Hi from Switzerland!
All the pictures you’ve ever seen of Switzerland don’t do it justice, it’s absolutely spectacular with steep magnificent snow covered mountains in all directions. We’ve spent the week in the Engadin Valley near St Moritz, a very expensive ritzy downhill ski resort, where buying a cup of coffee is 5 times as much as Poland. But we’ve had brilliant sunny skies for 4 out of 6 days and impeccable cross country ski tracks to skate on with thousands of other skiers, many dressed in designer outfits.
Bruce, Malcolm and I have shared a little apartment in Pontresina a smaller town about 7kms ski from St Moritz. The apartment is quite unusual in that the flowered lino floor coverings continue up the walls in the kitchen/dining room and in the bathroom. We’ve just learnt that in 3 weeks time the apartment house will be demolished, as it’s 100 years old and cheaper to demolish and re-build rather than to renovate. We’ve been speculating as to whether the same décor will be used in the re-build. Despite the unusual décor we have a brilliant view of the surrounding 4000 metre mountain peaks. We’ve seen magnificent colours reflected off the mountains in the morning and evening light.
Bruce has continued to rest his leg and treat with elevation and ice to reduce the swelling. Fortunately we were able to buy an internet wireless dongle so he could stay occupied. He has ventured out on a couple of occasions but even though it is only 200 metres down to the main street, it is a very icy steep path and needs great care when descending. The main street is ice free so he is becoming quite proficient on his crutches ie Mr Hop-a-long. However, the 1.5 kilometre route down to the race viewing area yesterday and return was quite demanding. So with any luck two more weeks of rest should allow him to begin to use his broken leg more.
As well as skiing on the 42km race course yesterday Malcolm and I ventured on an amazing side trip up to a glacier the day before. It was incredible sight and quite amazing to read the signs and see how far the glacier had receded in the last 110 years. We were very lucky to have skied up to the glacier early in the morning and virtually had the place to ourselves as we sat in the sun and marvelled at the view, whilst eating our delicious bakery items for morning tea. On our way back we met dozens of people making the trek to the glacier and knew we had been there at the right time to enjoy the solitude and peacefulness.
This week was a huge contrast to Poland where we met up with the other Aussies most nights for dinner and had a very social time enjoying the cheap restaurants as we all stayed in a small town nearby each other. The Engadin Valley is made up of St Moritz and many smaller towns so most of us Aussies didn’t stay in the one town and Swiss restaurants aren’t exactly cheap, so we mostly self catered around different towns. However we did meet up one afternoon for cake and hot chocolate in a café with a sundrenched deck and a superb view. There were 14 of us mostly Aussies, one Canadian and two Americans. It was great meeting up with friends from other races and some new folks as well. The cakes were scrumptious, it was very hard to choose from the huge selection of large slices of cakes and pies such as: rhurbarb tart, blueberry tart, baked cheesecake, chocolate cream cake etc, etc.
The 42km Engadin Ski Marathon whilst the shortest European race (same distance as Australia’s Kanagroo Hoppet) is also at the highest altitude of any race – high point is 1820 metres. This race has the reputation of being the easiest Worldloppet race but I’m not so sure. It was snowing and windy at the race start with light dry flakes making for slower skating conditions, as the snow accumulates on the track. The race starts on the edge of a frozen lake with the men and women in different start areas and then for ten kilometres you ski across the frozen lake trying to find enough space to plant your poles without being tripped over amongst the 13,000 other skiers. I noticed how quiet it was despite so many people skiing in such a small area. Then you hit the first hill which was 4 separate queues of skiers all trying to get up the 250 metre hill as fast as possible and so there were people crashing everywhere as someone stood on their poles or they slipped on the icy bits or got caught in the deep boggy sandy snow in places. Malcolm and I had caught up to each other on the last part of the lake, but I luckily chose the quicker route up the hill, so I kept waiting for Malcolm to pass me later on in the race but he got caught in the crowds and I didn’t see him until the end. Through St Moritz we went with a few more small hills with slow moving queues with spectators lining the course cheering us on. Arriving at the top of the only significant downhill is quite ominous as all the trees have large orange foam mattresses tied around the trees and the TV cameras filming all the stacks as skiers try to weave their way down the hill avoiding the trees and out of control skiers. The hill is therefore known as “mattress hill”. With the fresh snow the hill turned out to be quite easy and so I then skied onto Pontresina to look for Bruce who had managed a mammoth walk on crutches 1.5km downhill from our apartment to the race course. Despite the congestion of skiers I managed to spot him and stopped for a quick kiss before heading onto to what I thought would be the easier half of the course as it is flatter and a wider track. However it was not to be, as the track was quite icy in places and so it was quite tricky skating and balancing one ski without falling over and concentrating because of other skiers all around me. Despite the icy bits there were also some sections of perfect skating when you could look around at the surrounding mountains and enjoy the perfect glide skating on the flattish tracks and be grateful to be in such a magnificent place.
That night we celebrated as the Engadin race was Malcolm’s tenth Worldloppet race and thus he officially became a Gold Worldloppet master and I attained the tenth stamp in my fourth Worldloppet Passport thus becoming a Quadruple Gold Worldloppet Master. We’re already planning to come back again so Bruce too can become a Quadruple Gold Worldloppet Master.