Two things keep me sane: animals and hiking. Not necessarily combined or in that order. During our sailing adventure, Michael & I learned about the Hash House Harriers group while on Antigua. If you've never heard of them, you might be surprised to learn that they're worldwide and have been around since the 1930s. You probably have a chapter in your own city and don't even know it. Some are every week, some are every month; you just have to Google your closest group and see what they're up to.
The "club" was started when some bored Brits stationed in Kuala Lumpur became "hares chasing paper," and it's spread globally ever since. We actually seek these groups out when we go on vacation because it allows us to meet people and see sites we'd never see otherwise. It's on our bucket list to do an InterHash - which is organized every other year and brings people from hash chapters all over the world together to hike, run, and socialize.
So what's the idea behind it? The "hare" sets the hash with anything from colored ribbons, to sawdust, to flour, to chalk, and the "hounds" follow the trail and try to catch up to the hares. Some groups, like most in the Eastern Caribbean, set both a walkers' trail and a runners' trail. The idea is to get both sets of hounds back to the starting location at the same time, usually about an hour from the start. There are false trails to throw you off the scent and various rules to follow, but nothing complicated; you're supposed to be having fun.
Some trails are live - you're chasing the hare, and if you catch him/her, then you become the hare. Personally, I like the ones that are preset because you can walk at your own pace, which allows you talk to the people around you and take pictures (also why I choose to walk and not to run).
The hashes we've gone to in the Caribbean have all been family/pet-oriented and are very casual affairs. But be forewarned, all hash chapters are not the same. Some are adults-only and are surprisingly raunchy. We discovered this on one we did in Key West, Florida and decided that wasn't quite our style.
Once done with the chase, there are all kinds of rituals we're not supposed to speak of, but I recommend you bring an extra shirt and don't be upset about mussing up your hair.
Anyone is invited, and you can always reach out to a veteran hasher and get a lift no matter where you are. I've met some of my best friends through hashing.
To me, the perfect hash is one that has a view, has something of interest on it (e.g., ruins), and allows you to get a little out of breath (or even a lot). Saturday's hash combined all three (good job hares!). About 100 of us, including students, locals, expats, tourists, and kids (some from the St. Christopher's Children's Home), met in Sandy Point, right below the Brimstone Hill Fortress.
I did the walk, and Michael did the run. The runners' trail went past Fort Charles, a British military outpost from 1670 to 1853 and a home for lepers from 1890 until 1996, when it was abandoned once the last leper passed away. I tried to find that fort years ago but thought it was demolished. Apparently the area around it has been cleared, so now you can actually see it again. See what you learn on a hash? Add that many hashers are historians, botanists, birders, ancestors of people who are very familiar with these places, etc., and even people born and raised here learn a lot.
The rest of us walked through some ecclectic neighborhoods; some of those homes have been there a loooong time.
And then we were at the road leading to the Fortress, immediately walking past the lime kiln (used in the 18th century to make cement out of limestone). You must note the man walking barefoot - he walked barefoot the entire trail!
And then it was up, up, up.
And then it was a nice leisurely pace through high grasses, along railroad tracks, and in and out of other neighborhoods.
Hashers have found everything from broken water mains (in remote places) to other ruins that have never been documented before. On this one, a hasher found an incredibly heavy piece of a cast-iron cannon that must have fallen or been pushed off the Brimstone Hill Fortress cliff.
On St. Kitts, the hashes cost a measly EC$2, are every 3 weeks, and are already on the calendar, although where the hashes will be are always announced about a week beforehand since someone has to actually set it. There are burgers (usually including a couple of veggie burgers), hot dogs, and beverages available afterwards for a nominal fee (5 tickets for EC$20). Hashes are held rain or shine. As a matter of fact, we did one once on Grenada during a tropical depression that later became deadly Category 4 Hurricane Gustav (not recommended, by the way).
If you're on-island and see a hash on the calendar, come!