Saturday, February 3, 2018

Hashing It Out With The Relatives

I trust your judgement implicitly she said...

I'll bet that's the last time I hear those words from my daughter!

For me, the hash is a way to see parts of the island that we wouldn't otherwise get to see.  The Hash House Harriers group goes out and lays out a multi-route course, often on private property.  The courses can be very challenging and not to be underestimated... We learned this.

But I'm getting ahead of the story so I'll back up a bit...
La Plywood Bar

With our bodies feeling every step of our activities the previous two days, we nevertheless pressed on with filling every minute of the kids' vacation.  We needed a beach day and there wasn't a moment to waste!  Bruce steadfastly refused to participate, so without him, the three of us set off on the public bus.  We asked to be let out near BBC Beach.

The bus driver stopped on the main road and pointed the way.  Go up that hill, then down the other side and turn left.  You'll find the Plywood Bar to your right.  And that's exactly what we did...

On the morning of hash day we did this!  We walked about another 2.5 miles just to get warmed up!  What were we thinking???

Regatta Week ongoing from Grand Anse Beach next door!
The beach was a nice stretch of white sand with gentle waves lapping the shore.  The water was beautiful and just what we were looking for.  We found a spot beneath the sea grapes and I sat watching the bags while the kids enjoyed a beer and a soak.  (It's 5 o'clock somewhere)

A group of college students exercised their dogs on the beach until a resort guard reminded them of the leash laws...  I talked to a charter boat employee and generally conserved my energy for what was to come.

Late morning found us hecking "beach" off the to-do list as we gathered our things and returned to the road to find a bus back home.  We did notice a trail leading off the road to Grand Anse beach that would have been a much shorter hike... next time.

We arrived back to the boat with just enough time for some lunch and a change of clothes, then it was back to shore to catch the bus for the short ride up to the hash base location.

I was a little disappointed to learn that Morne Delice was in fact the location of the Real Jab Jab Camp.  This is the place we attended a Christmas party back in December.  The place where I participated in a hike that was almost the limit of my ability to endure.  With only a little hope in my mind that it would not be a repeat of that earlier hike, I swallowed my dread and prepared to push on, come what may.

We milled with the crowd and signed up for the hash.  There is a list of names of all participants to be used after the hash to make sure everyone gets back from the trail. Little did we know that later on, we would hear our names called to the crowd as we scrambled the final bank on our return to camp.

Hash Virgins receiving their instructions

My son-in-law has participated in a hash previously, but it's been a while and it was in the city of San Antonio, TX.  (get a rope)  Yes, you can read a bit of derision into that if you'd like.  To say that a hash done in the streets and neighborhoods of a San Antonio town could compare to one done in the Grenadian bush would be ludicrous.  This we now know.  This ain't yo mamma's hash.  Well, for my daughter, maybe it is just that!

As always, there was a short ceremony for the Hash Virgins, of which my daughter was one.  She seemed wary of the whole process, having heard bawdy stories of things that happen on one's initial hash.  She had to be coaxed to join the group for instructions explaining how it's done here in Grenada.  If I can do it, anyone can!

We stood waiting and listening to the course instructions.  This course has seven.  SEVEN false trails.  You should have seen Bruce's eyes when he heard that.  With a tone only seldom heard in his voice, he said "If I find one of those false trails, I'm going to beat somebody's ASS!"  Bruce wasn't exactly looking forward to this trek and only agreed to do it because the kids were here.  I calmed him... knowing that if this hash was like that hike I did before, he would need every ounce of energy he had in him.

Without further ado, we were off on our walk.  The runners quickly disappeared while the large group of walkers bounced along the dirt road right PAST the trail (I had hoped we wouldn't be following) that led straight up the hillside to our left.  I was relieved when the river of walkers flowed right on by, my spirits lifting considerably thinking we were off the hook and that this could be a pleasurable walk in the country after all!

Tiny toadstools!
Of course I had my camera swinging from my wrist and we soon fell behind because I stopped frequently to take pictures.

But it wasn't long before I had to give up taking pictures as the trail grew more treacherous by the minute.

There hadn't been much rain in the past couple of days, and I thought the trail would be much dryer than it was before.  Even with the lack of rain, the jungle floor was saturated and by the time the other hashers tramped through it, much of the trail was a mucky mess!

The steep ravines and embankments had strangers working together or nobody was going to make it out alive.

No, this wasn't the same trail I had done before, but it was every bit as steep and muddy.  We had to use every muscle we had, thinking constantly of how best to make the climb.

We grabbed onto saplings and vines, trusting blindly that they were green and not rotted wood that would give way and crumble, sending us tumbling and sliding down the hill...

