Last Saturday (not the most recent, but the one before), we participated in our very first Hash Run. We had never heard of Hash House Harriers, Hash Runs, Hashers, Hares or Hounds before, but it sounded like a great way to see parts of this jungle island we wouldn’t otherwise see, so we signed up. Hash Runs are organised here every Saturday and involve running/walking/climbing a trail that has been marked out in advance by red ribbons. The location of the run is always different, and from week to week the runs offer varying degree of difficulty. There have already been over 900 Hash Runs here, so there are a lot of red ribbons tied to trees throughout the jungle!
This particular run was considered easy. It took us through some rice paddies, into thick jungle, along a creek and out onto the beach. There were no hills, and the only obstacle we had to navigate wasn’t actually part of the trail, but rather a wooden gate that we hastily made an exit over after realising we had taken a wrong turn into a farmer’s enclosed rice field. At the end of the run, we were given directions to the starting point of the next week’s run which we were told would be an extremely challenging run involving lots of hills. Most people didn’t appear too enthusiastic about this news, but the mountain goat inside me started skipping around excitedly at the thought of exploring some of the many hills and mountains that appear to rise up out of the ocean and form this jungle island. I decided then and there that participation in the next run wasn’t optional, and as the week went by I found myself eagerly anticipating the arrival of Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go to plan. In the early hours of Saturday morning, there was a major breakdown at the mine that required Barry’s attendance. I was holding onto the hope that everything would swiftly be restored to working order, and that by the time we needed to leave townsite to make our way to the starting point of the Hash Run, Barry would be home. Sadly though, the situation at the mine deteriorated and as Hash time approached I found myself pacing around counterproductively with my phone in hand, daring it to ring.
When I did eventually get a phone call, I had already resigned myself to the fact that there would be no adventuring that afternoon, and when Barry asked – “What can I offer you for a consolation prize?”, I knew just the thing! That evening after the Hash run had finished, I contacted some of the participants of the run and gathered all of the information I could about the trail. I then informed Barry that I would like to redeem my consolation prize the very next afternoon.
We set off on our Sunday ‘stroll’, following the directions I was given to the starting point of the trail. We located some red ribbons and (a little reluctantly), we were directed into a quagmire where we could somewhat reassuringly see footprints from the previous day’s runners. I had been given information that there were two water crossings on the trail, one at the very beginning and another at the end. I had looked up the tide times to make sure we set off as the tide was running out, and I was hoping that our timing would mean we didn’t need to get our feet wet at the start of the trail. As we located one ribbon after another, the ground became more and more waterlogged and making our way across the mud with dry shoes was getting to be impossible. Eventually, we reached the edge of a creek where it seemed that there was no way forward. We looked around for the next ribbon but we couldn’t see it anywhere. I stood glued to the spot by the suction of the goopy mud while Barry backtracked a little, and tried to find our next clue. He had just started making his way back to me through the mud when I spotted it! Tied to a stick, right in the middle of the water a little way upstream. We stood frowning at the red cloth it in disbelief, and I was forced to admit that perhaps my tidal calculations weren’t quite spot on. Coming to the conclusion that we’d rather not squelch our way up a mountain in wet shoes, we decided to back our way out of the swamp and try and locate a bridge I thought I had spotted as we’d been driving to the starting point. There was indeed a ‘bridge’ a little way upstream, however upon closer inspection of this awe inspiring feat of engineering, I began to wonder if wet shoes was possibly the better option. We’ve made a few ‘less than ideal’ bridge crossings before, especially when we trekked in Nepal – but I think the prize for the most structurally unstable bridge would have to go to this construction! There’s nothing quite like a bridge crossing that puts an extra ‘spring’ in your step. Reunited with solid ground, we made our way back to what we thought was the trail. The red ribbons appeared a little faded though, and realising there was a chance that we could come across an old trail, we walked around in circles for a while trying to confirm that we were definitely on the most recent trail. We could hear a family working away in a nearby cornfield, and it wasn’t long before they spotted us and began yelling out enthusiastic greetings in broken English. We wandered over to the fence to say hello, at the same time hoping that maybe they could confirm that we were on the right track. One of the farmers insisted that we needed to go through his paddock, and seeing the red ribbons strung up along the bottom of the fence, Barry climbed up to investigate further. There seemed to be some confusion, and after some further attempts at communicating ‘jalan-jalan’ (we’re walking) whilst pointing up at the hill, one of the farmers finally appeared to comprehend. “Ahhh, you just walking!”