Sunday, December 17, 2017

Hash Angel

I am not the competitive type, no... I'm into more passive sports, but if the game has anything to do with physical acumen, I'm more likely to sit it out!  As for running a RACE??? Forget it!

But this "Hashing" is a curiosity to me.  It combines walking, or hiking (or running if you're that sort) through a rough and wild part of the island to which we would not otherwise have been given access. And it isn't a race! It's just an opportunity to get out and enjoy the countryside while getting a bit of exercise!  Each week, these "Hares" set out a trail through the brush for participants to enjoy!

Trails are hacked clear with machetes to make a narrow foot-path and they lead along roads, trails, animal paths, as well as through fields and across streams.  There are no rules other than you don't take or leave anything along the trail and respect the owner's property so that others after you will be granted permission to enjoy the beauty of this place after you.

I've been watching the fun in secret on Facebook for years but since arriving in Grenada, I've been hesitant to join in.  Mostly because I'm worried that I wouldn't make it.  Some of those hashes look like they're pretty difficult!  But there was another deterrent.  The ceremonies after the Hash include beer.  Lots and lots of beer! And I don't like beer.  But when I learned that THIS Saturday's hash would be a relatively easy one, and that you don't HAVE to drink the beer... only WEAR it... I talked Bruce into doing the Hash with me!

Courtesy of Grenada Hash House Harriers Facebook Page
All morning we rested up, then we had a nice lunch to give us energy!  Shademan came by on his bus to pick us up and we were whisked across the island once again to some unknown location in the middle of a Plantation.  Someplace called FLORIDA!  As always, the journey is as much fun as the destination!

Nutmeg trees everywhere!

See the smoke coming form Shademan's van???  He said not to worry...
We left the main road and wound through the plantation property where Bananas, Cocoa, Nutmeg and many other varieties of fruits and vegetables were growing.  I'm glad there was a bus to bring us here or we would never have found the place!

Some of the roads were only one lane and VERY steep!  Shademan's poor van had a hard time making it and when we arrived I noticed there was smoke coming out of the console in front.

I pointed it out to Shademan and he said not to worry, it only does that on the uphill part, going back down would be fine!

OK so there are "regular people" here as well as athletes.
We all spilled out of the van into an open area with tents set up for the event!  A crowd was already there with people, many of whom looked like Pros, all wandering around in muscle shirts, tennis shoes and tall socks.  Hmmm I have no tall socks.  I began to doubt my preparedness.  I don't even own a pair of tennis shoes, let alone any sort of hiking shoe.  My rock scrambling shoes proved themselves useless at the last hillside hike I attended, so I was forced to wear my boat shoes. But there were plenty of other people who looked about as well prepared as we were, and I kept reminding myself... this is an EASY hash!

Naughty goat.  Just take my word for it.
Just hanging with the goats and watching the crowd gather

Finally the festivities began.  The Grand Master of the Grenada Hash House Harriers gave us all instructions and told us about the Hash.  While we had been milling about, a woman wandered among us with a devious purpose.

She lurked and roamed, watched and took note.  She was looking for anyone wearing new shoes.  She saw my boat shoes and asked me if they were new.  I told her they weren't, but looked it because they were boat shoes and didn't get worn much.  She let that pass.  But she caught one person who admitted to having new shoes... and that person was our friend DEB!

Deb chugging beer from her SHOE!
Deb was made to walk around in one shoe until the commencement of the hash.  Then in order to get her shoe back, she had to drink a shoe-full of beer!  What a unique way to "break in" a new pair!  I would probably have cried... but Deb took it well.  She even seemed to like it!
Ya got a little on ya there... 
And just like that... we were OFF! ON-ON!  That's what us Hashers say when we're on the trail.

The group set out like a river flowing down the narrow road and up the hill... People who lived in this little village were lining the streets and sitting in windows watching our progress with big smiles and maybe a little curiosity.
Somebody planted that Christmas Poinsettia from years past. Who knew they liked warm weather so much!?
It wasn't long before we got an awesome view!

The crowd quickly thinned out...
We came to a narrow spot and lined up to step across a tiny stream
There were runners AND walkers doing the hash and of course the runners quickly disappeared from sight.  It was more about the view for us, so we lagged way behind.  My camera was snapping away as I stopped often to get those memories down.

By the time we reached this narrow spot, we were almost the last ones on the trail.  But they all had to stop to get through this so what's the point in speeding along?

