We struggled out of bed after a night of drinking wine and throwing water at each other in Requena with the prospect of being pelted by tomatoes making getting up all the more challenging.
With some hangovers and blurry eyes in tow we boarded a bus to Bunol and had mostly recovered by the time we arrived.
There are quite a few different stories about how La Tomatina started but most of them involve a food fight in the 1940s where a vegetable stand was used as ammo. The young locals tried to start it again the next year but brought their own tomatoes this time. Police got involved to try and stop it every now and then but eventually the festival became a proper annual event and has been going strong ever since.
Soon after we arrived at our spot for the day, we unfortunately overheard one of the guys in the group right in front of us saying how he had to pee. Sure enough, 10 seconds later and he’s peeing in a cup in the middle of the crowd. I was half expecting him to be completely disgusting and throw the full cup over the crowd but he only went with quite disgusting by dropping down and pouring it on the ground at his feet. This was gross but got worse when two minutes later a guy was on his hands and knees in the puddle of pee as he helped someone on to his shoulders.
One guy had a bit of an odd costume for the day. I think you can probably spot him without a description from the photo below (it’s just like “where’s wally?”…or should I say “where’s willy?”).
His costume came complete with a set of balls. I came to know one of the balls quite intimately as he squished pass us. Little did I know at the time that I would get even more well acquainted with one of the balls later on as it hit me in the head in the midst of the tomato fight (guess someone confused it with a giant tomato and ripped it off).
In its history, it had never rained on the day of the Tomatina festival but we were there for the lucky first time as a thunderstorm rolled in to soak us. It got cold quick.
The tomato fight begins when one of the locals manages to make it up a greased up pole and lifts off a ham that is sitting on top (aah the Spanish and their festivals – nobody could ever accuse them of lacking imagination). Assuming a local doesn’t make it to the ham by 11am (the most likely outcome), the trucks roll in to start the carnage (bringing with them around 40 tonnes of tomatoes). A large shot rings out to announce the trucks arrival. Only problem with that was that I didn’t have a watch and the claps of thunder that rang out kept making me think we were kicking off.
Soon enough it was actually go time and we went from shivering from the cold rain to covered in a thick blanket of tomatoes (along with the exertion it took to help cover everyone else around us, it warmed us up pretty quickly).
We were in a packed street and every time one of the trucks came along we would have to squish up against the sides of the street so it was a little claustrophobic. We thought we were messy after the first truck rolled past but it was ridiculous by the time the last one rolled by.
Everyone says that the tomatoes don’t hurt because you have to crush them before throwing them. Well that’s a nice idea but after the third or fourth hard tomato in the head, I decided that all the people mentioning the crushing of tomatoes probably haven’t been there. A few of us opted for goggles which were great for about 20 seconds until they became completely covered in tomatoes and we were left with two options: blindly grope about for tomatoes and keep your goggles on or take the goggles off and be stuck with burning eyes from all the tomato juice. It was a tough choice.
Near the time the last truck was crawling through we decided we wanted to try get to a spot with a bit more breathing space so started squeezing our way through the crowd. It got pretty intense for a bit and before you know it I was lost completely with nobody else near me, Dayna and Sarah were off down a side street and Cath and Jono were somewhere else in the crowd. I learnt that tomatoes are a great disguise – everyone looked the same to me so I had no chance of finding everyone despite spending the next hour and a half trying.
We got a bit of shaky video as well which includes another round of “where’s willy?” (and his balls – bonus points if you spot one of them being flung up in the air) for those who enjoyed the earlier version – it gives you an idea of what it was like.
Once the tomato fight had ended it was still a messy, long walk back to the bus in the crowds. Locals have hoses set up to help clean the tomato off but it was tough going. 20,000 people sharing the limited number of hoses made it hard to get a share and the tomato was EVERYWHERE. We all regrouped at the bus and had the difficult job of wiping off enough tomato and tidying up enough to be let back on the bus.
We were pretty wrecked by the end of the day so the bus ride home was a quiet one. The shower at the hotel was amazing even though we were still finding tomato on us hours later.
And to think, we still had David Guetta in Ibiza the next night to pull ourselves together for…