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Monday, March 18, 2013 | Santiago to Buenos Aires

It's Monday, March 11, 2013. We have arrived in Santiago. Prior to the tour, I had taken the opportunity of enjoying a brief holiday in Chile, and was therefore ready to take over the reins of the Editourmobil from Team 1 consisting of my colleagues Alex and Rolf. Chiraz, my colleague from Marketing, and official tour guide for this part of the tour, arrived yesterday. After handing over the vehicle, and with fond farewells to Team 1, our first appointment is with Iveco. The long and arduous journey over difficult terrain has not been kind to the Editourmobil. It is difficult to start and at frequent intervals there are serious problems with the gears. Breakfast is a welcome start to proceedings, and then the long wait begins.

The Editourmobil in the Iveco Workshop Santiago

One of the Iveco staff, Rodrigo, speaks English and proves to be very helpful. He gets us connected to the Internet, and provides us with all we need to get down to work. As luck would have it, he has also worked for the drinks industry and actually attended the last drinktec. How good is that?

In the course of the afternoon, the problems seem to have been as good as solved so finally two Iveco people take the vehicle out for a test drive – all goes well until suddenly they come to a grinding halt. We are on the motorway slip road when the Editourmobil suddenly gives up the ghost. For over an hour we block the road and traffic chaos ensues. The Iveco mechanics don’t seem to have a clue what’s going on but whatever it is, it’s deadly serious. Chiraz and I are meanwhile putting our heads together to work out what we can do about our appointments for the following day. To solve our immediate problem the Iveco mechanics call us a taxi, because getting a tow seems highly unlikely at this juncture. They have actually summoned a towing truck but it’s not man enough to tow the heavyweight Editourmobil. Without more ado, in the 10 minutes or so before the taxi appears, we pack some overnight things and all the stuff we need for our appointments. In our haste I suspect we have forgotten much of what we need, but, tough, we’ve got the most important things, and anyway, it’s not for long.

We drive into the city. With the help of a German friend of Chiraz who lives in Santiago, we spend the night in a pleasant hotel, where Chiraz’s friend, by name Diana, had worked some time previously. The WiFi connection is excellent which means I can get a lot of work done and also stay in touch with Germany, to keep my colleagues updated about the situation. I’m absolutely knackered after such an exhausting day. By the time I crawl into bed, it’s already half past one in the morning.

Today, Tuesday, we were supposed to have had an appointment with Sidel. We have had no news on the state of the vehicle and Rodrigo couldn’t help us so we have no choice but to cancel the appointment. This gives us the opportunity to contact Heidelberg by email and phone to see if we can re-jig the programme. During all the to-ing and fro-ing, I used my German phone card numerous times, which has probably caused mass heart failure in the telephone company. With the help of a Chilean who we meet in the city, we managed to get hold of a Chilean SIM card. Meanwhile my suits are being dry cleaned, as they have accumulated as much dust as the Editourmobil, and to round everything off, we treat ourselves to a very welcome bite to eat. Back in our hotel I work till late in the evening. During my holiday prior to the tour, my mailbox was full to bursting. After discussion with Heidelberg HQ we agree on the plan for the next day which is an appointment in Conception, 500 km south of Santiago. We will have to fly there. Then, shortly before midnight, we receive devastating news from Rodrigo. The Editourmobil is in a hopeless state and it is likely “to take weeks" to repair it or to replace the defective parts The cause was easily established: the dust of Atacama, that Alex and Rolf drove through on the first part of the tour, has completely ruined the electronics. I just can’t get my head round this turn of events, and I fall prey to a thousand disturbing thoughts during the night.

Wednesday is our first appointment: the bottler Embosur in Concepción.The first welcome coffee of the day is enjoyed early in the morning at Santiago airport. In Concepción we are met by Sergio, responsible for finance with Embosur, who takes us to HQ. We have a most interesting discussion with CEO David, and his colleague Rodrigo, who give us an overview of the company’s operations and objectives.

