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Michael’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 11 Jul 2006

Location: Pamplona, Spain

MapEntry 46 - Pamplona (July 5th - 6th) AKA The Craziest Place on Earth - Opening Ceremony of the Festival of San Fermin.

So much to say, and so few words to say it. So much of the time a blur through egg stained glasses, purple died (stained) clothing and wild bull runs. But we will try, and as they say, a picture speaks a thousand words, so the video should be able to do all the talking, and trust me there's a lot of it!

A long drive day from Valencia with our three paying passengers in the back seat of the car, spending much of the journey passed out. Thankfully, they slept most of the time we were doing circles in the city of Zargoza, looking to get to Pamps. The signiage was very hit and miss, and the street markets blocking off roads didnt help, so we wasted about 90 minutes there!

We drove into Pamps to drop off our passengers, and were welcomed by the sight of the dyas protesters. They have a naked Bull Run on the 5th for those that wish to protest cruelty to animals... well some of those animals that were protesting were being cruel to humans, trust me, put some clothes on.

We got out to our camp site at Estella just after 4pm, and made our way to our over priced tent - 35 pound a night! Making ourselves at home, and preferring to leave the majority of our stuff in the car, we were probably among the roomiest tents, despite the distinct size disadvantage that we have. Having said that, they were much larger than the old high school camp tent, and came with blown up air mattresses (more than I can say for PP Travel - smaller tents, and an extra 5 euro to hire a yoga mat for the stay).

After wandering around site, getting our bearings, and figuring out when we'd get into town, we ran into Kristy and Shernell (ANZAC tour) and chatted with them till it was time to leave for our Pamps orientation tour. First bus we have to catch with Topdeck (our tour group) and it is 30 minutes late leaving - a sure sign of things to come.

We get into the city, and have two girls guiding us. I wanted to know just a few things:
1. The layout of the track.
2. How many bulls run.
3. How to run the Encierro (Bull Run) - tips, etc..
4. What to do in emergency.
5. Any other runs I should be aware of?

Well they covered number one, and that was all. They tried covering others, but either lied, or didn't know the answers properly. It sucked. We wasted the evening in the town (at least we knew where to run), while everyone else got wasted back at camp - it was the biggest orgy of a bonding session I had ever seen, or not seen. The only good thing to come out of our trip to town was that Clint and I both bought our traditional whites to wear as well as the red sash and scarf.

Back at the camp site, just after 12, we both figured that we had no chance of catching up on the 4 hours of power drinking that had been taking place, and rather than get pissed (or pissed off) with the almost 1000 strong merry revellers, we decided to save ourselves for tomorrow, and the opening ceremony of San Fermin.

With a good, relatively speaking (tent and air mattress), sleep under our belt, we donned our gear and headed in to Pamps for what we would later discover to be the craziest day of our lives, and a party that not even the video will do justice.

Wearing very protective shoes, as the glass by the end of the day is piled so high that you have concerns for your ankles (no thongs, get the point?) we made our way down the road towards Town Square, stopping on the way to get supplies of Sangria (Spanish Red Wine), Cava (Spanish Champs like stuff), eggs and flour. We had come prepared with the close range combat Ketchup already!

After buying our flour and eggs off the street, we were faced with having to get the stuff past the police next... you can have the glass bottles of alcohol, but the food has to go? You kidding me? Leaving Clints apples in the bag, and stuffing the flour and eggs down any available pocket, the police looked at the apples and renoved them, never looking in our pockets. To make things better, Clint managed to convince the non-English speaking cop to let him take the apples in? This guy can talk his way into, or out, of anything...

Another 100m or so, and the scene hit us like a freight train, but still early in the day... we had no idea what to expect as we got closer to midday. Standing just outside the Town Square and looking in, we re-assessed our plans for the day, CLint saying, it's only 1030, I don't want to get dirty yet!

