Wilderness is the only word that came to my mind when I visited Mastuj, Chitral. I needed an escape from the ‘heat’ of the city, and so I said yes to this opportunity coming my way to explore the place. I left Islamabad and headed towards Chitral. Crossing the Lowari Top (considered to be one of the most dangerous roads) was such a unique experience. The curvy road takes more than an hour to cross the mountain and reach the other side, entering the Chitral Valley.
I never got a chance to see the whole of the Chitral city, because I had to move the same day to a more remote place, Mastuj. We stopped at a road side dhaba (hotel). I don’t remember the name of the place we stopped at for lunch, as I was sleeping during the drive, but it was somewhere before Booni.
I ordered Pulao (rice). All that traveling had made me really famished, and the Pulao was so perfectly cooked, the meat was delicious and tender. It tasted more like a Kabuli Pulao. The journey got more interesting, because I had a great lunch and was wide awake now and the beauty of the place left me in awe.
As I was approaching towards my destination, the landscape was turning out to be a page from a travel magazine or a beautiful painting. The barren mountains with snowy peaks, lush green valleys, and a turbulent river. I was enjoying the journey to the fullest, I had never experienced this kind of adrenaline rush ever before; let me just say. ahhh…what a happy feeling it was exploring the wilderness of Pakistan.
Mastuj is a small town on the way to Shandur. A few small shops, a dhaba and a PTDC hotel too. A remote area and very few cellular networks there, and this is exactly what I wanted, some time off from technology for some days. The place was so peaceful and amazingly beautiful. Adding more beauty to the place are the people of the area, so simple yet hospitable.
During my stay, I noticed that people there love Chai as we do everywhere in Pakistan, but the twist was that they don’t add sugar to it and instead of that, adding salt is the norm there. Wondering why and how it tastes like; a few questions came to my mind. Where I grew up, adding salt to tea is only “acceptable” when you have diabetes or you just don’t have sweeteners. Well, not in their case. I went to the hotel to taste some tea. The tea vendor asked me if I wanted the sugar one or “Trup Chai” (Trup is salt in Chitrali). Out of curiosity, I ordered the salted tea. Yes, it tasted like a normal tea, but with salt, it was yet another type of tea I had. The tea vendor laughed looking at my ‘after tasting’ face. I asked why they don’t add sugar to it and the answer every time was that they like it this way.
Well, it was not my “cup of tea”. Sajjad Ali; an acquaintance I made while traveling to the place, invited me to his house for the tea and told me about trup chai.
Trup Chai is also known as Chitrali Chai. It is served in different ways, with and without milk. But the main ingredient remains the SALT. If you don’t like your tea sweet, then you should try it this way. People love it in the north. Back in the days, it was difficult to transport sugar in those areas, as most of the places there are cut off from the rest of the cities in winters due to heavy snowfall, and it was costlier than the salt. Like adding sugar to tea is normal for us, adding salt to it is their way.