Taxi for two from Bangkok to Brighton? Ants Bolingbroke-Kent and Jo Huxter aim to cross 12 countries by tuk-tuk, and raise £50,000 for Mind.
Kazakhstan poses a fearsome destination ahead once the girls tuk out of China.
Turpan, North West China
It's 42 degrees farenheit outside. After a morning of exploring in the scorching heat, Jo and I have retreated indoors to blog and sort out Kazakhstan issues. We arrive at the border in six days and still have a few things to do to ensure the crossing goes smoothly.
Kazakhstan has the potential to be our most difficult country; corruption is endemic and even if we have everything in order, there is nothing to say that we won't be held up at the border by guards wanting to make a quick dollar. So we are going to be armed with letters from our embassy, our press release in Russian, newspaper clippings and a big smile. And we're praying that we won't run into problems. Olov, a Swedish guy we have been in touch with who did the crossing recently on a 1938 bike and sidecar he bought in Beijing, had his bike confiscated and got a hefty $500 fine at the border. He's now hired a lawyer to sort out his problems and has advised us to go back to Beijing and cross into Mongolia - and avoid Kazakhstan at all costs. Too late. So all we can do is cover everything and hope the guards are feeling charitable when we arrive.
"[He] has advised us to go back to Beijing and cross into Mongolia - and avoid Kazakhstan at all costs. Too late."
Last night we arrived in Turpan, one of the old Silk Road cities, a man-made oasis inhabiting the second lowest point on the planet. At 80 metres below sea level only the Dead Sea lies at a lower depression. Such unusual topography means that the Turpan basin has baking hot summers and viciously cold winters. In July the average temperature is 39 degrees whilst in winter this plummets to -20. Add to this the fact that there is no rainfall and you wonder why people ever settled here. Water is provided by an ingenious irrigation system, conceived over 2000 years ago, whereby water from the mountains and glaciers is channelled to the area via 5000km of underground pathways.
Jack was so worried about driving here in the blistering heat yesterday that we were up at 6am, with TT loaded and rearing to go by 6.30am. Unfortunately, there was no sign of Jack. Half an hour later he appeared, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and apologising profusely for the fact that he had slept in. After getting lost leaving Hami for another half an hour, we eventually got onto the road for Turpan and started our 410km tuk through the Gobi. Except for a freak rainstorm at 9.30am which had us scrambling for the rain covers and getting soaked, our desert drive was uneventful. Jo and I just thanked our guardian angels that the roads here are a million miles better than in the south - straight and pothole free. Amazingly, we arrived in Turpan by 3pm, we never could have dreamed of covering such mileage in so little time a few weeks ago.
Tomorrow, it's 187km west to Urumqui, capital of Xinjiang, for another day off and an en-route swim in a salt lake.