Day 11 - 25 Sep
Another day, another change of plan! Before we left Australia, we had planned to take a train down to Filisur on this day, from where it is possible to hike to spots that provide great views of the trains passing over the famous Landwasser Viaduct - the site of some of the most iconic images of Switzerland and its trains. As it turned out, our stroll around town made us aware of how much this area has to offer so, not for the first time, we changed our plans completely. Oh, and the free local transport ticket influenced us somewhat, too!
We woke to a superb morning. The weather was clear and crisp, and forecast to remain that way for the day. After breakfast, we rugged up for the expected 5 degrees C, 500m above us on Alp Languard, and set off for the chair lift. After an exhausting three minute hike, we arrived - it was right behind our hotel! Great hotel choice! The chair life ride was exhilarating and very scenic. We had great views right across the Engadin area, from the Morterasch Glacier and back towards the Bernina Pass, to the opposite side of the valley and down the Flaz river.
When we arrived, we spent some time soaking in the views and taking off a layer or two, as the temperature was quite a bit warmer than expected. We then set off on our first real hike, along the Panoramaweg, a route that follows the edge of the escarpment between the Languard and Muragl valleys. Our destination was the Romantik Hotel on Muottas Muragl, 7 km and about 2.5 hours away. It was advertised as child-friendly and only involved about 125 m height gain, so we figured we could manage that.
The path on the Panoramaweg is actually quite good for the most part, even though our hiking poles had to earn their keep on their maiden outing. We both had moments where the poles saved our ankles and maintained our balance on some rugged sections, so we were very glad to have them. The scenery expanded slowly with every step. As we progressed further along the track, our view of the glaciers continued to improve and the St Moritz area, which lies just beyond the ridge across the valley, slowly made its appearance.
What we didn't realise at the time, as we were enjoying the view and taking countless photos, was that we were slowly losing altitude! By the time we reached the snack bar at Unterer Schafberg, we had descended 110m. So now we had to ascend 235m to reach our lunch! Undaunted, and after a pit stop, we trekked on, passing through beautiful alpine woodland and enjoying our first glimpses of Lake St Moritz and the city. By the time we turned around the spur and left the Languard valley, we had regained all the height we had lost, and then some.
The terrain changed abruptly as we entered the Muragl valley. Gone were the shady woodlands and all we could see were the stark reminders of a (geologically) recent glacier retreat. The valley is almost devoid of trees and the chaotic jumble of glacier detritus litters the valley. Worst of all, we could see we had to descend about 100m to the valley floor, then regain that height once more to reach the hotel. The traffic had also increased markedly. It became obvious that the more popular route was to ascend to Muottas Muragli on the funicular railway, then walk to Languard or just stroll randomly around the area. Generally, we were walking against the flow, which made it a bit difficult on the narrower sections, but we managed. On the plus side, we were walking with the sun behind us, which my scenery-watching very comfortable.
The last hour was something of a slog, really, especially after we crossed the causeway over the glacial stream. The hotel was always in sight and seemed to be much nearer than it actually was! Nevertheless, we pressed on and finally arrived. We took about 3.5 hours which, considering the time we spent gawping at the view and taking pictures, along with our less than full fitness, was not too bad.
We felt we had earned our nice hotel lunch! Finding a spot to enjoy it was a bit tricky, though. We wanted a seat with a view and the first spot we picked fitted the bill, but we soon realised that being in full sun, and surrounded by glass panels on three sides, was not going to be the most comfortable place to be. So we upped sticks and wandered around aimlessly for a little while, until we spotted a couple leaving a table on the same balcony, but one with the benefit of an umbrella for shade. We quickly grabbed that spot and we were set for the next hour and a half!
Lunch was a delicious venison stew with local veg, and the couple of accompanying beers went down really well. The location was terrific. From the hotel balcony, we had wonderful views up and down three valleys, with everything from high glaciers and snow capped peaks, to valley lakes and St Moritz in sight. As a bonus, the conditions were so ideal that the tandem paragliding business was doing a roaring trade and there was a constant stream of gliders slipping past the balcony and off over the valley.
During lunch we debated what to do with our afternoon. Having decided not to travel further afield, on the basis that by the time we got anywhere there would be insufficient time to do anything other than turn back, we resolved to take another hike. This time, we headed up the Muragl Valley along the ridge, towards the glacial Lake Muragl at the head of the valley. It was a good walk, but the scenery was drab, by comparison with the morning's views, and the slow but constant incline drained our energy and reduced the pleasure of the hike. In the end, we reached the high point and Ray went down the very steep last 500m to the lake on his own, while Angela took the sensible option of having a rest! The lake was quite attractive, but on balance it wasn't worth doing a second hike on our first day of walking! Sore legs - lesson learned.
After another hour of hiking, we were back at the Romantik Hotel. We immediately made for the funicular railway and enjoyed a long and scenic ride down to the valley floor. Within minutes, a bus arrived to collect passengers and transport them back to Pontresina. This is something that has become ever more evident to us as the days have gone by - the Swiss have the concept of transport interchange really nailed. Wherever we go, there has always been a bus, boat or train to connect with, usually within minutes of arrival, and almost always just about co-located. It has certainly made our travel around Switzerland practically seamless.
Sadly, we only had two nights in Pontresina, an area we would love to return to, sometime. However, it was now time to pack up and prepare for the next leg - the famous Glacier Express.
TTFN - RandA