Sunday 25th February, 2007

 

Hashing

 
 
 
 
 
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by Story and Photos by Paul Davis

If you live in rural T&T and have experienced a group of 150 or so sweaty people jogging past your gate shouting “On, on,” chances are you have just encountered the hashers.

This merry band of less than elite athletes calls itself the Port of Spain Hash House Harriers.

Arriving on these shores in the mid 80’s, Hashing is extremely popular with the expat crowd and anyone else who is insane enough to join in.

It is a mixture of orienteering, running, climbing, falling over, socialising and beer drinking. Did I mention the beer drinking? Hashers like to call themselves drinkers with a running problem, but that’s another story.

The idea is a hare and hounds cross-country run, following a paper trail along a course set by a different band of Hares each week. False trails and check points abound; the front runners cry “On, on” when they have found the right way, and “On back” when it is a false one.

Hashing is almost cult-like in the fanaticism and dedication of its followers. People from all walks of life join. Nobody cares if you are a doctor, company director or the local circus clown; everybody bounds along together through rivers, scrapes past thorny trees and dodges unknown creepy crawlies in the best of spirits and with an energy that is infectious. Each run usually lasts for two hot sweaty hours, covering four to five miles or more.

The 652nd Port-of-Spain Hash took place on January 27, and I joined the hashers in Moruga for the run.

Around 4 pm, a crowd that has travelled all over the country assembled and the hares, who set the week’s run, introduced themselves and warned of any hazards that we were likely to encounter on the way.

Then we were off. Trees whipped past in a blur as we ran “On, on” into the depths. Little piles of shredded paper signalled when we were on the right track.

Overgrown cocoa plantations dropped cocoa pods onto the paths, the sweet smell of ripe oranges overhead wafted past as we crunched through the undergrowth.

Countless bamboo bushes threatened to trip us as we made our way deeper into what seemed like a jungle.

After a couple of hours, the trail circled round to the start and my thoughts were of one thing only – beer. The beer van was parked by the beach under a palm tree and I almost fainted with anticipation.

A sweaty group was wading out across the sand to the warm sea, beer in hand. The day’s hash in Moruga started and finished on the beach a few hundred yards from where Columbus discovered Trinidad. How proud he would have been of we intrepid explorers !!

When everyone had made it back in, the group gathered around the hash master and copious amounts of beer were downed.

And for the younger hashers in the group nothing stronger than orange juice.

The beer celebrates various incidents during the day and a “poofter” shirt is usually presented to anybody foolish enough to ignore the true spirit of the hash by getting a lift back or taking a short cut for instance.

Think of the poofter shirt as a Tour de France yellow Jersey — for idiots.

Hash “virgins” were baptised in beer and the hash master made various final announcements, followed by a stampede for the food van and an opportunity to lime the night away.

Why do people do it?

Surprisingly for something as downright dangerous (and silly) as this, there are almost as many women that run the hash.

“It is a great way to meet people, and you see parts of Trinidad that you would otherwise never be able to,” explained Naomi, 27, before last week’s run in Moruga.

Asked why he went to the Hash, Steve “Chineeman” Ewing Chow’s answer was more straightforward; “Chicks”, he replied, with a devilish grin. Fair enough.

Don’t even think about trying to look your best for the hash though. T-shirts, trainers, long socks and bottles of water are all you need. Now there is nothing wrong with the gym for exercise but it lacks a certain “je ne sais quoi.”

There is something deeply satisfying, almost primal, about tramping through the wildest corners of T&T; all work and personal problems are simply erased and replaced by a surge of adrenaline that keeps people coming back for more punishment week after week.

On, on!

Find everything you need to know about the hash on their Web site:

http://poshashhouse.tripod.com/

©2003-2004 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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