Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Date: Friday, September 10, 1999 5:16 AM
Subject: Sept 3-5, 1999: Pilgrimage to Ronda

OK, OK...If you haven´t discovered by now...I am starting my own cult...The devout worshipers of Ronda, Spain...

In Lagos, Portugal I converted 5 people to my cause...Danni and Michelle-Silly Saffies, and Katano, Sarah, and Keith (3 Americans)...The Saffies and Keith left on Sept 2nd and were to meet Katano, Sarah, and I in Seville...then all go to Ronda...RONDA...RONDA...RONDA...look deeply in my eyes...RONDA...

September 3, 1999
The morning started with me going to bed at 2am (remember...another shitty day ends in paradise???)...anyway...I woke at 6am to escort Melonie and Sharon to the train station...they were going to Lisbon (a destination I was foregoing in lieu of Ronda...RONDA (insert chanting noises here))...anyway...after they left I went to the bus station to await my 8am
bus from Lagos to Seville...then I heard of my first lost soul from the order of Ronda...RONDA (ommmmmmm)!

Sarah arrived...but had not been able to wake (or revive) Katano from his morning slumber (or stupor...depending on your point of view)...so we lost a soul...well...the world is a big place...we would find other lost sheep...and herd them to the promised land...Ronda...RONDA!

Sarah and I took the train...and met up with Keith, Michelle, and Danni at the bus station in Seville! Now this was good...what was bad was our mode of transport to Ronda...RONDA! The silly Saffies had rented a car (they were spending a week in Southen, Spain...and figured they needed one)...unfortunately it was only slightly bigger than shoebox with wheels...well...after lots of packing, unpacking, repacking, and many useful swearwords...we were all loaded (or should I say crammed!) into the car...the bright side was that since Katano had not woken (become cohearent (sp?)) we were all able to fit...guess a lost soul is not so bad...cést la vie!

Anyway...then we faced our next challenge...now, I am sure that Michelle is an AWESOME driver...in South Africa...but now she was faced with being on the correct side of the car and on the correct side of the road...it was a nail-biting experience...but we enjoyed the countryside (and eachother´s armpits) and finally made it to Ronda...RONDA (much chanting and many incantations!!!)!!!

Practically all of Ronda (...RONDA!) was closed off with people and festivals...we drove around down narrow streets in an obscure maze of passages...and finally found the hostel I had stayed in before...the lady said they were full...but she had an apartment for rent...we said ¨lead the way!¨...or something like that...it is spanish after all...

Anyway, she led us through the biggest party in Ronda (...RONDA!)...us with our backpacks and all going through the middle of a huge street party...it was fun...but we wanted to drop our bags...in the middle of the street the lady stops and opens a door...our apartment was above it all! We went upstairs and we found out that WE WIN! Now, one always hears of awesome deals that travellers find and the awesome rooms they luck into for dirt-cheap...well, I have not yet experienced this on my trip...until now! The apartment was awesome...balcony overlooking the street party and the cathedral, back roof-top porch, kitchen, 2 bedrooms...it was plush! We thanked her profusely...but we had known all along that if we had faith in Ronda...RONDA would take care of us (especially after chanting the following: ommmmmmmmmmm...chant, chant...ayudeme Ronda, ayudame ayudame Ronda...lots more chanting...)!

Anyway...we crashed...siestas are important! The music was loud and blaring from the street...but we all managed to sleep quite soundly...then we woke at 8pm...the party was gone...the streets empty except for bottles and garbage everywhere...we asked where the party had moved to...and we heard
that everyone was off at siesta, then dinner, then the fair tonight at the other end of town...

The gals made dinner (I knew I brought them for a reason)...it was awesome...Keith and I cleaned up (fair is fair)...we headed out to the fair...it was a big carnival...we rode a vomit ride, hung out, ate too many
churros and went home about Midnight...I needed a reasonable night´s sleep...for I had to wake early!

