Posts Tagged ‘Les Arenes’

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The Rough, Tough, Macho Camargue

April 7, 2009
Leap of Life by @luefkens

Leap of Life by @luefkens

It’s really not my cup of tea hence my never quite making it to one before. But today was different. Being in the right time at the right place, aka Arles on the opening day of the Camargue’s bullfighting season, I really had no excuse. All in the name of research I reassured myself. I also knew two small boys, aged five and seven, would be mesmerized by such gravity-defying acrobatics.

As spell-binding as the pack of young fit 20-something men in tight white flying to the sky to escape the bull, was the seriousness with which the audience watched. Easter is still a week away, so tourists remained anonymous. We were surrounded on all sides by born-and-bred aficionados for whom watching a bullfight at Les Arenes is the perfect Sunday afternoon. Cowboy hat, shirt and intense concentration were a uniform.

I grasped the Les Arenes bit: gargantuan arch-laced amphitheatre built by the Romans in Arles in the 1st to 2nd century AD, intact, magnificent. But the bull bit, not really. No blood is shed in a course Camarguaise (Camargue bullfight) and the pesky bull trots out the ring 15 minutes after entering to the sound of resounding applause. Six bulls in all make up a course, each one in turn taking on 11-odd razeteurs who pit their wits against the bull to pluck rosette, tassles and strings from its horns using a small metal comb-like object. Dressed from head to toe in bright white, bullfighters charge at the bull then flee the ring with an almighty acrobatic leap – an astonishing feat of agility and athleticism – up and over the red-painted barrier dividing the sandy ring from the audience. One razeteur, haircut swankier, t-shirt tighter, demeanor cockier than the rest, practically flew to the moon each time he leapt to safety. The accuracy of jumps was equally impressive: not once did a bullfighter miss the barrier, stumble and fall. Sensible given the size of those horns just centimetres from his bum.

Leaping in Tandem by @luefkens

Leaping in Tandem by @luefkens

Best up was the bull who also leapt over the barrier in hot pursuit, prompting cries of terrified delight all round. Best up was the bull who refused to leave the arena, prompting attempts by both the bell-clad head of herd and the herd-keeper aka a Camargue gardian wielding steel fork to get it out. Best up was bull after bull who thwarted the razeteurs’ acrobatic bids at bagging his trophies.

Time and again, bull after bull sent them flying like a pack of cards out of the ring. Crumpled, sweaty, bums scuffed with red from the painted barrier, those cocky razeteurs didn’t look half as immaculate when they left the ring. In the Camargue’s rough, tough, macho scape of bulls, white horses and mosquitoes by the billion it is clearly the black bull who has the last laugh.

Part of the Course by @luefkens

Pack of Cards Go Flying by @luefkens