on the floor.

As with every other death, I numbed myself with food. In the six months it took Krista to die, I had gained another 20 pounds to add to the 80 that had crept on since my brother got killed.

For a year, I floated. I felt nothing. When everyone dies, there’s nothing much that can shake you up. The small annoyances in life — standing in lines, gossip, being late, endless snowy days — don’t even register. Day-to-day life can not compete with grief. Grief has its own agenda.

I was staring at the cobweb hanging from the bedroom light; it was noon, I was still in bed.

The web looked like a rain-covered bridge.

To where?

My own voice broke the silence, “I’m going to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.”

I reached beside the bed, found my laptop, fired it up and booked a trip to Peru.

How easily decisions can be made and then rapidly solidified with confirmation emails. “Ding,” sounded my inbox. “Congratulations on booking with Intrepid!”

“HOLY SHIT!” I said to the cobweb, “I can’t get up a mountain in the freakin’ Andes!”

And so, the road to Machu Picchu started at 385 pounds.

Flash forward eight months later, to kilometer 82; the entrance to the 4-day, 45-km hike to Machu Picchu.

The Quechuan porters that carry the tents and food were sizing me up with unmistakable looks of doubt. I could read their minds, “She’s not actually hiking this trail, is she?”

Looking at them, I had a small moment of panic. “Thomas,” I said to my guide, “I’m not going to die on the Inca Trail, am I?”

He looked at me and drummed his chin, “Maybe.”

I, up until then, had no doubts about getting to Machu Picchu. I had been walking miles back home. Slogging it 17 kilometres around Western Head in the hot, humid Nova Scotian summer. I circled Pine Grove Park over and over again until I could recall from memory every twig on the path. I ran up and down my stairs feeling like my lungs would explode. At the end of the day, however, I was still over 300 pounds and, as I learned, not the typical trekker one sees on the Inca Trail.

Machu Picchu hiking PeruHIKE THE INCA TRAIL LIKE CARLA; CHECK OUT INTREPID’S RANGE OF TRIPS TO MACHU PICCHU

I didn’t die on Day 1. In fact, the porters cracked quizzical smiles at me when I walked into camp that night. I bowed, leaning on my hiking poles, “Oh yes, boys, Big Girl is still on the mountain!” But really, the bets were that I would die Day 2; the day where the daunting and much-feared 4200m Dead Woman’s Pass is to be conquered.

The mantra that played like a sing-song tune in my head was, “Anyone can climb a mountain… one step at a time,” interspersed with nuns singing, “climb every mountain.”

And so I did.

I laughed like a crazy person, as I stood on top of that pass. The thin air and blustery wind stole my breath, but I continued to giggle and turn in a slow 360, agog at the sight of mountain tops. Somehow, I was still alive. There were two more days of hiking ahead, but I had just crested what was expected to be the most challenging part of the hike.

Why was it so easy?

On Day 3, I was talking to a fellow trekker from Australia. “This is so hard!” she said, “I don’t know how you can always be smiling.”

I thought about her words as I ambled along, staring out from the cliff’s edge at the phenomenal mountain peaks that surrounded me.

Machu Picchu hiking Peru

My Intrepid group

READ MORE: INTRODUCING NORTHERN PERU, HOME TO THE ‘NEW MACHU PICCHU’

I wasn’t feeling that the hike was hard. I was feeling privileged. I knew that there were people that could never make it up that trail; and I knew that my most important people couldn’t do it because they were six feet under the ground.

Hard?

Trying to understand that the broken, stitched-together body in the coffin is your brother, is hard. Holding your father in your arms as he chokes on his last breath, is hard. Getting a letter in the mail that states, “he killed himself,” is hard. Putting one foot in front of the other, is not hard.

On Day 4, I stood alone at the bottom of a steep incline leading to the Sungate, the entrance to Machu Picchu from the trail. I could see people taking photos and congratulating themselves with pats on the back. Everyone busily pulling out their Bucket Lists and putting a big check mark beside Hike the Inca Trail, sandwiched on the list somewhere between hold a Koala bear and kiss my love at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The finish.

No.

I wanted to stay on the trail, to go back, to sit in the cloud forest and gasp for air among the llamas. I got emotional with the level of my need for it not to end. I felt so strong and happy.

