The ancient Incan civilisation is well known for its Tetris level wizardry when it came to buildings. Machu Piccu, is a great example of this, but they were equally skilled in their bridge making.
I found this out for myself when I paid a visit to Q’eswachaka, ‘the last Incan rope bridge.’
Handwoven grass suspension bridges formed a vital part of the Incan roadway system for over 500 years. So vital in fact that the punishment for tampering with such a bridge was death.
Over time, these bridges decayed, or were removed, leaving Q’eswachaka as the sole remaining testament to Incan engineering. The bridge spans 36m (118 feet) and hangs 67m (220 feet) above the canyon’s rushing river, and due to sagging , and stretching of the vines, it must be rebuild every year. In Incan times it was considered a social obligation to take part in the annual rebuilding ceremony. Today, this ceremony has been preserved by the nearby community of Quehueas as way of honouring their history.
When I arrived, the bridge was in a state of disrepair. Vines were worn through, some of the twigs used as flooring were missing or broken, and the whole walkway had developed a substantial lean to left. It was like something out of an Indian Jones film.
Structural defects aside, I was keen to cross the bridge. I hadn’t come all this way for nothing. To my surprise, the area was completely deserted, save for a sole custodian. There wasn’t even a local in sight let alone any tourists.
I chatted with the caretaker for a while, and he explained (in Spanish), the problems with the bridge, and was unsure about letting me cross. I must have pulled my best ‘disappointed’ face, because no sooner had he said that, than he decided to double check its safety by walking across himself. He then gave me the go ahead.
As any travel blogger would do, I turned on my GoPro, got my camera set up and tentatively stepped out on the bridge. Despite the swaying, the bouncing, and the vicious lean, it felt surprisingly robust.
Unfortunately I lost the video files of my experience, but still have the pictures I took on the day.
For those wanting to the visit the bridge, the best way to get there is from Cusco. The back roads give the best views of the scenery along the way, and the 100+ mile trip takes around two hours. Be warned though, the area is remote, and fuel is limited. The bridge itself is located atGPS co-ordinates -14.381313, -71.484006.