- Posted July 2, 2011 by
San Francisco, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Pamplona, Spain: Fiestas, frenzy and fireworks
Dead Man's Corner
Dead Man’s Corner.
In the Summer of 2010, just after I watched Spain win the world cup in the streets of Madrid, I unexpectedly made last minute plans to travel to Pamplona alone and run with the bulls. Little did I know, I would be leaving Pamplona a few days later with some minor leg and head injuries and my picture plastered all over town with a 1,600-pound, red-bull leaping behind me just before I turned the notorious “Dead Man’s Corner”. Furthermore, this red-bull, El Burrino, broke the record with the fastest bull-run in Pamplona’s history.
When I first arrived in Pamplona off the train, I strummed my guitar all the way up the hill to the old cobblestone roads of this festive Spanish town. I had difficulty finding a cheap hotel, so I ended up sleeping with my baby Spanish guitar and backpack in the grass, next to someone’s tent, in a camping area. In the first hours of my arrival, I strolled through town thrilled to see musicians playing throughout the town in public. As I went by a bar near the cliffs, there were dozens of tables listening to jovial, old, local Spaniards drinking and playing Spanish folk music. The large crowd of guitarists, probably at least ten of them, yelled at me to join their musical group as I was walking by with my guitar. They bought me a drink and I joined in the informal strumming of guitars and loud singing of Spanish folklore songs I had never heard before. I tried my best to sing along as a large crowd watched the traditional music being played by locals that have been loving this festival for their entire lives. We drank and drank, and sang, and invited other local musicians they didn’t know, who just happen to be passing by. One old Spaniard was unforgettable with his red devil horns and a long twisted-mustache; he strummed the hell out of this bizarre miniature guitar.
An American, Joseph, who sat nearby, introduced himself and his wife and friend. Joseph had been coming to the festival faithfully for years and he was flabbergasted that I had joined in with these local musicians during my first festival, on my first day, at my first hour! Joseph joined in arms and sang as he confidently and proudly held his own when it was his turn to sing alone one of the festival songs to the crowd. He gave me advice on running with the bulls the following morning. He strongly advised me not to get drunk and run with the bulls hung-over in the morning as it was stupid and dangerous. Well, I am a merchant seaman, so I guess stupid and dangerous is what we do. I, unintentionally, didn’t follow his advice and really had no idea what I was getting into. I walked into the barricade of the street to run with the bulls in the morning with a bad hangover and just a few hours of sleep in the grass.
When I walked into the overly-crowded running area, my heart was beating heavy, and I had no idea where to be in the sea of people on the street. How could I think strategically if I have never run before? I ran into Joseph before they shot the gun and he was getting ready with a friend to run down the hill, towards the bulls, when the gun goes off. A small number of experienced bull-runners run toward the bulls and then away. They all understand an important safety tactic: when you fall, don’t try to get up! Just put your hands over your head and stay low to the ground. Yes, you may get trampled on a bit, but that’s nothing compared to getting gored with a horn. Joseph reminded me of this before the gun went off. Well, where I started running was the wrong place because when the bulls caught up to me I was about 20 meters from turning the notorious Dead Man’s Corner. It's called that for a reason. When the first gigantic red bull came up behind me, I then realized my stupidity because it was only then did I understand how mean, fast, and dangerous a muscular red bull is that still has his testicles attached. I ran full speed into a wall of a small doorway opening with another man. I hit my head so hard I saw stars and a big bump and bruise grew on my head and leg. Somehow I got up and continued running, but then had to leap head first over the barricade at Dead Man’s Corner, into the photographers, because another bull was stuck at Dead Man’s corner and going after people and not running properly towards the stadium. I had to finish, so I got back onto the road and limped my way into the stadium where I stood around in a crowd of crazy bull runners who were asking for more. So, one by one, they released a bull into the crowd which would plow through bodies and throw them into the air as the crowd cheered gladiator style. These bulls weren’t as dangerous as the ones on the road as their horns had protection and were not sharp. One daring bull runner in the ring got ahold of both horns on one bull. The entire crowd became enraged and the bull runner was escorted out of the stadium by authorities as men were attacking him for “disrespecting” the bull. I guess there are certain things you just shouldn’t do like don't grab a bull by it's horns. LOL
As I limped out of the stadium, I realized how bad my injuries really were. I had to get to a hotel now to sit on a bed of ice all night. I went online that evening and unexpectedly found a picture of myself with a red bull leaping behind me as the “picture of the day” on the Pamplona museum website for the bull run. I then found myself as a centerfold picture in the newspaper and would be featured at the Musuem. I was also told it was being used as a giant poster in the tourism office. It was very surreal. My trip to Pamplona was an unforgettable one and I am glad I have no major injuries. At times I feel like I will run again, but other times, not so much when I think of that bull that almost got me. Maybe next time I’ll just pay money to be on the balcony over Dead Man’s Corner and drink a bloody mary instead.