September 04, 2004

La Tomatina

One small town square, one hundred and twenty five tons of tomatos, twenty thousand people in a sticky, wet, red mass, pelting each other with the fruit. That is what I joined, together with Snow and Affa this year.

We made the pilgramage to Bunyol in Spain this year, to chuck tomatos at each other and everyone, in one of the worlds most unusual festivals. Waterproof cameras were obligatory, and we snarfed some great shots of the action.

As the peak of the month long festival in Bunol, this small town of around 10,000 people brought us along, together with 30-40,000 other people to peg tomatos at each other in a hour long frenzy. It's the only time I can truly say I went out and painted the town red.

The evening before we had driven there to scout around and see how to get there, how to park and prepare for the next day. There was a huge party going on the night before, every cafe and pub was full of people downing beers and sangria.

At about midnight, we made our way back to Valencia, prepared for what was to come.

The following morning was way too early, getting up by 6am to leave at around 6:30. The drive was fast, and having made it into Bunyol at 7:30am, we wandered around a bit before sitting down for a morning drink, Affa with his hair of the dog (a litre of beer).

At around 9:30am, the first tradition of the day went up - a tall pole, heavily greased with soap, with a leg of ham sitting atop it. Really weird, but the goal here is to head up the pole and grab the ham. Doesnt seem like much, but it kept 20000 people amused for a couple of hours before the main event. Affa had a few goes up the pole, didnt succeed too much though!

Each time someone neared the ham, the crowd erupted in cheering. Finally someone grabbed it, and the crowd went apeshit, cheering and roaring. Thas when the shirt fight happened. Getting scored inthe head with a knotted wet t-shirt is NOT recommended!

Finally...the trucks rolled in!

Six trucks full of tomatos slowly rolled through the square, a few people up top taking potshots at the crowd, and eventually the driver emptying the entire load of tomatos on the ground, starting the warring frenzy of red pulpy mess.

Knee-deep in tomato, there were no friends and it was every man for himself splattering and being splattered in ripe red roma tomatos (and the occasional hard green one - ouch!). White shirts were no longer white, the mornings hair wash was quickly make pointless, and what was one a group of sensible adults became a bunch of grown up kids re-living their toddler days of throwing food everywhere.

The tomatos came slowly at first, with the occasional one sailing through the air to those not right next to the trucks. I got myself all prepared, catching any tomatos that came my way, and getting direct headshots on anyone who looked the cleanest. As more trucks rolled in, everything just got juicier...what were occasional tomatos became a torrent, and no one was spared. The *splat* *splat* *splat* kept coming. Some people closer to the middle went to the outside for a break, with barely recognisable faces and wearing the red pulp like a wig.

Once the middle crowd wasn't so packed with people, I headed into the middle with Snow and started getting *really* dirty. There was no having to dig around for ammunition, I just had to reach down into the mess and grab whatever was there. The carnage kept coming and coming, and after the last truck had rolled through everything just got pulped up even further, until it was just a sea of people, meatballs in tomato sauce. After a while some groups of people were too exhausted to throw any more, and they started to sit down in groups, wallowing in the red mess. A few people did hippo impressions, still others were pouring slop onto each others heads. The weather was hot, so the tomatos felt cool, a good relief from the sun.

After a long while, exhausted souls went to wash off. We followed down the trail of tomato remains, reaching the river where there was a makeshoft row of showers set up. People had a much needed rinse off, eagerly queueing for the twenty or so holes poked in the pipe. A shower and a wallow in the river later, and some of the tomato was out. Over the next day or so I'd find all sorts of tomato remains on me, and the hotel cleaner would find strange bits of fruit in the hotel shower..

Posted by Ben at 02:11 PM | Comments (1)