The Hash is a pretty simple thing.  The day before the hash, Hares go out and set the trail.  They use biodegradable materials, this time poofs of shredded paper, to mark the trails.  All along the way there are little poofs in the brush just beside the trail.  If you see them often you know you're on the right trail... On-On.  If you realize it's been a while since you saw a marker, you must have gone off the trail and you have to backtrack... On-Back.  This lets others know not to follow you!

A lot of the trail was this easy!  There are working roads through the plantation for us to follow!

We passed through a tiny village on the plantation.  Dasheen and mango grow in the yard!

Large sized lawn mower

The trail forks here - it's a TRICK!  We chose correctly and went to the right

Cocoa farmers have to keep the area beneath the trees cleared for optimal yield.  
Giant tree!

Moss growing on the tree

Bunches of oranges!!!
Tree Hugger
So far the trail was more of a road... and very easy.  There were no big decisions to make about which way to go.  But we had our doubts because there was nobody else around!

I wouldn't say that we were too slow, but until we saw this man in front of us, we had been completely alone.  We couldn't see or hear any of the other Hashers.  How could they have all strung out so far we couldn't hear them?  Surely we didn't miss a turn!

It's hard to misinterpret this kind of clue!
Then there was this man, suddenly in front of us.  He looked to be a local but he was obviously on the trail... Maybe he worked on the plantation...  Well he looked like he knew where he was going so we fell in behind him.

We caught up to the man and I asked him if he was from here.  He was.  He wasn't a plantation worker, just a Hasher like us.

Still, it seemed strange that he was alone.  And he really seemed sure about the trail.  We walked together for a while, then he sped up and we lost him while I took pictures.

Ahhh, there's another group of people up ahead!  We're catching up!

As this road made a curve to the left, we stopped at the base of this tall palm tree.  It looked as if there might be a trail off the road into the brush to the right of the tree.

The people in front of us had continued on along the road... but I wasn't sure.  I took tentative steps into the brush, looking for the poofs of paper... when our guy reappeared.  He was actually coming back toward us.  He stopped when we made eye contact and a silent inquiry passed between us.  This was the right way to go.

The other group backtracked to our trail but stayed out of sight

We left the trail and the man stayed in front of us... sometimes near, other times disappearing up ahead only to stop and wait if we got too far behind.

Whenever we came to a part that seemed uncertain, he was there.  Silent.  Leading with a nod of his head.

I must remember every flower on the trail
Something new!  I've never seen this before!
And something old... We had this growing in my Granny's yard back home!
Some were very tiny, but I wanted to experience them all!

The comforting poofs assured us we were on the right trail.
We hiked in and out of the sunlight.

Since leaving the road, the path had become a bit more challenging.  This must be a goat trail because while some parts were obviously hacked with the machete, most of it was simply a very narrow trail worn by frequent traffic.  The brush grew up around the trail through the cool forest with dappled sunlight breaking through now and then.

It was breathtakingly beautiful and surreal being out in the jungle alone... sort of.

We slipped and slid down some of the steep embankments where small run-off streams have carved up the jungle floor.  For a stretch, the only way we knew we were on the right path were subtle signs that other footsteps have come this way.  It was like some latent tracking gene was coming alive in me.  I stopped and looked around for signs of broken branches, trampled grass or unnaturally disturbed dirt.  And I found the signs!

At some point, the runners trail joined ours and for a brief time we stepped aside to allow the faster Hashers to streak by us.  It was another confirmation that we were in the right place... and if maybe not on the walkers trail, at lease on A trail!

It had been a while since we saw our guy... he must have tired of being our Hash Angel and gone ahead to finish.

And as we rounded a corner, there he was again... waiting.  Then he continued on ahead of us once more.

This circle of poofs is a sign.  It signifies that a decision must be made.

Along the Hash Route, there are "false trails".  Sometimes the Hares lead the Hashers off in the wrong direction just for the fun of it.  Choose wrong, and you get to say "On Back" - which means you've come upon an "X" that signifies that you have taken the wrong trail and are returning to the course.

When we arrived at the circle we stopped.  Looking both ways we could see the little poofs but we knew one of the trails was false.  Which one do we take?  Then I caught a glimpse of blue on the trail leading off to the right.  There he was!  Our Hash Angel!  Just within sight, but not.  Waiting.

We caught up with him soon as the trail became clear.
Sometimes the Hares make it easy!

