I wake up to the sound of soldiers running past the car, and an hour later when we’re up having breakfast, up drives a green truck full of soldiers keen to inspect our cameras. I nearly have a nervous breakdown…I know Joe took a photo of the military base on his camera from up above to try and see what it was, and I don’t want them to take his camera away so I give them mine instead and pretend it’s the only one we’ve got. The batteries are dead.

 The chief takes the memory card out and then realises it’s a bloody Sony one that won’t fit in his camera. He’s agitated. Yingshu assures them that we’ve only been taking photos of the wall and eventually they give in and tell us to get moving, then they drive off.

I’m all worked up with my ridiculously out of proportion fear of people in authority. I immediately go spare at Joe for taking photos of things he’s not meant to. Then we don’t talk all morning and I realise I’ve been an asshole and that nothing bad happened after all. I wish I could feel more comfortable about camping in these places, about having to deal with police or borders or the army but even after all this time I’m still as scared as ever, even though deep down I know all I am is a tourist. It’s a quiet day in the car for me, thinking about how I was meant to spend this year getting a bit braver, and even at age 27 I’m still such a little worrier.

We arrive at Dunhuang, delighted at the prospect of tomorrow’s day off. Our hostel is at the foot of the most amazing sand dunes, and when we arrive we meet a couple of young chinese chaps who’ve been driving around inner mongolia in a brand new range rover sport. They’ve had 4 flat tyres in a week. They ask how many we’ve had, and are amazed when we say none. I want to add that if Chinese people didn’t drive like such absolute penises that they might too enjoy longevity with their vehicles, but instead I just utter something about being really diligent with tyre pressure*.

*Anyone who ever drove with me in the Starlet should find that comment absolutely hilarious.