. He went on to explain that the day before, there had been another backpacker working for them, and he thought that Barry with his backpack was also there to work. Laughing at the confusion, and thankful that we had narrowly avoided being recruited as a corn harvesters we headed off into of the jungle. It was hot and sticky in the jungle, and the ribbons lead us on a steep incline that set my buttocks on fire. I’ve never been a ‘sweaty’ person, but here in the jungle I felt like I had just been for a swim, fully clothed. I had drained a water bottle all too soon, and I was glad when we emerged from the cover of the jungle out into the open. At this point, the slope of the terrain became so steep I felt that hands should be involved. At the sharp incline we were ascending at, it wasn’t long and we were so high up that we thought we had to be somewhere close to the highest point of the trail. The views here were spectacular! We could no longer see people, and we could just make out our car where we’d left it under a tree beside the water. We could see the port, and we watched the seaplane take off across the water way down below us. We thought that this was probably as high as the trail would take us, so we stayed here for a while, absorbing it all. I had some fun with my camera, zooming in on the port and the backyards of the little villages, before setting the timer to put us into the picture! We were conscious that the sun would be setting in a couple of hours, and not wishing to spend a night atop an Indonesian mountain we resumed the hunt for the red ribbons. We followed the ribbons up over a ridge and to our surprise, we saw that we had most definitely not been at the highest point of the trail. There was a HUGE rock face rising up out of the ground, and we couldn’t even see how high the mountain went up beyond the rock. It was really high, and I was adamant that there was no way the trail could possibly go up there. Little did I know. We climbed.. ..and climbed.. ..and climbed. With the help of some knotted ropes in some of the more vertical sections, we eventually made it to a place where we could see down towards the ocean on the other side of the mountain. We heard the seaplane returning, but this time we could barely see it – it was just a little dot down below. The air was fresh, the sun was sinking deeper into the sky and we could hear the various pitches of cow bells clanging down below us, in and around the hills. The afternoon couldn’t have been more perfect, and I dawdled along breathing it in before I was brought back to reality with a friendly yet firm reminder that somewhere down there (now out of site), was our car, and that we really needed to reach it before sunset. The descent proved to be just as much of a challenge as the ascent. It was so steep in places, that I wasn’t sure whether I should be going down forwards or backwards. The ground was covered in loose stones, and Barry seemed to be having particular issues with finding stable footholds. Over and over, I cringed as he slipped on the stones, making that horrible ‘skidding on gravel’ sound that no climber likes to hear on the side of a mountain. One particular slip though, made me burst out laughing as he sat down hard and unexpectedly on his backside. He didn’t miss a beat, lifting his head and pretending to admire the view with a look of absolute peace and calmness on his face. I took a quick photo before he picked himself up, and as I hovered there reliving the moment on my camera, nearly wetting myself with laughter – he snapped a couple of photos of his own. Earlier in the afternoon, Barry had accidentally stepped in a cow pat and I had laughed uncontrollably at his misfortune. I quickly realised my mistake, stating “I shouldn’t have laughed at that, now I’ll step in a super sloppy one”. Well, about one hour later I confidently put my foot on what appeared to be a smooth and stable stepping stone, only to feel my foot sink into it. It was very sloppy indeed. So after I’d had a another good laugh at him sitting down hard on the hillside, I was very protective of my tailbone as I inched down over the place where he’d slipped, and I didn’t let my guard down for the remainder of the descent. Our car came into view just as the sun slipped down behind the mountain. (You can see it in the photo above, Barry is looking at it – just to the left of the white house standing out on it’s own.) We hurried down the hill towards it, racing the sun and arriving relieved back at sea level just as the sun sank into the ocean – the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Nothing makes me feel more alive than this kind of an adventure, and it has gone down in my memory as one of the best afternoons of my life. Tourists don’t get to go here. When you travel to a place, you don’t often get to really ‘know’ it. Usually, unless you really go out of your way – you will see and experience the same things that every other traveller/tourist does. The most special thing about this adventure was that it was just us, a few local farmers, the cows and some monkeys. There was no litter, and nobody following us trying to sell us something. It was unspoiled, unpretentious and we’re beginning to feel like we’re getting to ‘know’ this place. I think I like it!