Monday, April 4, 2011

The Ferrymen

Gripping a few tough wires, taut across the river, the ferryman pulls passengers on a wooden boat from one side of the river to the other.
Passengers pay Rp 500 (US 5 cents) to cross the 24-foot Kali Krukut river in Benhil, central Jakarta. The crossing takes just a few seconds.

"This ferry has been operating since 1968 and it's never capsized," says Pak Kuat, above. He estimates that he pulls the ferry across the river 400 times a day, with a maximum load of seven passengers per crossing. "Noon is busiest, when people come home to rest," he adds.
Thirty-year old Kartono works a second ferry on the same river. He estimates he crosses the river 1,000 times a day, and during the few minutes we talk, he pulls the boat across the river six times.

"I start work at 6am and finish at 10pm. I sleep on the boat too," Kartono says. At the rear of the wooden boat is a single mattress covered with a sarong. "There are three of us who work this ferry," he continues. "What I like about being a ferryman is that I'm close to my friends."
Benhil is infamous for its floods."But we can still operate in the floods," says Kuat. "We just raise the level of the wire across the river."

A twist of three wires spans the river. On either side is a wooden post staked with a vertical row of nails. The height of the wire across the water is determined by which nail-notch the wires are supported by.
The boats last for around five years, and cost Rp 15 million ($1,500.00) to replace. "But it's the wooden steps leading down to the water on both river banks which need the most maintenance work," says Kartono.
Half a dozen children scamper on board.
"Where are you going?"
"Nowhere!" they reply.

"My name is! My name is!" they chant, elbowing each other and giggling. Children can cross the river for free.

1 comment:

  1. I caught this one day... it is such a short distance, you would think that it would be cheaper (and easier to cross) just to build a bridge... but the ferry is certainly more unique!