Mapping Bali 13: Rivers
Some of the rain water takes a different route. It is neither stored in the mountain lakes, nor absorbed into the soil, but directed by the islands topography to form rivers and streams. These begin modestly, high in the mountains but eventually build in strength as they reach the lowlands. Over the millennium these rivers have carved deep valleys into the hillsides, almost as if there were fingers coming down the mountains to the sea. It is easier to travel north and south along the ridges of these finger like hills than to travel east to west. The earliest inhabitants adapted to this topography and built foot paths that followed these ridges instead of challenging them. Eventually a network of roads were built that followed these earlier foot paths. The majority of these present day roads go up and down the hills, only a few cross between them, a quick look at one section of South Bali’s road system will confirm this.
The rivers on the north side are largely seasonal, this is the arid side of the island. Many of these rivers flow only after heavy rain, with the deep thundering sound (more felt than heard) of large boulders swept up in the current. On the south side of the island most rivers flow year round, first rushing down the hill sides and then meandering through the gentle alluvial plain. Twisting through the thick vegetation, the rivers form quiet grottos, shaded areas perfect for taking a bath.
One of the greatest pleasures of tropical life is an afternoon bath with the family or friends in a cool river. Balinese people used to bathe quite openly but got tired of being stared at by outsiders, they now concentrate this pastime in more secluded places. Women and men each have their own places to bathe, these locations are separated just far enough for some privacy. But they are also located just close enough for the younger or more active members of either gender to slyly tease and catch glimpses of each other. Small families or groups of friends often bathe together, exchanging the local gossip and enjoying the spectacle of the afternoon sky turning into evening.