A marvel of the 15th-century Incan empire, Machu Picchu was a center of agricultural and religious importance. (Ralph Hopkins/Lonely Planet Images)
The hot hand towel was unexpected. It was proffered, with a pair of tongs, by a lovely uniformed woman in the hotel entranceway, and from it wafted little lemony tendrils of steam. I took it slowly, a little unsure of where to wipe. The hike to the hotel had taken several hours, mostly uphill, and I was standing in damp fleece and wet wool socks, having just left my muddy boots outside the door. I did not smell of citrus.
To celebrate our 10th anniversary, my wife and I were making a weeklong trek through the Peruvian Andes to the royal city of Machu Picchu. We were following the Salkantay Route, a less heavily trodden alternative to the classic Inca Trail. And instead of tents, we were staying in a series of tiny, high-end lodges built on the footpath along the way.
Trekking and luxury are not words that commingle easily, and any meditative nourishment from the one might seem to risk cancellation by the material indulgence of the other. But at 12,500 feet, as the temperature was dropping, it was awfully nice to walk into the Salkantay Lodge’s heated, tastefully appointed lobby; stand under the rain-forest showerhead in my room; soak in a hot tub; eat a fine meal with good wine; enjoy the handmade confection on my pillow; and then slip between high-thread-count sheets.