31 January 2013

A Saturday Stroll with the Himalayan Hash House Harriers

A A stroll through the terraces with the Himalayan Hash House Harriers.

A few weeks ago I did the most expat-y thing one can do - I joined the Himalayan Hash House Harriers. The "Hash" is a weekly social event/running club that promotes a mix of expats and locals running (or hiking), drinking and engaging in general buffoonery - and it was a damn good time!

There are hundreds of Hash clubs around the world, but it all started back in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur, where, according to Wikipedia, the goals were established as such:
  • To promote physical fitness among our members
  • To get rid of weekend hangovers
  • To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
  • To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
I was lucky enough to not only find a fantastic flat upon moving here to Kathmandu, but I just happened to move in below Jo and Jimi, a Scottish/Dutch couple described to me as "the king and queen of the local expat social scene." Jimi is the weekly emcee of the Hash, and he made sure that I was invited had a ride to get to its obscure starting point in the Valley.

Every week the location changes, and two people arrive in advance to set out a challenging course. They use a series of markers on the trail, complete with false detours and special pitstops at which you have to do a silly task or take a drink. They then lead the run, and they are called the "Hares" - they are tasked with making sure they do not lose their runners.

I carpooled with some Finns, a Spaniard (I don't know why, but that demonym always looks racist to me) and a lovely American gal and we made fast friends along the way. Since I was the only one with a little pack I was put in charge of the car keys and wallets, and we joked that I had "made myself valuable."

Now, I want to tell you that I joined the runners.... but that would be a dirty lie. After six weeks of sitting on my rear end and staring at my navel, I am in NO SHAPE to go on a 10k run (says the lady who is going on a four day trek tomorrow - eep) and so I opted to do the walk instead. It was still challenging, and this way I got to gab as I got my exercise. And you know I love to kiki, hunTy! (Sorry. Way too much RPDR lately.) Before the run we were advised on some of the Hash terminology. "On On" means "this way" or "way to go,"  and a "down down" is a way of teasing or 'punishing' someone for non-Hasherly behaviour.
If I circumambulate in the opposite direction at this fertility temple, will it work as birth control?

The walk was stunning - we trekked up the side of a daunting hill to a Hindu fertility temple and then back down through a village and past some weird and wonderful old art deco buildings. The walkers totaled about fifteen people, and I was talking in a small group with four others. All of the sudden, very close to the end of the 2.5 hour walk, the five of us who had been chatting noticed that we were alone. Eerily alone. The regularly placed trail markers that let us know we were on the right track had disappeared, and we could see hide nor hair of our Hare (groan).

Gorgeous abandoned art deco building, whatchoo doing out here? 
Remember, Nepal has no addresses, and the village meandered through the hills in a haphazard way. We had no idea which direction we were supposed to head toward and we couldn't really ask any of the locals to direct us to "the field that we started from" so we wandered aimlessly for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, back at the finishing line, my absence was alarming to quite a few people. Sure, Jo and Jimi were worried, as they had brought me along and probably felt somewhat responsible for the green Canadian gal, but I was much more important to the folks who had entrusted me with their keys and wallets. A search party was sent out to look for me (at this point they thought I was out there alone!) and when we finally found the big Hash group they were well into their beer and snacks. Sure, I was teased for getting lost - but teased even more was my Hare, who had set a record for losing five people out of a group of fifteen.

Amanda, an American lawyer, forced to don the Hash hat and drink a huge chalice of beer.

The real Hash fun starts after the exercise is over. We all gathered in a circle and sang a series of drinking songs. Local village kids and adults alike gathered around us to gawk at the weird bideshis carrying on like fools as people were called out and made to drink and sing for being newbies, having missed many Hashes, for leaving the country and for pretty much any other excuse you can think of. It's no wonder they describe themselves as "a drinking club with a running problem."

These are sports drinks, right Lance?

While I live here in Kathmandu, I think I would like to do the Hash a couple times a month. It's a great opportunity to get out of the smog of the city and a good way to meet people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Just remember - always make yourself valuable if you don't want to get lost.

Some of the walkers - maybe one day I will grow up to be a runner. (yeah. That's not a thing, Dear. Good luck!)


Amanda said...

Good on on you...and good luck with your 4 day trek.

Pat said...

How interesting! Sounds like fun! Smart thinking to keep everyone's keys and wallets! You ARE valuable! ha ha!

Anonymous said...


Well done sister. And yes you are right: "The real Hash fun starts after the exercise is over." Almost always. Every time.

Anonymous said...

I have been wanting to join it but never had a clue how ...Good post