The boys go on a hash run every fortnight, through various bits of jungle around Singapore on alternate Sundays. This is keeping it in the family for Mr Partly Cloudy, whose parents met through a regular hash run in Ipoh, Malaysia in the 1960s. He’s been enjoying a local kids’ version with Jonah, and they’ve both wanted me to come along too. ‘If you can do Bukit Brown,’ said Mr PC this week, ‘it’s not that much harder.’ I know, I know. We didn’t need a crystal ball to tell us that in this sort of weather, those might be famous last words. No matter, I’m now the proud owner of a pair of properly muddy post-hash trainers, and I’ve got vine splinters. And yes, there is satisfaction to be gained. And yep, I might even do it again. Talk about a baptism of fire, though. Or water.
You jungle-doubters, there is thick foliage here in Singapore, you just have to look for it. It helps to have a group of willing explorers happy to spend their free time trekking through the undergrowth, tying hankies around trees and bits of rope up steep slopes so that nutters like us can crash through a few hours later. The prize at the end is a back-of-the-van meal for kids and a beer tent for adults. Nice one.
It’s plain to see why the boys have been persuading me to join, but I have always had an excuse up my sleeve. This week, though, after Mr PC knocked his ribs in a game of football and began wheezing and slowing down, I decided that the only way to stop him running the course was to join in. Little did I know that my first ever hash would coincide with a whopper of a monsoon storm.
Stop a minute here and just take some time to think about what you need to do when marching through a bit of jungle. We’re told, don’t stray off the path, snakes are there. We’re told, don’t touch the tree trunks, you don’t know what’s perched on them, creeping along under them or slithering around them, and that’s before we’ve even started on the possibility of poisonous plants and huge giants crashing through undergrowth eating all the villagers. OK not that last bit, but the other stuff, definitely. Would you ever, in your stupidest moments, give a tropical trunk a full body hug, or lie down in thick jungle mud and slide your way from A to B? Course not, because that would be silly. But wet weather conspired against us and turned the course into a slipway, which meant that as cautious drops turned to full on downpour, not holding on would have been even stupider.
We all fell over, slipped along, tore our skin and got mud in our eye. Thorny vine? Give it here. Three-inch-thick mud slope? Sit right down and slide, why not? And actually, to begin with it was quite fun whacking through vines like Sylvester Stallone in First Blood, and Starskying across fallen trees in an effort to keep up. Fortyfive minutes of that, combined with comedy buckets of rain, and let me tell you I was limping along grabbing handfulls of sodden foliage wherever I could, crashing over trunks like a shot elk, pushing my shoulder into the bottom of the stranger in front as she limped wetly up an incline, in a desperate effort to just move the whole thing along. Time crawled, like us – it was all taking a wee bit longer than planned. My specs frosted over with rain; the kid in front of me noted the clouds of steam puffing up from me and Mr PC any time we paused. I began to wonder when it might get dark; if we’d ever get home. Jonah, at first a buoyant and proud guide, showing me the ropes, lost his bravado and took it in turns with me to alternate moods: one of us would nobly shout ON ON! while the other mewed about a sore foot or hurty shoe, and all the while Mr PC darted between us, helping us up and down steep banks and around spiky tree trunks. Fun for all the family.
All the normal people in our group took the short route, but Jonah chose the 5k signpost and so it was that we ended up sliding through thicker and thicker soup, wondering when the helicopters would start circling, and wishing we had opted for the home option, the one that came with telly and a nice cup of tea. I’d just been persuaded to stop sobbing for the third or fourth time when a big hoot went up from my friend up ahead, and out we popped onto the Green Corridor, an old train track and well known running trail. We ran the last 500 metres to the beer tent; Tiger never tasted so good.
I apologise to all the small children I pushed out of the way when I saw that patch of white sky as jungle gave way to clearing. I’m sorry to my friend and also to my husband for having a proper weep at that very tricky slippy bit. And most of all I’m sorry to my bottom for giving it such a very muddy afternoon when all it really wanted was to sit on the sofa at home. In the end we did a grand total of 2.4 miles. It took the best part of two hours. We forgot to pack bus cards and did not dare call a cab, so totally caked in mud were we, so we had to walk to a bus stop and pay a full ten dollars for the three of us just to go about 8 stops, standing in the pram space the whole way home, stinking slightly of mulch. A caterpillar appeared on my vest, and bits of mud fell off Mr PC’s arm every time the bus changed gear.
I might go back next time. I will have to think about it. I liked the crowd, the theory of it all and the beer. I do admit to feeling brilliant at the end, with that pleasing muscle ache a few hours later that lets you know you’ve actually done something with your body. Where would you ever see jungle like this if you didn’t follow such trails? I think the people who set the routes are amazing, and I love how they do it, and yes, it is organised, and yes, it is good fun. So I’ll be back for some more Rambo fun shortly. If it rains, though, you know where to find me: #sofaplease