Our return flight is not until 7pm, and by early afternoon we are already back at the airport. I use the time to install myself in the small airport restaurant where I catch up on some paperwork, and glance at the TV, which is covering the election of the pope. Overall, I am pleased with the way the day has gone, despite the bad news about the Editourmobil.

I use the next day to do some reports and re-organise the schedule as it was very late by the time we got back to Santiago. The WiFi connection is really good so it’s almost like being in your own office. Only the direct access to the company server proves to be a bit of an ordeal. But it’s no big deal. The Editourmobil situation remains troubling. I am waiting for information from the workshop, which is not forthcoming. Meanwhile HQ and I are in constant discussion about the best way forward, and in the end we decide that Chiraz and I will fly to Buenos Aires tomorrow, leaving the Editourmobil to Iveco’s tender mercies. I quickly locate a pleasant town centre hotel and book rooms for us, and as we wait, the plane tickets duly arrive by email. I am happy that all the last-minute re-scheduling is at least working out very well. The important thing now is the series of appointments – and there are quite a few in Buenos Aires.

It's Friday midday before we check out of the hotel. Once again, I have been up all hours dealing with emails and taking phone calls. An appointment with Talca in Mendoza has unfortunately to face up to the reality that Chiraz and I have yet to retrieve the remainder of our belongings and paperwork from the Editourmobil, which is still laid up at Iveco. We have decided that we cannot wait for the vehicle to be repaired – time is money after all - Iveco have told us yet again that it will all take time. Spare parts have to be imported and the subsequent repairs are likely to be extensive. The tour must go on, no matter what. When we go back to Iveco, we quickly realise that we have too much luggage. 23kg per person to be exact, far too much for the variety of airline companies whose services we will now be obliged to use. Space is the next problem, because I for my part had given Rolf at the beginning of the tour a collection of my business suits. I do my best to pack them as carefully as I can, to cram in as much as possible. Chiraz does the same. Fortunately, Rolf has left behind a few things that he needs and I now have to find ways of packing them to take them back to Heidelberg. The panorama photography equipment is a vital bit of kit. I have no idea but I suspect that it will cost a pretty penny at the airport later. Finally, after some strenuous efforts, we find ourselves laden with two huge suitcases, two heavy camera backpacks, laptops and various other small bags. In the reception area we bump into Rodrigo, who assures us the vehicle will be expertly repaired and if he, Rodrigo, can be of any further help, we only have to say. Then he calls us a taxi to take us to the airport. Thank you once again for your invaluable help and support! At the airport, I have another heart-stopping moment: my camera bag with my personal equipment, which now includes several lenses and a perfectly reasonable camera has been left in the boot of the taxi, which has roared off before I can do anything about it. Despite a lot of shouting and gesticulating, the taxi has disappeared. A quick phone call to Rodrigo and ten minutes later the taxi driver returns and with a gracious “perdon” hands over the missing bags.

It is late evening when we check into the hotel in Buenos Aires. We caught the airport shuttle without problem. In the hotel, and somewhat to my surprise, we can still have dinner, even though it's already 11:30 pm. That's a definite plus!

It's Saturday. Actually it’s the weekend, but of course there’s no let-up in the work, so we are up early. First off we need a new adapter, a city map and various other bits and pieces. Our Chilean phone cards work well here, but nevertheless I have decided to try out later the Argentine SIM card that Florian Roscheck from our Brazilian tour team had kindly got hold of for us prior to the tour and sent to Heidelberg. The first impression of Argentina and Buenos Aires is: Wow, this is terrific!

The Buenos Aires obelisk erected in 1936 on the Plaza de la República

The streets are on a grid pattern running North – South and East – West, which makes getting around easy. It is noticeably cooler here than in Santiago. Now that we have done everything and given ourselves room to breathe, I decide to have a rest day to catch up on emails and other reports. Chiraz, meanwhile, arranges to meet up with a friend who lives nearby. As I sit here pondering the events of the last few crowded days, I have to say that I am happy everything seems to be going well, despite the broken-down Editourmobil. And coming up next week we have a couple of interesting appointments on the programme.

Live broadcast of Sunday Mass at the Vatican with the new Argentinian Pope on the Plaza de Mayo