5.30 am

brazil

(Tuesday 19th August, 5.30am, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil)

It's 5.30am and the sun is just beginning to colour the eastern horizon a delicate peach, shading to deep indigo at the zenith. The river is very still in the silver half light, and a veil of mist hovers just above the surface of the water. A cool, light breeze drifts shreds of mist, like smoke, towards me, as I stand on the boardwalk watching. On three sides, groups of chaco chachalacas1 strike up their raucous song, like a drunken military tattoo performed entirely on amplified kazoos, and backed occasionally by a howler monkey chorus. In the brief breaks between chaco sets, I can hear the various whistles, purrs and mews of other birds against the earth-shaking three-note bass growls of caiman the wildlife starts its day. The dawn here is often peaceful, but seldom quiet.

In the west, the full moon is still high, and as the sun rises, the cold, silver moon-shadows are gradually erased and replaced with the deep, warm sun-shadows. Dawn happens fast here: as I watch, the sun hauls itself above the horizon, bloodily dripping and setting fire to the landscape. Another day begins.

1 They can be heard 2 km away, so you can imagine that when you're standing right next to them (or vice-versa), conversation is impossible, and earplugs are advisable. I once had to break off a conversation with my colleague because of noisy chacos above us. It's no use shouting at them, either (I've tried) -- you just have to wait until they're finished.

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