Running The Bulls, Pamplona 2009

Spot the eight differences!

Spot the eight differences!


Heen says:


Well, I’m back. My friend Danny and I have been running the bulls in Pamplona.


The sanfermines are a delightfully stupid way to spend a few days in July. The object of this fiesta is to get drunk and then expose your anatomy to a bunch of charging bulls. In many ways, it’s the ultimate extreme sport and a great opportunity to meet people.


I chose to go with Danny because he’s a teetotal animal-lover, the perfect companion for this adventure, I thought. He recently completed an online Master’s degree in Bull Whispering, a technique which consists of murmuring a few well-chosen words in the ear of the furious beast, persuading it not to gore or trample you. He passed on some of his knowledge to me, but as I was keen to indulge in the ethylic aspect of the sanfermines, I couldn’t remember much of his advice, sadly.


In the first encierro, Danny and I took up our positions in the Estafeta, kitted out in the traditional white outfit and sporting a red kerchief as dictated by the hardened gurus, the fashionistas of this millenary tradition. You’re also allowed to carry a rolled-up newspaper, but after weighing up which paper to buy, I decided to wield my lucky copy of Playboy, June 1987, the one with the centrefold of Dolores Spatzenburger, who would have been my childhood sweetheart if I had happened to be living in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


As well as a brutal hangover, I also had diarrhoea and what I suspected was a twisted ankle, but adrenaline was surging through my veins as I awaited the thundering toros. Danny was by my side, calm and collected. He was empty-handed, of course, so that he could curl his fingers into the mudra position while he chanted his bovophile mantras.


“Here they come!”, yelled somebody. And sure enough, the stampede was upon us. The average Pamplona bull weighs about 800 kilos, has razor-sharp horns two metres long, and runs at 120 miles per hour. Well, OK, I’m just making these figures up, but that was what it felt like.


The first bull ignored me as I shouted “¡Cógeme, a ver si te atreves, maricón!” This was probably because I had slipped into a doorway and was crouching behind a group of schoolboys.


I looked up to see a few squashed bodies writhing in blood and another couple of bulls bearing down on my doorway, now empty of schoolboys. Just as the horns of one of these savage mythological creatures was about to perforate my aorta, I noticed Danny leaning over to mutter a bon mot into its left ear. The bull’s furrowed brow changed to a quizzical angle as Danny’s information seeped into its brain and the huge animal stopped dead in its tracks. It opened its vast mouth and politely licked my face before turning away. It then proceeded to thrust its right horn into the groin of a passing American tourist, tossing him up in the air as though he were an empty Mountain Dew bottle.


“What did you say to the bull?” I gasped to Danny, who viewed the whole scene beatifically.


“It was a koan I picked up in Tortilla Flat”, he answered enigmatically.


I don’t know what he was talking about, so I ran like a mad thing towards the bull ring. The manada has split into two; half the bulls were ahead of us and the other half were just behind, and I got the impression that one of them had its eyes set on Dolores Spatzenburger, thus urging me on even more. I didn’t dare risk trusting in Danny’s solipsisms any further – once potentially gored, twice shy, as the saying goes.


Pure fear drove me onward. I could hear, nay, smell the impending onslaught. To my right and left, corredores raced, jostled, tumbled and frolicked, shrieking and panting, and I outstripped all of them as I fled to the relative safety of the bull ring. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Danny in the lotus position, extolling the virtues of peace, love and understanding to a couple of sitting bulls who were nodding appreciatively, paying no attention to the violent youths who were pulling their tails and smacking them with copies of El País.


Dolores and I were intact, a little bit worse for wear, but relieved that we had escaped death in the quaint, greasy, blood-stained, urine-soaked, cobbled streets of the fair city of Pamplona.


I met up with Danny a few hours later in a restaurant called “Más Cornás Da El Hambre”. He explained that he had added a few of the bulls to his friends list on Facebook and that, all in all, it had been a lovely experience.


“I just love these local traditions, unchanged since the dark ages”, he sighed, as he tucked into his tofu burger, nestling in a bed of rocket, with a coulis of acai and a quinoa timbal.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pringao on July 17, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    I would like to thank Mr Danny for the lesson he taught us all last week in Pamplona. I am a fighting bull and participated in the encierro that you and he ran in. Since my conversation with Mr Danny, my whole nature has changed and I realise how silly it is to gore people to death. I will be boycotting all bullfights from now on. When the matador attacks me in the ring, I will offer only passive resistance. Thank you for offering me the opportunity to express my views. ………… Pringao, spokesbull of “Toros Contra La Violencia”


  2. Hi! Very good blog, very interesting and useful for improving my poor english =)

    Psycho ZGZ


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