Occasionally, fate reaches in and takes a hand.
I took to the streets of Pamplona yesterday afternoon despite having only slept four of the past 72 hours. Turns out jet lag is a real thing!
I left my quarters in the Pamplona Cathedral Hotel in search of San Fermin revelers. Their voices and music were constant outside my hotel window, so I knew I wouldn’t have to go far. Two blocks from the hotel, at Calle del Carmen thousands of festival faithful were parading, singing, chanting and drinking. Clearly, San Fermin is fueled by alcohol, fun and sleep deprivation.
The evening light in the narrow streets was perfect and I was gathering both video and still images. A gracious local couple, willing to tolerate my weak spanish, pointed out the mayor of Pamplona, Joseba Asirón, and took me over to meet him. I introduced myself and told him I was a Fort Worth-based photojournalist, his face lit up and he invited me to photograph the running of the bulls from a private balcony at city hall. One of his companions handed me a pass and told me to be there at 6:30 a.m. I assured her I’d be the first one there.
I continued shooting along Calle del Carmen till 1:30 a.m. then headed back to my hotel to download images/video, charge batteries and prep for the next morning’s shoot. Three very brief hours later my alarm sounded and I was out the door.
Pamplona’s city hall is only four medium blocks from my hotel, so I was there in time to see city workers assemble the massive wooden barriers that separate the bulls and the runners from the sane folk. Each morning during the festival, the workers erect the barriers and minutes after the running, take them down again. Pamplona has this San Fermin thing down to an art.
At 7:30 I and a small group of celebrants were shown to our balconies. I shared mine with a Pamplona family of four who were, as all Pamplonans seem to be, very gracious and polite.
Two canon blasts signaled the start of the run and I saw the first of six bulls round the corner headed our way. Within 30 seconds the bulls and runners had come and gone. The alcalde came and fetched me and escorted me to a hallway where a live feed of the run was being shown. It appeared to me that there were no gorings, so chalk one up for the deranged.
I thanked alcalde Asirón in my pitiful spanish and headed over to the Cafe Iruna for breakfast. The spirit of Papa is alive and well in Pamplona, but more about Ernest later.