Tradition laces the wine in summiteers' tavern

The most well known watering hole for climbers is the Rum Doodle restaurant, made famous in 1985 by Newsweek that called it "one of the world's best bars".

india Updated: May 28, 2003 12:34 IST
Yana Bey

Kathmandu, May 26: Everest casts its mighty shadow over Kathmandu, though this somewhat warm and dusty city is on the floor of a valley far from the cold, pristine, rarefied aura of the world's most glamorous mountain.

There is a higher secondary college that calls itself Everest College; a shop selling thankhas (Buddhist paintings) goes by the name of Everest Art Gallery. Indeed, just as small towns in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, such as Manali, Joshimath and Darjeeling, are peppered with lodges and motels named after the lordly peaks that tower above those settlements, everywhere you look there is a hotel named after Everest or Annapurna or one of the other eight thousanders in Nepal.

There is also a striking climbing culture here. The most well known watering hole for climbers is the Rum Doodle restaurant, made famous in 1985 by Newsweek that called it "one of the world's best bars". It was set up in 1979 by a Japanese couple who ran a climbing and trekking agency.

"In those days, Thamel was not the tourist centre it is today and there was no restaurant and bar for climbers and trekkers to relax in when they returned from the mountains," explains their son, Takeshi Okawara, who is manager now. It is decorated with footprint-shaped placards signed by climbers. The footprints - even the tablemats are the same shape - are those of the yeti (the mysterious snowman), he explains. Tradition dictates that every ascent to the 8000-metre peak is celebrated here.

On one side is of the restaurant is a bar exclusively for the Everest summiteers. It is adorned with sketches and signatures of the heroes of Everest history such as Edmund Hillary, Reinhold Messner, Junko Tabei and a host of others. An Indian name on a placard close to the bar that catches the eye is that of Rajiv Sharma of Manali, who summitted Everest in 1993.

The restaurant is named after a hilarious novel by W.E. Bowman, published in 1956, on the ascent to an imaginary mountain in 'Yogistan' called Rum Doodle that is 40,000.5 feet in height. The cocktails are original - Yogistani Delight (rum, pineapple juice,
lemon, Fanta, soda), North Doodle Special (dry sherry, dry vermouth) and the lethal Pong's Revenge (tequila, vodka, rum, brandy, pineapple juice) named after the Yogistani cook in the novel. As for food, the Rum Doodle Steak (200 gm of meat marinated overnight and served with mushroom and red wine sauce) is exceedingly popular with tired and hungry expeditioners.

On most nights this week, there has been at least one table where a successful expedition has been noisily celebrated. Of course, every Everest summiteer comes here to celebrate.

Kathmandu is also heaven for climbers and trekkers because of the umpteen shops selling both new and second-hand gear.

(Yana Bey is freelance journalist who is in love with the mountains. She is herself a mountaineer and has many friends among the fraternity of Everest summiteers. She is currently on an assignmentto Kathmandu, Nepal, to cover the 50th anniversary celebration of the Hillary-Norgay climb.)

First Published: May 27, 2003 17:22 IST