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Correos del toros... I think.

For those who got a teensy bit close to the bull horns...

Saturday and Sunday the 11th and 12th of August were the first of the weekends for “Hípico”—the names confuse me. This is ALWAYS the 15th of August, however because this August it fell on a Wednesday, the powers that be decreed that not only should everyone have the day off on August 15th, but there would also be parades, parties, fun in the streets and general merriment on both of the weekends surrounding the 15th. These Nicaraguans, they know how to do a public holdiay with style.

It’s not really a celebration without ice-cream.

The first Sunday, we had been excitedly informed, involved “toros”. We were pretty thrilled, I can tell you, even when we were told by someone else not to get too excited, because one year they only had a grand total of one bull and that it was more like a calf. So we tried not to get too excited, but it was pretty difficult because the rest of Granada were thrilled to bits.

Or that pink coconut stuff.

Around two o’clock we headed down to the parque central. We didn’t know exactly what was going on, but we’d been told by Ed at Nica Buffet to stay out of the parque central at all costs, seeing as how last year two of the bulls escaped and rampaged through the park and the police and firebrigade were distinctly unimpressed. The crowds of people were starting to mill around the edges, oblivious to the rain that kept fitting and starting. We walked through the parque central to take in the stalls which had popped up seemingly overnight, filled with useful items such as souveneirs, knick-knacks, ceramics, bags, jewelery, traditional food, beer, cowboy hats, and of course, electronic goods such as televisions and stereos. We decided we didn’t need a new stereo and went to our first vantage point which was out the front of one of the buildings on one of the corners that bordered the square which had the distinct advantage of being up off the ground to protect us from the marauding bulls. The people were thickening and the vendors were out in force so Dave and I got out the cameras and started snapping away.

Or MORE icecream...

The festivities began fairly rapidly when three drunken horsemen, who were all dressed up to the nines and looking fairly boisterous, came trotting down the parade path and one of them misguided his horse, which slipped on the wet road and promptly fell over. The crowd roared unappreciatively at that; no one is supposed to fall down till the bulls are out! When we realised the bulls wouldn’t be coming past us as such but instead heading down the street vertical to us, and therefore all we would see is the backs of the horses and the bulls, we decided to change tactics. While we had been warned to be cautious, apparently no-one else was taking heed. One side of the street that the running would occur down was lined with stands selling beer and rum. They were set up on the road, mere inches from where the bulls would be running. And what were they using as a barricade, you ask? Why single bits of rope of course, if any barricade at all. On the other side of the road, which held the courthouse and some private buildings and most importantly was sheltered from the rain, there were lots of people standing on raised verandas, but just as many hanging out on the pavement, also mere inches from potential goring. For the sake of decent photography, we decided to risk the goring along with everyone else and headed down there.

These are the “Federales” (Federal Police). Check out their hardcore plastic armour and impressive array of weaponry.

The rain set in pretty heavily, but that didn’t stop the vendors. My favourite ones were the ones carrying boards of toffee apples on their heads, or huge planks of fairyfloss, or the people selling god-awful tacky blow up toys. Everyone was having a fine old time, it was carnival spirit and edible things galore. Some vendors had these nifty little contraptions that held six cones filled with sorbet, and obviously kept them cold and frozen as well as dry (no mean feat at thirty degrees in the rain). It was great fun, even though nothing was happening yet.

The most sensible vantage point, really.

The next stage of the day was the false starts. All of a sudden, a group of kids in red shirts would start sprinting down the street, looking backwards. A horse would canter in. An enthusiastic member of the crowd would yell “toros! toros!” and the rest of the crowd would scream appreciatively and push back into the walls to get away from the toros. And then... everyone would relax and get back to the eating once it was clear there were no toros afterall. This happened about five times. The sixth time, Dave, who couldn’t see anything, went for a quick walk to peek around the bend to see what was happening. He came running back in the rain, telling us there was an actual bull coming.

Now is a good time to start running...

The bulls were great. There were five all together, although they came by individually for maximum effect. When the first one came by, all the kids started running, some with their red shirts off waving enthusiastically. Then the horses cantered in, and the bull, and then more horses. The horsemen had the bulls attached to loose ropes so they could guide the bulls, and the first three went by pretty uneventfully. The fourth bull was a bit feistier and not only went at a couple of horses, but completely ignored all attempts to engage it and ran straight off through the middle of the park. So we were relieved that we had taken Ed’s advice and not actually been standing in the park at the time.

Stop for a bit of taunting...

The fifth bull was my personal favourite. He was a big black thing, and particularly excited by the kids and their shirts. He stopped at the corner to put on a show and resist the efforts of the horsemen, and then a red shirt captured his attention and he raced towards it, right in front of where we were standing, and tried to gore the individual in question while some other guys tried to get his attention elsewhere. Luckily the bull didn’t have a huge attention span. He decided it was time to move... straight towards us. The crowd loved it. We all got pushed backwards, up against the wall, while the bull decided that wasn’t where he wanted to be and raced off in the correct direction. The crowd chattered excitedly, and an ambulance drove past with its siren going just to set the mood. We hung around for a bit longer and some horsemen collected in the road and started posing and chatting, so we figured that was it and headed home after our near-goring experience. But the fun wasn’t over, because as we were about half a block away from our place (which was in the general direction that the bulls had been running from) we heard shouts, hoofs, and screams. A renegade bull was charging down our street, pursued by a couple of horsemen! Obviously, this was the bull with a lousy sense of direction and no eye for colour, who hadn’t even made it to the park but was just hoping to make a quiet bid for escape in our general direction! It was very exciting, Kaleb and I headed for the stairs and Dave stood hoping for a great photo and a non-fatal gore scar. Sadly, the bull was redirected down side street before he could reach us.

Our first running of the bulls? Awesome.

Try not to get gored...

As I side note, we later discovered that this year was the first year in ages that they had REAL bulls, i.e., versus cows with horns. So that was fun. We also discovered that one of the bulls got away down the end of the street (I think it was the feisty one we saw who ran towards us) And he not only managed to gore some guy in the back, but he then went on a rampage INSIDE a nearby bar, racing up the stairs, looking for something else to gore, having not been satiated. We had friends in the bar at the time, and they assured us it was quite an experience. Phew!

And then taunt it a bit more!
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