Hashing in Papua New Guinea

Settlement sunset

What is Hashing, you may well ask? Well, Hashing, or being part of the Hash House Harriers, is a fun activity best described as a drinking club with a running (or a walking) problem. Started in the mid-30’s in Malaysia by some wacky British expats as a way to burn off hangovers, get a little exercise, and create an excuse to have a few beers, Hashing has spread to be a bit of a worldwide phenomenon. There are estimates of over 2000 chapters/groups around the world – basically any big city has a Hash. They are loosely organized, rules and traditions are varied and largely unwritten, but if you live in a city, or are traveling to one, it is likely you can locate a Hash. Good harmless fun, quantities of beer (you don’t HAVE to drink to be a hasher, but it probably helps) and a ready-made network of residents who can assist you to settle in to your new location.

Proximity to PNG settlement

I’ve been hashing since 1999, where I was introduced to the ‘sport’ in Dili, East Timor. Since then, I’ve hashed all over the world, notably Kabul, Afghanistan where I did nearly 150 runs, and more recently in Santiago, Chile, where I am very involved with my local ‘kennel’. In Port Moresby, hashing is a very popular activity, with three hash clubs running every week, with the occasional special occasion run. Indeed, the Monday night hash can trace its membership back to the very beginnings of hashing, and recently completed its 2000th run. (By comparison, we’re at 110 in Santiago.) In any event, it is an excuse for locals and expats to get together, get an hour’s worth of exercise, and then socialize/network afterwards.

Settlement garden

On Monday, the hash will be meeting and leaving from my house, so it was my job to lay the trail. So this weekend, I went out with bags of flour to lay a 5-7km trail for the group to follow. I live in a relatively tony neighbourhood of Port Moresby, but very close by is a ‘settlement’ of Papua New Guineansliving in a small semi-formal village. I decided to take the group up through this village, to the top of a hill – it is much more interesting to take the path less-travelled, when hashing.

Settlement shack

You will note from the pictures that in contrast to the somewhat salubrious houses in Port Moresby, vast numbers of people live in relative poverty and squalor. This village does have access to running water via a couple of pumping stations that are shared by everyone. These pumping stations are used to collect water for use in the home, as well as for cleaning of clothes and showers. There are obviously some basic attempts to connect electricity to some of the houses, but nothing appears to be formalized, and indeed we have to be careful when walking through the village to not tread on long extension cords connecting a couple of the houses.
Most of these residents will have someone in their family working in Port Moresby, likely as a taxi driver, or perhaps a low-level job like a housekeeper or security guard. Many of the villagers operate very basic shops selling betel nuts, cigarettes, the occasional snack food or canned drink. There is some evidence of subsistence farming, but less than I would expect. Very few formal gardens (I assume that irrigation is a major problem) and the occasional pig will be seen. From an animal husbandry aspect, I am always in wonder that I don’t see MORE subsistence animal farming taking place. A few more free-range pigs running around would certainly keep the rubbish in check – however I’m told that people keep their animals penned up to prevent theft. Likewise, the rolling hills are covered in grasses, that I would assume goats would be quite pleased to crop – however again, when I asked long term residents, the issue is that people would poach/pilfer any free-range animals, so no one does this. Rather disheartening.

Settlement kids

One might assume that most of the petty-theft and low level crime associated with living in Port Moresby is perpetuated by residents of these ‘settlements’. However, when we walk through the village we are warmly greeted with ‘Apinoon’ (pidgin for ‘Good Afternoon’), hellos, children who want to shake your hand or give you a ‘high five’ – certainly no need to feel at risk. I’m not sure I would care to walk through there by myself, although I assume that so long as I didn’t have any valuables I would have no issues.

Through the settlement

If there ever was an argument against ‘trickle down’ economics, PNG is a case in point. It is quite obvious that little to none of the mineral or real-estate wealth currently being exploited in country is having tangible benefit to these people. Most of the residents in these ‘settlements’ are people from other provinces and places in PNG, who have come to Port Moresby to seek their fortune. Notably, the ‘Highlanders’ are known for this re-settling trend; indeed every taxi I’ve taken is driven by a Highlander. Unfortunately, whereas the Highlands provinces are lush, fertile and relatively well-organized for subsistence farming (so I’m told) the realities faced once they get to Port Moresby are rather harsh. They lose their ability to raise their own food, they have little to no access to jobs, and have just as rough a lifestyle as they would face back at home, if not worse. It is no wonder that some of them choose to be ‘Raskols’ and become petty thieves.

In any event, I would encourage you to check out Hashing in your own city, or perhaps as a side activity on your next trip. You can learn more about Hashing at these websites:

Who are the Hash House Harriers?
Hash House Harriers
Santiago Hash House Harriers



Categories: Friends, History, Travel

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