Machu picchu, "ancient peak" in the Quechua language, is South America's top archeological site. Each year, over 65,000 backpackers make the rigorous 25-mile hike up the 500-year old path found amid the sacred Andes.
"We are not at our best perched at the summit," observed writer John W. Gardner. "We are climbers, at our best when the way is steep."
Located 50 miles (80 k) northwest of the former Incan capital of Cusco, for centuries Machu Picchu was buried in Peru's jungle, discovered in 1911 by Yale historian Hiram Bingham (1875-1956) as he searched for the "Lost City of the Incas."
"Machu Picchu balances cleverly," writer Katy Koontz observed, "caught in a dance between earth and sky."
A sacred place of pilgrimage constructed in the 15th century, the spectacular ruins include staircases, towers, fountains, terraces, and temple. Carved out of the granite bedrock, the famous Intihuatana, "Hitching Post of the Sun," is considered a ceremonial altarpiece and an astrological marker.
"The magic of Machu Picchu is unseen...The Incas thought things through," said engineer Kenneth Wright, who discovered through recent excavations that the Incas meticulously prepared the site with layers of rocks so the typical 79 inches of annual rain would not destroy the structure.
As brilliant Dutch lithographer M.C. Escher said of exploration, "He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder."
With Nature's heart, wash your spirit clean.