This Inca bridge is located over the Apurímac River, approximately 3,700 meters above sea level in the province of Canas, district of Quehue, about 160 kilometers south of Cusco.
The Inca bridge of Queswachaka is located 160 km south of Cusco. To get there, you have two options: do it with a tourist company or on your own. The first option is the most comfortable. If you prefer to embark on an adventure, you will have to travel from Cusco to Combapata, then from here to Yanaoca and then private vehicles that, in 60 minutes, leave you in Queswachaka.
The province of Canas has a cold climate and has two well-defined seasons:
The rainy season, which includes the months of January to March; in which it is possible to see pluvial presence. Also, the maximum temperature is 15ºC and drops to 5ºC.
The dry season, includes the months of April to December, it is probable to have pluvial presence during these months; but it is quite low compared to the rainy season. It should be noted that, during the months of June to August, the temperature drops to -3ºC; That is why during these months the cold is quite intense.
The name of Queswachaka, comes from the Quechua letters “Queswa” which means Braid and “Chaka” which means Bridge, we can conclude then that it is a Braided Bridge.
The material used to build this suspension bridge is: Ichu of the q’oya variety (vegetable fiber straw), a grass from the highest areas of the Andes. For the base; thin branches called “Kallapos” are also used.
The extraordinary bridge measures 28 meters long and 1.20 meters wide and swings 30 meters above the Apurimac River.
Crossing the Q’eswachaka is like hanging from a rope. It’s like being suspended in the air with yourself. It’s you, nothing but you, on the air. The feeling is unique. One wobbles on the river. If you have problems with vertigo, crossing this bridge is not the best idea.
If you want to take advantage of the trip to Queswachaka to get to know other tourist attractions in the region, it is a wonderful idea!
On the way from Cusco to Queswachaka you will find four beautiful lagoons: Pomacanchi, Acopia, Asnaqocha and Pampamarca. The landscape that surrounds them and the fish that you can see in them are another of the wonders of Cusco nature.
In addition, just after the last lagoon (that of Pampamarca), is the Pabellones volcano, which with only four meters in height is considered the smallest in the world.
The construction of the Q’eswachaka is attributed to the Inca Pachacuti. It has 600 years of cultural validity.”
This was documented in 1609 by the chronicler Inca Garcilaso in his work Royal Comments of the Incas about this and other bridges that have already disappeared that constituted the suspended sections of the ancient Inca road network. Known by the name of Qhapaq Ñan, which in Quechua means “Royal Path”.
Qhapaq Ñan, The Great Royal Inca Trail, the Incas built roads everywhere to unite the peoples of the world. The Qhapaq Ñan was built without the use of metal or iron, the wheel, or draft animals and spanned 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) throughout the Tawantinsuyo. The road network allowed the Incas to oversee and administer a territory the size of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. This extraordinary network of roads meanders along the Pacific coast of South America, from Quito, Ecuador, to Santiago, Chile, traversing some of the most extreme physical geographies on the planet, from snow-capped 16,000-foot (4,900-meter) peaks to the coast, passing through jungles, grasslands and deserts. Parts of the road system were built by cultures that preceded the Inka Empire, but the Incas perfected the road network into an engineering marvel that supported transportation, communication, and commerce. Inca engineers understood the flow of water, the action of the force of gravity and wind erosion and optimized the design of the road for human and animal pedestrian traffic. An estimated 6% of the Inca road network is still visible, and the existing roads, which continue to be used and maintained by indigenous Andean communities today, are being studied to understand Inca engineering techniques and their application. to contemporary projects.
Spanish explorers admired the variety of bridges along the Qhapaq Ñan. In particular, the Europeans had never seen a suspension bridge and were surprised to find hundreds of them along the Inca Trail system. The Queswachaka, the last high Andean “Ichu” gras suspension bridge, spans a high ravine over the Apurimac River in Peru and has been in continuous use for 500 years. The bridge is 100 feet (30 meters) long and is suspended 50 feet (15 meters) above the river. It is made from grass fibers and other organic materials. Every year, 1,000 villagers from the four neighboring Quechua communities gather, twist, and hand-braid a native grass to make 10 miles (16 kilometers) of rope and then work continuously for four days to rebuild the bridge. Asking permission from the Apus (sacred mountains) and making offerings to Pachamama (Mother Earth) are important activities that take place in conjunction with the reconstruction of the bridge. The community also throws a party to celebrate the new bridge. The Queswachaka is a key component of the Qhapaq Ñan and a masterpiece of Inca engineering. It also serves as an important example of sustainable engineering, a living expression of the knowledge, practices and traditions that have been passed down through generations of the Quechua people in the Andes.
The most modern works caused the decline of the archaic rope bridges in the Andean mountain range, since it was no longer necessary for the Inca footbridges to be renewed in perpetuity. While some were replaced by highway bridges, traces of others can still be seen in rivers such as the Vilcanota. Q’eswachaka itself fell into disuse after a more solid and secure metal construction was built just a few meters away.
