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Pamplona - Our Barca Bulls tour 2009

We landed in Barcelona and the temperature was 32 degrees, so we loved Spain instantly!

We enjoyed the beaches and soaked up as much sun as we could get. The Siestas and the food were just another luxury we indulged in! We tried heaps of different tapas through the week such as croquettes; gazpacho & potato tortilla and they were all fantastic.

We made our way to the hostel and it was stinking hot carrying our backpacks so I was very relieved to dump our bags and go straight up to the rooftop bar for a drink. Our tour leader Rachel was lovely and friendly and seemed like a lot of fun.

The hostel was in such a great location pretty much the centre of Barcelona so we didn’t have to walk far to find some nice restaurants and bars for lunch. That night we went out to an Irish bar and had 2-4-1 one cocktails and met the rest of our tour group. Everyone seemed crazy and up for such a good time.

Most people spent the next day exploring Barcelona but as Craig and I had been there for a week before we just had a chilled out day and went for a walk down the famous La Ramblas. In the evening we went to a few pubs for pre-drinks and then we went to the magic fountain which was incredible!

It was a big round fountain at the top of a massive hill and it had loud music playing all around and coloured lights shining up through the water jets. I can't really explain it very well but I guess it would be kind of like a smaller scale of the fountains at Las Vegas, from what I’ve seen on the movies.

Later we went to a glamorous nightclub called Catwalk. It was quite a big night with two levels and had dance music on the ground and RNB on the top level it was awesome! We didn't get to the club until about 12:30-1am-ish (cause that’s when the party starts in Spain) and at the start the club was pretty empty, which was so bizarre but by about 2am it was jam packed with loads of people, we stayed until 4am and called it a night.

Next morning bright and early we checked out and set off for Pamplona. We arrived at the campsite where hundreds of tents were waiting for us. The Fanatics had about 1000 people at the campsite so it was a massive tent city! The challenge was finding your tent after a few sangria's.

The first night we arrived we went into town and were taken on a walk through the Bull Run course and our guide Tregga’s told us a few horror stories about the gruesome injuries and deaths over the past years. After this, I had no intention to run with the bulls at all! But Craig was still keen.

The first night at the campsite was the opening night fluro party and it was wild! Everyone was dressed up head to toe in the brightest outfits. One dude even wore a fluro green mankini!!! It was hilarious. The Fanatics had a stage with a live band so in the afternoon everyone was sitting on the grass and relaxing with a bottle of Sangria and after the sun went down the DJ pumped up the tunes and everyone started dancing.

The next day we went to San Sebastian for a day trip, which is a beautiful beach town and boasts the most amounts of pubs & bars per sqm! Every second door we passed was another bar. San Sebastian also had the best tapas in Spain too; we had lots of lovely seafood and croquettes! I'd really like to go back here again if I get a chance, as it was a really nice relaxing place.

6th July was the Opening Ceremony for the San Fermin Fiesta so everyone was dressed head to toe in white clothes, and we all had a red scarf tied around our wrist. We got into town early in the morning, all loaded with bottles of champagne and litres of Sangria. We made our way to the City Hall Town Square. (To give you an idea of how big this space was I've attached a photo of it quite empty).

The atmosphere when we got there was still quite busy but we could still move around easily. As the time passed more and more people flooded in and filled up every last crack of space in the town square. It was a massive big mosh pit and the crowd was quite rowdy so if everyone started moving one way, you just had to go with the flow otherwise you could fall over and get hurt quite badly.

It was a really good crowd & very friendly so we all had lots of fun! Everyone was spraying champagne and throwing Sangria at anyone and everyone who passed through. It was the biggest Sangria fight ever so by the end of the day we were covered from head to toe in Sangria and our beautiful white clothes were stained with red wine!! Even the locals were throwing buckets of water and sangria from their balconies.

We were standing in the square until midday when 3 rockets were fired to signal the official start of the San Fermin Fiesta and that was the moment that everyone held their red scarf above their heads (see photo attached). It was a fantastic first day to the fiesta and such an amazing experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone!

The next day (7th July) was the first Bull Run; our wake-up call was at about 4:30am as we had to get into town early for those people that wanted to run. We decided to head to the arena to watch the action from there. In the arena they had big screens showing us all the action on the streets which just looked crazy! Once the Bull Run started we watched the entire run on the screen and then saw all the people flooding into the arena trying to avoid the bulls.

The length of the run is about 800 metres and sections of the course are lined with a double fence for the first aiders and also as a way out for runners if they need. The entire arena was lined with first aiders as well, so it’s pretty unreal.

The first rocket is fired at 8am to signal the bulls are let out into the street. A second rocket goes off to let everyone know that all the bulls are now in the street. A third rocket goes off to let everyone know that all the bulls have arrived inside the ring and a fourth and final rocket is sent off when all the bulls have been safely led into their pens. Between that first rocket and final rocket only took about 3 minutes - but what a manic couple of minutes it was!

Then once all the people have made it into the arena they let out steers (3 year old bulls) which as we were told are "hypo bulls" they weigh about 400kg and they go mental and run around into the ring collecting anyone in their way. I've attached a few photos from a few of the big hits in the ring.

Craig was crazy enough to run with the bulls on the second day. He said it was such an adrenalin rush and he came within meters of the bulls. I was so nervous before the run and felt sick to my stomach but was so relieved to see him at the end of the run! Here's Craig's story...

I ran the second day and it was amazing and unlike anything I have ever done before. The day started with a 4:30am wake up call to jump on the bus and get into town for a bite to eat (not that I was hungry as I was too nervous). We hit the track at 6:30am and waited... and waited.... and waited.... it was the longest 80 minutes of my life.

Police blocked half the track off until 7:50am when they finally let us through to pick our starting spot along the track.

By this stage I was so nervous and wondering what the heck I was doing and suddenly the first rocket went off and the bulls were on their way. I started running and waited about 300m from the ring.

The streets were packed and you could tell when the bulls were coming as you could hear them and see people sprinting. As the first few bulls went past I took off and tried to make it to the ring. I got about 200m from the ring and had to pull over as more bulls were coming, bare in mind the track was only 6-8 metres wide with hundreds of people trying to get out of the bulls way.

The bulls thundered past within meters from me, and then everyone around me started sprinting (which was a dangerous part, because if you fell over you were bound to be trampled). I finally made it into the ring and watched the last few bulls enter the ring. I jumped over the barrier and watched the steers run a muck. The whole morning was an experience I will never forget. My adrenalin was pumping the entire day!

Pamplona is definitely the highlight of my travels so far and I would recommend it to anyone!
Fri 02/04/2010 Karen Inkster 197 views

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