Having really enjoyed the last few fiestas, we decided we would go to Buñol for the tomato fiesta La Tomatina.
No-one knows for sure how this fiesta started and there are many stories, from two men starting a food fight in a restaurant that spilled out onto the streets, to a local housewife attacking the farmer with his tomatoes, enraged by the price he was asking!!
One thing is for sure, this is no ordinary fiesta.It is estimated that more than 20,000 people descend on the town from all over the world to take part in the worlds largest tomato throwing event.
We arrived the night dressed up in similar outfits of red tops and white trousers with the girls wearing flashing tiaras. The locals had laid tables out in the street and were enjoying watching the crowds go by, cheering and clapping each group that had made an effort to dress up. The party atmosphere was fantastic and set the mood for the following day.
When we returned the following morning, the town was awash with bodies, many of whom had partied all night. Those that weren’t still asleep in their cars were continuing to party with beer and wine being drunk in copious amounts.
The police were checking that everyone entering the town plaza had no bottles or hard objects to throw and gave us leaflets explaining the rules, squash the tomatoes before you throw them, only throw them between 11-12am, do not tear off other people t-shirts and no throwing hard objects, do not take glass or bottles into the area and be careful of the lorries as they passed by. Fine, we thought, no problem there and off we went to look for the ‘greasy pole’ which must be conquered before the fiesta can begin.
We found the pole close to the town centre and already a crowd was gathering. The pole is about 40ft high and has a leg of ham attached to the top.Whoever climbs to the top first claims the ham. Not as easy as that though as the pole is thoroughly greased with soft grease and is extremely slippery. Gangs of lads and lassies fought over each other to climb up the pole and reach the ham, constantly sliding back down as the pyramid below collapsed. T-shirts were being ripped off and thrown at the climbers to help them remove the grease from the pole.
By the time the top was reached and the ham claimed, a huge crowd had formed and it was impossible to move in any direction. Unfortunately for us we were directly in front of the water cannons and there was no escaping the tons of water that came our way. Everyone began a frenzy of ripping off t-shirts, their own and yours if they could which was quite unnerving for us girls.The crowd was going wild and everyone was throwing anything they had to hand, shoes, t-shirts, cartons and plastic bottles. So much for the rules!
At mid-day a siren sounded and the fiesta started.The tomato wagons came by and threw 1000’s of tomatoes into the crowds, who happily picked them up and threw them back! A scene of pure lunacy followed as the road become a river of red and people become unrecognizable. Everywhere you looked, people were throwing the tomatoes with gusto, rubbing them into your hair and generally enjoying themselves. At 12am the fireworks went off announcing the end of the fight and whilst most of us made our way to the river and showers to clean down, others took the opportunity to roll around in the puddles of tomato juice! The streets were transformed into a blanket of red and everything in the vicinity was covered. Immediately the firemen were there preparing the hoses to wash down the streets and return the town back to normal.
Did I enjoy it? Yes…..and No, I loved the party atmosphere and even the tomato fight but I was intimidated by the groups of youths who had been drinking all night and were all but uncontrollable. It became slippery underfoot and I was afraid that if I fell I would simply get trampled to death because of the sheer number of the crowds but most of all I didnt want all my clothes ripped off as did happen to some of the girls. I’m glad I went, but next year I will leave it to the boys!