Day 04: 14.08.2011 Col de Mille – Bruson – (by van) Le Chable – (by van) Sion
Breakfast was early at 06:30 hrs. We were only given a cup of hot chocolate to go with bread and butter and jam. The quality of our breakfast seemed to be dropping.
Just before we started trekking at 07:10 hrs, Sonia told me she read what I wrote in the Visitors Book and she noticed a mistake. She said our group comprised not just 7 Malaysians and 1 Swiss, but 7 Malaysians and 2 Swiss. “What about me? I am also a Swiss,” she said. I explained that I was writing about our group of trekkers and I did not include her because she was our guide. Anyway I apologized for failing to mention in my note that she was our guide.
It was a steep descent initially followed by a gentle slope. Except for a few muddy spots, the trail was generally in good conditions. The later part of the trek was actually on a wide, motorable earth road through a pine forest on one side of a broad valley with scattered villages in it. I enjoyed the walk and made frequent stops to take snapshots of the views, wild flowers and insects.
Boh Seng, Lai Cheng and Christina also did the same, but they were always ahead of me and they made it a point to quickly catch up with Sonia after taking the shots, running if necessary. Catherine was the fittest among us. She made occasional stops to take pictures of herself with the beautiful scenery as backdrop, but she could easily keep up with Sonia and was in fact walking side by side with Sonia most of the time. Barbara did not seem to be interested in taking pictures. She just walked and was upfront most of the time too.
Sonia expected everybody to walk at her pace. She was very impatient with those who lag behind, especially those who were a few hundred metres behind her, and that included me. She stopped a couple of times to wait for me to catch up, shouting “hurry up! Hurry up!” at the same time. On the other hand, she resented being overtaken. “Nobody should be ahead of me,” she told us. She also did not want us to use any alternative trail. “The trail I follow is the easiest,” she said.
At 09:24 hrs, we reached Bruson (1550m a.s.l.) and a van was waiting for us. I was of course the last to reach the van, but I was only a few seconds behind Lai Cheng as she also stopped to take pictures. Sonia was obviously unhappy. She asked me: “You don’t listen to me huh?”
“No, I just want to enjoy the views and take some good pictures,” I said.
The van was supposed to take us down to the valley below and then up to the trail head on the other side to start our climb to the next guest house. The winding mountain road led us to the car-park between the Chable-Verbier Cable Station and the railway station in Le Chable at 826m a.s.l. Beng Eng and Chin Teong were waiting for us at the railway station. The same van had taken them from Champex and dropped them there at 08:20 hrs this morning.
I was talking to Beng Eng when Sonia dropped me a bombshell. She told me I was not going to do the trekking later today and the next two days. I was shocked. I asked her for the reasons. She said I was not steady when going down rocky slope. I was very upset and angry. I said to her: “You have no right to stop me from trekking. I have paid the same amount of money as everybody else to do trekking here, and I want to continue.”
“Yes, I have the right to stop you. As the guide I am responsible for everyone’s safety. You are not going and please remove your things from the van,” Sonia said.
I kept arguing with her but she just would not relent. My team mates did not lend me any support. All I heard was someone muttering: “Tell her you won’t take so many pictures from now on.” This was almost like telling a swimmer to jump into a pool but not to swim. What did I carry such a heavy camera with me all the time for?
In the end Sonia won. I had to join Beng Eng and Chin Teong in exile for the next 2⅟₂ days. We were to spend the rest of the day in Sion and the next two days in Les Hauderes where we would meet up with the trekkers again. Sonia just extended the exile of Beng Eng and Chin Teong by two days without giving them any reasons.
5 new members had just joined our trekking group: 2 French women (Christin Cizeron and Moneque) and 3 Portuguese men (Manuel Pires, Jorge Costa and Armando Sobral). The van driver sent the 10 trekkers and Sonia in two trips to the trail head before coming back at 12:00 hrs to take the three of us to Sion not too far away. He dropped us in front of Sion railway station.
After lunch, we spent some time at the Place de la Planta (city square) and then visited the old castle Chateau Valére on top of a hill. On an adjacent hill was another castle, Chateau Tourbillon, which we did not visit. The Sion Festival, also known as the Sion Valais International Music Festival, just started the day before and would last until 13.09.2011.
We got a 4-bed dormitory in a youth hostel behind the railway station for the night at CHF40 per person including breakfast. We got a message from Dr. Ng Gan Che that his son had been discharged from hospital and was recovering well and that he would travel by train from Zurich to Sion to join us on 15.08.