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Monday, April 22, 2013 | The start of the third team

Santiago de Chile greets me on Monday morning with brilliant sunshine, which is a welcome bonus after the long flight from Germany. My first stop is the workshop where our Editourmobil is currently being repaired. Following a telephone call to them, I was confidently expecting the repair to be completed today. However, when I got to the workshop and spoke to the manager there, I discovered that time has a different meaning in Chile. “Today” turns out to mean two to three days, if we are lucky. There is a lot to do, they explain. More than a little disappointed, I check in at the hotel. I had hoped that for my appointment next morning with Marco Dall'Olio, CEO of PLASCO, I would surprise him by turning up in the Editourmobil.

Not to worry, as the next day finds me in Mr Dall’Ollio’s office, espresso at hand, enjoying a very convivial and informative discussion with PLASCO’s CEO. Our interview is not merely confined to PLASCO’s exciting projects, but covers the entire beverage industry in Chile. The subsequent tour of the plant with Production Manager Ahmed Usen is made all the more interesting and meaningful because of all the background information I have gleaned from our interview. Even more heart-warming, I discover that PLASCO had very kindly set aside no fewer than 3 hours for our discussions. Over and above the call of duty, methinks.

On Wednesday I received a friendly welcome in the workshop from Alex Hernandez and his colleagues where they updated me on how things were going. How much longer, I wonder to myself. It’s going to take another day before the repair is finally completed, they tell me. The dilemma now is, what do I do with a free day in Santiago? Having enjoyed an extended lunch here with Alex, I know all there is to know about the attractions of the city and the history of Chile in general, so the best idea seems to be an afternoon stroll around the city centre. On one of the main squares I can hardly move for the great mass of people of all ages and cultural backgrounds huddled on the ground, playing board games, having their fortunes told, or simply laughing and joking with their friends in the warm sunshine. I can’t resist sitting down and joining them. So many people, so much life and so much of Chile all gathered on this single square.

On Thursday evening it’s back to the real world. After a test drive with mechanic Alfonso, I am sitting alone in the dark cab of the Editourmobil, en route for the Andes. Due to road works, the border with Argentina is open only from 10pm to 7am. On Friday I made the fatal mistake of relying on my satnav which duly sent me over dirt roads to the back of beyond. Thus I managed to miss the border opening times, which meant I eventually crossed the Andes early on Saturday morning. I have to say that the sight of this beautiful scenery is more than adequate recompense for the hassles of the previous few days.

On Sunday I drive from San Luis in Argentina to Santa Fe. This stretch is long enough for me to put the Editourmobil through its paces. The newly discovered cruise control is a blessing in disguise as we enjoy the delights of straight roads, passing through numerous cities and, beyond, admiring green fields stretching endlessly into the far distance!

Tomorrow a second interview is coming up in Santa Fe. I'm curious to see how the Argentine PET industry is shaping up!