Cerro Castillo.

After one more day in the Torres del Paine National Park, we (Mel and Mog) are back at the delightful small town of Cerro Castillo (S51.255015 W72.344318) the place where we watched the rodeo a few days ago.

Question: We have been invited to watch the machine on the right being used. Can you identify it? It was made in Liverpool, England by Fawcett Preston & Co. Ltd., and is probably well over 100 years old.

The notice on the front warns that the operating pressure is not to exceed 2.5 tons per square inch. The entire machine rotates so that one "chamber" can be filled whilst the other one is being processed. See the bottom of this page for the answer.

On our last day in the Torres del Paine National Park we climbed to the top of the short Condor Trail for an excellent view of the peaks. Note that the lake really is that vivid blue colour because of suspended particles of silica that are ground off the rocks by the glaciers that feed the lake.

We also saw about two dozen condors in flight and we were lucky enough to see two condors on the ground. They are the world's largest flying bird, and though unattractive, they still manage to look majestic while flying against strong mountain winds that almost blew us over as we hiked our way up to the look-out and back down again.

Our last night in the park was spent wild camped in the car park near Cascada Painewith the towering peaks off in the distance (S50.942672 W72.791705).

In the morning the mountains take on an entirely different colour (for about five minutes) in the warm light of sunrise.

Although we had already driven round Cerro Castillo without seeing any sign of a fuel station, we thought it would be worth asking at the very helpful tourist information office. "Oh yes", we were told "there is a fuel station", but it takes a bit of finding (and identifying!). The fuel station consist of three huts. The two outer ones each contain a very old fuel pump (one diesel, one petrol). The central hut is where you pay. Judy and Mo thought it was by far the "cutest" fuel station they had seen during an entire trip of routine fill-ups.

Whilst we were filling up, a woman came over and told us that in the large corrugated iron building behind the fuel station they were shearing sheep, and we were welcome to go and watch. So we did.

The shed could accommodate about thirty shearers, although there were only six working when we were there. Each sheep takes about two minutes thirty seconds to shear. The fleece is removed as one piece, and quickly inspected and de-dagged before being dumped in the empty chamber of the rotating wool press. When full, the press is rotated and the wool compressed into a wire wrapped bundle. Each bundle weighs about 500kg.

Stephen Stewart.

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