Back on the motorway, after many kilometres, a rocket model by the side of the road shows us that we are approaching the Jiuquan space mission launch centre – thelargest in the People's Republic of China. This is where China sent its first satellite into space in 1970, where its first manned space flight and its space station took off from.
Here, stopping and taking photographs are strictly prohibited for a stretch of 37 kilometres of motorway. No problem for us. We don't have any time to lose anyway!
Fuel is slowly running low - none of the fuel stations along the motorway is open. Someone explains where to find the nearest source of diesel and we leave the motorway for a new, single-track road deeper in the desert. Then we end up at a construction site where a lorry is blocking the road. When we ask to be let past, one of the workers climbs into an excavator and positions it so that it is also in our way. The troop's unbelievable demand: that we stay and help with the work on the road for three days.