A powerful priest wanted to keep his misbehaving son in permanent exile and so prevented him from returning home to Java by drawing his cane across the narrowest point of land to create a watery divide. Thus Bali became separated from Java. This mythological tale has some truth to it as geologically the two islands were connected during the last Ice Age.
The source of all life for the Balinese lies in the mountains, for they are believed to be the abode of deities. Over the years, lava from repeated volcanic eruptions has created fertile soils watered by rivers flowing from crater lakes. The rugged range of mountains running from east to west has created distinct regions. To the north of this divide lies a coastal strip with fertile foothills, while to the south are expansive beaches, the rice-growing centres and the nucleus of Bali’s tourism infrastructure. The cooler central highlands are dotted with small farms hugging steep slopes, the sparsely populated west is largely dominated by a national park, and the eastern shore is lined with fishing and salt-producing villages, and some rice terraces.