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Monday, 27 February 2012

50 Things to do before you die 1: La Tomatina

Bunol the night before
I remember watching scenes of La Tomatina on television as a kid. A massive tomato fight orchestrated by hundreds of people of every nationality in a usually sleepy Spanish town. I thought it looked amazing and always wanted to go. In 2009 I did. La Tomatina is a once in a lifetime experience; once you’ve done it once you probably won’t want to go back. Not that I’m saying it isn’t fun, in fact the problem is more that it’s a little too much fun. We arrived the night before and discovered how far the Spanish entrepreneurial spirit will go. On every corner of every street from the train station up to the town were makeshift bars and pubs. Anyone with a vehicle and patio furniture seemed to have purchased as much beer as possible and got down to the serious business of selling it. Just outside of town a massive rave commenced at 2am (the time when a night out commences for the Spanish) and charged 20 euros for entry.

Ready for the tomatoes

Once all our money was gone we found a place to chill out and waited for the morning. As it came, so did the people, in their thousands. Everywhere you looked were organised tour groups in branded shirts, Australian men dressed in ludicrous costumes and wobbly looking Canadians downing whole boxes of warm wine.
here they come....
A massive pole in the centre of the town is covered in fat, a massive ham hung from the top and thus the fun begins. For what feels like hours a mosh pit forms within a 10m radius from the pole. Hundreds of people attempt to climb to the summit and secure the ham. Maybe someone succeeds, but much hilarity will ensue before that happens. Finally a succession of massive trucks drive right into the already packed town square and dump tones and tones of tomatoes into the crown. Chaos ensues. Tomato everywhere. Huge water guns spraying with excessive force. The heat, the smell, the sound. Before you know it the streets are knee deep in water and tomato juice. People are diving into it, swimming around. And suddenly it’s all over. A mass migration begins towards a river on the outskirts of town where revellers assess their war wounds, attempt to cover up any body parts revealed by torn clothing and make a fruitless effort to clean the rotten tomato from their skin and hair.

The Exodus
 Locals are in the streets offering hose-downs, some for money, others for free, many just to the attractive females. The migration switches directions towards the train station. There are stalls on either sides of the streets selling food, drink and clothes. The line for the train is jaw-dropping. Eventually we make it through the gates and onto a train. The train is air conditioned and everyone is soaking wet. People get turned away for being without a t shirt or shoes, or being too caked in tomato. The train smells like rotting fruit and everyone is shivering. It takes what seems like hours to leave the station and even longer to get back to Valencia. Some people complain, others sleep, most sit in silence. We agree that it was amazing, but that we will probably never do it again.

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