Friday, 11 July 2014

Pamplona - how I ended up in Spain, Part 2

Wake up alarms began sounding at 4.30am, 4.35am, 4.40am the next morning, signalling the start of a very long day beginning with the first Running of the Bulls. Many in our tour were going to run today (despite suggestions not to) and were amping themselves up. Some didn't even make it out of bed today after a big hard night of partying the night before. Some of the boys had returned home with interesting hair adornments and styles - a true sign of a good night out.

Stumbling around at 5 in the morning in Spain is cold and dark. We were tired and ranging on the hungover scale. We made it to the bus, shivering, and many of us managed a little snooze on the 45 minute coach ride in. I was adamant that I wanted to get into the stadium to see, and Kim, Robbie and myself pushed our way to the queue for tickets. Only 6 euros and we were in. By this stage, it was about 6.30am as we emerged into the stadium, securing good seats to watch what was going to unfurl. For the next hour and a half until the bull run began, we were entertained by a marching band, footage from the year before, songs sung in Spanish and a bio on each of the bulls who were to be run today. They all had a name and ranged, roughly, from 500-600kg's each. That's kinda not small. That's kinda enormous. Time continued to pass and soon enough, it was 8am and the cannon was to go off - the bulls along with it.

Strung along the bull running path were many cameras, and so we saw the carnage from different angles. Largely, the bulls ran in a pack together and didn't try to veer, although at times they lost their footing or people just got in the way. After only about 2 minutes, the first people started to pop through the stadium entrance - bulls in tow. More and more people entered, as bull after bull burst into the ring and raced across to the other side. For those who aren't aware, these are the bulls that are to be sacrificed in the bull fight tonight. The arena filled with white, the runners began cheering and congratulating themselves. This was short lived, as, unbenownst to most of them (silly tourists), another 2 bulls had been released after the rest. These burst into the ring and the white scattered out of their way.

All bulls across to the other side now, the arena gates were closed, and those inside were to face the next stage of the bull run. Again, many tourists seemed unaware of what was to happen and were rather shocked when a smaller steer was let into the ring, sending people running in all directions. Many people lined the sides, rows and rows deep - by now it was too difficult to try to get out of the arena over the barrier so once they were in, they were in.

This part of the bull run was dividing. It was exciting - but the tourists simply showed no respect - you do not touch the bull. They thought the Spanish crowd was cheering? No, the crowd was hurling abuse. You do not incite the bull. You do not slap, hit, pull the tail or the horns and, to be honest, I was rooting for the bull. I hope no one got seriously hurt, but if they did, it was their own fault. No insurance will cover the Running of the Bulls - you do it at your own risk. One gentleman (and I use the term loosely) got a horn between the legs, which would have been exceptionally painful, however he went back for seconds and got a bit of a thrown down, arms up, cheering his own macho-ness. One tourist jumped on the back of the bull, to which the local Spaniards began beating the ever living shit out of him - you don't touch the bull.

Every few minutes, the steer was rounded up by a big..pasture bull? Mamma? I can't work out what it was - surely it wasn't a female with those enormous horns, but I can't find any information anywhere. It was placid and docile and was led into the stadium. The small steer would generally stop trying to gore people and turn to follow the big one. Hilariously, most people didn't see the big one coming and it would just plow into people (slowly, not violently) - catching people in its horns and dragging them along. It was priceless to see their faces -and I'm pretty sure a few may have soiled themselves judging by their look - this bull wasn't going to hurt them, it was just a bit of a steamroller.

This part of the bull run lasted for about 45 minutes - every few minutes the steer was replaced by another. People would crouch down in front of the entrance so that the steer was forced to jump over them - that was rather exciting, as they aren't interested in trampling you, they'd rather jump over you.

At the conclusion, we made our way out of the arena and jumped on the coach back into the campsite. Forgoing a much needed nap, I opted to start drinking sangria instead and some of us headed to the bar, awaiting the Topdeck Sangria BBQ. By the time the BBQ rolled around, many of us were rather lightly toasted and the stories from the boys who ran were making the rounds. Where they were, how they got into the arena, how they gallantly jumped out of the way.

The evening consisted of..you guessed it..more sangria..and I'm pretty sure a tequila shot in there somewhere too..before heading back into Pamplona to see the fireworks. We squished our way into the grassy arena to get prime position - I love fireworks, have I mentioned that before? I'm such a little pyro. The fireworks were lovely (and seemingly endless, every time we thought it was the finale, another round would come) before a final two little spluttering fireworks signalled the end. We returned to our campsite and I prepared for what was going to be a terrifying day ahead.

To be continued.

In the stadium before it all starts - filling with spectators

The bulls running through! It's not good for people to reach the
arena before the bulls, hence not many people in there.

Heaps of runners in the arena before...

...they let loose a little bull

Steer about to hit someone, with the big pasture bull behind

Evening fireworks :)