Machu Picchu hiking Peru

Smiling, always

READ MORE: 7 THING NO-ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT THE INCA TRAIL

The thought of walking through the Sungate and leaving it behind was enough to make tears appear. The feeling I had was so juxtaposed with the jubilation I was seeing from my fellow hikers at the top. I turned inward toward the mountain and through my misty eyes, I saw there a spider web bedazzled with the morning dew, strung between a mass of orchids. It looked like a bridge.

To where?

I slept hard that night and when I woke up it was pouring down rain so much that it was flooding the little courtyard of my hotel. For some reason, I hadn’t remembered seeing rain, for years. I watched it until it became a drizzle and out into the streets I went.

I sat on a bench in the main square of Cuzco. Water was soaking through my clothes, reminding me of the perpetual state of damp I experienced hiking the Trail. It comforted me.

It had been a very long time since I had felt awake. Every foot fall on that mountain was like a grief detox. I left Krista on the mountain, and my brother Craig, mom, dad, all my loves. I left them in the most beautiful place I could find. I had carried them for far too long.

My pants were falling down and my T-shirts were twisting around me. I was getting tangled in my own clothes. The weight that I had accumulated around me like a fortress was flowing out through the bottom of my feet and onto the mountain. I felt like a snake shedding its skin. I was, lighter.

The Trail was like a bridge back to myself.

The truth is, I had forgotten about myself for years.

Everyone died.

But I did not.

The road to Machu Picchu ended at the start.

Visit Machu Picchu with Intrepid Travel. Check out our range of trips.

Click here to check out the original piece and click here to check out the Peru and Bolivia trip Carla went on.

(All images c/o Carla Powell.)

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85 comments

Emily December 14, 2018 - 9:06 am

Great lessons! So much of hiking is mental. Don’t let anyone tell you not to do something. Size doesn’t determine your ability. Next stop Kilimanjaro? You can do whatever you set your mind to. Keep hiking girl.

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Anonymous October 30, 2018 - 4:58 pm

Wow. Your writing is truly amazing. I am deeply touched. Thank you for having the courage to share your story and your soul with the world. There is something about those hard hikes that helps to get out so much emotion while appreciating what is alive in the world and finding some solace in what is lost. You are awesome! Much love and respect!

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Naomi October 20, 2018 - 10:29 am

Beautiful, inspirational story. Thank you for sharing.

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Vassilis Stamatelopoulos October 10, 2018 - 4:27 pm

Dear Carla, your story is so emotional and can inspired a lot of people to do the Inca trail. Stay strong and keep travelling, it is the best thing you can make to yourself. Thank you for sharing your story with us

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Françoise October 10, 2018 - 6:28 am

Good for you, sistah! Keep on trekking.

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Anonymous October 3, 2018 - 12:38 pm

Beautifully written and so inspiring. Keep on keepin on! ♡♡♡

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Anonymous May 19, 2019 - 1:13 am

Incredible,inspiring, and deeply moving . Thank you. Wow. Truly inspirational,lovely writing

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NA September 17, 2018 - 2:15 pm

This was such a beautiful inspiring story!! Thank you for sharing it and I’m so happy you loved Macchu Picchu!!! I hope your story continues to be shared!

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Fancy September 8, 2018 - 2:38 am

I love this. Your bravery and courage in the face of grief- mind blowing.
I have too been on the trail and will talk about Dead Woman’s Pass forever.
Such an achievement!
You didn’t walk alone x

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Blesie Benito September 3, 2018 - 9:39 am

Thanks for this article Carla! You have expressed in words everything I have felt on that hike. I did Machu Picchu Inca trail 3 years ago when I was 47.
Day 2 for me was the most difficult because the high altitude got the worst of me. It was the most difficult hike I did in my life. Now, I’m turning 50 on October and would love to do another lifetime trip like this. I’m looking to do Kilimanjaro and hoping I can do it too . Thank you for inspiring ordinary women like me to be always adventurous in life

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Patty Mayer September 1, 2018 - 12:46 am

Dear Carla,

I don’t think a travel article has ever touched my heart strings before as this did. I have known the death of my child, the loss of family and friends and the suicide that tears your life apart. Today I want to go find a trail and start placing one foot in front of the other. No guides but others will look and wonder if this lady can make it to the top.

Thank you.

