Sunday, 14 July 2013

Running of the bulls (festival of San Fermin)

Finally have good WiFi.  The post below is for 14 July 2013:

At 6.30 am, the little Spanish lady opened the door and let us into her apartment at number 12 Calle Estafeta.  She ushered us to her balcony overlooking the street, which we'd hired for 115 euros each.  About 20 minutes later, a young American lady joined us.  Over the next 90 minutes, we waited.  Although on a safe balcony, the adrenalin flowed.

Below, last night's revelling had never ended.  The whole of the old quarter, whose narrow streets extend from three sides of the square, Plaza del Castillo, was an ocean of red and white.  Those actually running with the bulls, as well as visitors, tourists, young and old alike get in the spirit by dressing in white with red scarves.  Jean and I were similarly attired.  

Earlier, on the 40 minute walk from our hostel, we saw that the area was also an ocean of rubbish.  Garbage was scattered left, right, forward and behind.  On the roadsides, in the parks, in the square, trash was everywhere.  Broken glass a common sight.  Underfoot was the squishy feel of spilled beer and sangria.  Slight smell of urine.  Council men with large hoses spraying footpaths.  Bits of rubbish swimming away.  Teams shovelling tons of rubbish into garbage trucks.  The sound of hundreds of bottles dumped inside rubbish trucks and skips.  

To the left, a drunk yells in Spanish and raises his beer to the sky.  To the right, a mob sings a drinking song like it's the national anthem.  A sore head here.  An unconscious body horizontal on the footpath there.  Two mates in deep sleep sitting on chairs back there.  Up ahead, an empty whiskey bottle rolls gently across the road, its owner long gone and his fate unknown.  To the left, surrounded by discarded food packaging and broken glass, a young man and woman kiss passionately for a long time.  The six day festival of San Fermin is like every New Year's Eve party in history combined.  

In the time before the 8 am running of the bulls, runners and revellers roamed past below our balcony, with constant noise.  They shouted up to the balconies which were filling fast with spectators like ourselves.  Shops in the street not yet boarded up were being boarded up.  Entrances to Calle Estafeta were sealed off.  Street cleaners cleared the street of obstacles.  The police began clearing the street of people.  

I suddenly became aware of light.  It flashed past Jean.  Some runners grabbed another runner below. The culprit had a laser light.  A polizia officer sprinted five metres to the man, and swung his arm round the offender's neck in a violent lock.  He and two other cops dragged him away fast.  

Soon, the Calle Estafeta below us, perhaps 200 metres long and 6.5 metres wide, was totally empty.  The calm before the storm.  Suddenly, at 8am, a firework rocket went off, signalling the start of the running of the bulls.  To our left, runners sprinted madly towards us, followed by 12 horned bulls.  All rushed past our balcony without event, soon followed by four 'tame' bullocks.  I videoed everything and took no photos.  It was over in a flash.  We saw no one get hurt.  Some runners ran in front of the bulls, some to the side.  A moment later, another firework rocket was let off, signalling the safe arrival of the bulls in the ring nearby.  Before we left our balcony, we managed to understand from the Spanish lady that a young Australian woman had been injured.  We learned later seriously.

We proceeded to number 57 Calle Estafeta, and collected tickets for the bullfight.  On the way, a guy dressed as Ozzy Osborne tried to souvenir some pillar connected to the run.  The crowd stopped him. It all happened in front of us, and we saw the incident later on the news (didn't see ourselves).  On the way back to the hostel, we saw less rubbish, but saw people sleeping rough in the parks and on roundabouts.  On Avenida de Pio XII, we saw the odd parked vehicle, full of people in the sitting pose, but in deep sleep.

Party animals
The morning after night before
Some of the rubbish
Waiting for the running of the bulls
Street cleared: bulls come from our left
Bulls (and runners) run up here to our right

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