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Life or Death – Running with the Bulls

Have you ever faced your fears? See how we faced ours at the Running with the Bulls Festival in Pamplona, Spain this year.

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Running with the Bulls in Pamplona

Running with the Bulls during the Festival de San Fermin was one of the scariest, yet exhilarating, adventures we have ever done.

San Fermin Running with the Bulls still

Shaky still image from our video while running with the bulls

Fear is a funny thing.

It has paralysed me when faced with heights. Kept me awake when I was younger and too afraid to sleep in the dark. And made me lash out when worried I might lose the ones I love.

I have even seen fear on friends and strangers faces when they have faced similar situations or confronted their own stresses. But never have I seen fear etched on to so many faces at the same exact moment.

Never have I stood looking in to those faces and known that my face shows the exact same feeling. A moment when the next 2 minutes could mean life or death.

Until now.

Running with the Bulls Pamplona, Festival of San Fermin, Festival de San Fermin

Barricaded shops decorated for the running with the bulls

Running with the Bulls

There is no escape from it as I am walled in by apartment blocks, shop front windows and 3 metre high wooden barriers packed with photographers along the entire length. At one end lies the relative safety of the bull ring pulsating with the cheers of the crowd who have partied all night. While at the other end a dozen wild bulls paw the stony ground looking for freedom.

Unfortunately I am standing in their path. This is where the fear comes from.

Adorned in white with a slash of vivid red at our throats and waists we stand jostling for space. Elbow to elbow with thousands of other thrill seekers, tourists and locals alike, I begin to wonder what the hell possessed me to go running with the bulls as I stand on this narrow 825m stretch of cobbled street at the crack of dawn.

Running with the Bulls in Pamplona

A bit of false bravado before the running with the bulls

Narrow streets in Pamplona for Festival de San Fermin, Festival of San Fermin, Running with the Bulls

Running with the Bulls route

Only my thoughts accompany me before being obliterated as the first firework is fired signalling the release of the bulls.

Silence descends for a split second before the crowd surges as if pushed by an invisible hand. Knowing I have a few seconds before the raging bulls reach me I stand my ground. Arms flail and the ground trembles beneath the thousands of feet pounding the uneven cobbled street as people begin to panic.

Abruptly a roar from the crowd is unleashed as the bulls sprint into sight. My fear evaporates and is replaced by pure adrenaline. Blood surges through my muscles and the world seems to slow around me.

Spinning on my heels caught in the rush of the crowd I am propelled forward away from the snorting beasts. Fear has gripped many and it’s now I realise that it was right to send Adela away from me as there is no chance I could help her if she ends up in danger.

It is every person for themselves when fear takes over.

Hands grapple and claw at one another as everyone fights for space away from the middle of the road. Wrenched off my feet I stumble but catch myself from falling beneath the unrelenting feet of runners.

All too suddenly the shoulder to shoulder crowd splits like Moses parting the Red Sea. It can only be the Bulls. I can hear their hooves on the cobbles before I can see them. The sound spurs the crowd on faster again.

Glancing to my left I spot them race past within spitting distance.

It’s not over and there isn’t a chance to stop as the crowd continues to run.

Sprinting madly after the bulls we run into a moment of darkness under the stadium entrance. Light suddenly bursts across my face as the crowd roars again and again as I join the celebrating masses in the middle of the bull ring. Blood pulses in my ears and my heart threatens to crash through my ribcage.

Clay and stones grind under my feet as I scan the crowd. It’s no longer fear that creases my face but elation, celebration and relief when I spot my brother, friends and thankfully Adela emerging from the crowd.

San Fermin Festival, Festival of San Fermin, Running with the Bulls, Festival de San Fermin,

Nervous about facing our fears before the running with the bulls

Check out our Running with the Bulls video!

Not all people agree that the San Fermin Festival should be allowed to go ahead largely due to animal cruelty. We wrote a post about the controversy surrounding Bullfighting in Spain and the Festival de San Fermin.

