Meeting of the Waters in the Amazon

This is the sixth article in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This one is about the Meeting of the Waters. Previous travelogues highlighted the Amazon River, the city of Manaus, Amazon Ecopark, piranhas, and a monkey reserve. Upcoming articles will focus on the rainforest and indigenous peoples. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from one of the world’s mightiest rivers. The Meeting of the Waters, where two major tributaries, the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões, merge and form the Amazon River, is a sight to behold. Like the convergence of the Blue and White Nile rivers in Africa, the collision of these rivers is a spectacular mixture of color that looks like a blend of black coffee and milk tea. The darker Rio Negro with its decaying, organic debris and foliage flows into the light brown Rio Solimões. The result is a swirl of lighter and darker water that ebbs and flows for more than six miles downstream like yin and yang. Differences in the temperature, speed, and water density create a boundary between the two rivers that continues like an impenetrable wall until the Rio Negro is finally absorbed by the Solimões. The slower-moving water of the Rio Negro flows about two kilometers per hour at a temperature of 28°C (82°F) while the Solimões moves up to six kilometers per hour at 22°C (72°F). In July 2008, we took a river cruise from the Amazon Eco-Park Jungle Lodge to see this phenomenon. The swirling mixture of water looked almost potable. Almost. Our boat cruised for a while up and down the snaking line, giving us the chance to snap photos. I watched in amazement as the Gemini twins battled for supremacy. The Solimões was the more aggressive of the two. Sometimes it made some gains; sometimes the Negro rebuffed its advance. 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (1) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (2) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (3) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (4) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (5) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (6) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (7) Our cruise boat departed the Meeting of the Waters about noon and passed through shallow water of a channel on the Rio Solimões. I wondered whether the trees protruding from the water were tall or the boat was close to scraping the riverbed. 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (8) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (9) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (10) We stopped for lunch at a small village not far from the Meeting of the Waters. It was just half an hour downstream from the city of Manaus but felt a world away. With no motorized vehicles that I could tell, the residents relied on their feet and boats to get around. The church and school were the main buildings in the small, dry earthen square shaded by stately palms. 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (12) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (15) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (16) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (17) The locals seemed industrious and enterprising. They helped the tourists who disembarked to eat and browse the large gift shop filled with handmade souvenirs like stuffed and mounted piranhas that were presumably made by the villagers. I’m sure the residents earned a healthy income from the steady stream of tourists who visited each year. Others were busy working on the dock, farming, or fishing. 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (11) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (13) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (14) I saw one villager making rubber from the sap of a rubber tree. After tapping the tree with cuts that looked like slashes from a bear’s claws, the man collected the oozing white substance in a container and melted it into a large ball on a stick. I assumed that he was gathering the rubber to sell to a manufacturer or broker. 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (18) 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting (19) We returned to the Meeting of the Waters in the afternoon and followed the Rio Negro upstream past Manaus to our resort. Another day in the Amazon introduced us to yet more facets of this fascinating place. 2012_07_20 Brazil Amazon Meeting

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Alexander the SalamanderAbout Alexander the Salamander

A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.


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Exploring the Amazon Rainforest

My wife and I collaborated on this travel article about our July trip to the Brazilian Amazon. I also posted photos of our trip in a photo album. I was finally able to post them at last because I can finally access Spaces. Enjoy!

We spent five days in July visiting the Amazon Rainforest at the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões, the two tributaries that form the Amazon River. Our experience was nothing short of amazing. We were astounded by the vastness and diversity of the Amazon Basin. At the same time, we developed a healthy respect for the Amazon’s treasures – and perils.

We launched our Amazon excursion from Manaus, a gritty, industrial city carved out of the jungle on the banks of the Rio Negro. Manaus is a four-hour flight from São Paulo with a stop in Brasilia. If you plan to stay the night in Manaus and tour the city, be sure to stay at the Tropical Hotel, the best hotel in town. Manaus itself is an easy day tour; one can walk around the center and tour the historic Theater of the Amazons and São Sebastião Church, the Indigenous Museum, and the wharf. The Manaus has a couple free-for-all markets that sell a wide assortment of kitschy and knock-off goods. Nevertheless, we ended our Amazon tour wishing we had spent more time in the jungle and less time visiting the city.

We stayed four days and three nights at the all-inclusive EcoPark Resort located 20 minutes upriver from Manaus. The resort is only accessible by boat and is completely unplugged. Television? No. Internet? No. Telephone? Nope. Bring any electronics you might miss with you. The resort has plenty of amenities, including clean but spartan rooms, a cocktail bar, and plenty of ecotourist activities led by native and English-speaking guides to keep you occupied. Our activities included a two-hour hike in the Amazon rainforest, where our guides showed us wildlife and foliage with medicinal and other useful properties; a cruise to the “meeting of the waters,” where the black waters of the Rio Negro converge with the brown waters of the Rio Solimões; a visit to an indigenous village; a trip to a “Monkey Sanctuary” where monkeys roam freely and even crawl on your shoulders; piranha fishing (piranhas are tasty); and the best of all, caiman “hunting” on the Rio Negro at night. Our guide somehow caught a baby caiman – a relative of the alligator – after jumping from our boat in a murky alcove spookier than any Disneyland ride and catching it in the dark. Sitting at night on the dock at the resort, gazing up at the full moon illuminating the still black waters of the river, listening to the music of the wildlife wafting from every part of the jungle, will leave you in awe.

We left the Amazon with some amazing memories, and the nagging feeling that we had barely scratched the surface of this immense wilderness. We also realized that we experienced the ecotourist version of the Amazon. After spending a few days in the midst of wildlife and foliage armed with defense mechanisms that epitomize the phrase “survival of the fittest,” we were thankful our guides kept them at bay. Although our trip was expensive, it was worth it. Few people ever have the chance to experience the Amazon up close and personal. If you’re looking for an unforgettable travel destination, try spending a few days in the heart of the jungle.