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Monday, March 25, 2013 | Our time in and around Buenos Aires

The first few days of the new week seem to simply fly by. You would have thought that the complete reorganisation of the tour should have bought us a little time, but not so, at least at the moment. All the careful planning that Heidelberg had put in had to be ditched and a new schedule put in place. New appointments had been arranged for Wednesday and the plan was to get to them by taxi. I had a quick look at the distances involved but I had no illusions about the problems that lay ahead. Some appointments looked to be within easy reach, but I had vivid memories of our last tour in the Moscow area in 2012, when we found ourselves constantly stuck in the most awful traffic jams. But at the end of the day, we just have to get on with it.

In the Manaos filling area at Refres Now, Walter and his acquaintance Laura in front of the Sidel plant

Meanwhile, what is happening with the Editourmobil? I have been in constant contact with Rolf in Heidelberg, both by phone and email, but despite all the to-ing and fro-ing neither he nor I are any the wiser. What is clear is that spare parts will have to be imported from Italy, but how long the repair job will take is anyone’s guess. We have drawn up a new battle plan which involves bringing Florian Roscheck from Team 3 and 4 down to join us ahead of schedule, taking the Editourmobil, after it’s been repaired, from Santiago to Montevideo and en route making the now rescheduled company visits. A great idea, I think. Now all we need to know is how long Iveco are going to take.

It's Tuesday. Petra Westphal from Messe München / drinktec has just sent me contact details of the Chile and Argentina diplomatic missions, so my next move is to see whether I can get an appointment with them at short notice. I discover that my contact is in a meeting but will be available tomorrow. I'll give him another call then. Heidelberg have been busy in the meantime, sending over an updated version of the schedule. On Thursday I will be meeting Refres Now, bottler of "Manaos" one of the best-known brands in the country. This is followed by an appointment with Bericap. Two appointments have been arranged for Friday. The first, in the morning, is to PET recyclers Reciclar, followed by an afternoon visit to Andina Empaques, the big Coca-Cola bottle and preform manufacturer. In the evening Chiraz and I decide we need to stretch our legs a little and wander over to the nearby square, the Congreso de la Nacion Argentina, which previously we had only glimpsed from the inside of the taxi. It also gives us a bit of a break from the ubiquitous laptop and the stuffy hotel rooms. Besides, we’ve had precious little opportunity to look round the city what with all the frantic re-organising we have had to do. We fully deserve a little time off, although the evening passes all too quickly.

Today, Wednesday, is supposed to be the hastily arranged appointment with the Argentine department of trade, but it falls though unfortunately, because my contact is away on business and is in any case flying to Germany tomorrow. Nevertheless I give them a call and an assistant promises to fix me up an appointment with “an expert in the market”, or so she claims. Great, I think, at least I’ll get some useful information about the Argentinian market. Still no news of the Editourmobil despite frantic emails from Rolf, who is bombarding the Iveco people for news. I get copies to keep me updated on the situation. The problem is that it’s difficult to keep re-arranging the schedule because my colleague Florian Roscheck needs to have some sort of reliable timetable for when he flies in and what he is going to be doing. Overall, I'm still optimistic because, whatever else we may lack, creative thinking is not one of them.

Chiraz and I make an early start for our appointment with Refres Now. Our hotel has suggested we take a taxi to cover the 30km as the traffic can be unpredictable at this time of day. This of course comes as no surprise to me. After about a half hour we pull up at the factory gates, just in time. Our subsequent conversation with Walter Canido, Commercial Director and his colleagues prove to be something of a challenge. Our Spanish language skills are extremely limited but then Walter’s partner, an English speaker, springs to our rescue. The presence of Mr Nestor Fischer, who has a little German, also proves immensely helpful. The bottling of their "Manaos" own brand combines smoothly with eight further lines giving a daily production of around 3 million litres, and this, they say, puts Manaos at virtual level pegging with Coca-Cola and Pepsi. In terms of technology, Refres Now relies totally on Sidel.

To reach Bericap on time, we need to reckon on a two hour or so drive. The plant is located in Pilar, several kilometres to the north. On arrival we are welcomed by Gonzalo Frejenal, managing director. After an interesting and extensive discussion, not only about Bericap, but also on the market in general, we are taken to the production area where around 1.3 billion closures are manufactured annually. Our visit concluded, Gonzalo kindly arranges for one of the company drivers to take us back to the hotel in air-conditioned comfort. Very many thanks for this thoughtful gesture, much appreciated!

Gonzalo Frejenal with Kay and line workers in the Bericap factory

It's already evening by the time we get back to the hotel. I decide that it is high time we enjoyed a drop of the amber liquid and order the Number 1 beer in Buenos Aires, namely a glass of Quilmes. This is wholly appropriate as on Monday next week, we have an appointment with the brewery, and we obviously need to familiarise ourselves with the product. At 10pm I begin to write up my notes and edit the photos taken during the day.

Today, Friday, we have our first appointment at 9:30 with the PET recyclers Reciclar, whose offices, fortunately, are within easy reach of the hotel. On arrival we are greeted by Erwin Auspitz, German born, replacing the temporarily indisposed Mr Daniel Cappelletti whom we were originally scheduled to meet. And so, unexpectedly, I am able to conduct the interview in German.

Erwin Auspitz shows Kay the factory premises. Tons of compressed bottles - Reciclar's starting point

I learn that annually around 25 tonnes of PET bottles, which have been collected from the streets, are here cleaned, sorted and recycled into flakes. To our surprise and delight, Mr Auspitz paid for a taxi to take us back to the hotel, as our next appointment with Andina Empaques is just two hours away. I use the time in the hotel, "typing and telephoning" as publishing director Alex likes to say.

The stock of finished PET flakes at Reciclar

To get to Andina, we heed the advice to allow at least an hour by taxi, despite which we are half an hour late thanks to being held up in traffic. Daniel Caridi, managing director, and Guillermo Semcoff, production manager, are already waiting for us.

Daniel Caridi and Guillermo Semcoff in the Andina preform production area

Andina produces preforms and bottles exclusively for Coca-Cola. Our discussions are informative and wide-ranging. We are allowed to see the impressively spacious production and storage area. Once again we have the great good fortune to meet a German-speaking employee who tells us about his upcoming vacation in Cologne and Paris.

The labelling and printing area at Andina. When printing, the logo is put on the bottle in three layers associated with the different colours.

Later, back at the hotel, I am just too shattered to actually come up with any plans for the evening. Chiraz and I go to a small restaurant nearby where we enjoy a very pleasant meal. The World Cup qualifying match Argentina v. Venezuela being played in Buenos Aires is currently on TV. Argentina win 3-nil which is our signal to return to the hotel, where I edit the panorama photos until 2 in the morning. This is what’s called having a day off! The weekend is unlikely to be any more restful, as I have a lot of writing to catch up on, and a lot of photos to edit. So it looks like I will be cooped up in my hotel room for 2 days.