After my tickets were booked to attend the famous tomato fight in Valencia I must admit I was a little apprehensive to travel all that way to be pelted for an hour with red fruit. However, in the end it wasn’t that bad, I only got hit in the face about six or seven times.
We arrived in Madrid on a Monday and caught a four-hour bus down to Valencia to meet with our tour group at our hostel. I had never been on a travel tour before and was worried that it would be dominated by loud, young Aussie blokes, but the first impressions given were surprising, – they were just like me (only a little more sane and a little more tan). The first evening in Valencia was a ‘get to know each other’ night. I think most conversations had that night were forgotten the next day on account of too much alcohol being consumed, one group of girls were almost arrested for not paying a taxi and one boy had to be carried home within an hour of arriving.
The next evening we heading off to the Water and Wine festival in the small Spanish town of Requena, located an hours drive out of Valencia. I had no idea of what was in store for me on this evening but looking back I must say it was the absolute highlight of my time in Spain. We sat outside the towns bull ring drinking Sangria and listening to the chants inside (we didn’t want to pay the 40 Euro) until 1am when the masses came out to the street to dance in a parade led my local brass bands. The atmosphere was incredible, the locals watched on while us tourists danced along the street while being doused by both water and red wine which was poured from the balconies above. The locals would also pull up along side the parade with buckets of red wine, simply hand them your empty vessel and they will return it to you full, now that’s what I call service. We returned to the bus at around 4am covered in red wine and not looking forward to our 7am wake up call.
The sound of our tour leader pounding on the door after three hours sleep was not taken well by my room mate Michel. I thought she may have cried after the words fell out of his mouth in the drunken state he was woken in. We had to get out of bed and run to the bus to get a good spot for La Tomatina, the reason we were all in Spain. We arrived in Bunol around 40 minutes later and made our way down the steep hill to the street were the fight would be taking place, that’s when the heavy rain began to fall. We stood there looking at each other miserably for around two hours before a local finally climbed the greasy pole to grab the ham and signify the start of the Tomato fight. The rules state that you must squash tomatoes before throwing them (this was not done), you must not rip others clothing (mine was) you must stop throwing tomatoes when you hear the second cannon (thank god we were out by them). Nothing can really prepare you for La Tomatina, you think you may be able to keep up with the madness but there is just no way. Tomatoes are being thrown from the rooftops, passing trucks and all the people around you. You are pelted in the face again and again and it does not tickle. We were completely drenched head to toe in tomato pulp and I feel that even now there is a tomato growing in my brain on account of all the seeds that got in my ear.
Whilst I would probably never attend this festival again I am please I did it and have the (blurry) pictures to prove it. It was great to be involved in an authentic Spanish event (even though it was overrun by tourists) but I don’t think I will be eating tomatoes in a while…