This is some twenty miles from Maldera, up in the hill country of the Punjab. The mountain river here is deep and swift; you can see ahead how high, steep banks wall it in and you can judge how pouring rains, draining from such slopes, would turn this stream into a fiercely raging torrent.
These men are natives in their customary clothes, and the rather ghastly looking objects with which they are busy are the hides of cattle, sewed up tightly and inflated with air till they can be used like enormous life-preservers. Two of the men you notice, are still at work blowing their “boats” full of air; they have cords there all ready to tie up the end of the skin when it is sufficiently distended.
Another has done the blowing-up at home and is bringing his skin down over the rocky bank; it is bulky but naturally very light and comparatively easy to handle.
When they are ready to start each man will throw himself across one of the inflated skins, using his foot on one side and a short paddle on the other side to propel the queer craft. If his balance is no perfect of course the craft rolls over and he gats a ducking, but practice makes skilful, and, as a matter of fact, small loads of freight and even passengers are ferried across in safety. If several passengers are to be taken over, it is customary for two “boats” to start out side by side, the passengers on the different floats taking hold of each thr to help balance the queer craft.
From Notes of Travel, No. 7, copyright, 1904, by Underwood & Underwood.
Inflating Bullok-Skin “Boats” for Crossing a Swift Himalayan River; India.
Source image unknown; Underwood & Underwood were publishers, not explorers. At one time, Underwood & Underwood was the largest publisher of stereoviews in the world, producing 10 million views a year.
[Found here. Original stereoscope photo found here via Tineye.]