Tuesday, July 12, 2011

San Fermin; Ruuuuuuuuuuun!

After barely making my train out of Barcelona, enjoyed a nice ride up through the mountains to San Sebastian, a very picturesque little town on the Spanish coast. Had a couple hours to kill but annoyingly couldn’t find anywhere to store my luggage. Still managed to do a fair bit of exploring along the river and through the winding streets of the old town, but it mostly consisted of walk 3 blocks, take bags off, wait to regain feeling in shoulders, take photo of pretty building, put bags back on and repeat. Eventually met up with a big group of fellow travellers and clambered aboard the shakiest minivan ever (I’m not kidding, he had to stop on a hill at one point and we all had to get off the bus as the brakes wouldn’t hold).
Arrived at our campsite above a tiny town I plan to go explore later today. The site is up on the top of a cliff overlooking mountains, the town and a beach.... which was the first stop after dumping our bags in the tents.  Had a great swim and then trekked back up the hill for dinner and general revelry. Had a few sangrias and chatted with the other campers, most getting tips for the run in the morning. Everyone clearly had plans of continuing the party throughout the night, but I decided to call it a night after the third guy in a row climbed on top of a van to treat us all to a naked ukulele solo.
Woken up at 4am for breakfast and we all got kitted out in our red and whites and jumped on the bus to Pamplona. Once there the runners headed off to find a good starting spot while the rest of us managed to get great seats 3 rows back from the arena where the run finishes. Had a long wait but were kept somewhat entertained by a marching band and the always present possibility of a Barcelona vs Madrid soccer riot breaking out amongst the crowd.
Finally we saw the firework go up and a few minutes later the first of the runners entered the arena (to be soundly booed by the crowd, apparently arriving before the bulls is not cool). The rest of the crowd and several bulls arrived shortly after and they closed off the arena to any other runner (though half the seated crowd jumped over the barricades and joined in). The next 20 minutes consisted of one bull at a time being let into the arena for the crowd to avoid, or not depending on their preference.
Saw some pretty impressive collisions but the greatest risk seemed to come from the other participants beating the hell out of anyone who tried to grab the bull by the horns (also not cool apparently), though there’s at least one person who probably wishes they hadn’t worn a backpack in after the last bull spent 5 minutes running around with the bag hanging off one of his horns. There was one major injury sustained by one of the campers in our group who turned up back at the bus a few hours later with a broken arm, but turns out that was less bull related and more fell off a fence related, so not too much carnage all up.
Had a few more hours to spare so followed the sea of white shirts and red bandanas around the old part of town where every available space was littered with revellers from the night before. Other than having to watch out for them, Pamplona is another nice little town with the usual cobblestone streets and winding alleyways. Headed back to the campsite for a siesta as will be joining the 4am wakeup group again tomorrow to get to my next flight. Yay. More pics to come when i get a better internet connection :)
waiting in the arena

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