“In the 1960s and 1970s, members of the local communities abandoned the renovation of the bridge in the hope that the land would forgive them. As a mother, the Pachamama gets angry, annoyed, denies and punishes, but also pardons. «The peasants confess that in the course of those years they were punished with droughts, frosts, hurricane winds that destroyed the thatched roof of their homes, and also with the disease and death of their animals. Some penalties that forced the migration of certain heads of families to the city. Finally, after 12 years inactive, the tradition was reactivated.
Ceremonies and Ancestral Rites in the Construction of the Queswachaka Bridge
The place is impregnated with a smoky aroma due to the table that the paqo, or Andean priest, prepares next to one of the bases of the bridge. It is a kind of cloth altar with indigenous motifs in which the shaman deposits coca leaves, llama fetuses and food that he offers to the Pachamama through the sparkling flames.
“Like you or me, the Earth is hungry, and satisfying it is among our obligations as children. Well, it is the source of our sustenance,” explains Cayetano Ccanahuire, a 63-year-old paqo who is credited with divinatory abilities, as well as medicine. andina–. Before the renovation of the bridge, the apus tell me each year what Pachamama’s appetite is these days. Well, her tastes evolve and we don’t always have to pay her with the same “delicacy”, to which the locals are also invited. apus to implore your protection and avoid accidents during the renovation”.
Installed next to the stone abutments during the three days that the renovation of the bridge lasts, the paqo will only be able to leave the place when the work is passable.
«Since pre-Columbian times, any important construction activity, both houses and bridges, has been carried out after payment to the land or to the apus. These last deities are embodied in each and every one of the geographical features of the area, such as lagoons, rivers or hills –explains the anthropologist of the Catholic University of Lima Pablo del Valle–. It is an appeal to the forces of nature in which they are implored to calm down to avoid damage, such as a rise in the river and the subsequent flooding of the fields. Even the modern bridges of the 20th century were built by paying the gods first!”
Queswachaka is the last Inca bridge in use, being also part of the extensive network of roads or Qapac Ñan recognized as “Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO, it is the only Inca bridge that has survived so many generations for more than 500 years, which is almost in its original state and thanks to the decision of the participating communities: Huinchiri, Chaupibanda, Qollana Quehue and Chocayhua, which displaying their living culture repeat techniques and ceremonies of purely Andean origin, reproducing this wonderful event year after year. , as a paradox in time and showing the authenticity of our culture. For three days they will annually renew the Inca bridge of Q’eswachaka in the first days of June of each year.
This day begins with an offering to the Apu Quinsallallawi in an ancestral ceremony. In this offering, the protector Apu is thanked for everything he has given to the communities; as well as protection is requested for all the workers who will enhance the braiding of the bridge. After that, the collection of braids from each family is done, as well as the corroboration of the 40 meters. Next, these ropes are laid around the road; for this, men and women from the Huichiri, Ccollana, Quehue, Chaupibanda and Choccayhua communities are present. Where the men do the strength work and the women stand around the bridge and start with the braiding of thin ropes.
After laying the ropes, it begins with the braiding of ropes, resulting in moderately thick ropes. Finally, the braiding or weaving of these medium ropes begins, turning them into thicker ropes or also called larger ropes, the same ones that will be at the base of the bridge and two others that will remain medium and will have the function of railings. At sunset these ropes are left at both ends of the bridge.
This day also begins with an offering to the Apu and Pachamama. After the offering, a community member passes through the old bridge carrying a thin rope at his waist, the same one that will help with the transportation of the rest of the ropes that are at both ends; as well as other useful materials for placing the ropes and thus start the work on the construction of the bridge. Likewise, the ropes of the old bridge are cut, they will rest in the river gorge.
Once the ropes are obtained and supported at both ends, the specialist in the construction of the bridge or also called “chakaruwak”, is in charge of supervising the tying of the larger ropes and those that will have the function of railings. These are tied in stones located at the beginning of the bridge, these stones are quite firm and stable to support the weight of the entire bridge structure. While all this work is being done, one of the communities is in charge of making the carpet; the same one that will be placed at the base of the bridge at the end of all the work; They are also responsible for carrying small branches called “Kallapos” that will serve to keep the same base stable.
This day begins with the elaboration of the bridge, two specialists in this work are in charge of it, the same ones that are located at both ends and culminate in the middle of the bridge. The end of the work is announced with a brave cry.
The specialists in making the Queswachaka bridge or the “chakaruwak”, are men who received such instructions from their parents; Likewise, this art is transmitted from generation to generation and if one of them has only daughters, this art will be transmitted only to a male member of the family, they can be nephews.
Finally, the communities also organize themselves for this day; To celebrate the completion of the bridge, each community performs different typical dances. Likewise, a gastronomic fair is held, with typical dishes from the region.