It wasn’t the most auspicious start to our first day of riding in China. Rising early, we rolled our bikes out of the hotel and onto the road, already humming with traffic, when I realised that I had lost my water bottle, the final casualty in the saga of the Lost Plastic Bag, helpfully repacked by our friends in Aksu. So before heading south we staked out the nearest bike shop, waiting in the drizzle for a delayed shopkeeper, until my patience snapped and I headed to their rivals up the road (first time since Turkey we’ve been in a town with more than one bike shop?). Waterbottled up, we hit the road, and headed up a big hill into southern Gansu. Progress was slow, the product of a hangover from the Pamirs, and a dodgy stomach and knee for Nick, but the descent was glorious. It was harvest time in the uplands of southern Gansu, frosting breath, russet leaves, a red golden corn crop, willowy trees, cabbage patches squeezed into every spare acre. We stopped for the night down a side road, only to be invited in for the night by a family while we were pitching our tent, treated to a potato dish for supper, and given their beds (and electric blankets!) for the night.