Hugh and the PM China team (producer Daniel Tetlow, translator Patrick Carr and hair stylist Jerome Fopp) saved the licence payer airfares and the cost of hotel rooms for a night, by making the one thousand mile trip from Urumchi to Lanzhou by train across the Gobi desert. It took 21 hours. I've said it before and I'll say it again. It's hell on the road.
Anyhoo, here are Hugh's words and pictures:
"Train 296, leaving Urumchi at 15.00.
Immediate welcome from our travelling companions, especially music student Miao Miao. Her favourite composer is Mozart.
This is Li Hui shielding Tie Xinghan's eyes as he starts a card trick. Lie Hui also uses the name her English teacher gave her - Caroline.
Got it right! Success for Tie Xinghan, who is thirteen.
Sunset at Hami, an oasis town in the Gobi.
Miao Miao teaches Daniel the tune for the Chinese classic, 'Jasmine Flower'. Daniel is a professional fiddle player.
Rapt attention in the carriage as Daniel plays a Hungarian Dance by Brahms.
Yawn. Stretch. Another day.
Early morning tea and chat with Wang Bo, a captain in the People's Liberation Army. He told me about a new 20 kilometre tunnel we passed through - opened last year and cutting an hour off the train's journey. He also said that during the night we had passed the western end of the Great Wall, at Jiayuguan - 4000 miles (as the wall wends) or 1000 miles (as the cliche flies) from its eatern end at Shanhaiguan, on the coast near Beijing.
Stoops of straw in fields as we near Lanzhou.
Industry is never far off."