Friday, 3 August 2012

San Sebastian-Opening Bull Run

Hey guys,

We woke up very early at 3am on the day of the opening run to head into Pamplona at 3.45am. I was feeling a thousand times fresher than the previous day and was so excited to see the opening run which I had heard so much about. On the way into Pamplona Cooper again got on the microphone and told us he would be giving us a run down on the days proceedings just before we were to arrive in Pamplona. After hearing this lots of people went to sleep however some of the boys who were running were pumped and were talking about running with the bulls later that morning.

As we arrived into Pamplona Cooper got back onto the microphone and started to explain what happens on the opening day of the bull run. He explained that he had run twice before and it is still the scariest thing he had ever done in his life and running with the bulls made sky diving and bungee jumping seem like a walk in the park. He warned us of the seriousness of this event and that no matter how fit or prepared you are there was still a chance you might be killed. He told us to watch the run on the first day to get an idea of what we would be facing and told us that mainly locals run on day one.  He told us that it didn't matter if you were a girl or a boy that there was a chance locals would spit and hit you and maybe even push you under a bull to save their own lives. He warned us not to touch the bulls as this was a sign of disrespect and the locals and police may bash into you in front of crowds of people to punish you. He also suggested for those that did want to run on the first day against his requests that most people usually start from 'dead mans corner' which was an area of the track where most bulls slam into the corner as they can not see it approaching. He told us that no matter where you stand you are not safe and it is purely the luck of the day whether or not you make it through. He urged the runners to start f-ing running as soon as they saw the bulls approaching as try to get into the arena as quickly as possible. He told us stories of people who had run for 10 years or more annually getting killed and warned us that this run was not to be sugar coated or taken lightly.

As we approached the huge bus shelter in Pamplona we were shocked at the state of the area and just as Cooper had told us the previous day, it looked nothing like it did on the first day. It seriously looked like a bomb disaster, there were people everywhere, some were asleep, some were still partying and some were so out of it they didn't know where they were. Rubbish and people covered the grassed areas and the smell of vomit and urine was disgusting as we approached the main square. As we walked along Connie, Lorraine and I covered out faces to avoid the smells that were evaporating from the ground. As we got closer there were thousands of people still in red and white partying from the night before and I've never seen so much rubbish and glass everywhere in all my life. There were street sweepers and rubbish trucks attempting to clean the main squares and the streets and there were wooden barricades being put up to protect shopfronts as we walked along with Cooper.

As we followed Cooper along the bull track he showed us where the bulls would be released from and parts of the track he suggested running from. As he spoke about the race he was so serious and I had shivers from the reality of how dangerous this actually was. The ground was so wet and people were still being moved out of the streets as we walked along the track. It was hard to walk through on our way to the bull ring as there were thousands of people either waiting for the run to start of still drinking in the streets. He told the people that wanted to run that they had to stay in the main square and be in there by 6.30am. The rest of us followed him to buy tickets for 6 Euro to watch the run from in the bull ring arena which he recommended as you could watch the run from start to finish on the big screens and see the runners and the bulls as they enter. 

Here are some of the facts of the bull run which Cooper told us about-
Running Of The Bulls:
The running of the bulls  involves hundreds of people running in front of six bulls and another six steers down an 825m stretch of narrow streets of a section of the old town of Pamplona. The run ends in the Pamplona's bullring taking around 3 minutes where the bulls would be held until the afternoons bullfight when they would be killed.

The event begins at 8 a.m. when a first firecracker is lit to announce the release of the bulls from the gates.  Runners gather earlier at the beginning of the itinerary to ask for the protection of the Saint by singing a chant three times before a small statue of San Fermin which has been placed in a raised niche in a wall. A second cracker signals that the last bull has left the corral. There are six fighting bulls accompanied by six oxes (often white and brown coloured) that guide them to the "plaza" and followed by three more not fighting oxes. There are also some shepherds guiding the bulls, wearing green T-shirts and holding long poles. Once all of the bulls have entered the arena, a third rocket is released while a fourth firecracker indicates that the bulls are in their bullpens and the run has concluded. After the end of the run young bulls with wrapped horns are released in the bullring and toss the participants, to the amusement of the crowd.

