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Qeswachaka last Inca Bridge
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Q’eswachaka, the last Inca Bridge

The Qeswachaka bridge has a length of 28 meters and is suspended 30 meters above the Apurímac River.It was part of the huge network of Inca roads (qhapac ñan) that led to the Inca City of Machu Picchu.Every year the local population renews the bridge just as the Incas did hundreds of years ago.Today, it is one of the main tourist attractions of Cusco.


People crossing the Q'eswachaca Bridge
People crossing the Qeswachaca Bridge

From the creation of the Inca Empire in 1438, the construction of roads connecting the new and vast territory began.This included the construction of bridges such as Qeswachaka.Its construction was so resistant and useful that the Spaniards conserved it.Today, it continues to be used thanks to the annual renewal of its inhabitants.

Location

  • The Inca bridge of Q’eswachaca is located in a remote area of the province of Canas in the department of Cusco , exactly in the district of Quehue at 3,700 meters from sea level (12,139 ft).

History

  • The Incas built a network of roads (qhapac Ñan) that connected the city of Cusco with the rest of the vast empire.
  • This network of roads included different types of bridges such as: log bridges, stone bridges, floating bridges, oroyas (sliders) and suspension bridges.
  • Hanging bridges were the most used in the Inca since they easily resisted earthquakes.They were constructed of ropes made of ichu (wild grass of the Andes) and could reach lengths of 60 meters.
  • By Inca order, hanging bridges were renewed once a year through the work of the ‘ minka ‘ (community work for the benefit of the entire population) .
  • After the Inca Empire, hanging bridges continued to be used due to their resistance to earthquakes.The best known example is the ‘Qeswachaka Bridge’ in the town of Quehue (Cusco).

Ritual of the Qeswachaka Bridge

  • The second Sunday of June is the reconstruction of the Qeswachaka bridge in the town of Quehue .
  • Thanks to this tradition of Inca origin, it has been possible to maintain the suspension bridge of Qeswachaka.This cooperative work is carried out by the communities of Huinchiri, Chaupibanda, Ccollana, Quehue and Pelcaro .
  • The renewal of the bridge is repeated year after year.The festivity lasts 4 days and involves all the men and women of the peoples involved.

First day

  • At the dawn of the first day the ‘Paqo’ (officiant of the ceremony) celebrates the rite in favor of ‘Apu tutelary Quinsallallawi’.On the other hand, the ‘icchu’ (straw) was collected and stacked in advance by members of the 4 communities.
  • In these activities, the women of the communities who have the function of weaving the first soguilla or ‘qheswa’ participate actively .
  • In the afternoon, the males divided into 2 groups gather over the sides of the bridges and extend the ‘queswas’ in a straight line on the road.
  • Finally the ropes are braided by the ‘Chakaruwac’ (Inca engineer) to build the ‘Qheswasca’ (big braid).

Second day

  • On the second day, the dismantling of the old ropes that support the bridge is carried out .
  • Then we proceed to tie the new braids that will be thrown from one side of the bridge to the other for its assembly.
  • In total 4 thick ropes are braided which serve as a base and rails for the bridge.The men who carry out this work have extensive experience and are respected by the rest of the community.

Third day

  • The third day continues with the assembly of the railings and the base of the bridge .
  • The men must conclude with a lot of effort (and risk) the works.According to the Inca tradition, women should not cross or show until the bridge has been installed.This is due to the belief that women bring bad luck.
  • After installing the Inca bridge of Qeswachaka we proceed to the opening with music, typical dances of the region, delicious typical dishes and alcoholic beverages.

Fourth day

  • On the fourth day (central day), the Chakuruwacs finish weaving the bridge securing the last fibers. Finally, a cry announces the end of the hard work .
  • The last day is a festival with typical dances of the region and sale of typical foods of Cusco.
  • The bridge can now be used by tourists who come to the village to experience the adventure of crossing the Qeswachaka bridge.

Qeswachaka comes from two Quechua words that mean: ‘Q’eswa’ (braid) and Chaka (bridge).It is currently the only suspension bridge that survives.The others were destroyed because of the weather or during the Spanish and Inca wars over the capture of Cusco.


Value of the renovation of the Qeswachaka bridge

  • Renewing the Qeswachaka bridge involves completely replacing its structure.However, culturally means to revalue and demonstrate the traditions inherited by the Inca culture, which survives over the centuries.
  • The continuity of this tradition will fall on twenty young people from the four communities of the district.They will learn the techniques that will allow them to maintain the suspension bridge.It is an ancestral commitment that demonstrates the roots of the Inca legacy in the hearts of the inhabitants of the Andes .

How to see the Inca bridge of Qeswachaka?

  • To get to the Qeswachaka Bridge, you must take a public bus from Cusco to the district of Combapata.From there you should take a collective taxi to the town of Quehue.Finally, there are mobilities that will take you in only 15 minutes to the bridge of Qeswachaka.In total, the outward journey takes 4 hours.
  • One of the most used by tourists is to hire a tour with a tourism agency .The services last a whole day and include transportation, food and the service of a tour guide.

More information about the Qeswachaka bridge

  • The Qeswachaka bridge is suspended 30 meters from the Apurimac River.It has an extension of 28 meters long and 1.20 meters wide.The main material used for its construction is the ichu (thin fiber that united by thousands acquires an appropriate hardness).
  • During the renovation days it is not possible to cross the Qeswachaka bridge because of the work done.However, the rest of the year any tourist can cross this suspension bridge.
  • In 2009, the National Institute of Culture declared the renovation ritual of the Qeswachaka bridge as the new ‘Cultural Patrimony of the Nation’ .
  • In 2013, Unesco added the Qeswachaka bridge to the list of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.The inclusion considered the ancestral knowledge as well as the rituals that are carried out during the process of renovation of this bridge.
  • In Machu Picchu there is also a famous ‘Inca bridge’ made of wood .The route that takes there takes approximately 1 hour and is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and extreme cliffs.The bridge is in disuse due to security reasons for the tourist.

 

By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, July 9, 2019