The Q’eswachaka Bridge is a fascinating structure that is continuously rebuilt since the very beginning of the Inca civilisation. Read on and discover how the bridge is made, what it means to the local Incan people and where you can find it…
Suspended over the glacial waters of the Auprimac River is the Q’eswachaka Bridge. This incredible structure unites four Cusco communities– the Chaupibanda, Ccollana Quehue, Choccayhua and Huinchiri.
“Q’eswachaka” is derived from the words “q’eswa” meaning “to braid” and “chaka” meaning “bridge”. First built in the fifteenth century, the bridge has a long and tumultuous history. Over the years it has been destroyed to protect local communities and keep invaders out and then rebuilt. Only one of these bridges remain. Located almost 3,700 metres above sea level; the bridge is 33 metres in length and sits 15 metres above the river below. Although it is unlike any bridge you see today, it is incredibly strong and can support dozens of people.
Constructed from the endemic grass ichu, Q’eswachaka Bridge is a marvel of traditional infrastructure. This important renovation is held in the second week of June. Local women braid thin but strong strands of grass into q’oya (cords), these cords are then woven into ropes. The ropes are woven into larger cables. The men pull and stretch the cables to strengthen them. Braided in groups of three, these form the main cables that support the bridge.
The previous bridge is used as a guide and the first rope is strung up, then the old bridge is cut down and floats away in the river below. The basic structure consists of four main cables– two handrails and four floor cables. The weavers then work from either end of the bridge, threading thin ropes through the floor and along the sides. Astonishingly, the process only takes three days! This is due to the speed and skill of the master builders in the community. They have done this for many years, and have learnt the tradition and gained the ability from the generations before them.
After such a remarkable effort, the locals thank the Apus, the mountain spirits. There’s nothing better than a celebration with traditional food, drink and dance after all that hard work…
Ancient Inca’s crafted suspension bridges to connect communities. The Great Inka Road spanned nearly 25,000 miles. Bridges such as Q’eswachaka connected broken roads so that those of the empire could travel. They enabled people to cross rivers, traverse mountain ranges, deserts and roaming hills.
These Inca bridges now hold a different significance– the gathering of communities every year now symbolises a celebration of Incan culture. The annual reconstruction of this bridge honours the Earth Mother Pachamama. Furthermore, it preserves an important aspect of Incan history.
If this feat of Incan ingenuity piques your interest, this sight is definitely worth visiting. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery as you cross a traditionally constructed Inca bridge. A truly unique experience, there’s nothing like a journey back in time in the middle of the Peruvian countryside!
So, would you like to visit the Q’eswachaka Bridge? Then contact our South American Travel Specialists today…