The Q’eswachaka (braided bridge) in Canas, Peru.



The Q’eswachaka, meaning to braid (Q’eswa) and bridge (chaka), has been re-built every year in June since the time of the Inca. The entire bridge is built in only 3 days from ichu grass to make q’oya, braided ropes. The old bridge is used to carry the first rope across and then cut down falling into the river where it rots leaving no trace.


Weaving the Bridge at Q’eswachaka: click the video button above


The Q’eswachaka Bridge spans the Apurimac River about  3,600 m (11,800 ft) above sea level in the province of Canas, Peru about 160km South of Cusco. The material and construction techniques have been passed down from generation to generation. The first bridge was built in the 15th century.


This impressive bridge spans 33m (10ft) at 15m (49 ft) above the river. It’s rebuilt every year as a communal effort. About 1000 locals from the three villages either side of the canyon are involved in the construction.

Women and young girls from the villages each make 60m (196 ft) of rope from the ichu grass (above left) which is only 40-50cm (1ft 6in) long. Each of the village ropes are about 1.5cm (1/2 inch) in diameter, 30 of which are then twisted together into larger ropes about 50m (164 ft) long (above right). These are pre-stretched (see right) so the bridge doesn't sag under use.

Three of these larger ropes are then plaited together to make the final rope, now about 40-45cm (1ft 6in) thick and 40m (131 ft) long.  Each of these ropes can withstand a load of 1.8 tons. 6 are used in the construction of the bridge, 2 for the handrails and 4 in the walkway, giving a working load of about 10 tons; incredibly strong for grass that only grows to about 50cm tall.


At each stage of the building process, the chakarauwaq make offerings of coca leaves, potatoes, and corn to the apus (spirits of the mountains). When the bridge is finished, the community gives thanks, celebrating with music, chuñu (freeze-dried potatoes) and chicha (a maze drink).