San Fermin Festival - Running of the Bulls
One of the craziest things you can ever do, is feel the need to run with six 800 tonne bulls through the narrow cobble stone streets of Pamplona in Spain. Over the years it has become tradition for travelling Aussies to join in on the fun and festivities of the annual San Fermin Festival. And I thought us Aussies could throw a good party!
For one whole week, the town of Pamplona comes alive with music, dancing, parties and people running around in a sea of red and white trying to avoid having sangria (and then flour) poured all over them from an overhead balcony.
If you are after a slow, quite, relaxing and tranquil holiday, then Pamplona in July isn't the place for you!
We had been travelling throughout Europe in a campervan for 8 months when Pamplona was one of our final things to experience. When we arrived at the one and only campsite just outside of the city on the opening day of the festival, we were welcomed by familiar Aussie accents, thousands in fact and there wasn't a spare piece of grass to pitch a tent in the entire grounds. It was overflowing with electricity and energy. Music was pumping, the crowd was dancing and you could easily have been mistaken for being at a festival somewhere in Australia. It was great! We then headed into town to get into the spirit of things. We also realised quite quickly that we looked completely out of place as we weren't wearing the traditional red and white colours. Didn't take us long to find somewhere to buy suitable clothing though, every second shop had only red and white items to choose from. And very reasonably priced!
As the first Encierro was to be run at 8 o'clock the next morning, the boys decided they should familiarise themselves with the 800 metre course. They say that if you're crazy enough to run with the bulls through the confined streets, you're better to pick a short section of the course to run with them as you will never be able to run with them the whole way. The bulls can run at a pace of 65-75 km p/hour which is certainly not slow!
The first stretch has always been considered the most dangerous because on this initial stage the bulls burst out of their pen full of energy and are on top of the runners in an instant. To be more exact, it´s the third part of this stretch which is the really dngerous part. There is no protective fence on this part which leads into the small square in front of the Town Hall and so, there is no place you can duck into out of the way of the rampaging bulls. There is also a stretch which is called Dead Man's Corner and this could be exactly that. It is a sharp 90 degree right hand bend that you do not want to be standing on the wrong side of when the bulls get there. Every morning before the fireworks go off at 8 o'clock signally the start of Encierro, they water down the streets leaving the cobblestones very slippery and of course when the bulls come into that corner, they have no way of slowing down. This results in them sliding into the wall and if you are silly enough to be standing on that side of the bend, then I'm afraid that's why it got it's name of Dead Man's Corner!
The run finishes with the bulls and people running through the 3 metre wide corridor and ends up in the bull ring - Plaza del torro which is bursting at the seams with spectators not game enough to participate in the adrenalin filled event. Mind you, even as a spectator, there is plenty of adrenalin running through your body, particularly if you have family members running in the event! Of course if you loose your balance in the corridor coming into the bull ring, then you risk being trodden on by not only other people scrambling for their lives but also the six 800 tonne bulls and the four 1000 tonne steers that run with the bulls to keep them going in the right direction....ouch!
And just when you think that all is over and that is crazy enough, at the end of the run with thousands of people running around the bull ring, they release bull after bull to chase the mad participants around!
It's absolutely unreal, something you will NEVER see in Australia and really is a "must do" something to experience !
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