Sept 4, 1999

Up at 0530...ughhhhh! Let me explain:

Ronda holds only 2 bullfights a year...the Corrida Goyesca (Goyesca Bullfight) with much pomp and circumstance, but basically a normal bullfight...this is the one that is considered to be the biggest event of
the year...and the Corrida Something (I don´t remember...it is basically a bullfight from horseback)...these were being held on Sept 4 and 5 respectively at 5:30pm...

Only problem...the Corrida Goyesca was SOLD OUT...for months earlier...they had only been on sale for 2 hours before they sold out...no way to get a ticket! ...except, for 5 percent of the tickets which are sold the day of the event...which explains why my sorry self was up at 0530...to buy tickets to the show...like being back in high school waiting for a Visa Band for a concert at the Erwin Center...or waiting in Memorial Stadium for TX. vs Tx. A&M tickets...it really brought me back...

Anyway, at 0530 I was the 12th person in line...everyone was very friendly...and I was the only non-Spaniard in line...while in line, I learned that it was a 2 ticket limit, and they would go on sale at
10am...which was OK, since only Keith and I were going. But, It was actually one of the best experiences of my trip...I was stuck with all these wonderful Spaniards (or they were stuck with me) to speak with...a captive audience!

It was brilliant! We talked about many things...Ronda is the home of bullfighting (as I have said)...and the bullring is unique in all of Spain...it has the largest area in the center for the matadores and bulls...and the smallest seating capacity (about 5,000 people)...the emphasis is on the bullfight in this town...the audience is secondary...really a cool concept. The festival was named in honor of Pedro
Romero (father of bullfighting), but this year the festival was also in memory of Antonio Ordonez...he was a great bullfighter from Ronda who had grown old and died last year...truly a living legend. Mom, Dad, G´marky, and Grandpoppie will remember the two statues by the bullring...Antonio Ordonez´s statue was the one on the right...it had been erected while he was still alive...pretty cool, eh? He had been buried last year...in the Plaza de Toros (bullring)...immediately in the ring outside the gate where the bulls are released...every bull that would ever step into the ring in the future will go over his grave...incredible honor! And one of the 3 matadors is the grandson of Antonio Ordonez...the bullfights were shaping up to be incredible.

...we waited...and waited...and the line grew longer...and we waited...and finally at 10am we bought our tickets...I got the cheapest seats in the house (remember, I am on a budget...and Scottish)...but figured, it is such a small arena...it can´t have a bad seat...which proved to be true.

NOW...a NOTE on BULLFIGHTING to all my animal rights activist friends: Now, I am not going to debate the merits of bullfighting with each and everyone of you...I know that many people have strong opinions on the subject...I am not going to try to change your mind and I am pretty sure that you are not going to change my mind...it is an incredible spectacle. I had been to one in Pamplona 2 years ago...and thought it was barbaric...and then I read Ernest Hemmingway´s book Death in the Afternoon, which is basically a primer on all that is bullfighting...an incredible book! It discusses the honor, ceremony, and practices that go into bullfighting. Now, that being said...if you ever go to a bullfight...you will certainly see atleast 6
bulls die...and YES, they will suffer for about 15-20 minutes...I am not going to side-step that fact...however...being raised on a ranch...and harboring no ill will towards bovine...I will tell you that these animals are raised for this express purpose...just like cattle raised for the hamburgers you eat, chickens for your chicken salads, or the farm raised catfish that I love so much...anyone who wears leather, eats a hamburger, or a tuna fish sandwich has paid someone else to kill another animal for our benefit...this is a harsh reality...but reality none-the-less...OK...so much for that...now...on with the story...

After buying tickets, I crashed for a couple of hours...then we all went out and partied on the squares in town...ate tapas...the rest drank various forms of sangria, coke and wine mixes (very good I hear), and somekind of mint drink...we sat and danced...and watched the spanish dance...they are spectacular dancers...the movements are so ritualized...it is a pleasure to watch...

