22 February 2014
Have you ever heard of the Hash House Harriers? It is described variously as a running club with a drinking problem or a drinking club with a running problem, or on its own website as “the world’s most eccentric running club”. There are over 2000 Hashes in the world and today, team DLA Piper was out in force at the Dili Hash in Timor-Leste. Our team consisted of Art from the Sydney office, Yana from St Petersburg and me – well I’m sort of from the Moscow office. Yana and I didn’t feel up to running, so we joined the walking group. Art was suitably manly and finished the whole of the run. We went from the car park at the back of the Hotel Timor through the streets of the town, wending our way up to the beginning of the slopes of the hills behind the town. We were greeted everywhere by excited groups of little children, who thought it great fun to wave to the “Malae” (the foreigners), who were doing such a weird thing as to walk when they could so easily have taken a taxi.
The road was lined with houses. Peeking in, the floors were mainly earth, although the better houses have floors, some of which were even tiled. Each house was surrounded by leafy trees and billowing blossoms of bourgainvillea, oleander and others which I didn’t recognise. I would describe the road as a back lane, but it turned out it is the main road to the south of the island. The single lane is made up for the part we walked along, but rapidly develops into a dirt track. We turned off, and walked on on, up the dried up river bed – there was no water in it despite being the rainy season. But they were busy reinforcing the sides with cages of stones, so it must be prone to flood sometimes. We admired the green of the forested slopes, stopped for a group photo (a Hash – flash), and walked back down, passing Dili cathedral on the way.
The fun really begins when you get back. There are drinks waiting for everyone, packed in cool boxes full of ice. But there is also the ritual of the
Hash to be gone through – especially, to Yana’s horror, for the newcomers. The Hash virgins, kneeling before the assembled chapter, must drain their beers to the chants of the on-lookers. Sins are confessed and penance is done by drinking yet more beers, to the cries of “Down, down, down”. Yana and I sinned, along with some others, by “sheltering from the rain”. We knelt on the gravelly car park in the rain and we drank. The worst sinner is picked – this time, by popular consensus, it was Bruce, for continuing to drive through a crowd of people and having the prime minister of Timor-Leste beat the bonnet of his car with a broomstick – Bruce said it was because he didn’t want to be late for the Hash. More beers are downed. We all sing “Swing low sweet chariot” with appropriate (that means coarse and vulgar) actions and then retire to recover.
An aside on the Hash
The Hash is a great way to make new friends in a new place – there are Hashes all over the world and you can just turn up. It’s a great way to see a new place, as often it takes you to parts of a new place that you wouldn’t otherwise visit. With over 2000 Hashes throughout the world, you will find that there is a Hash not so very far from you. You might like to read about the history of the Hash, which started in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Here are some links:
It has developed its own traditions and raises money for various charities – take a look at the part about the annual Red Dress Run.
How the running part of the Hash works (you can work out the drinking part yourselves)
According to Wikipedia, here is how the running part of the hash works (or in our case, the walkers). One or more members (“hares”) lay a trail, which is then followed by the remainder of the group (the “pack” or “hounds”). The trail periodically ends at a “check” and the pack must find where it begins again; often the trail includes false trails, short cuts, dead ends, back checks and splits. These features are designed to keep the pack together despite differences in fitness level or running speed, as front-runners are forced to run off to find the “true” trail, allowing stragglers to catch up. There is lots of halloing and back tracking which makes the runs (walks) longer for the fitter members.
The Dili Hash
And for those of you who are not yet completely bored about this remarkably silly organisation, here is the link to the Hash in Dili where you might find a few more pictures of Yana and me.
Keeping in touch from Timor