If you want to join the Festival de San Fermin next year or any other wild festivals in Europe then book with our partners Busabout.

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Gina

    July 30, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    Great account of your experience running with the bulls. I don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough to do it, but it sounds like an unforgettable time!

    • Cole Burmester

      July 31, 2012 at 9:23 AM

      Thanks Gina. Was the best and worst feelings all at once so quite a rush! You would get caught up in the hype like Adela was and definitely do it I think 🙂

  2. Laurence

    July 30, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    I don’t know to be honest. If you want adrenaline, this seems like a complicated and unnecessarily cruel way to go about it. On the other hand, eating meat (which I do, happily), ain’t exactly an animal friendly sport, not is it necessary for my survival. I do it, basically, because I enjoy it. Morals. Weird things eh?

    • Cole Burmester

      July 31, 2012 at 9:22 AM

      We felt comfortable doing it because it has such a long standing tradition in Spain but agree with you Laurence. For example we would NEVER eat whale meat in countries where they still hunt them legally but we would do this. Will have a follow up post soon about the bull fights we attended.

  3. Jakori

    July 30, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    I have always wanted to run with the bulls but am afraid I may fall and get trampled. It looks like you had a great time. I like the pictures. Great post

    • Cole Burmester

      August 2, 2012 at 4:21 PM

      Thanks Jakori. Hope you get a chance to run sometime in the future!

  4. Jarmo @ Arctic Nomad

    July 30, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    It’s great fun isn’t it! 🙂 At that moment when the bulls come, it really is every man and woman for themselves, there is nothing you can do except keep running and hope you don’t fall over! 🙂 Did you have fun playing with the cows afterwards?

    • Cole Burmester

      July 31, 2012 at 9:19 AM

      Someone described it to me before the run as the best and worst experience they have ever had. So true. The bullring was crazier than the actual run with so many idiots about. So glad we did it though.

  5. Escaping Abroad

    July 31, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    Glad you made it out unharmed! As cool as it sounds this is one I don’t think I’d risk participating in. I’ve seen too many photos of the unlucky guys who got horned! 🙁

    • Cole Burmester

      August 2, 2012 at 4:09 PM

      We have seen some horrendous photos and videos. We just used a bit of commonsense and caution and it seemed to work for us 🙂

  6. Jess | GlobetrotterGirls

    July 31, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Loved reading this piece, could definitely feel what it must be like! I’d never have done it, us being vegetarian/super animal lovers and all, but after I got rammed by that cow, I’ve felt how painful even small horns are plus the crushing blow of hitting the ground. i’d rather not feel one of the huge horns piercing my leg 🙂 Can’t wait to read your thoughts about the experience that you mention above.

    • Cole Burmester

      August 2, 2012 at 4:10 PM

      We hate seeing animals be harmed as well so was extremely sad and moving to see them be killed later that evening. Follow up post to come.

  7. Arti

    August 2, 2012 at 5:32 AM

    It sounds crazy when lives are in danger in the name of a festival!! I certainly would never dare to take part in the Bull Run!

    • Cole Burmester

      August 2, 2012 at 4:16 PM

      It’s such an adrenaline rush but completely bonkers. But I guess that’s what makes it so popular!

  8. Jeremy Branham

    August 2, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    I love reading your story about the bulls. I’ve been to Spain and bullfighting does turn a lot of people off. I think it can be rather cruel. However, it is definitely a cultural difference.

    As for the running part, that is definitely an adrenaline rush. Being the athlete and super fast runner that I am, I am not sure I would attempt this as my feet and coordination don’t always get along. However, loved watching this as others do it though.

    Did you happen to meet Dave and Deb of The Planet D? They also did this same bull run (not sure if you did it the same day though).

    • Cole Burmester

      August 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM

      We didn’t see Dave and Deb unfortunately as they were there a few days before us. Really want to meet them though!

