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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

Take A Moment and Go Visit Iceland Today

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We have all been quite busy this year, but have we stopped and taken a breather? We made new year’s resolutions, stuck to a couple of them, made some progress, and stayed relatively healthy.

But the fact is that we like, the fictional character Walter Mitty might be bogged down by our many day to day cares. Tunnel vision, myopic attitudes, and more significant concerns take us away from our dream of exploring fascinating places and countries such as Iceland or other Nordic countries.

We might indeed hesitate and put these trips off to another day. Yet, we know that the things that we keep out of our sight, stay out of our mind. When we push something to tomorrow, it rarely happens.

We continue to look forward to the endless tomorrows that will bring more joy than today.

Wise people reminded us of the importance of carpe diem, that notion of seizing the moment and grabbing life by the horns, thus, basking at the moment.

Don’t delay travel in style with a service such as Voyage Privé, and you will be delighted by your decision.

Remember that we only have concrete evidence of having one life, we must live it in the best manner possible.

Have Fun and Add A Little Flair To Your Year

The year is coming to a close. When was the last time that you did something fun and worthwhile? When was the last time you did something that you can be proud of and can remember for decades to come? For most of us, the answer might surprise us. The memories are distant and might be a bit far off.

Take the Nike mentality, and do it, book a flight to an exotic and delightful place like Iceland.

Iceland offers plenty of activities, scenery, and opportunities for the wandering spirit. We’llWe’ll talk about just a few of these fantastic places that you must visit in the beautiful Nordic nation of Iceland.

Must-See Destinations in Iceland

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is a natural spa. The locals dubbed it the “spa of the volcanic earth.” The natural landscape allows weary travelers to rest, disconnect from their devices, and connect with the beauty of nature.

Travelers may indulge in luxurious experiences and enjoy great dining, events that are undoubtedly much needed in our always-on, digitally connected lives.

Remember to dine at the Lava Restaurant and lounge at the Silica Hotel or the Retreat Hotel.

The Gullfoss

Bask in the breathtaking beauty of the Gullfoss. Remember that the Gullfoss Waterfall is one of the most beloved waterfalls all over the world. Additionally, the Gullfoss is open to the public and is free for all to see and immerse themselves from a safe distance. Millions of people have gone to this waterfall to have a glimpse of this wondrous beauty, and you deserve to go as well.

Asbyrgi (Shelter of the Gods)

Do not forget to visit and hike in Asbyrgi. Many tourists come here and set up camp to have a little peace of mind in the general turbulence of the world. Asbyrgi is surely idyllic and is one place you must have on your to-do list.

We have only scratched the surface on the beautiful experiences in Iceland, book your trip today, stay for a while.

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Adventure Travel

Top 4 cities for bingo fans

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Some people travel looking for the best parties, others travel to find the best beaches, while foodies are looking for the best restaurants and the best street foods. If you are looking for top-notch entertainment, there are plenty of cities where you can do some exciting and unusual activities. You probably know that the best karaoke parties are in Japan and Korea and Las Vegas, Macau and Monaco are the places to visit if you are looking to play casino games. 

This time we’re going to talk about the best cities for bingo fans. If you’re thinking that all bingo venues are the same, think again, because bingo has changed significantly lately. One of the key contributing factors to the modernisation of bingo in general and bingo venues as such is the emergence and popularisation of online bingo. Players started switching online as it is a lot more convenient, so conventional bingo venues had to adapt and try to offer something new and exciting for a change.

 

London

London is definitely the bingo capital of the world, and there’s definitely a reason why it founds its way to the top of our list. In the old days there were more bingo halls in UK’s capital than there are now, but we have bingo venues now. You may wonder what’s the difference between a hall and a venue, and to put it simply, venues are modern and offer more exciting bingo variants.

Nowadays bingo games are organised at a lot of non-standard venues, it’s not just dedicated halls/venues. 

Have you ever been to the Breakfast Club Battersea at Clapham? They’re now doing bingo nights as well, with party mashup, quiz nights, and other fun activities for all visitors. Tickets are available from £7, which is not a lot for an amusing and unusual bingo party. 

Selecta Saturday Special is a bingo party that takes place at UKG Bingo at Camden from 6pm until 9:45pm. If you fancy bingo and garage music, this is the right place for you. 

Finally, if you’re a fan of house, you’ll have a blast at Brixton’s Cattivo where Bubbles & Bingo events are held. 

 

Paris

The city of light is another great city for bingo fans. You may think of the UK as a top bingo destination, but the game was played in France long before it made its way to Britain.

