When I started searching the web for "strange rivers", I'd frequently find photos of the "dirtiest river in the world" in Jakarta, Indonesia, like such:
|Honestly, there's a river underneath all that (source)|
When we walked over a bridge at another site earlier in the day we started to get a feel for what goes into the river. A girder below the bridge had various bits of trash on it. This was above the high water mark, so it either arrived on a stiff breeze or was tossed there by a passerby. At a places like this you have to shout to be heard over the cars and motorbikes.
|Any of the pictures in this post you can click to get a closer look|
Here's a close up of the trash racks at the Manggarai gate, itself
In this view are: A refrigerator without its metal shell (surprisingly many of these around... I don't know where the shells go), yogurt cups, shoes (...every lost shoe has a story...), DVDs, cups, soccer balls, coconuts...
If it weren't so awful, it could be art.
I was inclined to believe that anything brown and floating was feces. I was not quite sure how all the individual poops were able to find eachother and form a floating mat. The water itself was dark gray. It smelled as bad as it looks. Part barnyard, part burning plastic.. like disease on the wind. Despite all this, the occasional catfish came gulping to the surface.
There are several ways that trash gets out of the river. Every couple days, a private company's crane sloshes through the water and scoops things to up on shore. There is a crane operator on-call by SMS in case the garbage builds up too quickly. Apparently it was pretty tame the day we were there because it is easier to keep up with the cleaning during the dry season.
The crane (back right in below) drops the trash on the bank, and it is sorted through and/or hauled away. The water draining out the bottom of this pile is a foul broth.
The other way to pull something out of the river is for people to pull it onto bamboo rafts and ferry it to shore. There are many of these elsewhere along the rivers. Here's an example:
If you look close in the below, you can see an inflatable Spongebob Squarepants (...every lost inflatable Spongebob Squarepants has a story...)
There's the occasional Rocking Horse...
Our guides said that some of the below wood was from flooded homes. It was recovered and would be resold for firewood for those too poor to afford cooking gas or kerosene.
There were mattresses pulled from the river:
We had some discussion about if they, too, would be resold. The guides thought that likely yes for things like shoes, but probably no for mattresses. I was haunted by the idea of someone (perhaps unknowingly?) buying a mattress pulled from the dirtiest river in the world... but some googling confirms that the company operating the crane considers mattresses non-recyclable.
We climbed to the top of a nearby second gate and looked upstream at the river houses. Actually these are more like apartment complexes than individual houses...
At the back of most houses there is a platform that serves as a toilet that deposits directly into the river. Over the course of a couple minute conversation we saw several people use the latrines (indeed, at one point both latrines in view were seeing action simultaneously).
Every lost plastic tub has a story...