I suppose it was inevitable that having come to the Carrybean that I would try hash. So it was on Saturday April 4th at 14:15, that the crew of Enterprise (the philosopher; mathematician and I) were picked up and driven along the precarious coast road to the obscure village of Gouyave.
We raced along in 30C heat in an ancient mini van driven by Patrick “Shademan”; windows down; white knuckles gripping the seat in front. Suddenly we came to a resounding halt. A traffic accident way some way ahead was being dealt with by the Police. I wondered what would happen if they knew what this van and its occupants were about to do somewhere in the remote countryside of Grenada. Eventually with the unfortunate cars pushed over into the gulley by the side of the track we were signalled on by the very serious, and armed cops.
We arrived at the place. A group of guys had set up a BBQ and sound system on the beach. A large pot of “Oil down” was being stirred on an open fire, under the palm trees 4 men sat animatedly playing poker with cards tattered from being slapped down on the upturned crate that was their makeshift table.
Many more mini vans and 4×4’s arrived. People of all shape, sizes and colours gathered on the beach. Some, including us, were identified as “Hash virgins” and were being corralled into a small group for an initiation ceremony in that was to be lead by the infamous “River Stone Annie” a.k.a “Commando”.
It was typical of JPS to get singled out. One of the “Hashmasters” crew spotted that JPS had clean trainers on. In accordance with the Hash Law, one trainer was removed and a bottle of beer placed in it, and they were forced to drink. Several other virgins were similarly punished.
For this was the 31st year, and the 924th run of the Grenada “Kennel” of the world wide organisation known as Hash House Harriers. The Hash meets once a fortnight, on Saturday afternoons, in a different part of the island. It is composed typically of between 50 to 500 runners and walkers of all ages, shapes and sizes. They follow a trail of shredded paper which takes the “pack” through some of the most attractive parts of the island and they return to the rum shop a couple of hours later to consume large quantities of beer/rum and undo all the good that this running and walking has done to them. You run or walk at your own pace, at your own risk, and with the knowledge of your own limitations. If you are unhappy about the trail ahead of you, you turn back and follow the trail back to the rum shop.
Hashes are set by hares, members of the club, who lay out running and walking routes with trails of shredded paper. Checkpoints – at the start and finish and en route – are marked out with circles of paper; false trails can be laid, denoted by crosses of paper demanding you turn back; arrows lead you on, sometimes astray. But mostly, as you trudge, wade and often pick your way along, you want to be looking out for piles of shredded white paper every 100 yards – just enough for you to take the wrong “trail”.
“River Stone Annie” made us shout out the vernacular. “On! On!” if you’re confident you’re going the right way; “Are you?” for those who may be lost and want those ahead of them on the trail to confirm the way ahead. Expletives are optional.
With a rousing cry of “On! On!”, we left the beach and headed up – I mean up a 1 in 4 – into the densely wooded and bambooed forest. I did not run. The JPS and AD dragged along behind – so frustrating.
The group started to split up – the runners hared off. Even walking was a challenge. It was precarious; muddy; and now and again fallen thickets of bamboo blocked the trail . Branches at least 30ft long forcing you to step wildly – occasionally getting your foot trapped and falling in a heap, to the glee of those behind. JPS and AD had got into the rhythm most closely resembling that of a pregnant turtle, when we came to a stream that had to be forded. 300 pairs of trainers had already passed this way and helpfully turned the muddy banks into black runs.
One runner – an islander in his 50s – ran with a football, often doing headers as he went. Brian Steel who has a Facebook page here ran up and down taking photos – apparently oblivious to the need to perspire or breath. Amazing. Although the FRB’s (Front Running Bastards) headed off like mountain goats, you sometimes catch up with them as they head back from a paper cross (a false trail.) Ad hoc marshals loitering by trees, locals hanging out of the doorways of wooden shacks, kids playing in the streams, and small angry guard dogs – directed us with a pitying smile. They’d seen hashers before. In time, the reggae sound system on the beach guided us back to base camp.
At last, we stumbled back to the beach, blinded by our own sweat; clutching our empty water bottles – the FRB’s were already tucking into BBQ chicken and oil down – ice cold beer in hand.
On the trip home, “Shademan” stopped at a small shanty shop where he recommended that we buy an “eighth of rum” to help us wind down….this is served in a small bottle, accompanied by a plastic beaker of ice and a bottle of coke. We all recognise the rejuvenating effect of two large double rum & cokes.
On being dropped back to Port Louis, I had to carry JPS and AD back to their bunks…. it appears that the advanced mind is simply not geared up to function on that level of alcohol, let alone exercise…I, on the other hand felt perfectly sober.
The coming events for the month can be seen here… I need to lie down.
|Sign up for Hash Virgins..||New trainer punishment…|
|The trail begins…||Capn., bounding over bamboo..|
|BBQ time..||An eighth of rum…|