Arriving in Zernez

We got up, ate overpriced brioche and headed along the cycle path to St. Moritz to find a supermarket. I went inside whilst Dave braved the chill morning to look after the bikes. It was a stressful experience! All of the fruit and veg was a ridiculous price. You can get 8 strawberries for €8. You can get a small bag of salad for €5. After much deliberating, I decided to go for a little iceberg lettuce for €1.20, which seemed a comparative bargain. So if we can’t eat fruit and veg, maybe we can have cheese? Or maybe not… the cheese here is priced per 100g. Usually in the region of €3-6 per 100g. So I spent a loooong time in the supermarket but think I did okay in the end and we would live to fight another day.

Into Sant Moritz

Into St. Moritz

The next task for the day was to get Dave a pair of hiking trousers. This is because I left his hiking trousers behind in the hostel in Milan when I was packing up and he was sorting his bike out. So the lost items tally is now: one of Dave’s cycling gloves, another one of Dave’s cycling gloves (half of a new pair), Dave’s buff, and Dave’s hiking trousers. The gloves aren’t getting replaced any more and he’s using my spare buff, but the trousers need replacing – it’s getting chilly in the mountains and shorts just aren’t doing the trick!

So we pedalled our way very slowly into the centre of St. Moritz, up a crazy incline. After one unsuccessful shop, the second one we went to featured a pair of €300 trousers that fortunately didn’t fit properly. But they did have a bargain bin of Hestra skiing gloves… “Hey Dave, look, these will come in useful when we do a ski season this winter!” Dave was initially less than impressed “For God’s sake, stop getting distracted!… Oooh, they are pretty nice aren’t they… And better than half price…”. So now Dave has a lovely cosy pair of Hestra mittens.

Hopefully too big to lose!

Hopefully too big to lose!

Thankfully the third shop sported a selection of 40% off hiking trousers and Dave found a pair that was long enough, hurrah!  At the checkout we talked to the lady on the counter about the area.  Apparently all the shops are having a hard time because it’s too expensive for tourists to come here (no shit) and some places are having to close down due to lack of business! Then she gave us a recommendation for a cycle route to Zernez and sent us away with a map and instructions to visit the two most beautiful villages on the way.

Finally, we were ready to get riding for the day! But wait, my back tyre is a bit squashy. Pump, pump, pump. Oh, and now it’s time for lunch. Dammit. So we got onto the cycle path and rode along it to a lake-side picnic bench to stop for lunch. What a great recommendation!

We were pretty tired from the monster climb yesterday and glad to be doing just 40 km down river today to Zernez. And with the cycle path, we were off the road all the way! Glorious.

We rode past farms, lakes, the river, through forests and villages. We got lost a few times where the cycle path appeared to be blocked off by electric fencing, but after a diversion and some back-tracking, learned that it’s not shut – you’re supposed to just go through the fence.

We stopped by a little airport to watch gliders being launched into the sky by a winch. They were all lined up on the runway and they’d bring one forward, attach the winch and reel it in, tugging the glider into the air in an almost vertical climb. It was spectacular to watch but I’m not sure I’d want to be inside!

A glider being launched

A glider being launched

We also stopped in the two recommended villages, which were beautiful. One was famous for its painted buildings and they both had pointed church spires.

Painted town

Painted town

Each building has its own designs

Each building has its own designs

Crossing a lovely stone bridge

Crossing a lovely stone bridge

By the time we’d done all our stops, it was getting well into the afternoon and we still had 20 km to cover! We got out of the villages and back onto the gravelly cycle path, which wound up and down through the forest on the side of the mountain.  My back tyre was feeling squashy again and we stopped at the bottom of a steep hill to pump it back up.  Must be a slow puncture.

It was a lovely trail, but we did a lot more up and down and a lot more winding around than we would have on the road. We were both glad to be on it but I was also glad when we finally got a view of Zernez far below us and there were no more uphills between us and it!

Our gravel track in the forest (can we stop going uphill now please?)

Our gravel track in the forest (can we stop going uphill now please?)

At around 4:30pm, with a total of 2000 km under our belts, we pulled into camp.  I tried to call our designated contact at the Swiss National Park to let him know we’d arrived, but he didn’t answer, so I dropped an email to Ruedi the co-ordinator and said that we’d try again in the morning.

When we got back to the tent after showers, Ruedi was there to meet us! What a nice surprise. He introduced himself and told us a bit about the park. Then he invited us to go with two of his researchers tomorrow to help them fix a solar panel that wasn’t getting enough power. Would we like to go? We don’t need to be asked twice!

Once again, we lucked out with our timings and everything was going smoothly. Ruedi is so helpful and efficient, I think he will keep us busy whilst we’re here. We can already tell how proud he is of the park and of his team. And he loves living in this place, going mountain biking and mountaineering. Dave said, “What a cool guy, I don’t know whether to be jealous or in awe. He’s like an Action Man with brains!”

So we went to bed happy, ready for our first day in the park tomorrow.

– Anna

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