Our favorite weekly activity this summer was hashing. Officially called the "Hash House Harriers", it is a world-wide running and drinking club started by British Army officers in Malaysia in the 1930s. They were sitting around drinking beer and getting fat, and decided to have the enlisted men go cut a trail in the jungle, marking it with paper or flour, and then the officers tried to catch up, like the old British game of "hounds and hares". The end of the chase gave them yet another excuse to gather at the officer's club, nicknamed the hash-house, and drink beer. The club they started now has over 2000 chapters in over 1300 cities worldwide. Our group, the Grenada Hash House Harriers (G3H), is lucky to be able to cut new trails in exciting new places and dense jungle every week. Over 200 people regularly "hash" with us, a fair divide between ex-pats, cruisers, med-school students, and locals. There is always an easy walkers' trail and a more difficult runners' trail, and sometimes even a harder "iron-man" trail. Each trail takes between 45min and 2 hours to complete .Most weeks we could also count on false trails, leading us up to a quarter mile the wrong way before sending us back to the split. Our joke every week is "Please no hills!" to which our hashmaster replies "No hills this week!" What a lie. It is impossible to go anywhere in Grenada without encountering hills, and the hash always takes us up the steepest, highest, nastiest ones. Nancy is proud, though, that she can now make it up any hill without huffing and puffing! Oh, and no hash would be complete without mud, rivers to cross, and a cow or goat in the way.
When the tired, dirty hashers return to the hosting rum shop, cold drinks await at 3 for $10EC ($3.70US), plates of local food are served for $10EC, and we can all gather round and chat about our latest hiking accomplishment, for every hash is an accomplishment. Then come the "ceremonies". All hash "virgins" are baptized with a surprise spraying of beer, birthdays are celebrated with a down-down (one or two warm, extra-foamy beers poured into an old pot - often a retired hospital bedpan - to chug), and hash-names are given out. If a hasher does something particularly notable, outspoken, or stupid, he can receive a hash name. These names are as ridiculously obscene as can apply to the particular situation that earned the name, and are made official with a down-down ceremony. Chris was christened "Cheap, Wet, & Easy (aka CWEasy)" for building a homemade camelback (a water-carrying backpack) and unwittingly (and proudly) sharing the instructions on the hash Facebook page. Our bus driver Kelly was named "Rear-Entry" for setting a trail through a lady's backyard, and Ryan, a med-school friend, was named "Cameltoe" for always running barefoot. These names are all given in fun, and add to the camaraderie that is an integral part of hashing. We found hashing as a great way to see the island, get exercise and make new friends. From North to South, East to West, mountains to beach, almost every weekend there was a great hash.
Besides hashing around Grenada, we also made a few excursions of our own while we were here. Our first was an island tour with Clement Baptiste (C.B.), who drove us and our friends Sonny and John from the boat Notre Vie on an all day tour of Grenada. C.B. brought us to the nutmeg processing facility, a plantation where we had lunch and learned about a local organic chocolate making operation, and finally to the Rivers Rum distillery where the equipment is powered by a water wheel. The rum made there is not aged at all, and it comes in two strengths - 80% alchohol (that's percent, not proof, and it's not legal for transport on aircraft), and a version you can take back home on the airplane - its only 75% alcohol. Wow! It tastes like jet fuel, and we did not buy a bottle to savor on Liberty. The real highlight of C.B.'s tour was a history lesson on the 1983 US invasion of Grenada and the political events that led up to the invasion. After Grenada obtained its independence from Britain in 1974, Sir Eric Gairy (the independence movement's leader) led the country on a somewhat Socialist course, including establishing ties to the USSR. Maurice Bishop was popularly elected to replace Gairy, and he steered the country to a stronger Socialist position. In 1983 Bishop was overthrown in a coup d'etat by a strongly communist rebel who strengthened ties to the USSR and Cuba (including bringing Cuban military troops to the island). Our tour guide C.B. was a young (19 year old) army private who served as the driver for a senior government official at the time of the overthrow of Maurice Bishop, and he was present when Bishop was executed at the fort in St. Georges. He basically deserted to avoid fighting for the Communist government, but he knew and related to us in vivid detail some of the key events and locations related to the US invasion in October 1983. The military and political history was quite interesting, and we had a great day on our first island tour.
