While Vienna Hares MTG and Just in Beaver leisurely consumed their lavish breakfasts of beluga caviar, champagne, diamonds and whatever else it is the Austrian pension system buys its retirees every week, foreign Hare Sloppy Stool was rising from his night's accommodation beneath a disheveled bush in an unspecified 10th District park and in Bratislava Mr. Pink was looking at his sirening alarm clock with confusion, trying for all the world to establish just exactly what an hour starting with a zero actually is.
Once finally vertical, Pink joined the throngs of Slovak commuters heading over the border to sell gaudy cheap clothes to Burgenlanders driving tractors at the Parndorf malls, all the time trying to establish why – given just how far off the grid (of the public-transit vortex that is Niederösterreich) the start point lays – VH3 haven't set a Monday run in Hundsheim recently.
The Trail description had promised Austrian dungeon basement internment and, following a particularly sudden, violent and miasmic reminder of the previous night's diet, your humble Hare found himself prisoner in just such a scene in a (probably now closed by health-and-safety) Hainburg café en route to Trail – being released from his dank cell only after 15-20 minutes of banging, shouting and shoulder-barging a toilet door whose refusal to open at a convenient time means it has a great future as an Austrian supermarket.
Meanwhile, an entirely different shitstorm was manifesting in Vienna, as Hashers who had wisely identified R*n #6 as the weekend's highlight, were forced to flee to other buses, being sold on the not-so-subtle advertising point of those buses actually existing. (Even a promised foreign Hare got on another bus.)
Still, 20 minutes after the last bus to the lesser Trails had left, bus #6 rolled in to collect its passenger manifest of the Hares, the single-figure number of Hashers with patience known in Christendom, some poor unfortunates who had been thrown off of Bus #9, and one random who will forever thank Happy Feet for dragging him up the bus steps at the last moment. Finally, those who would become known as the Hainburg Twelve were underway, sitting atop a veritable treasure chest in beers:Hashers ratio.
Pink meanwhile was still making his way to the start, traveling backward along the first – VH3-laid – part of Trail and marveling at the fact a few of the Hares' marks had withstood two thunderstorms and the attention of local dog walkers, normally about as amenable to flour on their paths as VH3 RA XX is to buying a drink for another human being. Giving up and making his own (much more interesting, borderline suicidal) Trail past the Fliegerdenkmal, your Hare was happy to see the EH3 chariot pull up just 300 metres away. Unfortunately, each and every one those metres was vertical.
Thanks in part to a Chalk Talk which your Hare can only imagine is to be measured in ice ages, contact was made shortly before a pack in complete ignorance of what was awaiting them turned uphill and hit the first check. It didn't take the visitors long to decode the Hares' marking style from these circles, quickly deducing that after a first dash in each possible pathway in sight, a second would not be found until crossing into the next time zone. Pink, hanging back to commit the sin of working on Trail, took particular schadenfreude-laced enjoyment from the two Hashers from the States' unwavering belief that they were actually going to be taken into the Shiggy and their complaints at the Hundsheimerberg summit that they had yet to get a single check right.
After a brief pause to enjoy a view stretching from Hungary to the Alps, and the introduction of the word "Trumpanzee" to each Hasher's vocabulary (a mindless primitive orange creature, for the record), a welcome shady downhill followed, along with the worrying realization that after traversing just 20% of the Trail, we might actually have killed one of our Pack. It was with great relief then, to finally descend to the Kulturfabrik Bahnhof where our bus duly identified itself from the Postbus fleet in residence by displaying a golden carpet of cold Ottakringer cans before it. Never has this swill tasted so good.
