09.07.2007 36 °C
Coming in after Rio and Oktoberfest; the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain, is the world's third biggest festival, and after my Pamplona experience over the past sleepless 36 hours, I can understand why. Not knowing what to expect we boarded the train in Biarritz and caught the train to San Sebastian at 8am on Saturday morning, we were soon to learn that spotting the tourists in Pamplona is an easy thing to do. They are the only ones not dressed in red and white, bottle of Sangria in hand.
As we jumped off the bus in Pamplona and looked around at the hundreds of thousands of people wearing the wine stained outfits, we made a quick dash to the market and got ourselves decked out for a handsom 15 euro. As you slip into the white cotton pants, pull on the white t-shirt, tie the red pamplona belt round your waist, place the red headband around your head and mix up your first vodka red bull, it hits you that you are now ready.
Ready for 24 hours, or if be it, 7 days, of running round the streets of Old town Pamplona, jumping up and down like crazy singing "Ole!...Ole! Ole! Ole!", filling your mouth with Sangria and spraying it on the nearest white outfit, slurring your best Spanish at passers by, and of course, making your way to the arena at 5am to get a seat for....the bulls!Everywhere you turn people are partying, drummers and instruments of all sorts roam the streets followed by thousands jumping up and down like crazy. Nationalities mean nothing here, and for 7 days everyone becomes best mates, you become a member of the 'red and white people', whose sole purpose is to FIESTA;
And fiesta you do, day and night;
I had been told to never under estimate the Spanish girls ability to party, and whilst this is true, the first Mexican girls I have ever met seemed to go that one step further. Sweet latin dancing in the old town square, running round spraying sangria in all directions and a smile that just says 'I am stoked'; I had found my crew.
We danced the streets with the Spaniards, filling our stomach's with Tapas in an attempt to counteract the effects of the warm 2 euro Sangria, and took the occasional break to catch our breath. The Spanish call this break 'siesta', and at Pamplona, it can occur anytime, anywhere;
There are a lot of things that make the fiesta at Pamplona so incredible. One is its size, the party takes up the whole old town and swarms of people roam through the streets following the drums and cheers, singing Spanish festival songs that I had translated as;
"We have come to party and drink, and drink and party we will." As an Australian with extremely poor Spanish you just sing as loud making sounds that sound similar and dependent on the state of people around you, it usually works;
The second is where the party takes place, there are few police and people climb the surrounding buildings, megaphones in hand hyping up the crowd. The energy that flows through these small Spanish streets is something that has to be experienced;
Usually around 3am your legs begin to tire from the constant jumping, your on the verge of loosing your voice from all the 'Ole' chants and your covered in Sangria from head to toe, a nice warm bed begins to sound appealing;
But just the thought that in 4 hours time, through the same streets that you are currently partying, 15 or so bulls will be charging on a path of destruction through a crowd of red and white; gives you the motivation to keep going for the next 5 hours. It was around that moment that the decision had to be made, to run or not to run? Three days earlier I was certain that I would, but since the Australian got speared in the arse; and my told lack of both sleep and soberness I had started to contemplate giving it a miss this year. We had met a lot of locals and they to advised both for their safety and my own to just get down to the arena and prepare to watch the event chanting with the thousands of Spaniards who fill the arena. Every year someone gets killed and it's usually because tourists who have no idea what they are doing fall over, then everyone ends up tripping over the fallen tourists. It's for this reason the locals are frustrated with the amount of tourists attempting the run.
We had heard that it was best to get to the Arena as early as possible, so at 5am Sophia and I were lead by some random Spaniard through the streets to the ticketing booth. It wasn't opening for another hour but there were already hundreds of people beginning to line up. By this stage we were so tired that we just sat down towards the front of one of the lines, put our head in our hands and fell asleep until an 'Ole' chant not to far away sprung us back into action.
At 6am we were one of the first into the arena. Over the next two hours the arena began to fill until it was just a red and white blur.
Then, after a gunshot and an intense flow of red and white into the arena, came the bulls!..
An amazing 36 hours! All I have left to say is, YOU HAVE TO GO!
Garrett in Pamplona; Spain.