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Hope Underwood August 31, 2018 - 1:33 am

I cried as I read this. I live and work to travel. I went to Machu Picchu last July. Wonderful place and great memories. I got news of an offer for my current job while we were there. Life is such a funny thing. I’m sorry for your many losses. I’m happy that you managed to find yourself. I turned 50 this year and I’m on the heavy side too. I’m working to try and shed a few pounds so that I can hike to the (many) places I want to go without the pain and breathlessness that my size causes. Good fortune in your future journeys and I hope our paths cross. I’d love the opportunity to a chat and tea because you seem like an interesting person.

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Karen August 17, 2018 - 12:51 pm

Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It is beautifully written, and expresses what many go through when they lose loved ones.

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Logan Meece August 4, 2018 - 3:42 am

Virtual Fist-Bump Carla, you’re a badass. Where does Inca Trail rank on your adventures?

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Carla Powell August 6, 2018 - 12:39 pm

HA – thanks bud. Bumpin’ right back at’cha! Inca Trail is up there in the top three on the “Adventures of Carla Powell”. The #1 slot is when I decided to move to Jordan and took up living in a Bedouin Village in the middle of nowhere. Moved into an abandoned stone house, called it home, and confused the villagers. It was amazing. It’s definitely the most bizarre thing I’ve done to date. I will probably knock that off the top spot one day…doing…hm?…I don’t know what. Life is an adventure, huh?

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Stephanie August 25, 2018 - 7:50 pm

I’m going to Jordan in December. Other than the usual stuff, any favorite restaurants or odd things (pinball in Budapest, falconry, small art galleries, etc) that would be special and specific to Jordan?

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Carla Powell August 27, 2018 - 12:54 pm

Oh my gosh…so much loveliness in Jordan. My amazing little Bedouin village is worth a stop. Dana Village — stay at Nabil’s (The Tower Hotel). Tell them Carla sent you. Walk from Dana to Feynan…have tea with the Bedouins. Madaba is a crazy town built on top of ancient mosaics. The Dead Sea is a must…as is Petra. Little Petra isn’t as frequented by tourists. Wadi Rum is amazing. Try to choose a small camp. The accommodations will be a little more rustic but you will be in the middle of nowhere. Get them to take you to see that cave paintings. I could go on and on. Sooooo much. Enjoy! I wish I was going with you. This is my home.

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kate August 3, 2018 - 6:15 am

Thank you for sharing this, so beautifully and succinctly. It should be a book or a movie. I, too, have needed a physical, challenging journey after my world was turned upside down with an onslaught on emotional grief and trauma. That has taken me around the ring road of Iceland, Machu Picchu, the Himalayas in Nepal, VicFalls and South Africa, etc…. I believe we need those hard physical journeys to remind us that we can/have survived worse. I am grateful for the adventures I’ve had. Only those who have been through it can understand, so thank you for understanding. And thank you for writing it. More power to you!!

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Melanie Knapp August 1, 2018 - 10:54 am

For 15 years I’ve been thinking of Peru…. Somehow it calls to me. I thought about being there at machu pichu….. and traveling but was never sure I could make it with my own large weight and anxiety. I didn’t know other people had the same dream. It is so hopeful to read about this. I love the pictures of the mountains and trees. It seems very special. Thanks.

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Jennifer Maer July 31, 2018 - 12:21 am

Thank you for this. It was touching and loosened something in me, and I can’t stop crying. I know what you mean about the grief and the loss creating a “fortress around you”, and am currently on a journey of my own, wrestling with the “why’s” of my weight. Down 55 lbs and counting, I was especially jolted by your description of carrying them to the most beautiful place. It made me think of who and what I’m carrying, and where I’ll be leaving them. Now I want a hike of my own. Thank you for the inspiration and encouragement. Lots of love and hugs from Miami.

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Carla Powell July 31, 2018 - 9:23 am

Let it flow, Jennifer. Keep on crying. My friend sent me the most beautiful words from Khalil Gibran after my dad died. “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” There’s nothin’ but love in those tears…it’s not a bad thing. Hugs received – and returned.

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K July 30, 2018 - 11:16 pm

Wow. Amazing. I lost my dad to cancer and then a year later stepped onto a plane for the first time and haven’t looked back since. I try to travel at least 3-5 times a year. I have traveled with friends and family and also alone for a few days meeting friends on the others… I’ve yet to do a full trip alone. I want to go to many of the places you have gone but can’t convince my friends and family either. It is my dream to go to Africa. I don’t mind going it alone and you have inspired me. I’m also overweight but I climbed the pyramid of the sun in Mexico and I’ve hiked part of the Appalachian trail. It really is true you can do anything you put your mind to!

