For most of the year Paraguay bakes under a hot sun. However things can be very different once winter arrives.
This is not a land where winter means months of never ending cold. Instead it is a time when short sharp spells of cold weather may arrive at any time.
Winter itself in Paraguay can be said to run from mid June through to mid August. Despite it being thought of as a hot land during that time some very cold days and nights can be experienced.
The average temperatures are also much lower at that time of year. Rather than the high 30s and beyond which mark out summer temperatures in the mid 20s are more normal.
This makes it on the whole a very pleasant time of year. Not too hot to be spending many hours working outdoors. Also the reduced heat causes less evaporation and so there is less moisture in the air to power the electrical storms which bring much of Paraguays rain.
It is the driest time of year. Days or even weeks on end with clear blue skies.
The lower temperatures and shorter daylight hours do though give the land less time each day to heat up. Accordingly as soon as the sun sets the temperature drops. This makes the nights and evenings much fresher and sometimes even a little cool.
If is was not for the potential of a cold spell occurring it would be almost the perfect time of year.
The cold when it does arrive always comes from the same place. The south. A mass of cold air blowing up from Antarctica.
For this cold air to reach Paraguay it must first travel a great distance up southern South America and over the Argentine pampus. On its journey it lost all its moisture long before it reaches Paraguay. However cold it gets it never snows in Paraguay.
The arrival of such a weather system appears first in the sky.
The blue is replaced by a thick blanket of low grey cloud. These block out the sun for a day of two sucking heat from the ground. These clouds often bring hours of cold and heavy rain. Moisture that is driven before the mass of cold polar air.
Once the rains have cleared the clouds remain and a strong wind blows. This is always a south wind. Dry and chilling.
It is this wind that heralds the arrival of the polar air. The sky remains thickly clouded and the piercing wind drives all moisture from the land.
During the day it can be bitterly cold and anyone who is able stays indoors trying to keep warm until it has passed.
At night with the cold dry wind temperatures can and do fall below zero. This coats the fields and houses with a thick layer of frost.
First thing in the morning on a frosty day Paraguay can look like a winter wonderland and it takes until mid morning before the last of it has melted away.
The size of the polar air masses mean that the normal pattern is a couple of cold nights, then a couple of frosty ones followed by a couple more cold ones while the cold air clears away.
Cold spells arriving like this are dependent on weather systems more than the calendar. As such some years winter may have just one frosty spell and others three or four.
Although the temperature only drops a few degrees below zero it is enough to freeze everyone and everything in Paraguay.
Houses are built to cope with heat not cold. Insulation would turn them into ovens during summer time. Also having fresh air entering the house is needed to keep indoor temperatures down. So window and door frames are rarely sealed.
All that means that cold air soon finds it way into the house and with walls being built of just a single layer of brick cold quickly seeps indoors through the brickwork.
These are the days where everyone who can remain wrapped under a blanket does and few people venture out without good reason.
Outside animals retreat to their burrows waiting for warmer days. Insects can’t cope with this cold. One great positive of a cold spell is the complete lack of mosquitoes and other biting insects after it.
Once the warmth returns insect free evenings can be enjoyed outdoors.
The flora also is battered by the cold.
Slightly less in the towns and cities where the buildings trap heat and offer protection to more delicate plants.
Out in the countryside however there is nothing to protect the plants from the frost. Those that have always grown here are either immune to a couple of nights of frost or die back only slightly.
Those however that have their origins elsewhere and flourish in the heat of the Paraguayan summer but are not evolved to be able to cope with being frozen suffer.
Where I live in the open countryside growing a mango or pawpaw is almost impossible and even a banana needs a little shelter.
The most noticeable feature of the landscape after a frost is not the leafless trees but the grass.
The fields that just a few days before were lush and green are now filled with dry and yellowed straw. This is the time when cattle struggle to find food.
The grasses have all been killed off and are dead and lifeless. However as a plant grass is very hard to kill. Once the first warmth of spring arrives fresh green shoots will begin pushing up from its under ground roots.
Within the first weeks of spring the fields will been green from horizon to horizon once more.
All this dry straw is a danger however. Until the fields turn green once more grass fires are a risk all across Paraguay. Once started they are all but unstoppable until all the fuel has been consumed. A fire can reduce a large area of land to ash.
In recent years efforts have been made to stop people setting fires in the dry grasses and letting them run to clear vast areas of land. So now fortunately there is less chance of a neighbour deciding to clear his fields with fire and in so doing so turning my garden to ash.
Winter then despite what you may have heard is a real event in Paraguay. Days of biting cold that could not be described as anything else.
A few days though and the sun returns. Temperatures rise and everyone can go about their business once more.