On July 2, 2013 a friend and I traveled to Europe for two weeks. Six countries, five languages, seven flights, five buses, four trains, multiple boats and two taxis, one bag. Too see my gear please visit How to Travel Light. On this trip we had two layovers in London England.The main purpose of this trip was for the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona Spain.
Our bus arrived early in the morning on July 5, 2013 in Pamplona Spain at approximately 7 am. We checked in with the campground, Camping Ezcaba, where we got a blue wristband. This told the campground how long we would be staying and allowed us to enter the campground. PPTravel advised that we lock up all of our valuables with them. They provided sealed envelopes where we could keep our passports and other valuables. I stored my passport and cell phone and they kept the envelopes in a safe place. We found out that our last day at the campground was not free, it would cost 27 euros. We unpacked our gear in our tent and met a few guys that had tents next to ours.
Went back into town with our new friends. Ate at a restaurant in the town square called Cafe Bearin. I got BBQ chicken and Travis got seafood Paella.
We walked the bull run. Luckly one pf the guys we met spoke Spanish and was able to translate for us. Went shopping. Bought red sashes and pants. Bought bagged sangria, 11% ABV. Went back to camp. Hanging out our tent. I chilled and watched the campground band. Found a random dude passed out in our tent. Travis woke him up, I patted him down. Travis passed out. Travis got up. I went to bed.
Woke up at 9:00 am the next day for opening ceremony. All white everything. Went to town square. Drank sangria and wandered around. Watched the opening ceremony at Cafe Iruina. Cafe Iruna was Hemingway’s favorite hangout and is in the heart of the city and is still a local and tourist favorite. We ordered a few beers and watched the opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony was delayed for the first time in history. Danced, drank, kept it moving. Got water dumped on us. Found Case Puntos. Got 40s of Ambar for 3 euros. Went to dance bar, where they were playing Gypsy Kings. Found someone from our campground and she was with a local Pamplonian dude. We asked that he take us to a “local” hangout. He took us to a department store/mall. What a tool. We kept it moving. Went back to camp. Drank Jim Beam with some of our tent mates. Had dance party where we eat breakfast, went to bed at around 3:30. Didn’t fall asleep until almost 4. Woke up at 5 am to run with the bulls. The PPTravel coach would travel to Pamplona at 5:30 am.
First Day of The Running of the Bulls – Sunday, July 7, 2013
The day we ran, we checked out the bell cows in the pen. Walked to the starting position. The run would start at exactly 8:00 am. We very close to the beginning of the run but got pushed up up to Town Hall. The hour we waited, I was anxious, nervous, excited and semi nauseous. When the first rocket sounded, that all disappeared. At that instant, I realized I was all by myself. All of the people around me were only concerned with their own safety, and if I was in their way, they would push, shove and hit me to get to safety. Consequently, I did what I needed to do to get through safe. I ran, I shoved and stood my ground. Travis disappeared within seconds. We were just before La Curva when the first rocket sounded. The first rocket signifies the start of the run. The second signifies that all of the bulls have left the pen. It was so hectic that I didn’t hear anything other than the first rocket. I almost got into the stadium also known as Plaza de Toros. If I were to estimate, I think I got within fifty yards of the stadium before the gate closed. Keep in mind, my adrenaline was maxed out, I was scared and happy all at the same time, so my judgement is probably off. I think I made it here. I had to jump the barrier to get out of the bull run course. Travis got a little further than I did, not totally sure where. We scheduled a meeting point after the race at Monumento al Encerierro at 9:00 am. We headed back to the campground. Legs were surprising sore from the short run.
Had breakfast when we got back. Legs were pretty tired from the running and pushing. I guess I was exerting more energy than I thought I was and didn’t realize it because of the adrenaline rush. We tried to nap. Didn’t really work out. The Spanish sun was beaming down, and there was very little shade.That night I couldn’t sleep. People were outside of the tent beating a drum at 4 am.
Second Day of The Running of the Bulls – Monday, July 8, 2013
I was at ease, because I knew I wouldn’t run that morning. Travis was going to run. I went to the stadium to watch. That morning when walking to the run, I split up with Travis and the group and went to the stadium. The line into the stadium was crazy. I opted to go into the stadium free. This was how most of the locals went in, while most of the tourists paid to go to the safe, less hectic upper level. Arms trapped at my sides, I was pushed and shoved into the stadium entrance. I sat on the first level. All locals. Crazy. Lady dropped a bottle of vodka next to my foot. Got a minor cut on my ankle. Three fights broke out. Even though I wasnt running, I was anxious nearly the entire time. The bulls came into stadium and I found Travis in the mass of people shortly there after. I saw him jump the wall to get out off the bull ring. He watched for a minute or two, then I saw him walk toward the exit. That’s when I hit the road. Again, we met at Monumento al Encerierro.
Travis is in the center of the camera . . . somewhere.
We walked back to bus. Chilled at campground. Packed up our gear. Charged phones most of the day. Got into the pool. Drank beer and orange juice. Went into town.
Heading to town, we pretty much decided that we would not be staying at the campground that night. 27 euro per night for a tent? Really? All PPTravel coaches to Pamplona would stop that evening. So . . . We pretty much had no place to stay. We were lucky that the Fanatics coach hadn’t left and they let us hitch a ride into town. When we got to town we locked up our bags in lockers at the bus station so that we wouldn’t have to carry them around. We had a few drinks . . . by a few I mean too many. We bar hopped, joined in on some drum playing and dancing in the street, not sure what the purpose was, but it was fun. The night started to come to an end around 3 am. Then we started to plan where we should stay, aka, mistake. Nightfall, in a foreign city with no place to sleep, not a good idea.
We walked to the downtown area where they had benches and thought this might be a good place to rest our eyes. Turns out, there were a bunch of drunk teenage Pamplonias there. Had we fallen asleep, I think we would have been the victims of a YouTube prank.
We walked to the bus station. It would be a safe place to wait for our bus in the morning . . . ummmm . . . no . . . It was closed.
Walk to the bottom floor of the bus station and wait for the bus anyway. Security guards at the entrance should have been a red flag, we snuck by anyway. We sat down in a complete dark, underground bus terminal. Unmentionable events transpired. Security proceeded to yell at us in Spanish, pointed to a camera, said “muy mal”. We vacated the premises.
At the bus terminal on the main level was a field where people congregated waiting for buses. Every inch of the field was covered in trash and reeked of urine. This was essentially our only option. We moved to the back of the field, picked a spot and again tried to rest our eyes. A bum watched me for ten to fifteen minutes, Travis slept. Some other bums searched the field of trash for anything they could find with flashlights. I was convinced that security had radioed for the police, and we were on the run like Jason Bourne.
There was a park on the left hand side of the urine field that had less traffic, fewer bums and a few people sleeping on air mattresses. We slept on a bench, resting our eyes, and opening them again when drunkards passed.
The bus terminal opened at around 6 am. We saw the lights come on. We walked that way. We unlocked our baggage. Travis slept in the waiting area on a seat, I slept on the floor using my bag as a pillow. We survived through the night. Thank God.
At 8:00 am our bus would depart for Barcelona Spain, a 6 hour bus ride. Travis bought breakfast, best eggs I’ve ever had in my life.
To see the next leg of the journey, please see, Barcelona, Spain.