In Chatru we stayed in a Dhaba (tea house/restaurant/rest stop). For half the year Chatru is blocked off by snow, so structures here are semi-permanent. There were three Dhaba’s in the area but they were essentially the same.
The structure consists of stone masonry which remains all year, in the summer season tarp is laid over with the help of support poles. It is essentially a tent. The owners live in the Dhaba with one helper, feeding whoever stops by. The Dhaba is an exercise in well used space. It works as a store for the shepherds in the area who stop by to load up on rice, lentils and other essentials. They can seat and feed a large group of Indian tourists as well as provide sleeping.
There was a certain simplicity to the Dhaba and a feeling that the whole structure and layout had been tried and tested over many years.
Inside the main structure, half height stone walls helped to separate the different areas, being the kitchen, public seating and back storage area. No bathroom (nature provided only) and no electricity.
Sleeping was on the seating, which would not work in most cases but in a tent and in a cold place, waking up and ordering a chai tea while still in your sleeping bag was pretty good! The seating/sleeping area was built out of stone, packed with dirt then covered in tarp and mats. It was no foam mattress but still provided for good sleeps.
There was a natural spring just up the hill from which a pipe ran into the Dhaba from. It was nice to have constantly flowing water inside, which was used mainly for drinking, dishes and cooking.
At the very back of the Dhaba was a wood oven, which was used scarcely as Chatru has a lack of trees and all wood must be brought in. Horse poo was also used as a wood substitute. Every morning though, chapattis and paranthas (veg filled chapattis) were prepared and lightly cooked on the oven. This stopped them sticking together while they were being stored. They were then properly cooked using gas when needed.
The kitchen created amazing food every day and appeared very well organised.
The Dhaba did everything that was required of it- providing shelter, food and water. It proved that you don’t actually need much to be comfortable.
Six more chai please?