      Was so much fun and such a rush. Not sure I could ever do it again though as I think I used most of my luck up during the run haha.

  9. Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey

    August 2, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    You wild man! Running with the bulls is a thing Eric and I have contemplated but we’ve never been there at the right time–not sure what our final decision would be if we were…Can’t wait for the video.

    I know running with the bulls is controversial like circuses or zoos or bull fighting but I appreciate your documentation of the experience. That’s our job as travel bloggers and we struggled with the same pros and cons when we blogged about watching the world’s best horseback bull fighter in Mexico: http://trans-americas.com/blog/2010/06/pablo-hermoso-mendoza/

    • Cole Burmester

      August 7, 2012 at 10:02 AM

      You guys would definitely run Karen. Getting caught up in the atmosphere is what makes it so exciting. They take it so seriously there and was awesome to be a part of it.

      Thanks for the support as well Karen. Was tempted not to write anything but we feel the same as you. If we didn’t write about these experiences (which so many people get to do) then what is the point of writing in the first place?

  10. Audrey

    August 6, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    Brave one guys! I think I’d be the one watching the crowds run from the safety of a balcony. 😉

    • Cole Burmester

      August 7, 2012 at 10:06 AM

      Thanks Audrey! Was bloody terrifying but so glad we did it. Was fun watching it the next day as well and seeing the terror on everyones faces 🙂

  11. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    August 7, 2012 at 7:55 PM

    How terrifying! I don’t think I’d ever do this.. mostly because I’m 4’10” and would probably get tramples in the crowd. 😛

    • Cole Burmester

      August 8, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      You could probably limbo under the bulls though 😉 It was seriously the most scary and craziest thing we have ever done.

      Congrats on your sale by the way!

  12. Payje

    August 8, 2012 at 12:45 AM

    Oh my gosh TERRIFYING! I don’t know what I would have done in that situation, probably just froze up and peed my pants and cried or something… what a cool thing to have done!

    • Cole Burmester

      August 8, 2012 at 1:25 PM

      Hahaha I am sure you would have been fine! You get caught up in the atmosphere and basically dragged along so quite hard to freeze in one spot 🙂

  13. Diana Edelman

    August 8, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    Whew. That was some nerve-wracking reading. Wonderful job taking me into the moment. 🙂

  14. Ali

    August 8, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    Love how you wrote this one. I went to the running of the bulls in 2000 when I was in Spain for a study abroad program. We stayed in Pamplona for 2 nights, partied in the streets until it was time for the running, and then watched from the end of the line, right outside the stadium everyone runs into. That was enough for me. There’s no way I could handle actually participating. Definitely an interesting experience though. I’m glad you survived.

    • Cole Burmester

      August 13, 2012 at 12:33 PM

      Good effort partying all night! We were staying in a campground out of town so had to head back there around 3am each day. So much fun though being on the streets. Glad we survived as well 🙂

  15. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    August 10, 2012 at 8:30 PM

    I don’t think I ever want to do this, but I’d love to go watch.

    • Cole Burmester

      August 13, 2012 at 12:54 PM

      We just posted a video of our run as well Stephanie!

  16. Alexandra

    August 14, 2012 at 6:22 AM

    You’re way braver than I! I would never do this! I’m more the drinking on the sidelines type 😉

    • Cole Burmester

      August 14, 2012 at 2:27 PM

      Did you see our video of it Alexandra?

      Plenty of drinking was done on the sidelines as well haha. I needed it to help my courage 😉

  17. GIrdhar Singh Sodha

    December 3, 2012 at 6:07 AM

    Thrill to read this. Love the way you narrate your experience.
    It seems to me that I am also running with you.

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Adventure Travel

Explore Auckland’s Coasts With One Exquisite Walking Hike

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There is a wonderful place found in the far southwest of the Pacific Ocean. It is a place called Auckland, and it is found in the amazing terrain of New Zealand. It is a place that commands the attention of over 1 million people who prefer to live and reside in this majestic city.

