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A Swarm of Bees on the Highway17.05.2008

Tags: China       Comments: 0

Like a true Swiss, Louis Palmer takes advantage of a break in the driving to storm up the region's highest mountain. Back on the highway in the Solar Taxi, he sees some trucks with very strange loads.

What does a Swiss do in China on his day off? He climbs the highest mountain around of course! Taishan is eastern China's holy mountain. 6,600 steps lead up to its peak. We climb the 900 metres through thick forest, passing countless temples, to the summit, which is veiled in thick cloud.

Solar Taxi: Climbing the Holy Mountain

Thunder and lightning at 1,532 metres is a truly mystical experience! Later we go to a restaurant where they try to serve us frogs, worms and caterpillars. We decline this well-meant hospitality with gestures and grimaces and make do with egg and tomato.

Next morning we visit the Himin Company, the world's biggest manufacturer of warm-water solar collectors. 76% of the world's requirements of these solar collectors are made in China, a country with practically no oil reserves. Almost every new building here has solar collectors on its roof. The factory produces 55,000 heating pipes daily. A solar collector for a single-family house costs 400 dollars.

A Swarm of Bees on the Highway

Back on the highway, I'm amazed at what trucks in China are carrying; excavators, cranes, live pigs, propellers for wind-power windmills, huge, unidentifiable machines, potatoes, paper, and carrots. A truck in the emergency lane has lost a wheel. Nothing special, except that the truck was laden with beehives! The very air seems to buzz and the sky turns black. Such a big swarm of bees is an eerie thing. I don't know whether to laugh or just keep my mouth shut.

I do laugh though, when a policeman stops us and confiscates my driver's licence. "You can't drive that on the highway. I should give you a fine" he grumbles, looking over our vehicle. James, our Chinese guide, answers; "If you fine him there'll be a diplomatic incident between China and Switzerland and you'll be in big trouble!" So we drive on with my drivers licence.

Our guide is understandably becoming more impatient. After four weeks in the Solar Taxi, James wants to get home to Beijing and his family as soon as he can.

But we won't get that far today. At 2.28pm we stop and stand on the roadside. All the traffic stops for a minute's silence and China mourns the victims of the earthquake that shook southwestern China a week ago, killing tens of thousands of people.

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