I’d been eagerly awaiting the chance to do my first jungle run and rather than thrashing through the nearest mangrove, armed with a machete and leech socks, I coerced a new friend from Seria to bring me to the local ‘hash’. I had been told about the tradition of hashing by DOUG, who was part of the inaugural Hash House harriers (or 3H/HHH) in Kuala Lumpur during an ex-pat posting. On further research, I discovered that Brunei was the very first female-only hash in the world, so all in, it was sounding like a good opportunity (and perhaps the safest option) for exploring the off-road terrain. Read HERE for a bit more info on the Brunei chapter.
With local hash names (given, never designated by the member) like “Yackie fackie”, I didn’t know what to expect from the outing but I made BEN promise not to leave me to be swallowed up by termite mounds, overcome by fire ants, tousled by a bearded pig etc. This picture is a bit more akin to the Labi Road hash set-up; you turn onto the 50 Km stretch, which has a cluster of local housing but which gradually gives way to jungle either side. Basically drive until you see a collection of cars randomly parked along the verges and voila! that’s very likely the hash. I had worn head to foot clothing cover. Ben was in shorts n vest! I am far far too tasty to the local fauna to risk that and expecting the odd stumble in highly undulating terrain, I chose baking in the heat over having my blood sucked and believe me, once inside the canopy, the atmosphere was oven-like, as you would expect. We said some hellos and discovered there was another “virgin” there tonight, a first-timer like me.
Following roll-call and payment of $5 to cover post-run refreshment 😉 Ben explained a few protocols about registering where you are and if you’re following the right trail. No sooner were we off than the hoots of “on-on” and “on-up” (signifying that the route is ascending) started and boy, there were some calf busting near scrambles! I’d been warned to look before I grabbed and I followed this advice as trees and shrubs assisted our movement through the forest. I was toasty in my long sleeve neon top and glad of the Camel bak tee-shirt I had worn underneath, allowing me to drink on the run whilst keeping my hands free. I’d also brought a waist-pack containing gloves, a head-torch and a CLIF bar and I’d worn my Suunto watch and tested out the compass and altimeter quite a few times. I was also very glad of my INOV-8 Roclite’s, which aren’t a kick in the pants different from the authentic wellies (same sole) or rubber sticky outer of the professional hashers gym-shoes. See what you think:
In total I was in the forest for about 75 minutes and as I was setting the pace for myself and Ben, I ended up notably “off-paper” twice, which was more to do with having found a previous trail (white loo-roll with yellow dots in comparison to this hash, using plain white) and not checking….but that’s why it was great to have an experienced hasher alongside and I’d recommend buddying up with someone sympathetic to your pace, ability and novice status. The paper was draped, mostly at eye-level but sometimes on the ground, usually within glancing distance from the previous markings. Occasionally the path would be scattered with shredded paper. Quite amusing having to examine toilet paper to ascertain the direction of the hash 🙂 The going was pretty good underfoot, a mix of deep leafy trail, bush, gnarly root systems, crumbly sandy embankments and equally crumbly verticals, trees and leafy undergrowth at all angles and a couple of (thankfully) dryish waterways,
Interestingly enough, after using hill-walking and running techniques including hands on hips and hands on knees to push up through some very steep little sections, my instinct was to break into a jog as soon as I was able and found this really shook off the ascents before the next one was upon us. And I only got one fly in my gob! I was starting to lose my breathe as the compass began registering East, showing that we were on our way towards the road. Following a couple of boggy crossings over make-shift log bridges (I took a slight detour to use a lower, wider, more girly log) and making a couple of easy leaps, very like jumping from one pile of rushes to another when running through wetlands, the clearing came into view.
I was quite tired from continually scanning the ground for over an hour but as we met a hasher walking back down the route, I urged Ben to ‘pretend to sprint’ into the clearing, as if we had been running the whole time. As if! But it was apparent that many of the local hashers had taken a shortcut (which is entirely allowed) and almost everyone was home and already stripped or changed and quaffing a Tiger beer! To a few cheers of “the virgin is back”, I treated myself to an ice-cold 100Plus as the second virgin and the sweeper emerged from the canopy. It seemed like the night was just getting started – as the darkness closed in, a small fire had been built, there was talk of food and the beer buckets were being re-stocked. But we couldn’t stay.
It’s about a 30 minute drive back to Panaga, so we headed off to shouts of “See you next week”. Too right! Although one gent stated that tonight’s was a relatively easy, short one with no check-points [where the front runners have to hunt around for the trail continuation and then mark back towards the cross, for the subsequent slower “hounds”], this hasn’t put me off one bit. I *did* see some rather large ants on my travels but made it home unscathed by The Biters.
This time 🙂
Kit List: The North Face merino socks, INOV-8 Roclite GTX 212, Sugoi compression tights, Camelbak hydration vest, Long sleeve Neon Brooks top, Ben Fogle Buff, Suunto vector Altimeter, Pete Bland waist-pack (containing) Blueberry CLIF bar, Ron Hill gloves, Petzl Tikka2 headtorch. Cologne of choice: DEET spray called OFF!