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A monsoon washes out the electronics 19.06.2008

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The Solartaxi runs out of puff, his ear isn't getting better, and it's the team's last day in Asia. Louis Palmer is feeling a bit subdued. Luckily, climbing a mountain always cheers up a Swiss in a spot. We've had plenty of rain on our journey. In Australia we had the heaviest rains for five years and there was the monsoon in Malaysia and Thailand, but this time the rain was too sudden. I couldn't stop on the highway to cover up the gap where the cable from the trailer runs into the Solar Taxi, so rain got in and shorted its electronics.
For the first time, we have to order a tow-truck. The next city, the next university, the next media event are all waiting for us. The event goes off as usual - we just can't take anyone for a drive. But the television stations won't give up until I get in and roll it down a hill, so they can finally capture the Solar Taxi in motion!
We have to order a replacement control unit and send it to Canada. We can't wait around in South Korea. We're putting the Solar Taxi on a ship tomorrow. But our control unit is a one-off, so we might have to wait six weeks for another one; time we need to get to the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland in December.
Anxious wait in Pusan
Only Herr Schwegler from Rockwell Automation in Lucerne can help us. He has been involved in the project from the start and made the control unit for us, but we can't reach him. We spend a few hours worrying in Pusan harbour before shutting the Solar Taxi into its container, saying "See you in Canada!" The Asian leg of our trip is over.
Frank, my mechanic, phones Lucerne again. "Really? You have another one under your desk?" I hear him say. We're exultant. After dinner it's time say goodbye, sadly. The team I've grown so fond of is disbanding here. Lucie, our filmmaker, is flying back to Peking, and Hansrudi and Frank are travelling on to Japan.
Our plan to travel across Japan together had to be cancelled at the last minute after we were told we couldn't enter Japan with the Solar Taxi. I'll see Frank in Vancouver in two weeks time. Thomas, who stayed on in China, will also be there.
"Whatever you do don't fly!"
I'm still worried about my ear. I haven't been able to hear properly for ten days and I can't clear the blockage. The big question is whether I can fly. It all started ten days ago with a cold and the flight from Peking to Seoul, when my eardrum almost burst. I phone my friend Walter in Dubai, who is both a pilot and a doctor. He's appalled at my plan. "Whatever you do, don't fly! The pressure in the cabin goes up 2,500 metres in 20 minutes and your eardrum could burst. Go to an American clinic."
I race back to Seoul at 260 km/h on the Korean TGV. At the Severance International Clinic, the top address for ears, the doctor doesn't want to put a hole in my eardrum because of the danger of infection. Instead, he gives me a new nasal spray and a bag of painkillers in case my eardrum bursts. Great.
I decide not to fly. Tomorrow morning I'll climb Mount Bukhasan, which towers 500 metres above Seoul, to see from the change in pressure whether my ear is fit to travel. How annoying. Will we all see each other again in two weeks in Canada?


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