Thursday, April 22, 2010

The chai stalls of Pindar Valley

On the Pindari glacier trek, the major landmarks are chai-stalls. And it was interesting to me to see how unlike on the pilgrim treks, there is no mad proliferation of competitive stalls. Each stage has its little family-run establishment that is basic, comfortable and has its own unique selling point.

Take the first one on the route. This is run by a pair of brothers, and all they sell are chai and eggs. And actually, that is more than what is required. The place is strategically located -in terms of distance and time from Loharkhet- where all one wants is chai.

And after that is a more plush one, approximately half way between Loharkhet and Dhakuri. This one has maggi noodles, eggs, chai and cold drinks. I did not find it especially pretty, but it seemed to be an important news exchange point.

And at Dhakuri, you get lunch! Dal, rice, potatoes, and chapaties if you ask nicely.

At Wachum, it's chai and if you are a resident, drought relief compensation.

Mallya Daur, now deserves honourable mention. Unlike the previous two, there is nothing else at Mallya other than the chai stall. The chai stall IS Mallya Daur. When the present owner retired from the army, he took over from his uncle who ran it earlier. In addition to a chai and maggi noodles place, it is also the loading depot for the non-timber forest produce collected by the locals. It is a rest stop for muleteers and a salt lick/grazing stop for their charges. It is a contact point for pastoralists, and a first aid centre in times of trouble.
 Chai stalls are important on the Pindari trail. Nearly all travellers stop at each one irrespective of whether or not they want tea. There is not more than half-a-day's lag in news from one end of the valley to another, and that makes the chai stalls most efficient and energy-efficient transmission devices, na?

1 comment:

mabel said...

"and if you are a resident, drought relief compensation"..haha!