It was here Trail improved immensely as Sloppy and Pink took over Haring duties, giving a refresher on the marks to look for and, at this exact moment, several things happened:
· A look of horror etched itself onto the faces of the Hainburg 12 as they were told that no, this wasn't exactly the halfway point per se;
· Secret Hare A.N.a.L. arrived from Czechia, because the 'merican quotient was apparently not already high enough and;
· MTG, whose own anal preparations had seen him prepare a Trail description including to-the-millimetre GPS coordinates, was seen sprinting (well, an approximation of it) back 500 metres along the Danube Promenade having remembered he had not seen fit to tell the driver or bus manager where to meet us at the end…
After a brief meander through the maze-like centre of the beautiful medieval walled-town of Hainburg came a song stop in a hotel courtyard, as Sloppy, who had already dismayed rural Austria with his checkered facial hair, practically then dared onlookers to expel all foreigners from the country by leading the Pack in a bizarre chicken dance, which is probably some form of exquisite mating ritual in at least one Welsh valley.
Trail continued into a hotel lobby, with the Pack at first refusing to believe that ALL arrows were true, before immediately running inside and rejoicing at front desk as they watched the skies open and release the type of downpour that historically has seen people construct an ark to navigate. As the pack slowly emerged from the dry to brave the torrents of water gushing toward the Danube it was clear no marks could have survived and a bit of auto-Haring herded the pack to the base of the Schlossberg.
Refreshed and emboldened by the rain, or more likely by one-too many Ottakringers, the Pack, in its near-entirety, decided that they would take the 'Eagle' route to the top. This despite being warned the rock face genuinely was challenging (to both ability and mortality) and even more Eagle-y given its new slippery coating. Atop the castle walls the Pack took in the view of (a now even greyer) Bratislava, and while Pink went back to check the cliff was not strewn with the bodies of Hashers, the weight of his abandoned backpack became the subject of some debate. Obviously, our pack was as quick of brain as of feet, deducing that the only thing which could compel a man to bring something that heavy up such an incline must be highly alcoholic.
Out came the bottle. And then the next one. And another. And finally, another, as the Hainburg 12 quickly did the mental math which showed that this was a much better equation than dividing between 100 people. After a full-on smorgasbord of tasting the best schnapps the Slavic world can offer (blueberry was the undoubted winner) Pink reloaded his rucksack (which was now substantially lighter, but not the featherweight pillowcase he'd been dreaming of inheriting at this point) and Trail continued down beneath the shadow of fortress walls back to the Danube, where we picked up some now wet-throated members of the Pack who had shortcutted with the valuable insider information of a pub located on Trail.
Through tunnels cut into cliffs and along Danube beaches, the pack concertinaed together at one check, which was proving impossible to break, apparently because "it's the Danube, there's no way we are doing a river crossing…" Minutes later and after a quick collection of electronic devices into a drybag, and to the probable eternal dismay of a family of otters, several Hashers were near-naked and swimming across the lakes of the Au national park, while others braved the quicksand-like mud and submerged dam for a (slightly) drier crossing.
More uphill was waiting, more ruins with more Trailporn views of the Danube basin. The Pack called for an impromptu Schnapps Check and out came the bottles once again, and much rejoicing was had. Not least on the news that there was little more than a paltry 2 kilometres of Trail left… The first of those brought the pack to a check on a golf course fairway, with (now a hound) MTG at first refusing to cross for fear of being hit by a golf ball, before suddenly changing his mind and crisscrossing it collecting them like some crazed oversized kangaroo.
By now it was obvious, the only way was up to the road we could hear above us, although the traffic was drowned out by collective horror when the woodland path dropped downward briefly before one final check, with Trail emerging to present from nowhere a panorama of Pannonia and the most beautiful sight of all, a lot (and I mean a LOT) of beer. Bags of crisps were devoured as soon as they were opened, while MTG bragged about his golf course trophy, before dropping it and watching it roll under the bus and down Braunsberg as he chased forlornly in pursuit… A short circle led by Sloppy absolved the pack of all multitude of sins and removed this Hare's ability to remember individual Hasher's names for this write-up, sorry.
The bus was boarded and sent Vienna-bound, with MTG desperate about arrival times while forgetting just how late we had started. (He is of a certain age and had consumed half his own bodyweight in juniper schnapps.) I can't tell you how that bus ride went, as this Hare returned to Slovakia, but given how much alcohol had been consumed at this point, I doubt any one of the Hainburg 12, those unwitting Hashers who went for a walk but instead survived and conquered a ballbreaker (officially recognized), could either...
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