Machu Picchu sees a million visitors a year, but another great pre-Columbian monument remains little-known. We join the first supported trek on the Incas’ Royal Road
Climbing from the ancient Peruvian pilgrimage site of Chavín, we pass fields of quinoa flowering purple in a last burst of energy before they are harvested. There are bunches of maize hanging from the farmhouse rafters in shades of gold and red, and the small village plaza has plants that would not be out of place in an English country garden: hibiscus, hollyhocks and astrantia.
And then we are above the village and the tree line and come to the Royal Road of the Incas, the Capac Ñan, which stretches for an astonishing 1,500 miles from Ecuador to Bolivia – down the length of the Andes, and their empire.