Real Life On Hold - these are the adventures of California native Travis Emmel, as he takes time off from the rat race to travel and see the world.

Journal Entries

El Encierro

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I was told that the sound and thunderous vibration of the rapidly approaching hooves against the cobblestone street would reach me before seeing a glimpse of horn or the dark, looming hide of one of the massive beasts. My head floats amongst a hundreds of others on a sea of shoulders that has completely filled two city blocks. The biting chill of the early morning air is unable to reach the rest of my body which lies beneath the undulating surface. A man five feet away is so intoxicated that he falls limp and begins to sink below the surface; he is pulled out to safety by a passing policeman. The smell of stale sweat, cigarette smoke and revelry from the night previous intermix and fill my nostrils.

A shot rings out and a wave of human form surges forward; the natural stimulant from my adrenal glands leaks into my veins where it displaces the artificial one of Redbull and my heart continues its increased rhythm. The run begins slowly as people spill out and disperse through the old Spanish streets. An elbow finds its way to my right kidney and I am propelled into the mass of red and white that begins to part in front of me. There is no time to experience fear, only the excitement of the moment as survival instincts kick in and all of my senses are heightened.

Everyone hones in on the sense of panic and urgency that fills the air as the impending threat of the six-pack of bulls behind us has now reached our heels and sight and sound finally collide. Thunkity-thunk-thunkity-thunk A full sprint breaks out and I hole up in a doorway to allow the commotion of humans and animals to pass. A man trips and slides face first into the curb at my feet; he brings down a pair of adjacent runners whose focus had been directed solely towards the bulls.

I am now in the eye of the storm. The bulls have passed, but an impending set of Heifers with horns just as sharp and menacing stampedes through the streets of Pamplona, not far behind. I seize my moment and jump from the safe confines of the doorway and reenter the chaotic rush up the street towards the waiting bullring.

A short time after I enter the ring, a final report goes off to signal that all of the bulls and Heifers have reached the ring and have been safely herded into their respective pens. The doors are closed, locking us into the center of the ring and the final stage of the event's madness is upon us. A lone bull is released into the ring with us and for the next ten minutes, everyone ebbs and flows as a single mass in an effort to avoid its charge and entertain the crowd above. And then, as quickly as it all began, the Running of the Bulls has ended. Amidst the chaos, I find Kurt, who also wears a big, dirty grin upon his face, and we shake hands; we have survived.

While I didn't feel extremely endangered during the event, in retrospect it could have been a lot worse. However, having done the Run, I feel comfortable saying that the majority of the people that get injured while partaking (just like anything else in life) are probably A) heavily under the influence of something or B) doing something really stupid to a large animal that has no regard for their wellbeing or C) both.


  • At 1:14 PM, Anonymous GT said…

    I guess it's something that you *have* to do...


  • At 1:58 PM, Blogger Steenie said…

    I thought about you when I saw news coverage of the running of the bulls. I'm glad you got to experience it and are still in one peace!

  • At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can't resist. "Good evening. This is Kurt and my name is Travis. We'll be serving you tonight..."



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