We took a two day boat trip on another cruising boat to the Moliniere Sculpture Park, just north of St. Georges. A British sculptor made over a dozen concrete statues that he thought represented local culture, and sunk them around Dragon Bay as artificial reefs. We sailed there with John and his son Harry aboard Purrfect, their Leopard 47 catamaran, and spent two days snorkeling the area and enjoying ourselves. The statues are quite fun to look at; they have been down there for several years, and most have interesting coverings of coral and sponges. Some are eerie, such as the girl praying in front of a "cemetery" of half-buried figures. Some are fun, such as the park bench that just invites you to dive down and pose on it. Some are a little odd, such as the journalist frozen at his typewriter.
It was during this trip that John & Harry introduced us to an interesting and thrilling watersport, which they call the "slingshot." They shackle their main halyard to the back of their dinghy, with a handhold tied in the middle, hanging in the water. A person can hold onto the handhold and then be yanked into the air by the dinghy, letting go at the apex for a long fall down. It is terrific fun. The three boys had a go at it, reaching great heights and flailing wildly back into the water. Nancy was content to take the pictures. It was a splendid little trip, and we thank Purrfect for being awesome friends and hosts!
On a later excursion, John and Harry and Mike and his son Shane (s/v Moonshine) joined us on a day trip to the Seven Sisters Waterfalls, near the Grand Etang Rainforest. Our guide, Cutty, was very knowledgeable and really made our day special. Before we even got to the waterfalls, we had what can only be called "an experience" at Grand Etang Lake. Cutty has a special relationship with Grenada's Mona Monkeys, a non-native species that came over from Africa in the 1700s as a bi-product of the slave trade. The monkeys now thrive in the fruit-filled jungles. Cutty calls to the monkeys from the parking lot, and they appear out of nowhere, hoping for a banana. Yes, as stereotypical as it is, they want bananas! They want them bad enough to perform for them! Our guide had the monkeys jump onto our heads, climb down our arms, and scramble about to the delight of all (including the monkey once he got his banana). It was fun.
We continued on to the falls, a short hike through the jungle, but not before Cutty pointed out all the native fruit trees along the way. He picked starfruit, golden apple and two types of guava for us to taste. Six waterfalls lay in succession, with a seventh nearby, but unfortunately the middle two are only visible if you jump down from the top. Of course the boys were game for this, but Nancy would have none of it once she heard the long list of injuries attributed to jumping off the second waterfall, a 45ft. drop into shallow water. Oh well! In the end, we swam beneath the bottom two, the most dramatic, and then hiked up to see the top two. The water was surprisingly cold. I guess we thought that as warm as it is here at the 12 parallel, the water would be warmer. We had a fun day.
Dinghy Concert in Clarkes Court Bay
We hashed through rivers, forests and muddy fields and even along the beach; sometimes we needed ropes to help us along.
Our hashmaster, "Softwood" gives us instructions for the hash.
"On-In" to the party; you made it!
Josh celebrates his birthday with a "down-down" of mostly warm Sprite.
Chris and Ryan get hash names.
The Wizards entertained us after one of the hashes.
Nancy & Shawna after completing a hash
Chris and Josh enjoy souse after completing a hash.
Graffiti from the US Invasion in 1983
Water wheel that powers the rum distillery
Moliniere Sculpture Park (about 10-20 feet deep)
Josh gets lifted out of the water by the "slingshot"
Playing dice aboard s/v Purrfect
Chris lets go of the "slingshot" and falls to the water
Price of a photo is one banana
Nancy and monkey are both thrilled!
Josh is just a bridge to the banana
Hiking to Seven Sisters Waterfalls
The lower two falls of the Seven Sisters
Chris jumps from the lowest waterfall
Chris, Josh, Harry & Shane under the big waterfall