Today has been the most anticipated, planned, revered and expensive day of our entire journey – the day we enter China, the lynchpin country of the trip and the slow march north becomes the even slower march west.

We only had a couple of options when planning the route back to England, and when it boiled down to those which were safe, logistically possible, financially viable and actually worth our while, our only real option was to go through China. Perhaps we could have shipped the car to India and taken a route through Pakistan, Iran and onwards to Turkey – although as several members of my family pointed out to Joe, the only thing scarier than the threat of death or dismemberment en route would’ve been the wrath of my Dad should anything unbecoming happen to me. So, China it was.

And even then, planning to drive through China was no mean feat. Especially as it soon became apparent that you cannot bring your own car into China, or drive without a Chinese licence. Determined not to let these trivial idiosyncrasies get in the way, I scoured the information superhighway and found a company that could help us, and set about negotiating with them on where we wanted to go, and how much that would cost. Nearly 12 months later, here we are with our car, in China.

We nestled down in the border town of Boten (or nearabouts) last night after giving the car an utter soaking and repacking to make room for a third body, our Chinese Guide. Every item was scrutinised as it was repacked from the 50th piece of Tupperware down to my flippers and snorkel (alarmingly, nothing got chucked).

We awoke to sheets of rain, reluctantly left our bed, wound our watches forward an hour and headed for the Boten checkpoint.

It was what we’d come to expect from South East Asian borders; a few mud tracks, someone making noodle soup and no clue as to where to go or what do with the Carnet document for the car.  But soon enough, after we seemed to have everything stamped and every border official on duty had given us the nod we were free to go (apparently when you have your own car, you have to wait until EVERYONE standing around gives you the all clear, whether they work there or not).

A short drive and we were back in the 21st century, finally back to something you might call an immigration facility (rather than a shed). The Mohan checkpoint, on the Chinese side was a completely different ballgame – gardens, a real building (with doors and everything!) and all sorts of supersonic electronic stuff for scanning passports and checking visas.

We parked up and walked into passport control, where our guide, the effervescent Yingchu was waving excitedly from the other side of the glass. Moments later, she was dealing with customs, and within about twenty minutes, she’d organised most of our paperwork, and we were ready to drive to Mengla to get our car permits and drivers licences.

I was extremely nervous about meeting Yingchu. This is someone who will be in the car with us for the next 28 days, and there are some very delicate balances – silence v conversation, cypress hill v simply red etc etc, and a third person could easily throw the whole ying and yang to oblivion. But, she seems like a lovely easy going 23 year old with cool shoes, so I think it will all go well.

We chowed down on our first chinese dishes in Mengla before driving to the Traffic Police Station. BOB had all sorts of hi tech tests done on him (no tyre kicking to be spoke of, but thank god we got the brakes fixed in Vientiane) and then it was time to get our drivers licences. I made sure I double checked with Joe which was the clutch, just in case there was a practical exam. Ahem, it’s been a while since I drove.

The one handed man seemed extremely reluctant to hand over our licences, after much discussion with Yingchu, he finally asked whether we knew the road rules of China. I was a bit narked that a one-handed man was dubious of my driving skills, but I said “Yes” and nodded vigorously, encouraging Joe to do the same. He still didn’t look convinced. Yingchu did some more convincing. And then she said ‘The most important thing is that you don’t drink and drive’ to which we again nodded vigourously, agreeing that we wouldn’t. And then he gave us our licences. Then we left before he changed his mind.

So we drove along a god-sent super highway – long stretch of elevated road through the mountain ranges, through countless tunnels, and eventually to Jinghong, to our first Chinese nightmarket and stop for the night.

Yingchu again took the lead in ordering dinner, dishes with cucumber and pork, and a Tofu dish featuring ‘Hua Jiao’ (a numbing herb paper) which we snaffled down and them immediately regretted the strange dentist like sensation. Day one seemed to be easy.