Did you know that Auckland claims the top spot in New Zealand with its wide range of people and the most concentrated number of people within a city in New Zealand?

But why do so many people come to Auckland, New Zealand, and live there? What do they appreciate the most?

The truth is that the answer may vary, and it may differ from person to person, but it is hard to deny that nature is not a crucial part of their decision making. The beautiful city has fantastic places that offer great adventure and recreational activity.

You can take advantage of the diverse coasts, hidden coves, and more of the northern area in the North Island. It is known for its various boats, and some believe that it has more ships than any other city in the entire world.

It is a city that resides between two large fantastic natural harbors.

Let us find out more about how you can explore this majestic city with one fantastic walking hike.

The Auckland Coast

For those who want to stay near to Auckland’s city and travel well, it is necessary to start your journey with the Auckland Coast’s breathtaking area.

Did you know that Auckland’s coast ranges over 15km, will take over four hours to traverse, and is somewhat challenging to navigate? But the truth is that it is worth it. Why is it worth it? Well, you can seemingly walk the length of an entire nation within the span of a few hours. If you wake up early in the morning and go on this journey, you can finish your hike by noon or an hour past noon.

But in that brief timeframe, you can experience several oceans, notice a slew of volcanoes, and have a glimpse into people’s regular lives in the New Zealand area.

This fantastic walk is excellent because of its duration and because you are able to experience lush greenery and park settings over 30% of the time. It is a great way to clear your head, get to know more about the people you are traveling with, and experience the refreshing Auckland air.

Experts suggest beginning your journey at the less intriguing Onehunga area and then moving forward with public transportation at the Britomart stop. You will find that you can travel east to take in the water sights with a bit of work.

When your walk is over, you can grab a fresh beverage at the Waitemata Harbour, a premium harbor.

You will want to make sure to bring some healthy snacks along for the walk because you may not notice different places to eat as you go on this part of the hike.

It is best to ensure that you understand that you must input the Ferry Building into your mobile device or ensure to use the local municipal iSITE for further guidance.

If you are limited on time, I would suggest that you go on this route because it lets you take in the entire area and understand this excellent place.

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Adventure Travel

Hammock vs Tent Camping

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Camping with a hammock is slowly but surely becoming more popular in recent years with new and improved hammock designs being preferred by some campers, compared to the traditional tent.

In this article we will discuss some of the key benefits and drawbacks of sleeping without a tent, and analyze key criteria so that you can choose your preferred shelter choice!

Weatherproof

Most tents work well in the rain; however, you’ll need to bring a tarp if you’re using a hammock. Traditional hammocks are not waterproof, and are generally open at the top, allowing water to find itself inside if you don’t have an adequate tarp. Moreover, a decent under quilt is also a good idea so that you can stay warm and cozy during cold and stormy nights.

Packing up your hammock after a long night of rain isn’t too bad, whereas packing up a soaking wet tent is always annoying. You almost always get wet in the process.

Setup

For first time campers, pop-up tents are the simplest to setup. All you need to do is find flat ground, and bam, your setup is complete! The beauty of pop-up tents is that you don’t need to worry about figuring out where to insert the poles and erect the tent. Although, traditional tents are usually more robust, and have a longer life span.

Essentially, a tent is simple, but a hammock can become a little more complicated for first timers. You’ll need to find 2 trees facing a good direction and tie each end of the hammock to them. If your hammock setup is too tight, you will generally wake up with sore ancles, but if it’s too loose, you run the risk of the hammock touching the floor, and insects crawling in with you.

If your campground doesn’t have many trees, or if the trees are dead (they could break and injure you), hammock stands come to the rescue! Basically, hammock stands allow you to pitch a hammock if there are no trees nearby. They are portable, adjustable, and are easy to setup. The only drawback is that the ground should be relatively flat, whereas if you were to hang a hammock between 2 trees, there won’t be any stands touching the ground, so a rocky floor wouldn’t be a problem.

