Italy, Lombardia, Emilia-Romagna, Pavia, Piacenza

Broni to Sarmato - 21.8 km - Sunday 3rd June 2012

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Main road with detours onto nicer lanes. There was one leg of traffic free cycle track.

Garmin Altitude Plot Garmin Mapsource Google Earth Park in Stradella Park in Stradella River Po Valley River Po Valley Entering Piacenza Entering Emilia Romagna Sarmato Station Sarmato Station

Diary - Top

Neil's laptop doubles up as the alarm clock. At 5am Shaun the sheep started bleating loudly. Neil was too groggy to turn it off so it bleated repeatedly for a full minute. Hopefully the hotel sound proofing protected the neighbours. If not, the stereotypical reputation of the English will be heading west towards Wales.

After pita bread and cheese, Neil headed out. The receptionist had never seen the like and checked to make sure he was not escaping without paying the bill. The beardy pot bellied rucksack look must arouse suspicion. After double checking, he let him out of the still locked doors. The 06:32 through train to Broni was on time but Neil had a mini panic as he thought it left at 06:23 and when it didn't arrive and there were no announcements he wondered if he had fouled up the arrangements, not for the first time. All was well and the train departed at the correct time arriving later, only a few minutes late.

The walk was hot and humid. The sky looked as if it might brew a thunderstorm. On day-one it's unusual to be properly equipped so Neil's water quickly ran out. There was a drinking fount at about the half way mark so he could top up. On a five hour walk, in mid twenties heat, dehydration is not really a big problem as long as there is plenty to drink back at base. The first task on Monday will be to get a big bottle of anything for refilling with water. Also food more interesting than Tesco's pita bread and cheddar.

In Stradella there was a Sunday market where Neil bought Nespole or, in Spain, Nísperos where it was possible to scrump them. Loquats are sweet and yellow with a nice acid tang for balance and a bit smaller than a Victoria plum. The thin skin is easy to peel with bare hands and finger nails, and there are one to four golden brown glossy slippery stones in the middle. The texture is unique. Perhaps mango is the nearest match. The fruits often have blemishes on the skin but inside they are perfect. Perhaps that is why UK supermarkets ignore them. Ugh! Spots!

The walking route was along the main road with speeding Sunday traffic but few lorries. There were sections where you could escape onto much nicer back roads. Away from the coast, the land is more open and the views are better without military grade fencing everywhere. There are pretty little hamlets. One was in a fairly tumble-down state. The walls were in such disrepair that they looked as if they might collapse at any moment. Walking in the middle of the road was not safe either judging by the fragments of smashed roof tiles lying in the narrow lane.

The approach to Sarmato was perfect. There were signed cycle and pedestrian routes giving a couple of traffic free kilometres.

At Sarmato station, there was a very 1960ish signal box. It was at ground level and you could see inside. Even the operating procedures were ancient with telegraph bell dings signaling the passing of the trains. Even in darkest Suffolk in the UK, the trains receive a digital token by radio allowing them to proceed.

The uneventful return rail journey was via Voghera, revisiting places form the Easter expedition. Back at base Neil took some paracetamol to cure the slight headache he'd had since the morning. Of course, for the first time in years, there was none in Neil's rucsack. It was a classic caffein withdrawal head. Airport coffee can be lethal.

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