An amazing experience I’ll never forget.
I had never seen a bull trample someone, which was a good thing, because if I had I wouldn’t of had the guts to show up…
6 a.m. It’s Early Morning— and it’s Cold.
After a short bus ride from our apartment rental my fellow yankees (Alex & Alex) and I are out on the damp cobblestone streets.
Day is about to break and I’m nervous.
The thought: “How big are these bulls?” flashes through my mind.
Big Alex’s suggestion that we dress as locals e.g., white waiter pants,
official Pamplona shirt, and red handkerchief gets reluctantly agreed to.
Ducking into a souvenir shop to get fitted serves as a welcome
distraction before the main event.
Sometime between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. “Wait, What Gate do the Bulls run out of!?!”
Dressing like a local does little to rid me of my butterflies— it only turns them into more energetic Spanish ones.
We notice an intricate system of wooden gates and funnels that work to (initially) control the path of the bulls.
But what happens when they’re out on the open streets?
We won’t have to wait long to find out.
Our novice ignorance only increases our anxiety.
“Wait, which gate do the bulls run out of!?!” Little Alex asks a half-asleep local to no response. A bewildered look is the best he can manage this early in the morning.
More thoughts come into focus.
There’s no deus ex machina, no instruction manual that’s going to fall out of the sky and save us.
In our planning we focused more on where we’d be sleeping & which tapas tasted best, rather than the protocols involved with co-existing with a bunch of angry livestock.
9:15 a.m. “That guy Literally Just got Trampled!”
Anxiety turns to adrenaline as an ominous clip-clap sound in the
distance signals the arrival of our horned guests.
A group of agitated bulls begin to rampage.
Wait, did that guy really just grab one of their tails as it ran past him?
With the appearance of two (even bigger) bulls than the one that first stampeded by, it takes me about three seconds to realize that for me running of the bulls is going to be more like “staying pinned to the wall while bulls run past me.”
This realization gets re-enforced after watching an unfortunate reveler slip, fall, and get trampled on.
As he begins to convulse, I begin to question the sanity of our being here.
Maybe we should have just stayed in Madrid?
11 a.m. “Wanna Watch a Bull Fight?”
Thankfully— even after the releasing of a half dozen or so more bulls onto the streets— no other patrons end up getting seriously injured.
Maybe the one guy who did was a fluke.
At this point though, I’m still not 100% sure of that logic.
What I am sure of is how dumbfounded I am by the courage of the locals to run directly into the path of the oncoming bulls.
Especially as the latter seem more pissed off than ever.
Both the bulls path and ours terminates at an austere bullfighting arena, the Plaza de Toros, for some more bull-on-reveler hi-jinx.
2 p.m. Falling Action… and Sangria.
“Have you ever had a morning like that?” Big Alex asks.
“Never,” Little Alex and I answer in quick unison.
Between laughs Big Alex blurts out: “Let’s get some Sangria.”
A cartoonish bull cut-out on the street welcomes us into a cozy bar.
“Let’s get some Sangria” turns into Sangria, beer, & then daytime drunkenness as we reminisce about all the craziness that just took place. “You know, I’m glad that the blood on my shirt is just a gag,” Big Alex mutters to himself as we nod our heads in agreement.
Have a similar “fish out of the water” travel story? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!
Final Note:The decision to run with the bulls shouldn’t be made lightly. Here’s tips to help you stay safe should you make the trip: https://www.tripsavvy.com/san-fermin-bull-run-tips-1644295