Many times we would separate and go off the muddied trail to find fresh leaves for traction.  Many times the path from one solid hand-hold to the next would take us far from the comforting sight of those precious little poofs of shredded paper that assured us we were still on A path, if not THE path.

Just when we were all secretly thinking to ourselves that we could go no further, the path opened out onto a hilltop where bucolic goats munched noisily as they eyed us with only mild interest.

We rested.  We hoped that we were almost done.  We were so naive!  Pressing on, the path didn't seem so bad for a while. We got to see some of the homes perched precariously on the hillsides.  We walked the trails of the locals and peered into their lives in a most unusual and un-American way!

Pineapple growing along the road!
 Eventually we found one of the symbols that signified a choice.  The circle of paper means that you can go one of two ways, and one of them is a false trail.

We sent envoys up the road to investigate and found that to be a false trail!

We only lost a little time and were soon back on the right trail... ON-ON!  The pleasurable stroll on nice cement roads was just a tease and we soon found ourselves led back out onto dirt roads and muddy trails.  But that's OK.  THIS is where the adventure lies!

We were all alone out here.  Sometimes we could hear the voices of the other hashers.  Once we heard someone crying!  At least we thought that's what it was.  Maybe it was an animal!  Thankfully, there's nothing on this island that can eat us!

Walkers that-a-way!

There were some trails that had actual stairs cut in the hillside with branches or bamboo stalks to keep the dirt from eroding away.  These were park trails and I recognized them.  My familiarity with the area served me well as we found another false trail that led only to the top of the hill where there is a lookout, but no civilized way down.  I was not fooled and I assured our group that this was a false trail.

Thinking to avoid that mean hillside leading down to the camp, we passed on, thinking we MUST be on the home stretch.  After much more mucking about, we met a group of people.  They told us that they were the "sweepers" (people who make sure nobody is left on the trail) we were almost done.

Then we saw this cliff!  A road was being cut in the hillside and we stood atop the steep embankment looking down at the level dirt road far below.

A man was there holding out a hand, coaxing us to take a step, then another.  He assured us that we couldn't slide down.  He steadied each of us one-by-one on the way down... and we made it!  Unbelievable as it was, we did!

Seriously!  This runner just bounded down the hill!

Tacking up the hill makes it a bit easier.
OMG we're almost there!  NOT!  For a while the trail led us along a nice roadway.  And then it didn't.  Back into the bush we went.

More trekking.  More sliding.  More crouching.  More crab-walking and booty scooting.  We were covered in mud.  We were dripping in sweat.  We were shaking from the uncommon physical exertion and we were almost hopeless about making it out.  If there had been a way to quit, we would have.  Maybe.

We aren't out of the woods yet!
Eventually we came to the bottom of a deep ravine and the only way up was thankfully aided by a long rope.  Oh rope.  Where have you been all my life?  I LOVE you rope!!!  We scrambled up easily, wishing there had been such an aid for most of the day...

What??? There's MORE???
We caught up to another small group at the very end leading up the last part of the ravine.  Somewhere above us was the Jab Jab Camp.  I was completely turned around and had no idea how we had traveled around the camp to arrive from below.

Music and voices drifted down to our ears growing louder and louder.  We realized that they were calling our names.  We had been out on the trail for so long, they were beginning to get worried about us!  We called up to them "We're HERE!! We're coming! We're still on the trail!!!".  They didn't hear us.

Triumphant moment!
We did it!
Those last steps were surreal.  Once we climbed out of the ravine, we edged our way past some abandoned cars and onto the road.  We melted into the crowd of hashers with the after-party and ceremony well under way.

Melissa was glad to have missed the hazing of the Hash Virgins.  That's certainly one way to avoid the trauma!

We sank to the pavement on the road above the revelers and watched it all as if it were far away.  We were so tired.  Then the sense of accomplishment pushed it's way to our consciousness.  We did it!  We were dirty and sweaty and beet red in the face, but it was over and we survived!

Somewhere along the trail we had learned that the crying we heard was the sound of a woman breaking her arm!  There was no way to get her off of the trail but for her her continue on, scooting on her butt with her arm immobilized by a makeshift sling of donated t-shirts.  There she was next to us, smiling.  SMILING! What a trouper!  What a vacation story!!

 When we were able to move our limbs again, we washed the mud from our bodies and changed shoes, then joined the crowd in search of food and drink.  Most of the food was gone, but the kids did get to sample an authentic Oil Down.  Bruce and I chose the last of the chicken.

The party was in full swing with music and revelry!
We got the last of the chicken!
The kids enjoying the Oil Down.  
We ate like we'd never seen food before as the sun sank below the next hill to the west.

The sky turned red and gave us the reward for our labors.  With weak smiles barely clinging to our faces, we boarded the bus for the ride back home.