We entered the bull ring arena really early but it was good as we got to choose great seats which were close to the front. As we sat and waited I loved people watching and looking around at the Spanish locals as they sang and chatted with excitement about the first bull run. While I was looking around I spotted Chloe sitting not far from where I was with the girls and I was so excited to see her as I was going to be travelling with her after Pamplona :) We chatted for ages while we waited and we both talked about where we had been and gossip from our travels around Europe so far. She was staying in Pamplona at the camping ground which where alot closer and she didn't have to wake up as early as I did to arrive each morning which was lucky for her.

I had chills as we listened to the cheers, chants and participated in Mexican waves that were going around the stadium. I was so happy to be apart of this festival but was nervous at the same time as they showed us 600kg bulls on the big screen which would be running on the opening day. They all had names and weights shown underneath the pictures of them behind the gates they were about to be released from. There were loads of people smoking pot as we listened to a Spanish band play traditional songs and waited for the run to begin. They showed the mayor and officials on the big screen as well as the thousands of people who were about to take place in the run. All of the participants looked so nervous and pumped up!They were jumping around and were held in the one area by Spanish police who had their arms linked to prevent people from moving forward.

As we watched the first firecracker go off and watched in anticipation and excitement as the bulls were about to be released. Some people were already in the stadium before this happened and where getting rubbish and food thrown at them for being cowards. I remember the hairs standing on my arm as we saw they bulls charge out of the gates and into the swarms of people running, they were massive and so fast!Before we knew it the bulls and thousands of people were swarming into the bull ring arena. The bulls exit through the opposite side they enter along with the brave men that make sure they stay on track. 

After all of the bulls had left the arena there was a massive cheer and all of the runners celebrated as they had just participated in one of the biggest adrenaline rushes in the world. We waited and watched until they released the first of the smaller bulls (which wasn't small at all, it was still over 300kgs). As the  de-horned bulls where released the crowd went crazy and the people still down in the bull ring had the look of fear on their faces as the bulls ran at them, knocked them over and charged at them. Some of the men in the arena were provoking the smaller bulls to attempt to get horned which was crazy. Men were getting carried out and assisted by paramedics on the sides of the arena and it was fantastic to watch but I was so glad I wasn't in there!I saw a man grab onto one of the bulls tail and horns and was then beat by the locals in the ring and dragged out into the crowd of police waiting for him. I saw Steven in the ring and Luke Duncan one of Holly's best friends who looked shocked and could hardly speak after his run. There were six small bulls released one at a time before and each would exit before another bull would come out to charge at the runners. After all of the bulls had been released we walked back to our meeting point to head back into San Sebastian. This was a day and an experience I will never forget!

When we arrived back in San Seb Lorriane, Connie and I went and had some lunch at a restaurant where once again the waiter could not speak English and we attempted to learn some new Spanish words from him. When we returned to our room we were so tired so we layed around on the beds and talked about our families and lives back home to get to know each other better which was nice and made us alot closer I think. 

That night we met up with the rest of the Busabout tour group to go on a pintxos tour around San Sebastian. A really enthusiastic tour guide named Irini (not sure on the spelling) took us around to some of the best pintxos bars and we got to sample lots of different types she recommended. She taught us some Spanish etiquette as we hopped from bar to bar snacking on some delicious food. I tried lots of different types including: tuna filled capsicum, deep fried anchovies and prawns with bacon, meat sticks and my favourite and most famous dish at one of the pintxos bars, the beef cheeks with fried pieces of potato on top! After many types of pintxos and a few glasses of wine Connie, Lorraine and I headed back to the hostel for another early night to watch day two of the bull runs.

Bulls running through the arena after the opening bull run
How wet and gross the track was

Pintxos and wine mmm

Chloe and I after the opening run in Pamplona

Walking out where thousands of people ran through during the bull run

The band (pre run entertainment)

Looked like a bomb had hit Pamplona

Connie and Lorraine

The big screens we watched the run on

Pintxos bar

Connie, Lorraine, Chloe and I watching the opening run

Me in Pamplona for the opening run

Me walking the track before entering the bull ring

The famous beef cheek!

Cooper giving us the run down on what happens during the opening run
Bulls running through the arena after the opening run

Lunch in San Seb when we got home yummo!

People still partying at 5am on our way in to watch the opening run

People in the bull ring after the opening run

I jumped into the ring only after all of the bull runs had finished!lol

People sleeping in the bus shelter

Pinxos bar

Following Cooper through the streets of Pamplona

Street sweepers cleaning the track

Chloe, Me and Connie in Pamplona

Crazy Spanish barman

Loving pintxos

Me and Chloe after the opening run

Me during the pintxos tour
Love The Bull Run Watching Backpacker

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