London – Pamplona 2008


Courtney and Kimberly here together! A recap for some, a first snippet for others, here is a summary of our travels so far. A short stopover in London town, a whirlwind 9 day camping tour, and some recovery days in small town Spain.

London found us at the mercy of Trin’s incredible hospitatily of bed, food, shower, and anything else we required in our jet-lagged state of iciness from 8 hours in the freezer some may have called a plane. London day was spent wandering 10 km to the big sites of London – saw them ALL in six short hours…from the outside. We were also blessed with the experiences of Sunday roast, fish & chips (which after our tour have also learned New Zealanders fondly call them fush & chups), and mushy peas (not a blessing for me, who barely choked down one bite. Blech), Pimm’s, Bulmers, and the aggressive chivalry of Trin’s friend Ollie.

Sharing a sneaky breakfast at the hostel from whence our tour departed and a cultural lunch at Burger King helped us to develop a solid start to our nine day friendship with Marc, Jenna, and brothers Tim and Dom (all of which were from the land of Oz). Our tour arrived in Normady where Elizabeth christened us all with very French moustaches to tour around the campsite with. Photo ops like you wouldn’t believe and a great way to meet each other discussing serious topics with a completely hilarious addition to your faces. In France, we visited some D-Day monuments-museums and were totally wowed at the immensity of just a small piece of the war. We also saw Mt. St. Michel – a castle built on a chunk of land surrounded by water during high tide – truly a princess castle. The tour of the Hennessy Cognac distillery demonstrated the anal precision and perfection of creating a single bottle of alcohol. Definitely not a drink to take lightly – one version cost 6500 euros. Shit! We got a sample of the cheapest version and Courtney and I managed a small sip of it unadulterated (we figured you’d never let us live it down if we didn’t, Dad) before we promptly eased the pain by adding ginger ale and ice. Phew. We had a beautiful beach day at San Sebastian (and yes, it was more magnificent that you can imagine considering we’d had rain at least a few hours a day every day so far!!) after a hike up to view the city and little baby Jesus, as some called it, and a fun night in town with the group all dressed up, we were off to PAMPLONA for the culmination of our tour.

The opening ceremonies for the nine day event celebrating the martyrdom of a great bishop called San Fermin were RIDICULOUS!! It’s not really comprehensible, even if you are there, and it’s hard to believe we were actually there. We tried to all stick together and about 15 of us managed to stay close as we were pushed through the streets into town square. The entire city participates, every street is packed with people, wall to wall, everyone dressed in white (not for long) with red bandanas and sashes. We were drenched in Sangria and had already heard and sang, ´´ole, ole, ole, ole…ole…ole´´ more than previously thought possible. And it was only 11 am. We had to survive an hour of crushing crowds and flying sangria, eggs, flour, shaving cream, broken glass on the streets, staying on our feets, not having ribs crushed, and so on before the rocket announcing the start went off. Courtney, myself, and a number of other girls got to go out up on our new comrades shoulders to see the MASSIVE hundreds of people we could see, not to mention the entire rest of the city’s streets jam-packed with huge amounts of locals and tourists alike. From the ground I could only see (and smell, and hear, and feel) about three rows of people and experience zero fresh air. Going up on the shoulders was INSANE… those hundreds of people… they ALL cheered to see someone appear out of the crowds to have even more sangria tossed at them. It was euphoric.

After the rocket at noon the square cleared out in record time and we could breathe and walk again normally. Jenna, Eddie, Elizabeth, Courtney and I headed out in search of the WC (the water closet or better known as the bathroom to us). We did find ourselves bathrooms in our dinner location from the previous night and a PAR-TAY to go with it. We rocked out with the locals – they taught us dances, sang around us, and even threw Courtney up in the air to do some crowd surfing with a few spins included. Soooooooo much fun in Spain! From there we headed to find the ´fountain´ which is actually just a statue in a small square – surrounded by cobble stone road and stone pillars to keep cars out – that (I think) tourists once upon a time decided would be good to jump off of into the arms of drunk strangers. Brilliant. So, despite numerous pleas from our tour guides to NOT jump off the fountain, after seeing a number of people (majority of them girls if you can believe it), Dom from our tour group climbed himself up the fountain and fell safely into the awaiting arms below. Out of nowhere our newfound groupie Eddie (about 100 people made their way to pamplona in various ways to stay at the same site as our tour) that spent the previous day with us threw his camera to me and was up the fountain before we knew what was happening. Ah well, we figured all would be fine. Until the Kiwi girls suggested we check on him. Around the crowd he appears with blood pouring down his face and a chunk of his skull showing through on his forehead. OH MY GOD!!! He jumped too far and the crowd only caught his knees before his face smashed into a pillar and he hit the floor. Shit! A nurse from Nova Scotia materialised from the crowd and helped us get him to the policia and an ambulance came to get him as we took off running to catch the last bus of the night back to the campground. WHAT A DAY!!!

The next morning was our first day of running with the bulls, up at 5am to get into town and get a spot. We ran into Eddie as we got off the bus…. he´d been discharged from the hospital at midnight and been wandering the town… how awful! but he was okay and we busted our butts to the arena to get some seats for the action. It was intense. Terrifying to hear the rocket that signalled the first set of bulls being released and waiting for the flood of runners to come through the arena gates. From there they released about 5 baby bulls ( one at a time) after the running bulls had gone through to chase the people around. We´ll post videos…. hard to explain the craziness of it and this e’mail is soooooo long already. One of the neatest parts to watch was how the crowd of hundreds of people moved as the bulls picked them to run towards. Heading back to camp we had a BBQ and unlimited Sangria with the entire camp before passing out. Rob also took this opportunity to demonstrate his prowess as manly (before any of us managed to get too smashed) by completing a number of pushups with me on his back….

Day two. Another early morning and again running to get our place on our reserved balcony. As we entered a local’s apartment they made coffee and breakfast for us as we waited the hour and a half until the 8am run begins. Being in the balcony above the actual run, just around from ´Dead Man´s Corner´ was even more surreal. The rockets made my stomach drop and my hands shake as we watched our friends run past below….and then the bulls came. They are so fast, and so ginormous all the guys said they had never…never been more scared in their lives. We saw a guy being trampled below us who did not get up and two of our guys were in the Aussie paper and another on TV right after the run that we got to watch in the apartment afterwards. The entire run is complete in less than a minute, but with much carnage left behind. What a sight. Back at the bus 9:30am and already so much excitment in the day.

We sadly bid our tightly knit group adieu as we dragged our tired, bruised, dirty bodies to the train station for the next part of the journey, Kimbo and Courto solo. Whew….a few days of resting up in Salamanca and Segovia, two quaint Spanish towns, included, friendly dancing, local cuisine, and more self guided walking tours. This place is amazing, so much fun, they really know how to live a relaxed life. We are still adjusting to the schedule; siesta at 3-5pm, dinner at 10-11pm and the party really doesn´t get started till 2am….we´ll get there. : ) …next stop… Barcelona.

Adios Amigos!!!!

Courtney & Kimberly (the Canadia sisters)

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