It’s the last of its kind.
Rope bridges were once key to connecting different communities that were separated by water. In mountainous areas where roads are hard to build, these rope bridges can be the only efficient way in or out of some villages. Near the city of Cusco, Peru, locals have been rebuilding one bridge in particular every year -by hand- in the traditional Incan style for hundreds of years.
The Qeswachaka Bridge is a woven rope bridge that is rebuilt by hand every year by members of local villages (like Huinchiri) in the Canas Province of Peru. The bridge spans 108 feet across and is just under 4 feet wide. It is sometimes called the “Living Bridge” since it is a link to the past like no other. This method of making rope bridges goes back 600 years.
The material used to weave the bridge is made from q’oya grass which grows in the Andean highlands. The suspension bridge was believed to have been easily cut if invaders attempted to penetrate the Incan territories. The bridge is rebuilt annually in June after the rainy season ends as a matter of custom, despite the fact that a modern bridge nearby handles most of the traffic across the Apurimac River these days. But, in 2020 the tradition could not be upheld due to COVID-19.
This bridge is the last natural rope bridge of its kind in Peru, a testament to the Incan empire which fell to the Spanish in 1572. Each year the old bridge is cut down and a new one is built, although in March of 2021 the old bridge fell on its own due to decay.
The new bridge is built by men as women are prohibited from the dangerous construction work. However, women work hard in the days leading up to and during the ritual to make the long q’eswa ropes that will be woven together to make the bridge. The bridge is anchored at each end to large stone supports. No machines or modern equipment is used in the rope-making or the construction process.
In all the construction takes 3 days and is considered a sacred connection between man and nature, past and present. The tradition was added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013.