Meeting of waters

A Day in the life | Settlers | Hermit | Tapioca/Cassava | Meeting of Waters | Lists | Manaus | M/Y Tucano | Ecology | Maps


I know I knew where Brazil was by the time I was in second grade because I asked my teacher if she thought it could possibly be a coincidence that if you were to slide Africa and North and South America together, they would fit together like three jig-saw pieces, and I'll never forget her reply: "That is the single most stupid thing I have ever heard." I knew two other things about Brazil. It was home to the Amazon, the world's largest, longest river, and that at one point where a tributary joined it, the waters were so different that for several miles you could see the two rivers distinctly flowing side by side. Too exotic to put on my bucket list, plus this odd occurrence was at some random place on the world's longest river so I had no idea how practical it was for mere mortals to experience.

How fabulous then, to discover as we finalized the details for this trip that although there are a fair number of meetings of the waters, the mother of them all happens right by Manaus. It is such a big tourist attraction that folks travel to Manaus just to see it, and therefore we will also take the time to swing by.

Of course it is also not a coincidence that Manaus is right there at this attraction, because Manaus is very deliberately sited at the junction between the Rio Negro (itself one of the top ten rivers in the world) and the Rio Solimões to form the Amazon proper. It is this massive conjunction that is the meeting of the waters: quite a spectacle.

Bridge over Rio Negro at Manaus. Image courtesy and © Brian Gourlie 2015

To get there, we had to pass Manaus, not a particularly attractive spectacle. Our afternoon activity, a day/night canoe trip, was therefore carefully orchestrated to run late. After dark the Tucano sailed downstream until around midnight, slipping by Manaus under the cover of darkness.

The most memorable thing about the day/night canoe trip was that it navigated Rio Ariaú, a river that flows both ways. As the rainy season gets underway and the Rio Negro swells, the Ariaú drains into the Rio Solimões. Then as the season reaches its height, the power, volume and current of the Rio Solimões overpowers the southerly flow, and forces it back north into the Rio Negro. On the day we were on it, it was flat as a pancake, and probably more of a canal than anything else.

As planned, the Tucano spent the evening on the move, and even if Manaus was something to miss, sailing under the bridge, the only one on the whole multi-thousand mile river system was not, and many of us were on deck to witness it. It was actually pretty cool, and I'm delighted how well some of the photos turned out.



So on the morning of the last day we were positioned ready for the meeting of the waters. As we approached I was worried that it would be less distinctive than I imagined, or worse, that the camera would not be able to show the distinction, one of those things that works better on sunny days than cloudy ones or when the water is calm, or some such, but as I think these shots show, I need not have worried.

We putzed around for a while, dodging the little day boats and then when everyone had taken all the pictures they needed, we were done. I don't recall another situation that was this spectacular, and yet there was really nothing to say. Everyone just stared into the water, apparently lost in their own thoughts.

Even now, the pictures tell the whole story. So when we were done, we were indeed done.

We made our way slowly upstream (the newly-formed Amazon has a strong current) until we were opposite the Port of Manaus and the big freighters dotted around it.



We sheltered for the afternoon in a small inlet. A final canoe ride through a series of lakes in the fork between the Negro and the Solimões provided some of the richest bird sightings we'd had all week. Perhaps luck, perhaps the influence of the white water, but either way a nice note to finish on.

As the canoes returned to the Tucano, Adam and I had one last adventure: we hitched a ride with Souza and Paki as they headed off into the Port of Manaus to collect the guitarist who was going to entertain us during our last night's celebration.