Truly, the Maitian Hostel threw me in front of individuals who were to change the course of the journey I am undertaking. It was at this hostel, a relaxed haven from the armed guards and tanks of Urumqi, China that I met both Gonzalo and Ilona. I joined the former – a hitchhiker famous among his Argentine countrymen and women – the day after we met for six hundred kilometres of thumbing through China’s far northwest. However, my journey with Ilona wasn’t to start so quickly. We agreed to rendezvous in a few weeks time, in a different country and a different region, for a two thousand kilometre bicycle ride.