San Fermín 2012 – The Running of the Bulls

San Fermín 2012 – Pamplona, Spain.

The Running of the Bulls

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The trip out to Pamplona for us started on Thursday morning, the 5th of July, from a coach platform at one of the busier stations in Madrid. The five hour bus ride, including a brief stop and bus change over in the small town of Soria, wasn’t unpleasant as it allowed for us to catch up on some much needed sleep. We were still quite jet lagged and hadn’t done ourselves many favours by “taking it easy” after arriving in Madrid. However, I won’t go into that too much here as there is a whole other blog still to come which imparts insight into our many “Rookie Errors”.  This mistake, amongst numerous other topics, will be covered thoroughly.

We arrived in Pamplona in the early afternoon and found a representative from our tour company up above the bus station on the street. Sceptical looks were exchanged between Jazza and me when the British man, who had introduced himself as Sam, said that we were the first people from that particular company that he had seen and that he was starting to “get worried”. And now… so were we. We decided to have a walk around Pamplona first in order to get our bearings and it wasn’t long before we were a little lost. Not a whole lot. Just enough.

Having walked around enough of the city by this stage, we decided not to wait for the later buses that would shuttle us out to the campsite; Camping Ezcaba (about 15 minutes by coach from the centre of town). We decided to take a taxi instead (around 12 euros between us) but first we would need to purchase the appropriate apparel that would distinguish us as true revellers of San Fermín. Normal attire is all white and red clothing, that is; long white pants, white shirt, preferably white shoes, red sash for around the waist and a red kerchief which is to be worn around the neck for the duration of the festival (but only AFTER 12:00 pm when the opening ceremony officially kicks off). Until then, it’s acceptable to wear the kerchief around your left wrist. Having purchased all of the necessities for no more than 20 euros each and, with the help of some cheeky Spanish from Jazza,  we rode in style out to the campgrounds in the best taxi in all Pamplona (so the driver told us) – a Jaguar.

Upon arrival, it became fairly obvious what we had stumbled into. Camping Ezcaba, AKA Little Australia, was 90% full of Australians – three quarters of them Bogans. I don’t want to spoil too much here either as there will be much more to hear about in the up-and-coming blog entitled “Bogans Abroad”. For now, suffice it to say that there were far too many dudes listening to David Guetta and having push-up competitions.

We found our tents with the help of a volunteer from our tour company “Pillow” and we soon realised that the Pillow campers were highly outnumbered. The campground was a sea of green tents and southern cross tattoos, belonging to the “Fanatics” tour company. Look them up at http://www.thefanatics.com/… have a laugh and never book anything with them EVER. From observation, the people that booked with this company were the loudest, rudest, most bogan, idiotic, drunkest, obnoxious, and most ignorant people in the campsite. In saying that, we met a few Fanatics who we don’t want to lump in the same basket and who were genuinely really good people so ummm if you’re reading this guys… soz lol… try http://www.pillow.co.uk next time.

The first day of the festival begins on the 6th of July at 12:00 pm and involves a lot of pushing, shoving, massive crowds and sangria. There isn’t a bull run on this day; the first being on the 7th at 8:00 am. At about 11:00 am on the day of the opening ceremony, Jazza, Ben, Cassie and I all purchased appropriate amounts of sangria and made our way to the main square where the town hall is. For an hour, we waited and watched as the crowds grew, the tension mounted and people became more and more restless. Apart from showering each other with gallons and gallons of sangria, the crowd also beg to be moistened (ha) by the fortunate onlookers who had managed to secure apartments with balconies which overlooked the square. They would beg for sangria and water to be poured and, when the decibels from the screams reached the right level, the pseudo-gods would oblige, showering the crowds with buckets of mystery fluids.

We spoke afterwards and we all agreed that even our girlfriends weren’t as tight as the crowd at the opening ceremony of the San Fermín Festival in Pamplona. Cassie swears, and I believe her, that at one point her feet weren’t even touching the ground and she was being held up solely by the massive amounts of pressure that the crowds were creating. After the numbers had dissipated, we found a bar full of locals and drunk and danced with an old man who looked like he was by himself. Not for long! He didn’t speak a word of english but he taught us many dance moves that I hope to never forget.

