Sunday, May 3, 2015Sunday, May 3, 2015

A journey through Barcelona, Tarragona and the Penedes

Published on Nov 24, 2012 9:52 AM
Scenes from the 24th Tarragona Castells competition, where competitors build gravity-defying human towers in the Tarraco Arena Plaza. Dozens of collas (pronounced "ko-yas"), or groups that build these human towers (castells), erect complex permutations of human towers at the 24th Tarragona Castells competition. This competition is held every other October. -- ST PHOTO: CORRIE TAN

A tiny wisp of a girl, not more than eight years old, is climbing a tower with dogged determination.

Except that this is no ordinary tower. We are in Tarragona, about 100km south-west of the Catalan capital city of Barcelona, and this little girl is the finishing touch atop a wobbly eight-level human tower.

My heart convulses as she somehow finds foot and hand-holds in the crooks of shoulders, necks and arms, while her parents wait patiently below. Her helmet seems barely enough protection for what could be a 12m-drop onto the dusty floor of the bullring.

I am at the Tarraco Arena Plaza, where thousands of locals and tourists have gathered to witness a tradition more than 300 years old. Its exact origins are uncertain, but some believe they come from the 16th-century folk dances of the neighbouring city of Valls.

Enjoy 2 weeks of unlimited digital access to The Straits Times. Get your free access now!