The ferry is in a bad place but it is the only spot for miles where the river can be crossed. The south bank is so precipitous that the trail from the plain twists and turns like a snake before it emerges upon a narrow sand and gravel beach. The opposite side of the river is a vertical wall of rock which slopes back a little at the lower end to form a steep hillside covered with short grass. The landing place is a mass of jagged rocks fronting a small patch of still water and the trail up the face of the cliff is so steep that it cannot be climbed by any loaded animal; therefore all the packs must be unstrapped and laboriously carted up the slope on the backs of the mafus.
At two-thirty in the afternoon we were loading the boat, which carried only two animals and their packs, for the first trip across the river. It was difficult to get the mules aboard for they had to be whipped, shoved and actually lifted bodily into the dory. One of the ferrymen first drew the craft along the rocks by a long rope, then climbed up the face of what appeared to be an absolutely flat wall, and after pulling the boat close beneath him, slid down into it. In this way the dory was worked well up stream and when pushed into the swift current was rowed diagonally to the other side.
After four loads had been taken over, the boatmen decided to stop work although there was yet more than an hour of daylight and they could not be persuaded to cross again by either threats or coaxing. It was an uncomfortable situation but there was nothing to do but camp where we were even though the greater part of our baggage was on the other side, with only the mafus to guard it, and therefore open to robbery.
About a third of a mile from the ferry we found a sandy cornfield on a level shelf just above the water, and pitched our tents. A slight wind was blowing and before long we had sand in our shoes, sand in our beds, sand in our clothes, and we were eating sand. Heller went down the river with a bag of traps while we set forty on the hills above camp, and after a supper of goral steak, which did much to allay the irritation of the day, we crawled into our sandy beds.
At daylight Hotenfa visited the ferry and reported that the loads were safe but that one of the boatmen had gone to the village and no one knew when he would return. We went to the river with Wu as soon as breakfast was over and spent an aggravating hour trying by alternate threats and cajoling to persuade the remaining ferryman to cross the river to us. But it was useless, for the louder I swore the more frightened he became and he finally retired into a rock cave from which the mafus had to drag him out bodily and drive him into the boat.
The second boatman ambled slowly in about ten o’clock and we felt like beating them both, but Wu impressed upon us the necessity for patience if we ever expected to get our caravan across and we swallowed our wrath; nevertheless, we decided not to leave until the loads and mules were on the other side, and we ate a cold tiffin while sitting on the sand.