It wasn't until the following morning that the real feeling of accomplishment came upon us.  At the time we felt beaten and abused... But by morning we were recovered and pride crept in.  Honestly we couldn't believe we had the strength to finish the course.  If there had been a way out, we might have weakened and taken the easy way had one been offered to us.  But we were forced to challenge ourselves both mentally and physically and in the light of a new day, we could laugh about it.  We made some wonderful memories that day.  Hashing in the hills of Grenada is not for the faint of heart.  And we proved today that we were better than we thought we were. And we did it together!


Friday, February 2, 2018

Walking Tour of Fort George

Click to see a walking tour of St. Georges
Moving on to the second full day of this installation of "Other People's Vacation Pics" - we take you to the historic Fort George.  We spent much of the cool hours of our morning renewing our tourists visa, but once we were cleared to remain in Grenada, we jumped back onto one of the public bus/vans.  The warmth of the sun convinced us that the $1.85 US for bus fare (for all four of us!) was a necessary expenditure.  We had a long day ahead of us!

We got off the bus in downtown St. Georges and headed for the fort.  There's no way to miss it really, it's the big pile of rocks on top of the hill!
Some of us had to "tack" to make it up the steep incline!
Rest stops came with a VIEW!
The entrance to the fort leads through the VERY thick outer wall!
 We eventually reached the small kiosk where the pitiful entry fee of $2 US per person was collected.  I guess on Cruise Ship Days the Fort is more busy, but not today.  We had the place all to ourselves! (another perk of cruising)

Fort George was built from 1706 - 1710, on an early battery erected by the French in the 1600s, and originally named Fort Royal, it was renamed Fort George in 1763, in honour of King George III when the British took possession of the island, Consequently, 2006 - 2010 would be its 300th anniversary.

I'm amazed that these structures can withstand the passage of time and the ravages of storms - even hurricanes - that have rolled over this hill since the Fort was originally built.  Much of the damage to these structures occurred in 2004 during Hurricane Ivan.  The island of Grenada doesn't see many fierce storms due to it's low latitude, but sometimes they do come... and when they do, the damage can be terrible and long-lasting.

Another thing that amazes me is that the site is so accessible.  The government of Grenada has been unable to raise interest or funds to do much more than barely maintain these historic structures.  Living amongst buildings that are over 300 years old seems to be "normal" for the citizens here.  Take for example, the fact that there is a functioning police headquarters housed where historic battles were once fought.  It's just "business as usual" here!  We peeked into the police weight room and even saw where they kept the shine on their big black boots!

We wandered along the battlements and climbed the short stairway to the old lighthouse.

You know how I love lighthouses!  This one is a sad little thing - no longer in use and fairly crumbling.

The view from inside the lighthouse

View from the lighthouse doorway looking south

I believe we could hit some of those sailboats!
Many of the cannons we've seen throughout the Caribbean have been replicas.  These are actually still used for special occasions!  I would love to see them fired!  But not in the direction they currently aim!

If you aren't interested in the history, maybe this VIEW will tempt you to make the climb!

Ruins of the church after hurricane Ivan

Just imagine soldiers and horse-drawn carriages.  Did they have horses here????
Exiting through another breach in the THICK wall!

We descended back to sea level by way of the steep and congested streets of the old city.  The continued use of these old buildings is fascinating to me.  In the US they would have been torn down and replaced by steel and glass long ago.

After a quick , no, nothing is quick in the islands... After a ridiculous amount of time spent at the market, we found the bus back to Prickly Bay Marina with our loads of groceries on our laps.

We napped and rested in the warm afternoon, and then hopped aboard Chico's bus for the ride to a nearby hangout called "The Container Park".  Bruce and I have saved this visit so that we could experience it with the kids.

The Container Park is a property lined with shipping containers turned into bars and restaurants.  They've built decks and seating amongst the containers and strings of lights top off the festive mood! It's near the college and lots of college kids hang out here.  There was a game of trivia going on when we were there but it looked like it was already under way so we didn't try to get in.

My Schwarma place!
The awesome thing about The Container Park and Options, (the next property over) is that everybody can have something different.  We strolled through the many vendors with drinks in hand until each of us had found something to entice us.  I had a Schwarma and Bruce got a burger.  The kids had something else entirely and our vegetarian friends found something to suit their appetite.  Then we all sat together at one of the many tables scattered around, and listened to the music and people sounds around us.

Seriously!  Am I the ONLY one who wants an ice cream cone???
Our bodies and feet were REALLY tired from all the walking today, but this was the perfect ending to another fun day exploring Grenada.

We filled our bellies then joined Chico at the drop-off point for our bus ride back through the darkened streets of Grenada!  Stay tuned for another exciting day of Other People's Vacation Pics coming to the blog soon!