The sun is getting low

Roots of a giant tree!!!
So just when we were thinking we must be almost done and walking on the easy path... The signs led us off-road again!

Low-hanging nutmeg!  Must not pick!
Cocoa growing just right there!

Ok what's that STENCH???

We walked out of the forest and found ourselves following the trail right through someone's yard.

It began with this pen.  A PIGPEN!

Full of PIGGIES!

Seriously.  RIGHT through someone's yard!

They had a little raised garden growing along the path!

And just past the last building, we broke out onto a road to see this sign!


This is the last sign on the Hash Route and it signifies that this is the way to the finish!

We did it!
The end is in sight!
National Pride
Lots of people made it in before us

We were invited to try this soup but gave it a pass...
So now what???

We looked around at the people all milling or sitting in small groups.  We didn't think we were last because I know there were people who took the false trail.  People who had no Hash Angel.

Wait!  What happened to our Hash Angel???

We hadn't seen him since just before the pig pen.  We never caught up to him again and never glimpsed him ahead.  Looking around, we didn't see him anywhere in the crowd. Strange...

We left the disappointed soup vendor (who seemed eager to sell us some of his Mystery-soup) and made our way over to mark ourselves safely off the trail.

They keep track of every participant, especially the 47 Hash Virgins.  Can't let anyone get lost forever now can we?

Once marked safe, we went back to the van to change shoes and get some cash.  That chicken on the grill smelled heavenly and we were suddenly ravenous!  But first, we waited for everyone to come off the trail and to learn our fate.

Gather 'round little Virgins...
We knew there was some sort of ceremony ahead for us Hash Virgins.  This was the part that made me nervous.  They try to be cagey about it, but we knew something was up when they gathered us all together in a tight little huddle - making sure to collect cellphones and bags that might not benefit from becoming wet...

The Master Of Ceremonies read us the certificate we'd be receiving - which was a hoot!

It reads as follows:

Certificate of Loss of Virginity

Be it known by all and sundry, that as of today,
The bearer of this Certificate, having done with all of us
Sometimes rough, sometimes wet, sometimes dry, sometimes hard, sometimes prone, sometimes supine, sometimes slow, sometimes fast... 
Bawling out a lot of unintelligible phrases like "ARE YOU?", "ON ON!", "ON BACK", and 
"ON IN!" 
Grunting and groaning and shouting expletives In the mud, sand, river and streams.
On hillsides and in the bushes and trails of the forests
And having completed this long ordeal
Absolutely exhausted, sweaty and smelling like a ram goat
Is henceforth not to be considered a virgin by any member of the
Grenada Hash House Harriers (GH3)

Awarded at Hash #1011 by the Hashmaster (whose hash-name is not suitable for this blog)

Photo credit Grenada Hash House Harriers Facebook page
We were then sprayed with large quantities of beer!

Photo courtesy of Grenada Hash House Harrier's Facebook Page
Photo courtesy of Grenada Hash House Harriers Facebook Page

Happily no longer Hash Virgins!

Now let's have some of that chicken!

Bruce and I each got a tin of BBQ chicken leg quarters and quietly slipped away from the ongoing debauchery to eat our snack in peace.

But we were not alone... At some point I wondered if the crowd would hear our screams should the dogs suddenly decide they could take us...  We shared our chicken with the less fortunate, who were quiet and orderly.  There was enough to go around so no fighting ensued.

The crowd began to clear out when the beer ran low and the sun slipped behind the hills.

We loaded up the van with our Santa at the wheel and sped through the darkening streets of Grenada with one more stop between us and our beds.

Mrs. Harris serving up the Rum Punch
With Shademan Santa singing R U M S T O P we paused at Mrs. Harris' little shop.

The little house in back was decorated tastefully with festive Christmas lights.

The tiny shop was a beacon in the dark night inviting us to come inside.  

While traffic whizzed past, our little group sat in the darkened courtyard and had one last toast to a successful day of Hashing.

Bruce and I sat in the dark and thought about the day.  We were glad that it was an easy hash.  We very much enjoyed the opportunity to be out there on the trail through the forest.  We were not the last ones to finish... Quite a few people had taken the wrong trail... Were we lucky or did we have some help? 

It was just the right amount of uncertainty, but  with safety in knowing that should we disappear, someone would find us and lead us back to the trail. 

Maybe even a Hash Angel...

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