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Samantha Bland July 30, 2018 - 3:05 pm

Wow – this is such an incredible story and so beautifully written. You had me in tears – sad and happy ones. This is one hell of a personal triumph and I wanted to say thank you for sharing it with us.

I’m from New Brunswick – if you’re ever around and looking for a buddy to explore with, I am trying to see more of my own backyard!

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Melissa July 30, 2018 - 6:46 am

Your story is truly inspirational!! I have not had the amount of loss you have, which my condolences are reached out to you, but have realized I have lost myself and my joy. I have gotten to the top of Machu Picchu and I didn’t think I’d make it! I was out of shape and it was raining. I made a friend on the trip and she encouraged me all the way to the top. I came down and felt invigorated but came back home to the states and felt once again lost. Reading your story has inspired me once again!! Thank you!!

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Dulce July 28, 2018 - 1:35 am

I was so in inspired by your journey! I am sorry for the loss you have experienced in your life but I’m glad you’ve found peace. I’ve been wanting to go to Macchu Picchu but didn’t even consider hiking the trail. I thought I couldn’t do it. I have fibromyalgia and suffer from chronic pain and fatigue. Your story has given me some motivation to rethink my decision. Thank you for reminding me that I can still be me and I don’t have to let go of everything I used to want for myself! I hope you continue to share your travels and continue to motivate and inspire. Hope you don’t mind but I wanted to follow you on Instagram to see more of your travels! Happy traveling!

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Carla Powell July 31, 2018 - 12:37 am

“I can still be me and don’t have to let go of everything I used to want for myself” are the best words EVER! What an empowering sentiment. I hope you expand and explore…and conquer some of those things you want to accomplish in you life. Much love!

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Margaret Webster July 24, 2018 - 7:29 am

Carla,
First let me say, I am Soo sorry for your losses. I’m in awe of you. Your resilience is amazing. I enjoyed your story very much. You inspire me to book my own adventure hiking the Inca Trail and I won’t take it personally when the guides give me “the look”. 🙂 I’ll remember to think “One step at a time” that’s all it takes.

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Anna Huthmaker July 23, 2018 - 10:12 pm

Carla, your writing is beautiful!! Thank you so much for sharing your story!! I did the Inca Trail at 260 pounds and remember very, very well the looks of the porters 🙂 🙂 🙂 And like you, I smiled just about every step of the way. 🙂 A friend shared this blog with my hiking club and I am looking forward to reading more!! 🙂

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Terry Ansbro July 21, 2018 - 4:26 am

I made it up Macchu Pichu when I was overweight, out of shape, with bad knees (1 replaced, 1 still old and busted), the year I turned 60. The first thing my ex said when I mentioned my plans was to scoff, “You’ll never make it up there!” I rather imagine a lot of people thought the same and just didn’t say it out loud. I made it—it was not fast and not pretty, but I made it—with a small container of my mother’s ashes in my pocket. My mother never doubted I could do anything I decided to do. I’m proud of you; I’m proud of myself; I’m proud of all of us who accomplish our goals and live our dreams. Next summit coming up!

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Gail July 20, 2018 - 5:21 am

Another side comment.they sang happy birthday to me at the Sun Gate, my 75th. And my husband is 83….he outdid many of the younger ones..

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Carla Powell July 21, 2018 - 4:04 am

WELL DONE, YOU! And hubby. I hope I’m still climbing mountains when I get that age. We had two birthdays in our little group…and our Intrepid camp cooks made birthday cakes for both if them! Decorated and everything. I thought…’Maaaaan…here we are trying to put one foot in front of the other and these guys are hauling piping bags and icing sugar with them.” Superstars.

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Gail July 20, 2018 - 5:19 am

I just came back from the same trip. I don’t know you, but i am so proud of you. It was a daunting hike but you made it. So wonderful. On a side note, i put on 10 lbs. From the wonderful food. Cold and rain didn’t stop us, nor will sadness. Well done.

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Karen Fyles July 16, 2018 - 11:37 am

I chose to cancel a trip I had booked to Machu Picchu and Galapagos to stay home to heal realizing that for me the trip was a means of avoiding what I needed to do. Nevertheless your story resonates with me and II thank you for sharing it. Your journey is inspiring!

