Flight Centre's Shane Davis travels to Spain to experience the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. Shane lives to tell his tale even after a close encounter with a bull. Shane, tell us about your adventure.
We met the coach just down from Stamford Brook in London and started the long journey through France down to Spain.
We arrived at Estella camping ground, where the Top Deck crew had set up camp for us already. Soon after arriving, we went into town for an orientation about the San Fermin Festival. After the short drive to the city, the driver dropped the forty of us off and the tour leader started the city tour. We started the tour on the north side of town where the locals were just setting up the food and market stalls. They sold anything, from the standard white pants and shirt with a red scarf to the best seafood paella I have ever tasted. Freshly made sangria was also available.
As we walked down the cobbled streets we passed a number of beautiful old buildings and churches. Pamplona has a family feel about it. Many families were dining on the street outside their homes. The children of Pamplona also took part in a mini bull run. They ran with their rolled up newspapers in hand and were chased by giant bulls made from wheelbarrows. It looked like a bit of fun before the real carnage. After our orientation we headed back to the campsite for a good sleep before the opening ceremony the next day.
We got up nice and early and had a hearty breakfast made for us by the Top Deck ground crew. We started the preparations for the massive party that would unravel in the mayor's square. When we turned up, there was a sea of people wearing white with a red scarf. As we got closer to the mayor's square, the sound got louder and louder. Finally, about two blocks away, it was a shoulder to shoulder mosh pit where everyone was partying and enjoying themselves. As the clock hit 12 we heard a rocket go off. The crowd erupted and everyone raised their red scarves and waited for the cannon to sound. At the sound, we all tied our scarves around our necks and that was where they would stay until the closing ceremony. Where ever you looked there were thousands of people partying.
After an afternoon of fun we headed back to Estella camp site where the party continued. There was a DJ booth set up until the early hours of the morning and we met people from other tour providers and got prepared for the run the next day.
Feeling a little weary after a massive day, we woke up and couldn't even think about eating because our nerves were getting the better of us. We made our way into the city with minimal chatter as we tried to muster as much courage as possible. The Bull Run starts to fill up as early as 6am, so we got there nice and early and found a good spot to start. The Bull Run is just short of 900m and the start of the run is slightly uphill. A good starting point is about 150m in front of the corral. There were a lot of nerves and many Spanish men paying their respects to Saint Fermin. We waited for well over an hour.
Boom! That was the first of four rockets that are set off to signal the start of the run and the release of the first lot of bulls. While we waited until we could see the bulls, a sea of people flowed past us. The adrenaline was pumping as we saw the first bull bobbing up the street. There was terror on everyone's face as we turned tail and sprinted as fast as we could.
Just as we got past the mayor's square we heard the second set of rockets go off, signalling the release of the second lot of bulls. Knowing this, we tried to push a bit faster but there were many obstacles. There were people in doorways, people hiding between the fence posts, people hanging off balconies and all over the ground. As we turned ‘dead man's corner' we started to hear the bulls skidding out and smashing into the barriers of the right angle turn. My heart nearly exploded as I looked behind me and there they were! At that moment the guy in front of me fell and I tripped over him. As I scrambled to my feet I brushed the side of a bull. As we were all trying to keep away from the bulls we hit them with rolled up newspapers to try and deter them. They finally got past us and there was only one thing to do and that was to get into the arena before the second herd came through.
The entrance to the arena forced the crowd into a bottleneck. There was much more carnage with bodies everywhere, trampled by people and bulls. It was like hurdles until we finally made it through the gate and made a beeline for the sides of the arena. We turned around and saw the second herd run through the middle of the arena as the last two rockets that signal the end of the run were released. We were safe.
Looking for more information about travelling to Spain or Pamplona for the adventure of a life time? Contact [email]text=Shane Davis[/email], a Travel Manager with Flight Centre based in Townsville in Queensland who can be contacted at 1300 169 557 or by [email]text=email[/email].