After a two hour drive, our people carrier left the grey drizzle of the Chilean coast to ascend up to Cerro Pachon, high in the Andes mountains. The scenery is spectacular with colourful mountains covered in cactus and scrubby shrubs. There are wild foxes and pumas and the odd burro or donkey roaming about.
Outreach worker, Manuel Parades, from the La Serena office gave me a tour of the entire telescope — all four floors, including the office area. Because Gemini does both remote observing (controlled down in the offices in La Serena) as well as on site observation, there is a full nine to five staff as well as overnight astronomer observers. I am currently typing this in the nice hotel located about 2 km from the telescope. I am having dinner with the astronomers here at the hotel restaurant and then going up with them at 7:30 tonight to have a look at what they do. I have also been given a studio workspace in the telescope itself!