‘Cycling 8 hours towards Pamplona from Bilbao gave me a lot of time to consider a number of gruesome injuries that could be inflicted from running away from 15 bulls.’
WeSwapper Rhys chose an unconventional way to arrive at the picturesque town of Pamplona for one of Spain’s most popular festivals.
His group of 5 budding cyclists have already made cycle trips to Paris and Amsterdam before. This time something a little more terrifying than a croissant or a coffee shop was awaiting them at the end of their cycle.
‘The last trip we took to Amsterdam took the best part of 5 days and by the time we got there I was absolutely shattered. I was worried that I would fall asleep at the start line, but luckily the adrenaline going round my body was never going to let that happen.’
San Fermin, otherwise known as the famous bull run in Spain, takes place annually on the 7th July. Over 1 million people are thought to participate over 7 days of debauchery and terror.
By 8am barriers are erected and ambulances are assembled. The revellers’ drunken enthusiasm quickly sobers and a calm but ominous atmosphere replaces it.
‘An Australian guy tried to share some banter with me but I was just not the mood for it at that point. I also heard some people near me discussing whether it’s better to be trampled or gored. It didn’t do much to settle my nerves.’
2 cannons announce the realease of the bulls and any air of calm quick dissipates. Shouts fill the air and people start running. It’s frantic whether the bulls are near or not. Many of the injuries are caused by flying elbows or a drunkard falling over and taking out some fellow runners at the same time. Some of the runners try and scale the barriers as they see the bulls coming, some aren’t as fortunate.
‘Luckily we were so far ahead that we didn’t even see a bull. In a way we got the thrill of doing it without the danger. I was pretty relieved when we got to the end but in a strange way, a touch disappointed that there was no close encounter.’
Let us be clear – this is a dangerous event! This year had the highest number of injuries on record. Although there were no fatalities, there were 52 injured runners. Since the event began in 1925, 25 people have died.
After the run, Rhys and his gang of cyclists enjoyed the local drink of choice Calimocho which is a mixture of red wine and Coca Cola. Maybe a little too much as this picture of the aftermath of a Sangria fight suggests: