More than slightly
eccentric, Grenada's Hash House Harriers keep a
unique form of cross-country running alive.
Late one Saturday afternoon,
below the forested slopes of Hospital Hill above
Grenada's capital of St. George's, I was setting up
my tripod and waiting for the right light to capture
the picturesque harbor when I heard it. At first, I
wasn't sure what to make of the racket coming from
the woods above me. It sounded like commands a musher
gives to his dogs, except to my knowledge, there are
no dog sled teams in the Caribbean.
On! On! echoed in
the gentle afternoon breeze, growing louder with each
chorus. I figured it must be some kids chasing some
poor animal through the brush and continued to
compose my picture.
Suddenly, there was a crashing
of branches behind me, and three crazed individuals
broke from the undergrowth and dashed madly across
Old Fort Road, disappearing into the dense forest on
the other side. Startled, my finger jammed down on
the shutter release and the motor drive whirled off
six shots. Just as my heart was beginning to recover,
another motley group pounded by yelling On!
On! I was beginning to think they were all
crazed escapees from the insane asylum when an
attractive young woman in shorts broke from the
underbrush and asked if I saw which way the others
went. Pointing in their general direction, I asked
what was going on. She smiled and said, We're
Later, I would find out that
the first group, called hares, was
actually being pursued by the second group, called
hounds. Who would have imagined that
hashing was alive and well on Grenada and that every
second Saturday, the island's forested hillsides and
valleys echo with the shrill, desperate calls of
Hashing is a kind of
hound and Hare or paper
chase, and the wild-eyed hashers dashing throgh
hill and dale are part of the Hash House
Harriers, a dedicated group of Grenadians and
visitors devoted to keeping the art of hashing alive.
Hashing hound groups of about
50 follow paper trails marked by hares, who utilize
all kinds of tricks to keep the hounds at bay.
Actually, the hares claim it's just their way of
slowing down the group so they all reach the pub at
the same time. Competitiveness is shunned upon, and
front runners are usually called FRBs, or
front-running bastards. Shiny new running
shoes and pressed shorts are also frowned upon.
Hashing originated in Malaysia
sometime in the early 1930s. British senior officers
invented the game to keep their men fit and burn off
the excesses of weekend partying, Leaders, or hares,
would mark a trail and many false trails
through the dense jungle around Kuala Lumpur.
The hares were then pursued by teams of hounds vying
to reach the finish line first. As added incentive,
there was cold beer waiting for the winning team at
the finish line. The name Hash House Harriers was
adopted in honor of their beloved Hash House pub,
which of course sponsored many of the events. Not
much has changed, but these days everyone wins and
Two weeks after my first
experience with the hashers, I was down at the
Portofino Restaurant in St, George's waiting with
about 60 other eager hashers. The leader of
Hash Master that day was Paul
Mother Trucker Greaves and also present
was Grenada's HHH founder and premier hasher, Paul
Slinger, who describes hashers as drinkers with
a running problem. An important part of the
hashing ritual is for participants to be given hash
names. They are of necessity, ego-bruising and
humbling, according to John Putrid
Albanie, Grand Inquisitor for the Grenada HHH.
You are allowed to apply to have your name
changed after ten years, provided you realize that
the next one will be worse.
After getting directions to the
hash, we piled into cars and headed to Grand Etang
National Park, the starting point of that week's
hash. Once there, we all signed the hash roster
(necessary to account for everyone at the end of the
hash) and received last-minute instructions from
Paul. Then it was off to the starting line and what
would prove to be difficult hash. The trail started
near the Grand Etang National Park entrance and
skirted Grand Etang Lake before heading southwest
toward Point Salinas. The trail was narrow, and it
didn't take long before the group was well spread out
over a mile or so of marked trail. It stayed that way
until we regrouped at the first
Checkpoints are usually located
at the junction of a number of intersecting trails
and are marked by a circle of paper on the ground.
Front runners head down each of the intersecting
trails to see which is correct. Each false trail is
maked with an X about a half-mile/.8
kilometers down the trail. Correct trails have no X,
so once front runners realize the trail is not false,
they yell On! On! and the group follows.
If you plan on hashing, there
are a few phrases you should know. On!
On! means you can see the trail markers,
usually small bits of colored paper. When you can't
find the trail but see someone else, you can ask,
Are you? Checking means the
trail has all of a sudden disappeared and you are
trying to find it again. When front runners reach a
large X in the trail, they yell on Back
to warn others not to take the trail. When you see
the On In sign, it means you are nearing
the finish line and cold beer.
After skirting the lake, the
trail descended into a fertile valley, then crossed a
narrow side road, where someone had placed clothes on
the hot road to dry. Onward we ran through banana
fields and rain forest, stopping every so often to
listen for the cries of On! On!,
Checking or On Back. After a
couple hours of heading down false trails and
stumbling over tree roots, the group was beginning to
spread out again, but the hares had done their job
well. Near Salinas Airport, our group finally broke
through the heavy underbrush into a cow pasture,
where the main portion of the group was anxiously
searching for the correct trail.
Before I had the time to catch
my breath, the call of On! On! came from
low shrubs to the west, and the group was off again.
From the pasture the trail crossed over Petit Cabrits
Point, then across the beach, humanely ending at the
On! In sign near the Aquarium Beach Bar.
The hash had taken a grueling four hours and,
needless to say, we were all dying for a cold bottle
Without a doubt, the most
important aspect of the hash is gathering at the pub
afterward. Here you rest aching muscles and swap
exaggerated tales of the chase with anyone who will
listen. The difficulty of the hash is directly
proportional to the amount of beer consumed, and the
better the hash, the taller the tales.