The next day was the first running of the bulls and the one that we didn’t want to miss so we tried to get to bed relatively early. We had to be up at 5:00 am in order to get into town and get a spot so that we wouldn’t be kicked out. As it turns out, even with this early mark, we were still only metres away from being shafted out of the course by the police. Instead of undertaking the arduous task of trying to describe the sheer adrenaline and fear that we felt whilst taking part in this ridiculous yet amazing tradition, we felt it more appropriate to compile a short film with the footage taken from the GoPro HD Hero2 cameras that both Jazza and Ben had strapped to their chests during the run. The footage is over two separate but not consecutive days and if it makes your heart beat even a hundredth of the speed of ours on the day, then we can say that it is a success.

Please enjoy and, as always, Viva San Fermín.

One week and counting and a whole lot to learn

Dearest followers,

I had a slight epiphany today and I thought it fitting to share just as a general reminder for all. If you’ve ever planned a big trip such as the one that Jared and I are currently, you will understand that giving the proper amount of love and attention to one’s “to-do list” before departure is part and parcel of the whole gig and highly recommended for maintaining safe levels of sanity. Attending to mine thoughtfully today,  I found myself waiting patiently in line at the GoVia toll office with the intention of returning my electronic tag. I was surprised to find the small reception space filled with approximately 12 to 15 people (an unusual amount for that time of day at that particular office). As I stood in the stagnant line, thinking of nothing in particular, I felt that my annoyance levels were climbing steadily. I started to get fidgety, checking the time on my phone every couple of minutes, starting to find it “unbelievable” that there weren’t more staff on and thinking “what could be taking so long?” I had a lunch to attend.

As I tried to calm and distract myself, I caught the conversation of the overly opinionated elderly woman in front of me. She was speaking to another woman whom she had only just met in the line, and as I listened idly to her rant to this complete stranger about anything from the price of petrol to how many tradesman there are on the roads today (and with such oversized utility vehicles), I started to relax slightly.

“Next please”.

The elderly woman approached the assistant with a sense of purpose and before the poor employee could even begin to ask how she could be of assistance, it was on.

“…I would have called but I have tried and tried and tried and YOU would have to have one of the most appalling answering services that I have EVER come across. WORSE than the banks…”

I relaxed some more.

“…not only could I not sort this out over the phone, my husband and I have had to waste our fuel to come over here to get this all sorted…”

I looked sideways at the girl next to me as we tried, unsuccessfully, to stifle a laugh.

On she went and, by the time the elderly woman had run out of steam, I had completely forgotten about the annoyance that I had felt in the line 15 minutes ago. It was less to do with the fact that I now had something else to focus on and more about the resemblances that I witnessed between the attitudes of the woman and my own. Granted, my gripes were in the form of a relatively harmless inner monologue and I wasn’t about to take out my own impatience on the staff of GoVia. But it was infectious! In no less than 10 minutes and without saying a word, I had worked myself up over an unavoidable situation because people had dared to come to the reception at the same time that I had wanted to. I wanted immediate assistance, I didn’t get it, it made me angry and it took witnessing an absolute shit of a woman directing her trivial frustrations onto an undeserving worker to snap some sense into me.

Here I was with no job to go to, my only deadline; a lunch date with friends that could be pushed back if need be. And here she was; far beyond working age (yes, I know I’m generalising) and probably with nothing better to do than to come down to that office and ruffle some feathers. Some parts of her rant even sounded rehearsed! It led me to promise myself today that I would endeavour not to end up like that woman and would try harder to show patience in general, but mainly towards situations that are beyond my control. My guess is that I will be encountering such situations far more frequently as complications arise throughout my travels and are made no less easier by ever present language barriers.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that we have all been guilty of getting carried away with a false sense of importance at some point. Or maybe we’ve thought that our time was more valuable than that of someone elses. Odds are, it wasn’t.

Peace,

Rob