Skipping stones along the Mediterranean surf while watching the blood red moon rise above the horizon I knew that this would truly be an inspiring journey. I left Paris Monday morning on a plane to Barcelona. Upon arriving in Barcelona I found myself homeless, phoneless, careless, and I couldn't be happier. I spent my first night on the beach of Barceloneta under the stars listening to the waves crash against the shore and feeling the salty ocean air fill my lungs. I awoke the following morning to see the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen glide easily into the morning sky, alighting the clouds in shades of pink and orange that I never new existed. As the sun came over the crest of the horizon I made my way towards it into the sea. Swimming in the cold sea water without anyone around was an invigorating experience. After spending my first day and night on the beaches of Barcelona I strapped my bag to my back and headed around town. What a beautiful city. From the topless beaches to the Gothic quarter to the beautiful parks and floral gardens, I was enjoying every minute of it. I spent the following night camped out in a beautiful park right near the entrance to the highway with hopes that in the morning I could hitch a ride to Pamplona from there. That night I took a shower at one of the various water fountains in the park. I must say that bathing from a park fountain was a novel experience for me, as it would be for most, and it was quite humbling not having the warmth of a household heated shower.
Wednesday morning I rose with the sun again, this time seeing it illuminate the entire city from my position in the elevated garden. I packed up my things, hoped the gate (as the park had been closed and locked up during the night apparently), and made my way down to the highway. I began walking northwest with a cardboard sign I made with "Pamplona" written on one side and "Zaragoza" written on the other thinking that I could find a ride heading in the direction of the closer city easier than to my ultimate destination. After walking backwards with my thumb out for about 2 hours I made it about 5 kilometers outside the city when I realized that hitching a ride on the freeway was probably not going to work out too well. I went into the town and found a phone. I called the bus driver who was taking people from Barcelona to Pamplona for the protest and he told me that they had already left about two hours previous. Had I called him right after I woke up I could have easily gotten a ride all the way, but alas I did not. So I caught a small regional train back into the city and made my way to the bus station. I discovered that there was a bus leaving for Pamplona at 3:00 but that it was booked solid and there was not another bus leaving that day. So I made my way to the train station. After standing in line for a good hour I arrived at the ticket counter and asked for a train to Pamplona. I got a ticket on the next train available leaving at 10 o'clock that evening and arriving at my destination at 5:30 the next morning. I spent the next 9 hours wandering around Barcelona a little more until it was time to leave. I hopped on the train and was thrown into a sleeper car with 5 big Kiwi guys. With the various sounds and noises only 6 guys can make together and with the gentle rocking of the train I was soon fast asleep to arrive in Pamplona when I awoke.
I spent Thursday morning walking the quiet and peaceful streets of this beautiful city. At noon I met up with the other people participating in the Running of the Nudes. I threw my bag into the back of one of the vans and stripped off my clothes. The first two years of the protest people went completely naked, then the mayor of the city passed a law stating it was illegal to be completely nude within city limits. This unfortunately meant that we had to at least wear underwear. I grabbed one of the various thongs from a box and threw them on only to discover that they were intended for use by women and they barely covered anything. Oh well, at least I had something on down there. At one o'clock we began the march through the town, down the same route the bulls and runners would take during the next week. Flashing banners and bodies while shouting "Toros: ci! Toreros: no!" attracted a fair amount of attention. People watched from balconies and side streets, some even stripping and joining us. Most spectators smiled broadly and waved but some made obscene gestures. After an hour and a half of marching under the hot sun we arrived at the large doors to the bull fighting arena. Banging on the doors we posted our signs upon it that displayed various saying such as "Bullfighting is bullshit!" and "Out with the old, in with the nude". The march was a lot of fun and hopefully someday it might be a great alternative for the city to watching large animals being tortured to death for the amusement of the crowd.
