When you say “hash” in the Caribbean, one might be surprise to learn that you are not referring to either the omnipresent marijuana or canned corned beef, but to an organized, vigorous run/walk that often involves copious amounts of mud, lots of hills or streams and plenty of beer.
Hashing is actually an international phenomenon that started with British expats in Malaysia as a way to keep in shape, and has spread around the world, but seems to be particularly popular in the Caribbean, especially Grenada. Starting at a local rum shop, what seemed to be at least fifty cruisers and locals gather on a weekly basis to run a pre-set route through the wilds. First, though, they make sure that anyone wearing new shoes is forced to drink a beer from said shoes, which is pretty revolting, but there you go.
The “hare” of the hash sets the course in advance, marking it with piles of white shredded paper every so often. Part of the excitement of the event is the creation of false routes, marked by a big circle of paper with one or more false routes leading off that eventually peter off, forcing those in the lead to backtrack if they choose the wrong route. Those behind can usually follow the footprints in the mud, but tradition is to shout, “Are you,” short for Where are you, I believe, which is answered by “On, on,” to go forward, or “On back,” terms which Pip suspects come from fox hunting. (Anyone know if this is correct?)
Pip and I got caught behind a small child for most of the initial muddy, rough climb up the mountain, which was fine, because it allowed us to conserve our energy for a nice run later on. We ended up running the walking route and beat most of the real runners back to the finish, where cold beers – three for $10 EC or less than four U.S. dollars – awaited.
People here seem to be pretty competitive but utterly light-hearted about the whole thing, and there’s clearly a lot of ritual that’s built up over the years. Such as the hazing ritual for “virgins,” which—thank God – we were warned about, as it involves being sprayed by beer. Captain Crankypants elected to hide behind the rum shack while I joined the festivities, allowing my sweaty, muddy self to be showered off by beer, imparting a unique scent of sweat and stale beer I haven’t smelled much since college. As a consolation prize, I received a lovelerlee cerificate of ‘’loss of virginity.”
The locals had cooked up an oildown, a big pot of breadfruit, chicken, plantain, callaloo and dumplings that we took a pass on trying, if only because we had brought dinner and are trying to spend a little less moolah. The social life here is killing our budget. Still, we enjoyed the cheap beers and dancing, returning back to the boat tired and already sore from the run, but happy.