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Mary July 16, 2018 - 1:08 am

Wow! What s beautiful story!! You strength and determination are awesome! We hiked the Inca trail last Christmas and felt the magic. We were by far the oldest people in the group ( I’m 53 and my husband and friends are in 60’s). I think our guide had his doubts we could do it too! I love to hike and I feel there’s real healing that comes from being in nature and relying on your own body. I wish you much happiness and adventure in the future!

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Kelli July 14, 2018 - 10:50 am

Carla…

THANK YOU….

You played a major role in me concurring the Inca Trail.

I had the pleasure of reading your note about a week before I set out on my adventure.

I wanted you to know that every time I considered giving up (especially most of day 2 lol) I would think about your story, and remind myself you can do anything you set your mind you!

I sent out a silent prayer to you when I stood at the top of Dead Women’s Pass (in the sleet, hail and snow – I should mention this was only a few weeks ago during the dry season )

You helped me get outside of mind, push my limits and achieve that goal!!

Thank you for that; it was an experience that I don’t even think that time could dull!

Kelli

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Carla Powell July 17, 2018 - 10:45 am

KELLI!!! I’m so happy that I climbed that mountain with you. I feel like I go again and again when people share their experiences. That second day was quite a mental exercise, huh? I just kept saying, “Okay, 10 more steps…ok, just up to that bend…ok, just this set of stairs…etc”, and before I knew it, I was looking at mountain tops. Phenomenal feeling that is still vibrantly part of who I am, it certainly doesn’t ‘dull’. You got me right in the ‘feels’ when you said you sent a prayer out to me from that special place. Received, received, received! Congratulations on doing the cool thing, the brave thing, the fun thing — and succeeding. You star!

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Marcy July 12, 2018 - 12:37 am

You are my hero. Being a backpacker and world traveler myself I understand your passion. Having lost both of my parents and my father in law in the past nine months, and living most of the last 30 years of my life at 250 pounds, I am inspired by journey. The memories of watching my mother and father die are light years harder than taking a step. Thank you for your story. Big hugs to you as you continue to live again!! Marcy

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Carla Powell July 17, 2018 - 11:06 am

Miss Marcy — Losing the ones that made us is hard, hard, hard. And to lose them both and a father-in-law in under a year is not for the faint of heart. I’m glad that my words have given you some inspiration – maybe we’ll meet on top of a mountain one day and I might find out that you’re MY hero. Hugs being sent right back at’cha.

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Dedra July 9, 2018 - 2:42 pm

Your writing is beautiful, your story inspirational and emotionally touching. I’m sobbing while responding. Thank you and bless you.

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Leslie Plumberg June 4, 2018 - 11:59 am

Love your story….I was born in Peru, Grew up in Lima and moved to the states when I was 10. I have been back to visit family for the last five years, but after that I decided to travel once a year and explore different parts of the country. Machu Picchu was amazing and so was the hike to the glass pods hanging off the sacred valley. Last year it was rainbow mountain. The fight of my life is not weight related but it involves my children, who have been dying to meet their family and roots but my ex would not let them leave the country….it’s an ugly battle that is taken a day at a time in hopes to someday have a little air to breathe so that the kids understand that they are and have always been the focus. A few weeks ago I won the first court case to allow my children to meet their family and also….we are going to explore the Amazon! Life throws us curve balls…but it’s amazing what we can sustain and the things that keep us moving forward. I absolutely LOVE your story….someday i hope to show my children around the world, that there are no limits, that you can do anything you want, to teach them to always be humble and the amazing people from all around the world. Keep on traveling, keep on writing, keep on moving forward!

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Megan Brown June 4, 2018 - 10:09 am

This story is absolutely beautiful! I just want to reach out and give you a big ol hug. I feel like we would be amazing friends. This story is wonderful and so powerful!!!

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Carla Powell June 4, 2018 - 10:13 pm

Hug received! ❤

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Cindy June 3, 2018 - 4:03 pm

Beautifully written. Truly inspirational.

