Only a days ride away from Cusco, on curvy mountainous roads (made a tad too exciting by rally drivers as oncoming traffic) and near the small town of Cachora, was our next archaeological highlight. It seems you can’t travel far in Peru without coming across some impressive Incan or pre-Incan ruin. Accessing this one would be a little bit tougher than Macchu Picchu though. It would be a strenuous 3 day hike to reach the Choquequirao ruins that straddle a mountain top high above the Apurimac River in the Salkantay Mountain Range.

In Cachora we organised a mule to carry our heavy backpacks and set off on a long 12km flat that would bring us to the edge of the steep drop down to the Apurimac. We trudged down 1500m in altitude at punishing temperatures under a brutal relentless sun. We crossed the river and climbed up to Santa Rosa, a small sugarcane farmholding, where we set up our tent on terraces overlooking the valley and ate our meal under a starry sky. It had been a long day and it wasn't hard to fall asleep, the temperatures had already changed drastically with the height difference and we basked in the balmy night air.

An early start for the last, steep 1500m up to the ruins. After sweating through that dusty climb the Apurimac became a mere sliver of silver in the dry valley far below. We traversed through cloud forest to turn a corner and be confronted by neat rows of terraced green cut out of the tangled forest on the opposite slope below us. Above us the ruins themselves.

Leaving our tents set up on the official campsite we set off to explore in the mellow last light of the sun. Our arrival at the ruins was like stepping out of the jungle into a world of perfect symmetry and clean lines. In contrast to Macchu Picchu the ongoing struggle with the vegetation is evident and new areas are still being uncovered and restored all the time. This difference makes it all the more alluring.

We had the morning before we had to return the same way back to Cachora. Having heard of the recent discovery of the Llama terraces we planned to see them but couldn’t quite figure out where they could be. After scrutinising the map we eventually discovered a path that seemed to lead down a cliff face past vegetation choked stone walls. A half hour later we were surveying the white llamas from an elaborate promontory carved out of the rock high above the river. The white quartzite Llamas embedded into the grey slate walls marched in diagonals up the steep hillside before disappearing into the yet to be uncovered terraces above.

Making our way back down we passed some adventurous and hardy souls carrying on past Choquequirao to Macchu Picchu or the elusive Vilcabamba? We looked on enviously as they disappeared around a corner wishing we could also be treading on the ancient Inca trails.