Q’eswachaca: The Inca’s Straw Bridge
Every year, the Q`eswachaca bridge is rebuilt, keeping alive an Inca tradition. Building this bridge made out of Puna grassland, called Ichu, was the only way settlers could cross the rivers in their time. This used to be part of a network of bridges in the Cuzco region and now is the only one of its kind, which exists thanks to the local villagers.
Andean women harvested, wove and built 6 thick ropes, which connect them to the rest of the villages at almost 13,000 feet over the Apurimac River. Four of the six ropes are placed in the bottom, and two are used as the straps. Each one is made out of thousands of thinner cords skillfully woven by women who passed this technique down from generation to generation.
However, ladies aren’t permitted to participate in the rope renewal process; according to tradition, men are responsible for the dangerous job of changing the old bridge ropes for new ones, which are secured to Eucalyptus tree trunks at each side.
During the Incan period, an intricate system of trails were developed to connect the Empire, known as the Qhapaq Ñan, and these bridges were critical to cross the perilous canyons and rivers. The Incas were truly ahead of their time, developing a complex technique centuries before modern bridges were built.
The weaving and construction of the Q`eswachaca straw bridge can be admired every year on the 2nd Sunday of June in Canas, located three hours outside Cuzco. The celebration lasts 5 days, where you can experience first-hand this unique annual tradition and incredible culture.