You know you’ve been going at it hard when 80km represents an easy day on the bike. And you know life is behaving normally when you plan for a quick, smooth ride, but then have to deal with a flat tyre. Despite this brief delay, I still had a fairly relaxing ride from Cremona to Pavia. The headwind seems to be increasing in strength very slightly each day though. It wasn’t terrible, but it was still annoying.

I started the day by opting to pay for a hotel breakfast. As I did my best to put a dent in the buffet offerings, I spied on the big group of youths who stayed the night. Some had instruments so I assume they are part of a music school program. I had to lie down for about fifteen minutes after breakfast to let the food settle a little before heading out. It was the warmest day I have had in a while – not warm by any means, but it wasn’t freezing cold. I got to the hostel in Pavia at 2.45pm, and with no response to the gate doorbell, I rang the number available on their website. I was told that someone would be there by 3.30pm. To fill the time, I rode to the nearest supermarket where I bought supplies to cover the next two days, which are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – given that I expect all shops to be closed. Outside the supermarket I was approached by some Italians (migrants from Africa) who asked what I was doing there with such a loaded bike. One gifted me with a couple of bracelets from the goods they are trying to sell. As well as selling belts and handbags and other items, they were earning money from returning people’s trolleys – it was the system where to release a trolley you insert a coin, which you can then retrieve when the trolley is returned, so by returning people’s trolleys for them they would earn the coin.

The hostel was open by the time I returned. I was quickly told that this is the last night the hostel is open before it closes for the holiday period. I’m the only tourist staying in a dorm room, so I basically have a private room and bathroom. The owner made a point that he was being very generous by not asking me for more money, given that I don’t need to share the room. ‘Why should I be penalised for your lack of customers?’ I thought in response.

I am still unsure what I am doing on Christmas night. I made a reservation for a place in Cavour, just in case things don’t work out with my prospective Warmshowers host. The host is being too nice without giving me an answer about whether or not I can stay with them on Christmas night. Instead of saying I can stay on Christmas Day, which is when I would arrive, he simply suggested I ride fast and join his family tomorrow for their Christmas Eve celebration. When I said it would be impossible for me to make the 200+km in one day, he offered to pick me up tomorrow so I can be there for Christmas. While this is an incredibly nice gesture, I explained that I really wanted to ride the whole way, if I could. Nevertheless, based on his generous offer, I am positive that it’s not going to be a problem if I stay on the 25th – it’s just that he hasn’t specifically said I could yet. I only had until midnight tonight to cancel my Christmas Day accommodation booking without penalty – I went ahead and cancelled it. I hope I get a positive answer from the host soon, otherwise I might find myself out in the cold for Christmas.

I bought enough food supplies that I have had dinner in tonight. All of a sudden it’s time to get ready for bed. I was hoping to have an afternoon of relaxation, but it never happened.

Pushing on

Accommodation $ Backpacker Hostel
Distance ridden today 80.08km
Average cycling speed 17.2kph
Total distance ridden 29,086km