Then, it was time to go to the bullring...Keith and I found our seats in the last row of the upper level...note...in this bullring, the lower level has only 6 rows...and so does the upper level...very little seating capacity...not a bad seat in the house. I won´t go into all the gory details...but I will note the highlights:

- The grandson of Antonio Ordonez placed his had down on his grandfather´s grave as a sign of honor and respect...and both bulls he fought almost gutted him...but he got out of the tough situations and came back for more...not a stellar performance...but hey...I´d have been cleaning out my shorts after what this guy had gone through...
- One of the bullfighters was awarded 2 ears (If it is a good fight, the ¨President of the bullfight¨ (judge) can award an ear from the bull to the matador...if it is a great fight he gets 2 ears...if it was a legendary fight he gets 2 ears and the tail) for a great fight. Note...upon receiving the ears, the matador does a victory lap around the arena to receive a shower of roses, hats, and flasks of wine...in return, he throws the ears to members of the crowd...I ear that it is quite an honor to catch one!
- One of the bulls was scrubbed due to some injury that would prevent him from giving a good fight...IE...he was killed quickly...rather than in a fight...so we saw 7 bulls that day.
 

The long and short of it was that we were happy to have gone (and I was glad I had read the Hemmingway book...it had given me more insight into the entire event)...we returned...had dinner...the gals are awesome!!! Met some Spaniards in the street outside our apartment...partied and danced with them until late...crashed!

Sept 5, 1999
Woke late...ahhhhhh...showed Sarah and Keith the gorge (for which Ronda is famous)...Keith left...I bought a ticket to the Horse Bullfight...napped.

The silly Saffies returned with more Silly Saffies!!! They had gone to Malaga to pickup their boyfriends...and returned with them...more sheep in the flock! ...Ronda...RONDA!!! Anyway, the festival was winding down somewhat...we wandered around the plazas...had tapas...toured the
gorge...then while walking down the street we ran into Katano! (the one who slept in at Lagos)...like a lost sheep...he had found his way into the light...he had arrived in Ronda...RONDA! We had another desciple amongst us! He had just arrived...we hung out for a while...then I had to go to the
horse bullfight.

It was very interesting...the skill and horsemanship was incredible. In a normal bullfight, the matador is really only involved for the final third of the fight...in a horsebullfight, he does it all...all three portions of the fight (picador, bandellero, and matador)...each portion is perfomed with a different horse...the horses have no armor...but in all 6 fights, I only saw a horse take a glancing blow once...and the bulls have thier horns slightly tipped in this fight (not so in a regular bullfight)...the horsemanship is incredible...the bull literally is inches away from the horse and it´s rider...but does not hit them...the rider and horses are amazing to watch. In this type of fight, there are 4 matadors total...each takes a bull...and the last 2 bulls fight 2 riders...it is an amazing spectacle...quite different from the other types of bullfights

Anyway, we all had dinner...and after much talking with the Silly Saffies, I am now wanting desperately to visit S. Africa and Zimbabwe (sp?). Katano had met 2 girls in Seville and talked them into going to Ronda...they were from England, Katherine and Laura...we all hung out and talked that
night...it turns out that the 2 girls were headed to Morocco early the next morning...

NOW, I must confess...I had thought of Morocco...but it seemed too dangerous to want to go...but looking at these two little English girls saying very non-chalantly (sp?) that they were going to Morocco sort of wounded my macho ego...I thought to myself...if they could go...why couldn´t I??? The only thing holding me back was myself...and on this trip, I wanted to have no regrets...and wanted to push myself...so I meekly asked them if I could tag along...they were keen on the idea and we agreed to meet at the train
station at 7am the next morning to catch the train....ugh...another early morning...travelling is not a bed of roses...

I crashed about 1am...and thus ended my wonderful few days in Ronda...RONDA!  I had influenced 4 Saffies, 3 americans, and 2 English gals to go to the Spanish Mecca...city of Ronda...RONDA!!! (chant...chant...Ayudame Ronda, Ayudame Ayudame Ronda!...)
:)
Doug