We arrive at the gate to the road to the observatory in good time and watch an extended Chilean family take a ludicrous number of photos of sisters / girlfriends / aunts / etc in every possible combination, plus some duplicates for good measure, while the males throw stones at cacti.
The 40km drive up to Cerro Tololo (2,600m) is on a gravel road of pretty good quality but Dixon was keen to point out the necessity for safety and the leaflet we are handed on checking in at the gate is long on safety advice and even shows a couple of photos of crashes with the caption 'Don't let this happen to you!' Encouraging!
The vista at the top is simply stunning.
Dixon himself leads the tour, predominantly in Spanish, but with the odd nugget in English, along with telescope orientation manoeuvres, roof-top rotatings and aperture openings and closings, the big show-off!
Next it's across the forecourt and into the 4m dome. This is much more modern with a computer control room shared by investigator and engineer and a lift to the telescope itself. This weighs 370 tonnes and is anchored to them mountain bedrock and has suffered zero damage or dis-alignment from the 3 earthquakes experienced since its inception, the biggest of which measured 8.4 on the reichter scale - a real wobbler! This telescope is capable of 180 degree inversion when the moon is too bright to enable it to use the mirrors and not the CCDs to collect the light.
Sadly Dixon doesn't get to spin the 'scope and make the floor rise and fall, but you sense he's pretty chuffed with this bit of kit.