Poplars flame yellow in Chilean Autumn

South of Santiago, unmistakeable signs of approaching Austral winter.

In northern south and central America, they have a most pleasant Spanish expression to describe the climate..siempre primavera, or 'always springtime.' And indeed, from the Rio Grande, through the Andean valleys of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, the weather was, if somewhat tempered by high elevations, always a most pleasant dry warmth that seemed like it would never end. I am sure the climate is a major factor in making the people of this region bright and happy, most of the time.

Yet as I pushed my bicycle relentlessly southward, I had this feeling that eventually the piper would have to be paid and autumn would arrive. It did all of a sudden, en route south of Santiago in Chile. The road surface becomes rough and pockmarked in many places (inexcuseable given Chile's wealth compared to say, Peru!) but the countryside opens up into field and vineyards, giving the valleys an almost European feel that was first noticeable in the Elqui valley. But most noticeable was a crisp, chill to the air, especially in the morning, especially if the wind blew in your face..especially if the sun went into a cloud. It took getting used to for a while, so spoiled was I by the dry warmth of the past few months. At night the skies were crystal clear, the southern cross and Magellanic clouds so high in the sky that you could almost touch their icy yet gossamer brialliance. The milky way is an absolute riot of glow in the southern sky, and these Chilean nights brough it out with much vigour.
But the best evidence that it was autumn, to this wayward, international cycling former New Englander, was the arrival of fall colors. For hundreds of kilometers along the highway there were lengthy rows of these poplars, flaming yellow in the early autumn chill. Presumeably their function is that of windbreaks, for the winds (headwinds for me..grr!) were quite ferocious. Not visible in this picture were similar lengthy stretches of ripening blakcberries.

It was all most odd...for in a few weeks of this picture being taken, I flew to Lisbon in Portugal, to a Europe who's fields, farms valleys and vineyards were fragrant and young with the blossoms of Spring. My cycling tour, as it is planned out, will have no winter!