Hanging 2,719 meters above sea level, ‘Inca Bridge’ is a fantastic natural bridge that shines in between the Andes Mountains. The bridge is located above the Cuevas River, and there are two stories that tell how it was formed: a poetic Inca tale and a more scientific geological explanation.
The Inca legend tells how a famous Inca heir was terribly ill and the gods advised him that he could only be cured by drinking from the magical medicinal water at the end of the Inca Trail. They walked all the way from Peru, and when they finally got to the site they realized that they had to cross to the other side to access the water. They made a ‘human bridge’ to save the heir’s life, however the helpful Inca people were sadly petrified forever as they formed the ‘Inca Bridge’.
The other explanation for the natural bridge is based upon extreme elements like ice and hot springs. In ancient times ice covered the river, and sulfurous water petrified on its surface while melting the bottom of the ice, forming the bridge.
There are still some remains of the old luxury 1925 thermal resort on the top of the riverbank (a hotel and a church) and downhill (the baths), which were destroyed by an avalanche in 1965. There are also five working thermal hot springs on the site with different temperatures and saline compositions, but the access is now closed due to danger of the bridge’s collapse. A thermal spa still survives further down the river at Cacheuta.
The area’s salts are rich in sodium chloride, alkaline, arsenic, bicarbonate, calcium and sulfur, and are often sought by those suffering from arthritis, stress, headaches, and muscle pain. Leaving objects under the river’s water for a couple of weeks also causes them to develop a sulfur crust – locals sell these objects as tacky ‘Inca Bridge’ souvenirs.
Weather you are about to climb the Aconcagua or on your way to Chile through los Andes, make sure you stop at ‘Inca Bridge’ for a bit of history.
Photo © Ana Lisa Alperovich for Inhabitat