15:16 | Cusco (Cusco region), Jun. 8.
Every June, time stops for a few days in four High-Andean Cusco communities and the 21st-century gives place to the annual renewal of Q'eswachaka, a handwoven bridge dating back to Inca times.
This year's 3-day re-building starts today, as close to 1,000 locals from four Quechua-speaking communities assemble for the ultimate display of authentic Inca culture.
The centuries-old practice —part of UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2013— shines for its use of traditional materials and techniques.
These are used by peasant communities to connect not only both banks of Apurimac River, but also the past and present of Quehue district.
Q'eswachaka is the only rope suspension bridge made entirely of vegetable fibers and annually renewed since pre-Columbian times.
The ancient ritual unfolds as follows:
Day 1. While the activity begins with an offering to apu (mountain deity) Quinsallallawi, the actual process starts with the prior collection of ichu grass, the main input for the bridge.
Step one actively involves females, who braid the ichu straw into strings or 'qeswas' in the morning. In the afternoon, males take the qeswas over the gorge to be woven by the 'chakaruhac' (Inca engineer) into 'qeswaskas' or larger ropes.
Day 2. Day two begins with the untying of the old ropes attached to the extremes of the bridge and their replacing by the new ones.
After a hard, time-consuming process, the four thick ropes —to serve as handrails and walking surface— are put in place.
Day 3. The third session ends with the assembling of the railing and walking layer. Once finished, the Q'eswachaka is opened to the beat of traditional music.
Day 4. Last but not least, the much-deserved celebration: a joyful typical dance festival to end the endeavor… That is, until the next year.
How to get there
Quehue district is located 180km from Cusco city. A paved road leads to the Inca Bridge.
Local transport departs from the Imperial City and reaches Combapata community. The second stretch goes from Combapata to Yanaoca, and the third from Yanaoca to Quehue.
It should be noted there is no public transport available for the last stretch, for which visitors must hire local private transport.