I ran with the bulls of Pamplona

Trip Start May 07, 2006
Trip End Nov 10, 2006

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

so the plan was to not to stay out late (oops), not get drunk (oops), and get a decent nights sleep (oops, but this one was out of my control). Every night Pamplona puts on a fireworks show, it was by far the best fire works show I have ever seen in my life. I have never even seem some of these crazy fireworks they were setting off and they were basically over our head, it was awesome.

The party in Pamplona at night is insane. Everyone is drunk, everyone is wearing white with red scarves (whether or not yours was covered in wine was not your choice, more on this later) and everyone is having a blast. You basically wander the maze of streets with drinks in hand. There are tons of street bands (like small marching bands, 10-15 people big with drums and horns) that wander through the streets with maybe 100 drunk people following dancing up and down to the awesome beats. Everyone is covered in red wine because you are dancing and jumping up and down with your wine following these bands and there really is no controlling where you or your neighbor's wine is going. I will have to put up some videos (not sure how I will be able to do this yet) because its hard to describe it other than masses of drunk people filling the street's width and length, jumping up and down with wine and singing. Did I forget to mention that this happens all night long? What a great town.

Joel, Jess, Rob and I get to bed (we also picked up another american earlier in the evening, Rob). And by bed, I mean we each found a piece of cardboard (mine was 2ft by 2ft) and laid down on it in the park. Wasn't so cold at first (we were drunk), but then it got cold. The plan was to get up at 6:30, but we were all so cold and shivering at 6:00, so we just got up then.

So today is the day. We got 4 hours of shivering cold sleep, my hangover hadn't kicked in yet, so I was feeling good. To cut the story short, I found myself in the same spot as the day earlier, in the race area with adrenaline pumping.

5 minutes too, we are jumping up and down, everyone starts clapping and chanting. I can feel my heart pounding, its hard and fast. First rocket goes off and catches us off guard, first one is out of the pen. 10 seconds later the 2nd rocket goes off. We start a slow jog with everyone around. Runners are looking back to see what is happening, so far nothing. I don't know how to describe it other than peoples faces started to look more and more worried and they started to pick up their pace. You don't have to look back to know whats going on, you can see everyone elses reaction and hear the noise (its actually dangerous to look back because you will most likely fall and stumble and then there is no getting up because everyone tramples on top of you).

At one point I start to just take off, ducking around people and jumping over others. I see Joel stumble and I yank him up as I run by. I can tell by every ones reaction and the clanking noise that the bulls are close. At this point, you are where you are and everyone just pushes everyone towards the street wall. I look left and I see the bulls rush pass. They are huge. Everything is such a blur at this point. How many bulls passed? Was it all of them? It happens so damn fast. I start booking it to the arena with everyone else (it was only another 100meters or so) looking back the entire time.

As I run through the tunnel that leads into the arena, you can see the other runners inside and the crowd cheering everyone as they run in. What an awesome feeling. As I get in, I just barely see the bulls run into their storage pen and the doors close behind them... the 3rd rocket goes off.

Once in the arena, the big bulls have been cleared to their storage pen for their bull fight later on in the day. The runners hang out for about 5 minutes, until they set loose some smaller bulls for the crowds entertainment. Basically there are 5 smaller bulls that have their horns padded. The let loose these bulls one at a time for about 10 minutes each or so. So basically now all the runners are in the arena with one bull running around. The runners try to grab the tail or slap its ass while the bull charges people down and tosses them around. It was absolutely nuts. I have tons of video of this, it was probably the most fun part. Its kind of safe, you see these guys get completely tossed, pinned down and run over and they walk away just fine. It can be quite dangerous however, earlier in the week an american actually got paralyzed from one of these bulls in the arena.

After about 10 minutes, they take the bull off and a new one comes on. When a new one comes on it charges out of this gate. Now comes the crazy part... people get down and crouch in front of this gate occupying the whole space and the bull charges at them and then leaps over them (at once twice the bull decided it didn't want to jump and charged right over the people). Well Joel had done it the day before and said it was great, so I decided that I needed to do this as well. So joel and I got in the front line (when we did it, I help the camera in video mode, so you can see what happens) and had the bull jump about two people over to our left, it was awesome. I also have some good video of what it looks like from the side view with some other bulls.

Anyways, after all the craziness, we retreated to the town of San Sabastian on the coast to chill out on the beach. It was a much needed relaxation day after all the partying, little sleep and the running.

I was supposed to head back to Switzerland to meet up with Julian and get ready for my next leg (Scandinavia), but everyone convinced me to head back to Pamplona the next day for the last day of the festival and some serious partying. After a day of relaxing on the beach I was ready to go back to the craziness.
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Erin on

Gosh, it sounds like you all had a great time! YEAH SAN FERMIN! I suggest, next time, renting a balcony space to watch the bull run from, if you're not interested in actually runny again :) http://www.pamplonabalconies.com

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