Young, ambitious with few commitments; welcome to our circa 2011.
You know those competitions that you enter hoping for the best but assuming you’ll never win. Well. This one was different.
Carlton Dry ran a campaign around stopping everything to experience great adventures, with one of the prizes being an all inclusive trip to Pamplona to go running with the bulls. To set the whirlwind scene, the competition was entered on a Friday, winner announced on that same day [that was Mr Jones], with flights out on the following Monday.
We arrived in Pamplona to celebrate San Fermin, a week long celebration which has been celebrated by this small Spanish town for centuries. Although it has changed over the years, everyone still gets involved and celebrates this tradition.
In the true whirlwind form of the competition, we spent two full days in Pamplona and three nights.
The first day was a true welcome, with it being the opening of the weeks celebrations. The towns main square, Plaza del Ayuntamiento, involves a colourful get chaotic scene of people.
Everyone is dressed in the traditional dress which is all white with red scarves. Throughout the opening you carry bottles or traditional-style leather pouches, full of Sangria and throw it upon anyone and everyone. Turning everyone’s white clothes into strained and sticky red costumes.
Locals setup tables and feast over traditional lunches with family and friends, while others park up on the grassy knolls to indulge in food and consume Sangria.
At noon, the cobble laneways leading towards the plaza heave with people all fighting for their spot [both on the ground or up in the above balconies] to witness the traditional firing of the Chupinazo rocket.
From day to night, the festivities carry on with the sounds of traditional Spanish music echoing throughout the small bars and restaurants.
The tradition of running with the bulls has changed a lot since its early days. Men used to be the only ones allowed to participate, and no tourists regardless of their sex.
Now, it’s a tradition and destination many people from around the world flock to, to tick off their bucket lists.
It starts early in the morning, with the release of the bulls happening at dawn. Those same crowded gobble streets are even more so crowded but with an air of fear, anticipation and excitement. With the shot of a gun, the game of bull vs man is on.
The end destination is the stadium where the tradition continues. Here the crowds pack into the seats to watch the runners that managed their way in [and unharmed] run around with smaller bulls and partake in the event of lying in front of the corral where the bulls come out of, in hopes their bull has enough hopes to jump over them all.
Then, within an hour, the crowds disperse.
The, now, very controversial Matador x Bull fight events happen late afternoon and are events you require tickets to. While we support and respect the traditions of the town and its people, we didn’t feel the need to attend.
We attempted the run twice, with the second being successful and on our last morning before needing to quite literally, run back to the apartment for our luggage and then off to the airport.
The first attempt had us in a section that the police removed from the run, to reduce total numbers and assist in making the overall event as safe as they could.
If you’re short on time, we suggest you start on the stadium side of “dead man’s corner” to have the best chances of not being removed by the police. Expect to move a lot and be pushed from the original spot you started in, and that’s before the running has even begun.
Something we didn’t know was that there is a strict No cameras rule if you are participating. Again, for safety. So either attach that GoPro to you or leave the camera behind that day.
Tips we were given by a lot of locals was to watch out for other runners and the crowds more so than the bulls. People fall over and trip so you’ll want to avoid joining them. If you do fall though, stay where you are and cover your head with your hands, attempting to roll or crawl to the sides. Trying to get up will likely result in either bulls or people knocking you back down, from behind.
If you would prefer to be a spectator, then you’ll need to get your spot early as well. Or, if you want to see the stadium event, head there first thing – the crowds grow very quickly and space along the somewhat short run is sparse.
Regardless of what part of the celebrations you join in on, remember this is a traditional event celebrated by the people of Pamplona for centuries. Don’t be that person that pushes your own opinions and agendas on to them. Be respectful.