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Jennie June 3, 2018 - 12:37 pm

My story is nowhere near as poignant and inspiring as yours, but I chose to hike the Inca trail just before I turned 40. I called it my “F*** You to 40” trip. I trained for eight months to try to get into shape, but it was the altitude that became my biggest challenge. I felt sick and had no appetite. I was the last one to camp every night, and who knows how long my group waited for me at Dead Woman’s Pass before I finally made it. I spent most of the time focusing on just putting one foot in front of the other, so I had to remind myself to stop every once in a while to look around and appreciate where I was and what I was doing. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, and will probably ever do, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Well, maybe I’d trade the altitude sickness…

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Carla Powell June 3, 2018 - 11:24 pm

Ooooh that altitude sickness is a cheeky monkey. I watched a woman get carried up and over by porters. I was so blessed to have avoided it. Drank lots of water, ascended slow and didn’t mess with the high altitude drugs. This hike kicks your butt, for sure…but I think it has been my favourite butt-kicking thus far. I turn 50 on 2 years…I’m probably gonna choose to do something else that will push my limits. You know…just to show ’50’ who’s boss. Congrats on kickin’ 40 to the curb in the most epic way possible.

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Jennie June 4, 2018 - 11:27 am

I took the altitude pills! Either they didn’t work, or it would have been worse and porters would have had to carry me over Dead Woman’s Pass too! 🙂 I’m pushing 47 now. I guess I need to start thinking about 50 too.

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Pam yemen June 1, 2018 - 1:31 pm

Beautiful writing about such sad events that we lived through in your hometown without the heartbreak that you endured.
So glad to hear that you are doing so well.

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Kimm May 30, 2018 - 1:47 pm

I don’t do motivational stuff, but this is the real stuff.
Thankyou for sharing your journey.

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Shiloah May 30, 2018 - 11:18 am

Your writing is beautiful to read, like a sonnet! I expected to read another great travel blog, but not only was it inspiring, it was poetic, heart bolstering writing. I am not a writer, just a want to be nomad with a bunch of extra lbs. Keep writing, you have a fan!

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Carla Powell June 1, 2018 - 11:09 am

A sonnet! I LOVE that!
I just came back from hauling my big butt around Africa for 6 weeks — stories to come!
❤❤❤

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Cathy May 28, 2018 - 5:18 am

Hiking heels the soul. It did for me after my divorce. I’m happy to hear you found mountain therapy too!

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Tara May 27, 2018 - 9:17 pm

What a great story. It both inspired me and brought me to tears at the same time.
Definitely a place on my bucket list that I hope to get to one day

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Emma May 27, 2018 - 8:57 am

Thank you for your touching story! I was in Zimbabwe (on an intrepid tour) when I found out my Nan had stomach cancer. Fast forward 18 months of sickness and 4 lost loved ones, now my father is in for the fight of his life. Your comments on how you live life during this phase of grief are accurate. Nothing matters, including your own health and well-being. I’ve moved or cancelled my holiday 3 times now due to family illness, with my grandpa’s words rattling around my head. “Go see the world for me and come and tell me about it when you’re done.” I hope that one day soon I will be able to get back on track like you did.

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Candy May 27, 2018 - 5:30 am

I feel like it has been a long time since I’ve been awake as well. I so badly want to be able to feel something again but I don’t know where to start. Where did you go next?

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Carla Powell June 1, 2018 - 11:06 am

Hi Candy…
Travel is a lovely way to ‘feel’ something again. You put yourself in strange lands where everything is a new and different stimulus, and you become more awake just navigating your way through. I just came back from 40 days in Africa. This trip woke me up in such different ways than my trip to Peru and Bolivia — I will be writing about it soon so stay tuned. Life has so much richness to offer…most of it is right outside our own front doors — but we dont ‘see’ the familiar. Go somewhere daring…I guarantee you will find yourself waiting there…and you will remember yourself. ❤

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Kara May 27, 2018 - 4:43 am

I too have lost people close to me. Thank you for sharing your journey of loss and finding yourself. This was so inspiring!

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Anonymous May 27, 2018 - 2:57 am

Incredible journey and so proud I f up sharing it.

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Krista Steenbergen February 8, 2018 - 12:36 am

Thank you for this amazing touching story! I stimuleren upon it since I am hiking a very small vulcano at Bali this week. It inspires me to do so with clear intention ❤️ Thank you brave woman! All the best to you.

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Sally O’Brien May 27, 2018 - 2:39 pm

Thank you for your story. So inspirational to be able to get up from some huge knocks and live!

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Henry Libo-on February 2, 2018 - 4:55 am

OMG…you are such a great soul. Your story is soooooo inspiring. Yes, I realized, it is different when you are writing from the heart…because “it is only through the heart that one can see lightly, what is essential is invisible to the eyes”. From The Little Prince and now from you…Thanks Carla for sharing your story and telling me how to make it to Machu Picchu…..someday, before I die.

