I WAS among a batch of developers scheduled to visit Kimbia by boat. Travelling by night we arrived at the New Amsterdam Stelling at 06:00hrs to await the ferry plying this long and busy river. At 20:00hrs she opened her gangway, and the rush was on to find seats and accommodation on this modest vintage ship. This rambled stormed the decks, casting their loaded bags and baskets all over, since they had brought produce to New Amsterdam market. Now they were taking home essential supplies. And they were rowing and cursing, jostling to find a seat. By the time our turn came around, there was no seat. I happened to squeeze by a trader but gave my space to one of our companions – a lady of course.
The ship drifted away at 21:45hrs, later than her scheduled time. It would be a long tedious and painful trip (eight hours). Sailing up the dark waters at 10 knots per hour, the lack of sleep, mosquitos and the constant rain made the journey miserable, and the engine room made a lot of noise. But the cacophony of snores was unbearable, especially from the tired sellers. Many slept on the cargo hold in the open. They were dozing as the rain fell. Sleep – a powerful force. Human bodies were sprawled everywhere like corpses.
The ferry made its first stop midstream. It was a welcomed break from the boredom of those who were awake. They looked on excitedly as the river business was conducted. The ship cut all engine and drifted. She switched on the power searchlight and the farmers and river taxis came alongside grabbing the safety ropes. It was a risky manoeuvre but with no wharves, it was the only way to board or disembark the vessel. And the ladies showed no fear in jumping into those balahoos (flat-bottom boats). One vendor, still in a state of drowsiness tried to board one of the crafts. He fell overboard and one of the farmers clutched him by the collar and rescued him still dozing. The crew placed him almost lifeless in the rescue boat. All wet he crumbled, “Ah you lef me alone, me want sleep!”
We all laughed. He didn’t realise he missed drowning.
The ship made a few more stops, as the dock cleared of outgoing passengers. We got seats but not for long. At the break of dawn, we reached our destination – Kimbia. Those who sat tightly found it painful to stand and walk – poor circulation and corned buttocks. Those who were deprived of sleep exhibited red eyes and drowsiness and could barely walk. But we had to disembark and it was so good to touch land again. As soon as we reached the reception hall we all fell asleep. The caterers had an amusing time getting us to take breakfast.
At 06:00hrs the next day, we were back in the shop refreshed. It was a bright departure and there were lots of vacant seats. We were the first passengers and as usual, the vendors came on board with their cargo and loudmouths. Then, as usual, the rain came. I still peeped through the opening of the canvas shutters to view the shoreline, though it was all bush. Passing by the Berbice River run was miserable but memorable.