The cleaners moved aside temporarily as the ferry glided into position against the ramp. The ferry was powered only by hand, a cable strung across the river was fed through a couple of feeds on the infrastructure of the ferry, and two or three guys would haul the ferry into motion. Once underway it needed only simple guidance and a light touch once in a while to keep it moving towards the other shore, there being hardly any friction and the cable stopping the craft from escaping downstream.
The ferry itself was made of two metal floats held together by iron girders which in turn were covered by wooden planking. Four corner girders held the cabling in place. Heading back and forth twenty times a day had taken its toll on the ends of these planks, and each time the ferry came close to shore, someone had to build a jigsaw of stones and planks to make a suitable runway for the vehicles to board and disembark. Even with this put in place, it was a skilful job to get on board, it needed enough oomph to step up onto the planking, but not too much to send the ferry scooting back across the river sans cargo.
The ferry could only take one vehicle, and we were three. Haba went first with the STEWARD vehicle. Once aboard, the process was peaceful and we spent five minutes watching the ferry glide over to the northern bank. More time to listen to the bird life along the river, watch the fishermen paddle gently downstream, and eavesdrop on the women chattering and the kids playing around the bowls of clothes on the ramp. We watched the STEWARD vehicle reach the far side and heard the roar as Haba bounced the car off the planks and thunder up the steep incline to relative flat in the village just in a break in the trees.
Back came the ferry carrying a motorbike and cycle and a couple of foot passengers and we were second on for the northbound service. They teased the ferry with a plank to line it up perfectly with the concrete ramp and on we drove. I could tell our driver had never boarded a ferry before and although he missed the guiding planks first time, he was quite pleased with himself to be on the ferry second chance. With no motors gliding across that river was sheer bliss. The sun had almost set and was firing red tints to the linings of the clouds, and their reflections rippled in the gently moving river. Three guys hauled quite hard on the metal cable to set us running; as I saw them up close I saw one was blind, and the two others would guide his hands to the rope, ensure he would not trap his fingers against the girders, but then he would pull as hard as the rest.