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Carla Powell February 19, 2018 - 9:44 pm

Thanks Henry… there’s lots of time. There was a man hiking at the same time I was. He was with his daughter on what appeared to be their ‘last great adventure’ together. He was 79. There was no doubt that he was having his struggles, but, it was also clear that nothing was going to stop him. My mantra of ‘anyone can climb a mountain, one step at a time applied to him… to me …and hopefully to you too, one day. Best of luck!

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Elizabeth. Moorr October 26, 2017 - 1:47 am

What a powerful testimony to survival- both emotional and physical. You are amazing.

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Jayne Buckley Sykes October 24, 2017 - 11:58 pm

Beautiful testimony to loves lost and found! You are inspiring, Carla. I look forward to reading more from you. Be well.

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Allegra Steck October 23, 2017 - 10:53 am

Humbling. Believe in your strength. The Appalachian Trail awaits you,,,

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Sharon Cozad October 11, 2017 - 1:21 pm

Thank you so much for your story. I booked myself a 10 day stay in Peru, on my own. Was dealing with my own loose ends and disappointments. What a glorious adventure! What powerful, kind, healthy people I met! Nepal is calling now. I haven’t picked up yet, but I hope I collect the nerve and do it. Thank you. For your courage and your joyful attitude.

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Carla Powell October 12, 2017 - 11:43 am

Awesome! I answered the call to Nepal. Some bravery and vigilance needed for sure, but an amazing adventure! Might as well do Tibet while you’re there. Get those lungs ready for altitude again! 🙂

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Michael Deibert February 13, 2018 - 2:10 pm

What an inspiring story of tackling a challenge in the such difficulty times! It’s unfortunate that your life took you to that darkness, but I’m glad that you put one foot in front of the other and succeeded!
If you get into Tibet, consider the kora around Mt. Kailash. If you go in the beginning or end of the high season, there’s almost no foreigners around. The trek itself was a challenge to me in many ways, but it’s one that changes who you are. It’s also utterly beautiful with so much spirituality encompassing the trek.

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Tina October 8, 2017 - 5:11 pm

Gosh Carla thanks for sharing your story. I’m sorry for all the loss you’ve suffered. I don’t know what my spiritual beliefs are but I do believe the energy of those you’ve loved and lost were with you in every step. You may have left a part of them on the mountain but those we love never truly leave us. Sharing your struggles with the world is an act of courage by itself without having climbed a mountain. I hope your travels continue and you take us along when you can through your words.

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Carla Powell October 12, 2017 - 11:40 am

Thanks Tina! I definitely think I got a spiritual push somehow. People were complaining about their screaming quads getting up Dead Woman’s Pass and my legs felt amazing. My lungs, however, were taking a beating. I like to think I had the ‘tribe’ on board, cheering me up and over.

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Shannon October 7, 2017 - 1:47 am

Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I’m in tears reading. I did the hike a few years ago and reading your post brought me back, from walking through the sungate to being in Cuzco. It truly is an amazing place! You’re a wonderful writer and I look forward to reading more about your travels. Thanks so much

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Michelle October 6, 2017 - 8:37 am

It is a beautiful thing, finding yourself in the place you least expect. I hope you have the chance to visit Tibet. My life changed in so many ways after living there. It was a decade ago, but I am still uncovering parts of myself that had started to break free when I was there.

I am looking forward to your future travels.

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Carla Powell October 6, 2017 - 1:10 pm

I have been to Tibet. It is an amazing place… very steeped in culture and meaning. It has a quiet that I hadn’t experienced anywhere else. People seemed genuinely occupied with the moment… busy with what was in front of them. Tuned in to the present. Perhaps all that focus on Buddha’s and pilgrimages helps? My heart/soul place is Jordan. I found myself there. I, too, move there for awhile… and have been back 10 times. I hope everyone has a chance in their lives to ‘find themselves’ in an unlikely place. <3

I'm heading to Africa in April. It's a bit of a butt-kicking trip… I'm sure I will have lotsa stories! Stay tuned!! Agagagagagah!

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Susan October 6, 2017 - 4:33 am

My heart balloons for you and your story 🙂 nothing more to say!!!