Following the protest I caught a ride with one of the buses back to the campgrounds where the Running of the Nudes participants were staying. Out in the countryside on a lake this was the perfect spot to spend my next two nights. I had an amazing time meeting extraordinary people, swimming in the lake and sunbathing along its shore, dancing the night away, and eating vegan meals. The people I met were phenomenal. Of course they were open minded individuals who really like working for good causes. I was with my kind of people.
Friday morning I woke up early to catch a ride with a bus heading back towards Pamplona but not going into the city. They were going to drop me off on the outskirts where I could just head into town from there. While riding on the bus I was talking with some really interesting Swedish guys when one of them looks at his watch and says, "Man its taking awhile to get to Pamplona. Usually it only takes about 45 minutes and we've been on the road for nearly an hour and a half." So I went down to ask the bus driver what was going on and he looks at me and say, "I completely forgot. We are now about sixty kilometers north of the city." They dropped me off at the next town, gave me a coke and bottle of water, and wished me luck. I walked over to the entrance of the freeway heading in the opposite direction, sat down on my bag, stuck my thumb out, and waited. 45 minutes passed before a man pulls up and told me in Spanish that he was only going about 4 kilometers but I could hop in. I figured 4 km was farther than I had traveled in the previous 45 minutes and took him up on his offer. Since he didn't speak English or French and since I didn't speak any Spanish we had a very lively conversation. He dropped me off, sure enough, exactly 4 km down the road. As soon as he took off down a side street I stuck out my thumb and was immediately picked up by a guy driving 20 km further. The same language situation ensued and there was a lot of silence for the next 20 km. After I got out and thanked the guy I started walking along the highway with my thumb in the now instinctively placed position. About 30 minutes passed when a guy pulled over and told me to hop in. Not only did this guy not speak either French or English but he didn't even speak Spanish. Ten minutes into the drive he said, "Polski discotheque" and turned on the radio. Blaring through the speakers came the sounds of techno with an eastern european feel, meaning that they said the same two english words over and over thinking that they were cool words such as "Burning cathair, burning cathair". Finally we arrived in Pamplona and I found my way to the house where I would be staying with some very generous friends.
Walking around the packed city on Saturday was nearly impossible. People were shoulder to shoulder, wall-to-wall in some places. Broken beer bottles, torn clothing, puke, and piss littered the streets. After watching the spectacular fireworks display I headed back to the house for a good night's sleep. The noise of the streets forced its way into the apartment making it nearly impossible to fall into slumber. Singing, musical instruments, and voices amplified by megaphones filled the night air, reverberating off the walls of the narrow streets making it that much louder. Thankfully I was so tired that I passed out from exhaustion shortly after my head hit the pillow.
This morning I awoke at the break of dawn to watch the Running of the Bulls from a balcony along the street. This event has been ongoing for centuries and is a huge part of the cultural heritage of Spain. Here in Pamplona, because of Hemingway, the event has become world renowned and people come from all over the globe to run along side the bulls. Thousands of people littered the streets as the chill morning air held the tinge of excitement. All of a sudden I heard the explosion from the rocket signaling the release of the bulls and everybody started running. After about a minute I looked down the road and saw 13 huge bulls coming around the corner. As I watched they came running right below the balcony chasing hundreds of people to the arena. Within seconds they had passed. Although the run is an interesting event to witness I don't think I could ever go to one of the fights. I have been invited but I promptly declined. I spent the day wandering around with my aunt Stacey and David soaking up the sights and sounds of San Fermin. I then had my siesta nap and that brings me to now.
As far as where I will go next, I am not quite certain. There is a pilgrimage trail that leads north from here into southern France. I think I will remain in Pamplona for a few more days and then head to the trail. This first week of my journey has been absolutely amazing. I really appreciate this beginning as it helps me have faith in the rest of the quest. I know things will happen exactly as they are meant to, exactly as they have this week as well as throughout my entire life. Thank you all for your constant thoughts, prayers, and support. It helps a great deal and I really appreciate it. So, until the next time, Peace!