My brother’s pickup truck jolted along the dirt road towards the suspension bridges of Copina. I lost count of the times I banged my head against the window. Although the pickup truck was strong and ideal for that kind of rocky terrain, it still felt like I was inside a cocktail shaker.
We had taken the new, smooth Camino de las Altas Cumbres, the road that crosses the Sierras Grandes Mountains and joins the Punilla Valley on one side of the mountains with the Traslasierra Valley at the other end. Somewhere along the way, we turned right and took this dirt road. How exciting to spot the suspension bridges in the distance!
These bridges are part of the old Camino de las Altas Cumbres and were built in order for vehicles to ford streams, which can become impassable with snowmelt and heavy rains. This road and the bridges were built between 1913 and 1918. Before then, man and beast had traversed along simple tracks. One man who crisscrossed the mountains with his donkey in the late 19th century urged the provincial and federal governments to build a road. They eventually paid heed to Cura Brochero, the local priest who’s about to be canonized and become a Catholic saint.
Four out of five suspension bridges are still in working condition. They have become a tourist attraction, a curiosity in this age of tarmac and speed.
Each bridge was made with four stone pillars, steel cables and a wood deck. Pircas, the traditional low dry-stone walls, protect stretches of the road from runoff and landslides. Stone is also the material used to build temporary housing for the workers. Nowadays, a NGO occupies those few buildings. The solitude of this lunar landscape seems to help kick bad habits.
Down below, a herd of goats were the only living creatures apart from us. Their bleating bounced off the sheer rock walls. We got out of the truck. My young nephews wanted to climb and explore but their parents kept them in check. Although they all got too close for comfort to the edge of a cliff. I just could not move from where I was, close to the road. Shivers went up and down the back of my legs. I hate heights. The city girl in my pleaded with them, please come back! They smiled and did not invite me to join in the fun.