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Amanda October 5, 2017 - 7:29 pm

Carla – are you on instagram ? Would love to follow your travels

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Carla Powell October 6, 2017 - 1:03 pm

Hiya Amanda… you bet! My Instagram is: bedouinprincess

You may have to put up with photos of my cat though. He’s soooo puddin’ head and fuzzer-butt, I just can’t stand it!

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Carla Powell October 5, 2017 - 9:42 am

Galapagos is definitely on my hit list! Everyone that goes there tells me such beautiful tales. My roommate in Peru had just travelled from there and she was literally glowing from the adventure. I hope that your journey is an insightful one, and you bloom into the person that you’ve always wanted to be. <3

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Melissa Keith October 5, 2017 - 4:21 am

Thank you for sharing. What a privilege it is for us to peek into your personal story. I’d love to read more of your writing. Do you write elsewhere that I can read?

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Carla Powell October 5, 2017 - 9:46 am

Hi Melissa… thanks for reading! 🙂 I have endless, endless trunks of journals that I have written. I have just recently started to push my writing into the public forum and so, you will, hopefully, be seeing much more from me. I will be going on another Intrepid adventure to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania in April, and I’m sure that will give me a BONKERS amount of things to write about. I am also constructing a novel about when I lived in a Bedouin village in Jordan, ya know, like ya do. :p Inshallah, it will become something worth reading. Either way – keep an eye peeled here – more to come on my author page. Cheers!

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Nic October 4, 2017 - 1:25 pm

So eloquently written Carla. Not to the same extent but my experience was similar and I just finished the classic trail on the morning of my 39th birthday two days ago. Day 2 and conquering Dead Woman’s pass reminded me of my resilience and willpower for sheer determination; Day 3 returned my confidence and I felt joy return as I sung my way through the winding cliffs on the way to lunch with the sun streaming on my face; Day 4 I actually stood behind the sun gate for nearly ten minutes to gather myself and my thoughts as it had been such a monumental moment I had been working towards for nearly nine months. I didn’t quite want it to end but I also wanted to be able to take a quiet moment to reflect on where I had come from and step through the gate with a renewed purpose. It was a moment I will never forget. I’m so glad you found yourself again, and I hope the future holds so much more joy for you x

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Carla Powell October 5, 2017 - 9:38 am

Walking through the Sungate truly is a ‘porthole’ experience for people. That’s why I had such a difficult time leaving the trail. We probably stood in the same place, resistant for it to end, yet, ready to celebrate. Day 3 is truly the most glorious, isn’t it. Stunning scenery and a real feeling of being absolutely in the middle of the mountains where no road can get to you. You have to HIKE to get that deep. I love the story of your journey. I especially love it when people, anyone really, does something in their life that ‘wakes them up’. We so easily forget about ourselves in our beige workaday worlds. Those worlds are far more tolerable when we add a little colour. 🙂 Thanks for reading my story. <3

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Caroline Middlebrook October 4, 2017 - 2:28 am

What an incredible story Carla! I will remember it anytime I think the walk or the hike is ‘hard’!

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Emma October 2, 2017 - 5:20 am

I feel for you. I’m overweight myself. A couple of years back I crashed and burned in Nepal, a combination of general unfitness, recovering from flu and a bad dose of food poisoning. Now I’m going to a gym three times a week, not the kind of gym where you watch the TV on a treadmill, but the kind of gym where they tell you to drop and give them 20. We can reinvent ourselves, and I may not ever be slim but I will be fit for this. One day I am going back to Nepal and I am going to do the Annapurna Sanctuary circuit. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Carla Powell October 3, 2017 - 5:52 pm

There’s certainly nothing wrong with getting your butt kicked by the Himalayas! I did Tibet and Nepal, and have to say, we duked it out and I made it out alive….barely. Mine was combination of bus crash / mugging / altitude / and the local’s obsession with the size of my derriere! There were a lot of unwelcome hands on me. Travel is not always easy, and sometimes we learn more about ourselves surviving the bumps than coasting through unscathed. I hope you conquer your mountain! I’ll be rooting for you!!

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Linda MacKinnon October 1, 2017 - 11:44 pm

Enjoyed reading this very much. What an incredible journey both physically and spiritually, so glad that you were able to shed your burdens there. You are a remarkable woman and I applaud your journeys and adventures and how you have overcome your many losses in your young life. Looking forward to reading more. Thank you for sharing.

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Christa October 1, 2017 - 12:04 pm

This story is heart wrenching and inspiring at the same time

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