Moving our way into the crowd, the rest of the day quickly becomes a crazy blur. As much as it has to do with the Sangria (ingested) it has just as much to do with the crowd, the noise, the egg smeared in your hair and dripping into your eyes, and the stench of flour in the air. I love it. People weren't drinking the sangria as much as they were bathing in the stuff. Words truly cannot describe what it was like. The Spanish people all chanting, deafening the rest of the crowd. Massive blow up beahc balls being bounced around. Sangria being drank out of 4Lt bottles. We met a group of young Spaniards that gave us plenty of Sangria, and ensured we wore plenty too. Eggs were being rifled from one end of the square to the other, and up onto the people in the balconys. Eventually, one of the balls hit Clint on the head and popped out a prescription lense from his Oakleys, there was no chance of finding it on the ground amongst the broken glass. It didn't break the spirit though.

At about 10 to 12, the place suddenly packed out, and there was no way to control where you were bing moved. Back and forth, side to side, up to 4m at a time, with each surge. The locals didnt waste their energy on the early celebrations, deciding to arrive just before midday. As you may, or may not, be able to tell from the previous videos, nobody is wearing the red scrafs around their necks at this stage. Everyone either has it around their wrists or ankles. At midday, the bottle rockets are fired from the balcony at town square, everyone holds their scarf above their heads towards the balcony, and then afterwards, wear them around their necks for the remainder of the festival.

After the maddness of the Town Square, and a number of bruises where Clint and I had locked arms so as not to get separated (it made the Green Day mosh pit look like a kindergarden tea party) we headed out to get some air. Taking my glasses from my head to wear them, I couldn't see through the egg so put them back on my head till I had a chance to clean them properly. About 10 minutes later we had fought through the crowd to get to the famed Muscle Bar, and I grabbed my glasses to give them a clean - gone, stolen right from the top of my head...

When we got to the Muscle Bar, we quickly realised it was probably in our best interests (given our superior stature) that we don't jump off the thing!

Throughout the rest of the day, the maddness continued. A liquid lunch, followed by breaking of the seal and doing like all good Spaniards do and pissing anywhere (the bathroom sink became popular - if you even got as far as the bathroom!). We wandered around the town, into the Main Square, and like a homing pigeon ended up back at the Muscle Bar, after running into many random people along the way. At the Muscle Bar, the disaster that may have changed the course of my life forever occurred. Thinking I'd like to take part in the Muscle Bar action, but figuring I ain't expect no-one to catch me, I would help in the catching. On about the 10th catch, lined up closest to the Bar, I had some dick jump knees first and crack me across the nose! What a tosser. Blood pissed out immediately and an Aussie nurse came over and ripped clints hankie in half, said this will hurt, them rammed one up each nostril! We left the Muscle Bar and continued wandering around! Eventually we crossed the Topdeck staff, and asking where the nearest first aid was, we were told that there was none in Pamplona on opening day - what a crock of shit... Another reason I ain't happy with these people.

More running into random people and again, it appeared that the crowd was at the muscle bar, so we ended up back there too, but not before paying way too much for the worst sunnies you have ever seen in you life. Some how Clints one lense Oakleys and Blistex managed to get nabbed from his pocket, so bith of us were now squinting everywhere we went.

Eventually we headed to the Main Square and caught up with Kristy and Shernell, sharing a jug of sangria and bite to eat. We decided with my molested nose to catch the 6pm bus back to the camp site and made our way over to the bus stop. A nice feed of chicken and chips on the grass and we headed back to Estella Camp.

Back therem words had got around about the broken/fractured nose, and the big question was, would I still run. Half cut on sangria, a splitting headache, taking a couple neurofen, and unable to breath through my nose, it was all messed up! I managed to say that i I felt well enough I would! I spent most of the evening catching up with Kristy until we finall crashed around mid night, giving me 5 hours sleep for th night before one of teh riskiest things I had ever done.

The sleep was good till I got a courtesy phone call from Spencer at 4am, wishing me luck. From that point on, the nerves finally hit me, and there was no sleep for the rest of the night, its amazing how much an innocent phone call can get the heart beating!

Next entry: 47 - The Bull Run (7th July)