One of the great wonders of the world

The Meeting of the Waters (Encontro das Aguas in Portuguese) is a natural phenomenon which occurs near the city of Manaus in the Amazon. Two massive rivers, the River Solimôes (Rio Solimôes) and the River Negro (Rio Negro) meet near the city; they meet but do not mix.

The River Solimôes is the chocolate river and the River Negro is the black river. The chocolate river flows from the Peruvian border and it collects its colour from the vast quantities of mud and silt it carries along with it. This is a fast moving river and it will quite often carry along with it little islands which flow along the river with the tide.

The River Negro flows from the Andes in Colombia. It is the black river, the colour of black tea. The colour of the water comes from the humic acid from the incomplete breakdown of the endless vegetation which falls to the bottom of the river. The water extracts its colour, and the result is dark, silky soft, sweet water which is a delight to swim in. You can even drink the water; it is so soft and sweet.

The River Solimôes is in a hurry. It is going somewhere. It is cooler and faster than the River Negro which is more sedate and laid back. The Negro is warmer, sweeter, more sedentary.

So when chocolate from the River Solimôes meets up with the black tea coloured River Negro, the waters come together but do not mix. Chocolate and tea. Tea and chocolate. They say that chocolate and tea do not mix. The chocolate is thick and creamy, it melts in your mouth, and leaves a distinct taste. Tea is thinner than chocolate, it is a drink with a distinct colour. It also has a distinct taste. They do not mix. If they ever did, they would be most incredible food/drink in the world.

For more than six kilometres these amazing rivers flow side by side, forming one of really great natural and unique phenomenons in the world. When they do finally mix, these two rivers form the greatest river in the world, the River Amazon.

The rivers do not mix because when they come together they have different compositions, different temperatures and different flow rates. The River Negro flows at 2km/hour at a temperature of 28 degrees Celsius, while the River Solimôes flows at 4-6 km/hour at 22 degrees Celsius.

This natural wonder is the inspiration for the black and white wavy tiles in front of the other iconic feature of the city of Manaus, the Opera House. There is also the rite of passage shown by every pilot visiting the city of Manaus. On arrival or departure the pilots tip their wings in respect to the mightiest river on the planet, and in doing so, afford their passengers a fantastic view of this incredible phenomenon.

This meeting of the waters is like the iconic meeting, on another great continent, at another time, between Dr. David Livingstone, the legendary Scottish explorer and missionary and the journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley on the shore of Lake Tanganyika on 27th October 1871, in present day Tanzania. Both men had covered enormous distances to meet up. Dr. Livingstone was one of the first Europeans to be concerned with the discovery of the source of the River Nile, the Amazon’s mighty African sister river.

The words Stanley apparently used on meeting Livingstone were “Dr. Livingstone I presume”. The greeting was polite but perfunctory. Each party knew of the existence of the other, but they had never met until this point. It gives the impression they would never really become friends, or despite their incredible ordeals they had been through to meet up, they hardly warmed to each other’s company, despite both men having Scottish origins. There was no warm hug, no firm handshake, just a damp squib of cold handshake between the two men at their iconic meeting.

So when the River Negro meets up with the River Solimôes it probably says “Solimôes, I presume”. It is a polite introduction, but then each river tries to go its separate ways. They go their separate ways for about six kilometres before they are forced together. Each river has a massive ego, which comes through being on their own two of the largest and most powerful rivers in the world. Both have travelled more than 2,000 kilometres to this point, so what is six more kilometres?

The River Amazon has several more ‘meetings of the waters’ on its long trip to the Atlantic Ocean, where different coloured rivers with different compositions come together and flow separately for short periods. However, none of these pretenders compare to the meeting of the Solimôes and the River Negro. It is one of the greatest meetings in the world, I presume.

Gerard Moxon is Founder of Luxury Hedonist.

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Comments (1)

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  1. Sharon says:

    This is such an amazing phenomenon — definitely on my to-see list for when I visit Brazil for the first time in the near future! Thanks for sharing.

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