Q’eswachaka: The Last Inca Bridge

Q’eswachaka: The Last Inca Bridge

The Q’eswachaka Bridge, an impressive rope structure that rises majestically over the Apurimac River, represents much more than just a bridge. It is a living link to the greatness of the Incas and a deep-rooted tradition that has endured for more than six centuries.

Every year, with tireless dedication, members of local communities come together to rebuild this bridge using ancestral techniques. Imagine the collective effort of around 800 people, united by the commitment to preserve their cultural heritage. The result is an engineering prodigy 28 meters long and 1.2 meters wide, which stands as a living testimony to the skill and wisdom of its ancestors.

Beyond simply being a means to cross the river, the Q’eswachaka Bridge has deep meaning to local people. It is a tangible symbol of their ancestral traditions, a connection to the glorious Inca past and a source of community pride. In fact, it is recognized as the last Inca bridge still standing, making it an invaluable treasure for both local communities and interested visitors.

In this article, we invite you to explore the greatness of a tradition that defies the passage of time and to marvel at the majesty of the Q’eswachaka Bridge.

What does Q’eswachaka mean?

“Q’eswachaka” derives from the Quechua language and is formed with the words ” Q’eswa “, which means “rope” or “noose”, and “Chaka”, which means “bridge”. Therefore, “Q’eswachaka” translates as “rope bridge” or “suspension bridge.” This bridge represents an outstanding example of ancient Inca suspension bridges, built using traditional methods and materials. Over the centuries, local communities have preserved and rebuilt this bridge, thus preserving its connection to the Inca cultural heritage.

How the Q’eswachaka Bridge is built

During the first day, the community celebrates Apu Quinsallallawi , just as their ancestors did, at dawn. During this ceremony, the women of the community braid the Ichu material.

On the second day, the old bridge is dismantled and the four main ropes that will support the new structure are placed. Participants carefully remove the ropes and wooden sections from the old bridge.

The third day is the most demanding of the restoration. During this period, the floor of the bridge is installed and braided, as well as the railings on both sides. Artisans and community members work together to weave new ropes using traditional techniques passed down from generation to generation. This process involves carefully braiding and interlacing the ropes to form a solid, sturdy base.

The fourth day is dedicated to finishing touches and extensive testing to ensure the bridge is completely safe and ready for use. Once completed, the community celebrates the completion of the project with hearty food and regional dances.

These four days of restoration represent not only a physical and technical effort, but also an opportunity to strengthen community ties and preserve an invaluable tradition.

How to get to Q’eswachaka Bridge

There are two ways to visit the bridge and admire its wonder and exceptional craftsmanship.

The first option is to go on your own, although it is a little more challenging and requires some preparation. You should start by finding a taxi driver who knows the route well, as not many are familiar with it. Asking at your hotel or hostel can be useful to start the search. The trip from Cusco to the town where the bridge is located takes approximately three hours. Once there, you can take as much time as you want to appreciate the bridge and take photos. It is advisable to bring food for the day, as options in town can be limited and basic, especially if you have allergies or specific dietary preferences. You will have to negotiate with the taxi driver to wait for you and take you back to Cusco, at an approximate cost of 200 soles for the entire day service.

The second option is to use the services of a travel agency, which is usually cheaper and offers the guarantee of arriving safely. These tours usually include food, so you will only need to bring additional snacks. In addition, you will have the opportunity to make stops at various points along the route to see more places of interest.

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