inca culture
peru culture
Creating Peru’s Q’eswachaka Bridge. Photo: UNESCO; Edited: Epicure & Culture.

It’s remarkable to think that entire communities would come together each year to rebuild a suspension bridge entirely of grass. Yet in the southern Andes of Peru, members from Huinchiri, Chaupibanda, Choccayhua and Ccollana Quehue continuously assemble the Q’eswachaka Bridge, an engineering feat dating back to the Incas who invented it.

Crossing over a cannon of the Apurimac River, the Q’eswachaka Bridge is an ancient marvel that still stands in modern times. Said to happen every June, this structure is reassembled using techniques and resources passed down from one generation of builders to another. And it’s been placed in the same location since its first laying centuries ago.

Inca Culture & Bridge Building Techniques

According to an article from the Smithsonian Institution, the bridge is rebuilt annually by members of four Quechua communities: Huinchiri, Chaupibanda, Choccayhua and Collana Quehue. The building material comes from a single, natural source: grass. Long pieces are harvested and then twisted by hand by women and children into large-sized cables.

The work continues as builders braid the cables to form a total of six ropes. Once finished, teams of men carry the ropes down to the site where the new bridge will be installed.

The first step in positioning the bridge involves tying the ropes to stone abutments on each side of the canyon and laying out the cords. It’s still a hands-on process, as the men literally weave the bridge together. Each work crew starts from one section until they meet at the end point.

It’s a very productive project too – the bridge is completed in just three days.

It’s still a hands-on process, as men literally weave the bridge together. #peru #travel Click To Tweet
inca culture
A demonstration relating to the Qeswachaka Bridge at the 2015 Smithsonian Folk Festival. Photo credit: bobistraveling

Giving Thanks Through Celebration

Once the work is done, then comes the celebration. The participating communities give thanks through music and dishes such as chica (a corn beverage) and chuñu phasi (freeze-dried potatoes). UNESCO’s website states that these communities consider the Q’eswachaka Bridge to be a visual link to their heritage. Centuries ago, Incas would walk on this bridge with their harvests and animals.

Interestingly enough, the bridge would be removed after crossing.

Travelers who now want to witness this building process in person can look for tour companies that ethically schedule such an outing. For an earlier viewing, watch the video above from the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian.

Historically, Incas would remove the #bridge after crossing. #peru #culture Click To Tweet

What’s your favorite site for exploring Inca culture in Peru? Please share in the comments below! 

Michele Herrmann

Michele Herrmann splits her time between New England and New York City, and has gotten much better at packing light with her back and forth trips. She has jaunted across Europe and up, down and across the United States and even as far as the South Pacific. She's grateful for being able to dispense travel stories and advice through media outlets and companies (as well as putting her BA in English to good use). Her blog She Is Going Places serves as her way to encourage others to get out and exploring!

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