Hash hounds

Article published in the Caribbean Compass, way back in January 2001

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     Carolyn and Pete on  Chou  off Barbuda's 11-mile beach.

Carolyn and Pete on Chou off Barbuda's 11-mile beach.

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     The island of Grenada in the Caribbean Sea.

The island of Grenada in the Caribbean Sea.

Twice last cruising season, we were swept away to unknown parts of Grenada by a band of crazy beer drinkers with a running problem. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Hash runs are good clean fun, and a great way to see the island.

In St.George’s, after rotis in the Nutmeg restaurant one day, Pete and I walked around the Carenage for ice-cream. On the way back, we noticed people gathering under a tree, most of them wearing running shoes and shorts. Pete said: It’s the Saturday hash run! It’s the what? Before I knew it, we had jumped into the back of a truck, and were driven up and over the hills, across the island to Grenville, on the east side. A motley crowd poured out of cars, and gathered outside a tiny local pub.

Amid much joking and conviviality, the “hash master” explained briefly: You’ll be following a paper trail—piles of shredded paper placed at intervals; once in a while you’ll come upon a circle of paper, with trails going off in several directions. This is the equalizer: you have to choose a trail, and if it continues for more than four piles, it’s the right one. Yell “on on” to the hashers behind you, and keep going. If the trail peters out after four piles, you have to go back and try another one. This way, those who are racing out in front of the pack will have their setbacks, so no one can take it too seriously as a race.

The pack took off, and I ran to keep up with Pete. We followed a narrow path through the bush and into the trees. We came upon the first circle. The fast guy out in front bolted off down one of the paths, and came back, saying “on back.” Oh good, I got a chance to catch my breath. Then the true path was found and we were off again.

When we came to a stand of coconut trees in muddy ground, I slowed down to avoid stepping in land-crab holes, and to say hello to a cow who was standing there. Pete went on ahead. Then, to my delight, I came to the ocean! My eyes widened at the big surf. Ah, the east coast of the island! How I long to be on crashing windward beaches, but in the sailboat, of course, we seek out safe, quiet harbours. I let the mob pass me by, took off my shoes and scuffed along the beach, keeping an eye on the route the others were taking. I lingered as long as I dared, wading in the waves, then turned away reluctantly to follow the last of the stragglers through a field of cows, and into the woods again.

The trail had been laid on private property, with permission, and on a long, grassy path in the shade, I stopped to pat some friendly white goats, and to say hello to the people who lived there. We came out into a lovely village, the streets all lined by conch shells, the residents watching us with amusement. I fell into step with Marise, a regular Grenada hasher, and her dog Noisette, the hash hound, his short legs, soft brown fur, and ears bouncing. The final delight along the paper trail was a creek to wash in. We arrived at the tail end, and found the others at the rum shop, drinking beer and eating bake and chicken.

Hash runs are modeled after the old English game, Hounds and Hares. Expatriate Brits and Aussies in Kuala Lumpur began the “Hash House Harriers” in 1938, and the loosely knit club has expanded all over the world since then. The runs are open to all, and if you turn up often enough, you risk being given a silly, and not very complimentary, nickname.

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     James and Carolyn mucking about. Photo by Pete.

James and Carolyn mucking about. Photo by Pete.

The next time we anchored at Hog Island, we sought out a hash run. It was April 15 when we headed to the Carenage. Our friend James Pascall picked us up at the carpool. The course was closer this time, in St. David’s. We drove up a steep hill and stopped at a rum shop. It was four o’clock. The sun was low, but still hot. John “Putrid” Albanie called for our attention, and introduced Ken “Mistletoe” Sylvester, the hash master, who introduced Paul “Mothertrucker” Greaves, the “hare” who had set the course. About eighty people were gathered: students and teachers from the international medical school, other assorted ex-pats, yachties, tourists, and locals—a real mish-mash of nationalities.

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     Pete and Carolyn on  Rocinante  near Trinidad.

Pete and Carolyn on Rocinante near Trinidad.

James and Pete jumped ahead with the runners. It was all uphill at the start. We bumbled along, exploring the false trails, and then we were climbing steadily on a shady path paved with nutmeg shells. Ah, the crunch, the aroma! Where else can I walk on a nutmeg path through the woods? I slowed to a wander, then climbed over 200 steps to a viewpoint. We had a spectacular view of St. David’s, Mt. Hartman Bay and Hog Island. I lingered until I realized no one was left, then found the path down and caught up to the pack. I was a little hungry and wished I’d brought a snack. Descending along the path, I saw a woman up ahead, holding a bright yellow fruit up to her face. Is that a MANGO? I’d been anticipating mango season for months! There were ripe mangoes all over the ground under a tree. I scooped one up and broke it open, my face right in it. Two or three others joined me in the feast. The wasps had been starting in on the mangoes, so we picked them up carefully. We walked on, eyes to the ground, no longer following the paper trail, but the mango trail. I ate three or four and stuffed two more in my pockets.

When we got back on track, we passed terraced beds of carrots, and I pinched the foliage to get a whiff of carrot, a scent that reminds me of home. Farther along, as we approached houses and yards, I wiped the mango off my chin and hands. One of those noisy kites was swooping, disturbing a mooing cow. I found myself beside Marise and Noisette again, and we walked down the hill to the rum shop, where the chicken barbecue was underway and the beer drinking had begun.

Carolyn Masson cruised the Caribbean with Pete Evans on Rocinante in 2000, and on Chou the year before. She lives on Vancouver Island, in Canada.

Find more about Hash House Harriers at The World Harrier Organization.