Tourism might be a relatively new concept for the Chinese, but places like Tiger Leaping Gorge are booming with the screeching song of tour guide microphones and flattening everything in sight to make enough room in their carparks for the hundreds of gawdy bright luxury coaches and their pilgrims.

As usual, we were late getting started and so only got a couple of hours hiking in, enough to be disappointed that we didn’t have more time  - this place is stunning – steep foothills surrounded by pine trees, running alongside the golden sands river, looking up at snowcapped mountains. We didn’t complete the track all the way to the gorge, but instead drove down to the ‘scenic area’ to see the massively powerful cascade of water, alongside the hordes of hacking, spitting Chinese tourists and their noisy tour guides.

(The legend is that a Tiger escaped his capture from a pursuing hunter by leaping across the gorge to the safety of a rock on the other side. Might be the other way round. Don’t quote me.)

A slow, frustrating afternoon of driving got us to Lijiang, another beautiful, ancient walled city. But once again we were exhausted and flat-arsed from the long drive, we only managed a stroll around the buzzing towns crafty shops, a few beers and dinner before collapsing into a hostel. When it was time to go the next day, I was feeling fed up with the pace. Lijiang was a beautiful old town and I wanted to spend the day wandering the streets and perusing the shops after a long lunch; but a day off only meant more driving the next day, and we hadn’t even left our first Province yet.

To make matters worse, Bob was struggling. Not emotionally (don’t be ridiculous), but the fuel in China was decidedly shonky, and he was stuttering over 2000rpm (I don’t really know what that means, but I thought I needed to give a reason). I could see the cumulative effect of god-awful drivers, sick car and sheer exhaustion were taking their toll on Joe as we pulled into Kunming in the dark. This was not what I’d had in mind for the road trip.