the second cup of tea

This story piggybacks off the first story. This is the story of the man on the mountain.

We were getting ready to climb up a glacier to get to Lake Saiful Muluk. It was going to be a long hike, and also a treacherous one. Pakistan isn’t a country that is known for its tourism sector. That being said, there wasn’t going to be a tour guide to lead us to the top. There was also no trail that led to the top.

Once I got up that morning, I began to wake the other two. My cousin’s friend was the first, but my cousin refused to get up. I tried to get him out of bed, but he kept telling us that he was “sick,” even though the day before he was completely fine. We all knew he was full of it, but we also knew that him being there would just hold us back. So, it was just me and my cousin’s Pakhtun friend going up the mountain.

We took a jeep to the base of the glacier we were going to hike up. I was expecting there to be tour guides, and some hiking equipment we could rent for our climb. None of that was there. There was a man sitting on the ground with a pile of rain boots and a pile of sticks. We were able to rent those, but other than that we were on our own.

Because neither I nor my Pakhtun companion knew how to get to the lake (might’ve been due to the fact that there was no actual trail), we paid our jeep driver to guide us up the mountain.

The climb was so dangerous now that I’m looking back at it. I could have easily fallen off the side of the mountain countless times, but thank God I didn’t. There was one path as narrow as two widths of my shoulder.

We finally got to the top. To our dismay the lake was still frozen. Yet, the scenery was nonetheless breathtaking. Snow-capped mountains were surrounding me on all sides. It looked like something out of a National Geographic documentary. There was a tea shop at the top, however they didn’t have any green tea so I didn’t waste my time there.

We began our descent after about a half hour. Going down the mountain was much easier, especially on the glacier. For a lot of the trek, you could run down and then slide across the snow.

On our way down, we met a man who was selling tea. On the glacier. I mean he had seriously set up a table on the glacier, brought his thermos, and was selling his tea to people climbing.

He was an elderly man. He spoke Pashto, which made it very difficult to talk to him (I really am only fluent in Punjabi). However, the little information that I did get out of him was that he is a refugee from Kabul, Afghanistan.

My friend and I bought some tea of of him. It was sweetened green tea with cardamom. This time I remember how the tea tasted, and it was one of the best cups of tea I’ve ever had.

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