What I love about this trip is how delightfully random some of our days turn out to be. I’m fairly sure most tourists don’t spend their holidays looking round the outer suburbs of a stopover town for a new oil filter – and trust me, its not that bit that’s actually fun – but the situations you end up in and the nature of people you meet as they try and help you - its always, surprisingly, a good experience. No one, no matter how big the language barrier has ever told us to go away. Most people stand and stare at the number plates and the steering wheel on the wrong side and are genuinely fascinated that we’ve got this far, they try to help in any way they can.  I wonder if they go home and talk about us at the end of the day? What do they say? ‘The strangest thing happened today. These two crazy Austrians turned up in a bright orange Toyota and came into the shop and at first I thought they wanted a fish tank so I told them to go next door, but it turns out all they wanted something to fix their car so I gave them the address of my mechanic down the road but then they drove off in the wrong direction….weirdos’

Our search for a new oil filter in Kunming turned up fruitless, but we ordered one to be sent to Chengdu and then hit the road, but not before meeting the new love of my life, hand-pulled beef noodles (a popular dish from Muslim restaurants in China). May god have mercy on my waist. I thought dumplings were going to be the end of me, but this is a whole new ball game.

Another long day of expressway madness and we were in the unknown town of Shuifu. Poor Joe, whilst we run around looking for a hotel, Joe waited with the car. When we returned he’d pulled a crowd of about 30 spectators, all watching him drink a bottle of coke whilst the leader of the pack practised his english. Just the kind of reception you want after a long, frustrating day of driving.

Later on, in a little family run restaurant, Joe sampled the man’s Baijo and plum Baijao (rice wine) and before we knew it, his daughter and her gang of merry beer-skulling men were escorting us to a KTV room (karaoke). Karaoke is serious business here. I’m guessing that’s because for a nation of people who are generally not outspoken, this is a chance to belt out their feelings. And they do without a hint of embarrassment. More beer, baijo and surprisingly, John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song’ later, things got a bit harder when they pulled out the strobe light and some pounding techno music. We rolled out of KTV at about 3am, belted. A car pulled up with more ‘friends’ keen to take Joe out for ‘one more drink’ but for his own sake, I politely declined on his behalf.