In a recent post, I commented on how “sleepy” the town appeared to be – no people, cars or any movement, thick wooden blockades in front of closed doorways – it was a bit eerie. One hour later everything changed!
After hiking 21 km, we had about an hour to prep for the running of the bulls. At least we now understood why the streets had been cleared. The bulky wooden barriers in front of all the shops and homes were for safety and protection and the empty streets became a beehive of activity!
Crowds of people gathered everywhere – restaurants bulged at their seams, folks jockeyed for position behind blockaded streets around the square and down the street while others remained safely up on their balconies.
We walked side roads from the hotel to get back to the town square – but just before arriving there, we witnessed a group of people surrounding a large truck. At the time I wondered what one lady was taking a photo of. The truck had JUST unloaded several bulls. Fabulous timing!
Then, about 10-15 young band musicians decked out in their dress whites gathered and prepared to march the “bull run” route. Further down the road, smaller kids kicked a soccer ball around, young adults gathered with their friends at pre-planned hot spots, and older folks were hanging with family and friends behind their own thick-bulked wooden barriers.
I don’t consider myself a portrait photographer, but now I’m in a situation where people abound – legs dangling from balconies, a little dog scoping things out from his personal balcony, a neatly dressed elderly lady stood for the occasion as well, everyone found any place they could sit or stand while awaiting the running of the bulls. This event in Los Arcos was nowhere near Pamplona’s hype, so it was all the more sweet being small, up close and personal. So much better and richly rewarding.
A slight mishap on my part – I mistakenly grabbed the infrared camera vs. the other DLSR. Infrared photography is best saved for landscapes; not at all “human-friendly”, so in post-edit, I converted all of those photos to B&W. Not a bad idea after all said and done.
Also, I’m not a fan of my own selfies, but my friend, Nancy, and I had to take a few sillies because neither we nor anyone else could move out from behind the barriers to take our photos during the runs. You’ll see we couldn’t contain ourselves! Were we really at this place, on this day, at this time? So thoroughly engaged, amazed, amused – we cracked up and were having a time of our lives!
Too, because we were “not from around here”, we took the liberty of gravitating toward a barrier where one gentleman stood – tall, dressed in black, smoking a cigarette, beer in hand – dare we approach? Sure did – asked him if we could watch from there, to which he nicely swayed his hand toward the barrier – and voila!! – an immediate ring-side seat! Some of the locals got a kick out of our sandaled feet (stupid pilgrims, dontcha know the bull may not gore you, but he’s heavy on the foot!), a couple stared in wide wonder perhaps thinking we were a bit bold, but honestly, most didn’t care a bit, and soon there were smiles all around.
Get this! The dark stranger who allowed us to hang with him was not the owner of the home! The owner was somewhere down the street enjoying a cocktail with his neighbors. A 3rd man came from just across the way and planted himself to our left; we quickly learned he would become our guardian during the 2 hours of the bull runs (we’re so clueless!); he put himself in harms way. (Then again, he probably does this all the time, they probably have bull runs every week with pilgrims passing through.)
The true homeowner eventually made his way home, smiled and nodded to us and his pals – didn’t bat an eye about us invading his turf! We were so busy watching the street and trying not to be nosy and look inside, but my eyes followed him in, and it took no less than a second to see we were literally standing in his kitchen. Sink, table, chairs, frig. I watched as he prepared some kind of brew for him and his pals, but couldn’t see what he was pouring in the glass”flask” before the beer was added – perhaps a boilermaker. As nice as it would be to share and enjoy a hearty cocktail, we said thanks and passed on his gracious offer. A bit jittery for just a few moments, but the 3 of them were truly good guys. True caballeros (gentlemen).
At last, we saw boys and young men running madly down the street toward us, staying one step ahead of the bulls; some even had to jump up on the the wall of a home. Wildly entertaining! We knew we would witness a once-in-a-lifetime treat. Several groups in our immediate vicinity were ready for action as well with their colorful matador’s cape of orange and pink. Such pros!
Two hours later, it was over. The crowds meandered back toward the square in front of the beautiful Church of Santa Maria, many headed home, the kids started up soccer kicks again, and the restaurants filled up to the brim. We, stuck around for just a short while, then headed back to the hotel. Another hike tomorrow, so up early. But my oh my, this was SUCH A DAY!!