Comfort

One of the main reasons for choosing a hammock is the comfort that it provides you! It has a basically has in-built seat which is arguably more comfortable than a standard blow up mattress. You need to pick your tree’s wisely though! You don’t want a pinecone falling on your face mid-sleep.

If you have constant back pain and find it hard to sleep inside tents, you should give hammocks a try as they cause you to sleep sideways, similar to a banana shape, which a lot people find much more comfortable.

Price

Hammocks are usually lighter and don’t include a wealth of poles and gear that tents do. Depending on the type of hammock that you purchase, they are usually quite similar to tents. You can however, find very cheap tents <$60, but they most likely won’t last long.

A good tent or hammock can cost between $200-500 without accessories. If you need a hammock stand, that will add to your cost, just like a mattress and other tent necessities will to its cost.

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Adventure Travel

Yacht Charter Destination Of The Month: The Middle East

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Mysterious and exotic, the Middle East is full of surprises, blending fascinating cultural heritage with stunning contemporary architecture. What’s more, with guaranteed sunshine and warmth, the winter months of November and April are the perfect time to visit. That’s why we’ve made the Middle East our yacht charter destination of the month.

What makes the Middle East such an exciting yacht charter destination?

Dubai: Glamour and shopping

An ideal starting point for your luxury yacht charter, Dubai is famous for its tax-free designer shopping, five-star resorts and world-class gastronomy. Thrill seekers can head into its vast desert for four-wheel-drive adventures across the dunes, while families will love the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, Legoland, or the magnificent water park at Atlantis on The Palm.

Abu Dhabi: Art and architecture

Neighbouring Abu Dhabi offers a more relaxed yacht charter destination – here, lovers of art and architecture will appreciate the iconic Louvre Abu Dhabi, which boasts some 9,200 m2 of galleries within its striking contemporary design.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the world’s largest, and its open-door policy encourages visitors from around the world. The elegant Qasr Al Hosn museum, former home of the ruling family, is Abu Dhabi’s oldest standing structure, and displays artefacts dating back to 6000BC.

Oman: An understated gem

The understated, hidden gem of the Middle East, yacht charter destination Oman has an abundance of natural beauty, from spectacular mountains and wind-blown deserts to a pristine coastline.

At its northernmost tip, visit the red-hued fjords of the Musandam Peninsula. Action-seekers can admire the rugged Al Hajar mountain range by microlight, while land-based activities include desert sand-boarding, jeep rides and quad biking.

Capital city Muscat is steeped in history, with centuries-old souks where you can pick up fine pashminas, spices and frankincense, or even dazzling jewellery in the Gold Souk.

The Kingdom of Bahrain: Home of diving

It is said that diving was invented in Bahrain, and pearl diving is considered the quintessential Bahraini experience. Expect to find up to 30 types of coral and over 200 species of fish, too, making this yacht charter destination ideal for underwater enthusiasts.

Bahrain’s rich trading history is palpable in the Qalat al-Bahrain fort and museum, a registered UNESCO world heritage site. The Bahrain National Museum, found next to the Art and Cultural Centres, blends cultural heritage with contemporary ambience. Or, to indulge in some retail therapy, enjoy a traditional shopping experience at the Manama Souk, selling natural-oil perfumes and incense, fabrics and handicrafts.

The Red Sea: Reefs, diving and beaches

The Red Sea is another popular Middle Eastern yacht charter destination due to its year-round sunshine, warm water, coral reefs and incredible dive sites, including one of the world’s best wreck dives, the WWII British cargo ship SS Thistlegorm. In the south, the relatively undiscovered Marsa’ Alam promises incredible shore or beach diving around its natural fringing reef.

Mysterious, timeless and alluring, the Middle East is a yacht charter destination full of contrasts and surprises. Better still, it’s best visited in winter. What are you waiting for?

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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