04 September 2010

Valencia Tomatoes

The notorious Tomato Festival (La Tomatina) in Bunol was one of the most memorable days of my life.  At about 6 in the morning on the last Wednesday of August, a few of us decided to avoid the crowds at the train station and catch a taxi from our ritzy hotel in Valencia to Bunol.

When we arrived in Bunol, the sun was taking it's time to rise.  It was cold, and there were many food, beer and sangria stalls being set up.  We had a few hours to kill before the siren would sound at 11am for the tomato battle to begin.  During this time we stocked up on goggles and beer before the huge crowds of over 30,000 people arrived.

When we arrived at the main street of the battle we were packed like sardines (of the Australian variety).  There was a sea of (mostly obnoxious) Australians and it was worse than any mosh pit I'd ever been in (pictured).  It had warmed up by now and we were all excitedly anticipating the first siren to mark the beginning of one crazy hour.  The buildings along the streets were draped in water-proof/tomato-proof sheets and the locals, perched on their balconies above, were entertaining us with their music and cooling us down with their hoses.


After the first siren, there was a loud cheer and a number of horns could be heard.  Countless big red trucks filled with tonnes of rotten tomatoes somehow wormed their way through the masses. After the first truck passed our laneway, all hell broke loose.  It was only a matter of minutes before everybody was soaked in tomato.  A group of men dressed in spotless white sailor costumes saluted the trucks and soon after, they were almost unrecognisable (pictured).

The goggles came in handy, but easily fogged up.  Each time I removed my goggles to clear the fog, a big stranger would hurl a tomato right at my face.  It was that intense and I don't know why he was so dam accurate with his throwing.  Anyway, I got him back pretty good because I never lose a battle!

We were extremely lucky to have a lovely Spanish lady directly above us pour buckets of water over our heads to clear our eyes and rinse our mouths upon chanting "Agua Agua Agua!" (pictured).

At one stage I feared for my life as I almost had my feet crushed by a passing truck.  The streets were flooded with tomato (it was now inches deep) and as the truck passed me, my feet were literally centimeters away from the wheels.  I had to push myself against the moving truck and one slip or push in the back would've marked the end of my dancing career.


The hour seemed to pass by slowly at the time.  We took shelter in some side streets and stumbled upon some sangria stalls to refuel ourselves before re-entering the battle.  After the second siren that marked the end of the tomato battle, we rushed to the train station to return to Valencia.  A much needed siesta awaited us and we spent the afternoon and evening exploring the city of Valencia.

Valencia is a lovely city; it doesn't share the reputation or glamour of it's neighbouring cities but it is still a gem of a place.  The streets are filled with pastel-coloured apartments (pictured), splendidly detailed buildings and very creative graffiti.  That night we enjoyed a final drink with our backpacking friends by a kerbside cafes overlooking a beautiful fountain.



Grds09 said...

how did your camera not get destroyed?? i love the before and after pics!

I always wanted to go to this festival, i'm doing an exchange semester at copenhagen business school this fall,leaving 2nd week of august. I can't wait to go!

great blog.

Justin Courageo said...

hehe thanks for the compliments!

i actually used my compact point&shoot camera for the tomato fight shots and wrapped it in a waterproof camera bag.

CBS will be an awesome experience. CBS have some crazy good parties every week and apparently provide great accommo options for their exchange studies. make sure to pack warm!

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