Bulls (Javea) in the Sea: Our Lady of Loreto fiesta
We're having a fabulous time on the Costa Blanca... sand, sun, sea, surf, sangria... what more can you ask of a holiday in Spain? Chiringuitos (straw hut beach bars) are doing a roaring business.
The beach babes and the slickly handsome guys to draw in the crowd, as the waiters and waitresses, tanned and luscious, attend to serving gin and tonics, beers, mojitos...the samba beat is an assiduous rhythm, making the feet tap.
In the evening, the 'freiduras' are serving up fresh juicy sardines, calamari, 'sepias' (cuttlefish), 'chipirones' (tiny little squid, done to perfection). Ice-cream parlours are open, 48 flavours, shout the advertisements. Diners are queuing up to get into restaurants and eateries with checked tablecloths waving the breeze, overflowing with patrons.
Two months prior to this, everything was closed. Now they're open for business well into the early hours of the next morning. In Spain, the nights are warm and sultry; neighbours chat on until the morning.
But wait, there has to be something more, perhaps. A Spanish fiesta to visit and make merry? I had heard that there will be the Javea annual fiesta the next day. As with all Spanish fiestas, I had to check this out. What if it was really good? Perhaps there wasn't a lot of parking, or it was over-subscribed? Where will it be held - Javea, that's up north? And what was the terminology used - Bulls run to the Sea fiesta in Javea, and it is an annual fiesta? - that had me thinking of dire consequences. Tomorrow we have to be up early, as I've got it on good authority, that there are going to be Bous a la Mar... excitement builds as we prepare for the annual Spanish Fiesta of Javea - we'll see what that's about soon.
Being a recovering-from-stroke individual, though raring at the bit for great things to do on holidays, this bull running puts me in mind of Pamplona, where you can get seriously damaged if you're not careful... plus, what's a good vantage point, anyway? Possibly, in front of the TV, a good distance away, maybe even in another country. But, what's life, if not to live it?
I said to my husband, we'll go to the fiesta, check it out, and perhaps take some photos. If it's like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, there must be a beginning point and an end-point.....the authorities in charge of tourism must have a cordon-off area for the bull run, surely?
The cars to have be parked elsewhere (not in the 'said' road-way), and barriers put up.
Surely nobody's going to be too keen to arrive back at the car afterwards and find an angry 400 pound hamburger as a hood ornament?
So, the next morning we set off from Santa Pola. I was looking forward to this with slight trepidation. What should we take? Good stout shoes? My husband can take off (i.e. run!) if a bull suddenly appeared behind him, but what about me? Having had a rare form of stroke, fourteen years ago, after which I was in a wheelchair for more years than I care to remember, I couldn't run. I can hobble pretty quickly; though, not all that fast with a bull bearing down on me, I'm sure.
The sun was hot, and I'd put those wearisome thoughts aside for a while. We drove up the coast road, marvelling at the sparkling sea and beaches of golden sand. Past tall date-palms, sometimes as far as the eye could see, dotted around pomegranates fields ripening in the sun, past huge orchards of oranges and lemons.
An hour later we’re there. Xabia (Javea) for the 'Bous de la Mar' for the festival of Our Lady of Loreto.
Where were the crowds? Which way do we go? Is there any sign that we've come to the right place? It seemed a bit quiet for a festival day - maybe the information was wrong. Let's check out the port. It was all quiet and subdued; though there were police patrolling. O-kay...
We were there too early, apparently, as the police pointed out free parking at the port. Things were looking up.
Free parking, I spy a huge beer tent, and a temporary bullring at the port, resembling fairground steelworks and scaffolding.
It was deserted other than a few people sitting in the bullring stand: no officials, and most importantly, no bulls.... not quite sure what we were coming to look at, but it was a sunny day and the sea was good enough to swim in...yes!
At 5 minutes to midday, people started arriving from nowhere, like a rent-a-crowd or '000s of extras suddenly pulled into camera shot for the big finale: all that was missing was Peter Jackson with his directors megaphone. Whoa, now it's happening.
They brought huge parasols (like those that they'd used at the beach), snacks to eat and cooling drinks, cushions for sitting on the hard wooden/metal surface of the bullring stand.
A big family day out; Mums and Dads, children, uncles/aunties, grandkids... it was a joy to behold. Three or sometimes four generations, all out for a great time. A truck rumbled into view, entered the ring and backed up to our end of the stand. Access gates were opened and the ramp lowered.As soon as the ramp hit the ground, the truck shook with the efforts of eight young bulls, complete with sharp horns, annoyed and angry and kicking out. They thundered out the back of the truck and shot into the pens behind the ring, hitting the far barrier with an almighty thud: we could feel it on the stand. Bellowing and snorting, they were not happy - this should be more than a little interesting.
More and more spectators were arriving with each second. Spanish mainly, but foreigners here and there. Never having been to a bull fight in Spain (I thought it was bulls running to the sea..?), I was quite surprised at this bullring.
There were more obstacles than open spaces (reminds me of gymkhanas with obstacles galore). Many young men sauntered into the ring, wearing nothing but shorts and trainers and a nervous sense of bravado.
Almost a split-second later, a bull was released into the ring....and the young men began to taunt and jeer the bull to have a go at them, without touching it at any point, although some dared to try to add a styrofoam cup to the end of the bull horns.
On occasions the bull came perilously close to slipping into the water almost following the young guys in. They were down there getting up close and personal with the bull, while we were up here in the stand; as it should be!
Jiving this way and that, the bull and its taunters gave the spectators fun, and fuel for the cameras.
In fact, cameras were clicking and flashing all around the bullring. I joined in and captured lots of footage. Especially when a charge miscalculated and the bull slid off the dock into the water, to the surprise and delight of the spectators.
A huge roar of approval went up.
Followed by trepidation and alarm of the kids and holidaymakers who were in inflatable lilos and rubber dinghies, watching it all from the water.
The confused, annoyed and infuriated animal was bull-paddling(?) straight at them, hence squeals of panic and furious efforts to get out of its way, to the tune of more cheers and laughter from the spectators.
The organisers had it well in hand, as a rescue-boat was at the scene in minutes and a confused wet bull was towed to safety amidst cheers from the crowds.
Two hours later it was sweltering hot: time for refreshment. By now the beer tent was in full swing, with huge plates of fresh seafood on offer and competing stroller-bands playing.
People were greeting each other as if they hadn't seen each other for ages: perhaps they hadn't - it was a meeting place.
There to enjoy a spectacle, a bite to eat, some wine or beer, listening to some jazzy tunes, catch up on old times.
Hmm, what's that aroma of fresh fish cooking? Cuttlefish, calamares, huge sardines, fresh off the boat that morning (Javea is a working port), plus all manner of other foods on offer like succulent pork with spiced tomatoes - delicious!