Bingo made it to France towards the end of the 18th century and the French elite grew quite fond of it in the next decades. Nowadays there are a lot of standard bingo halls in the French capital where you can play bingo every evening. One thing that’s typical for Paris is Bastille Day Bingo which takes place every year on the 14th of July in memory of the French Revolution and the attack on Bastille prison that took place in 1789. One thing that’s specific about Paris and Parisian bingo is that you need to yell ‘King’ when you hit bingo and not ‘bingo’. 

 

New York

If you look at any list of top cities, regardless of the topic, New York will surely be on it. So, it is hardly surprising that New York is also one of the best cities for bingo fans. 

The Fifth Avenue bingo hall is one of the fanciest and most popular New York bingo venues. It opens every evening at 6pm and the most interesting thing about it is that there’s table service, so you can get your food and drinks without any interruptions to the game. 

Le Poisson Rouge Bingo Hall is located on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village and you can enjoy a game of bingo with a cocktail in your hand. If you are a fan of the funky sound you will enjoy the standard DJ sets at this venue. 

 

Glasgow

Despite the fact that London is the largest city in the UK and its capital, Glasgow has often been called UK’s bingo capital due to the popularity of the game in Scotland’s largest city. 

Carlton bingo hall in Partick is one of the most famous bingo halls located in Glasgow’s West End. The place is sometimes referred to as the effs (F&F), since it used to be called that when it was just a dance hall. Then there’s Buzz bingo located on Hawthorn Street and this venue opens at 11am. There are few Mecca bingo halls for more traditional bingo fun. Finally, there’s the Hillhead Bookclub where the Lady Balls Bingo takes place.

 

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Adventure Travel

Skin-Care Rules to Always Follow When You Travel

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With the holiday season nearly upon us, most of us are hit with a bout of wanderlust. Traveling will take us to different places, and these places likely have completely different climates from what we are used to. Nobody wants to have a skin breakout or any other type of skin problem during vacation. To prevent this problem, this article will give you Skin-care rules to always follow when you travel.

Every time you step on a plane, your skin is exposed to a whole different condition. You are plagued by stale, dry, circulated air that can do wonders to your skin (in a bad way, of course). And that is just your flight. Your actual vacation can be a nightmare for your skin. From weird hotel products to bad sunscreen, to stress from forgetting stuff at home or from family members and a host of other problems.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to keep your skin looking great despite the challenges of travel.

  1. Drink Water…a lot of water

Staying hydrated is extremely important. Being hydrated inside and outside is one of the most important skin routine tips at all times, even when you are not on vacation.

The switch from a hot to a cold climate or from a hot to cold climate can cause skin dryness and irritation among other things. Even the air on the plane is dry and can sap all the moisture from your skin. Therefore, make sure your drink a lot of water. That would keep you hydrated inside.

For your skin, you should liberally apply moisturizers to keep your skin looking radiant and beautiful.

  1. Use Sunscreen

Next to staying hydrated, sun protection is one of the most important routine for your skin type.  While travelling, you should be extra diligent about your sunscreen.

It might sound strange, but you should apply sunscreen even while on the plane. Why? Because you are in a metal container 10,000 feet close to the sun. In fact, you are likely to get a sunburn while in a plane than on the ground. You might want to close the shades, but others might want of view. Hence take precautions and apply the sunscreen.

When you are travelling, it can be easy to forget to use sunscreen, or you might run out of sunscreen. You can go the extra mile by setting a reminder on your phone either to use sunscreen or buying a new one before the current one runs out.

  1. Use Minimal Makeup

During your vacation, leave out heavy foundations and other heavy makeup products. If you are traveling to a location with extreme weather, your makeup will wear off fairly easily. This not only leaves you looking silly, but the heavy makeup can clog the pores of your skin and result in breakouts.

If you choose to use makeup at all, use breathable makeup. Preferably it should be water-resistant and offer protection from hot climates.

  1. Take your facial cleanser and moisturizer along with you

To keep your face looking great even in extreme climates, your facial cleanser and moisturizer are very important. The daily cleanser helps to clean impurities on your face, while the moisturizer will feed your skin with the important nutrients required to keep it healthy during the duration of your trip.

  1. Use trusted products

Trying out new products is fun, but you should be very careful doing this while on vacation. The change in climate is enough stress on your skin. If you add new products to your skin, you might be increasing the stress on it. Invariably, this might lead to skin breakout and other issues.

Therefore, stick to what your skin is familiar with. When you go back home, you can try out new products. To make it easier to keep using your familiar products, you can buy travel-sized versions of your moisturizer, lotion, cleanser and other stuff.

  1. Have a medical emergency kit

This should contain smoothening calamine, aloe vera potion and other things that can be used in case of skin emergencies.

To enjoy your trip, no matter where that might be, follow these skin-care rules. Your skin will thank you for it!

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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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