The Chinese border crossing the next day gave us a firm reminder in patient persistence and right attitude. We had arrived there at 2.45pm Kazakh time, and were first told by the two grunts on the border fence that we had to take the daily bus tomorrow at noon, and that we had to post the bikes across the border. Even we didn't believe it could be this bad, the point was that we weren't true 'machina' and we weren't true pedestrians that needed the bus, they didn't have a box for us. Their officer came out 15 minutes later and graciously said that we would be able to take the bikes on the bus, but that the bus was indeed the only option. We had asked whether we could piggyback on an HGV to get across the Demilitarized Zone between the countries.

So an hour or so later, when we had fully resigned ourselves to crossing the next afternoon, and had turned to leave, the sharp shout of a very senior officer hoiked us back. The impossible barrier was raised, and we were waved through to customs, they didn't even bother to check the bags. We were flying through the red tape, until one phone call from the Chinese order stopped the show. The Chinese border is two hours ahead of the Kazakh side, and so the Kazakh border effectively shuts at 3pm at the Chinese 5pm. The time working our way up the hierarchy to someone who could categorise us properly had cost us the crossing that day. That being said, it was agreed we didn't need the bus, and would be allowed to cross first thing next morning.

The depressing cycle into the gale force wind back to the town turned jubilant when a man in a smart white Lexus driving alongside offered to host us within 30 seconds of conversing. What that really meant though was to take us to dinner, and lead us to an expensive hotel we could pay for - still very much appreciated but not quite the full package we were after.

I can't remember a day that was as up and as down as quickly as this one, it felt like it was purposefully constructed to be a lesson in equanimity something out of the Gita, that or a pantomime of 'oh yes I will... oh no you don't'. Remaining calm and content free from the tug of developments good or bad was the only route to sanity by evening.

The next day the crossing progressed without a hitch from the Kazakh side, and we made our way through the 10km border zone fueled with anticipation and anxiety to begin in China's Xingjiang province, one of the great question marks of our trip.