Friday, July 24, 2015

La Tomatina

It's nearly August, the thermometers are almost at bursting point again here in Spain which must mean it’s almost time for the Tomatina again!!! Indeed it is – this year’s Tomatina will take place on the 26th August 2015.

What is the Tomatina? I hear you ask!

The Tomatina is without doubt the silliest event I have ever attended, by a very long way. A great way of describing this event is an epic party during which 22,000 ‘new friends’ enthusiastically share out 140,000 kg (309,000 lbs or 14 tonnes) of tomatoes in a street frenzy.

The shorter description is the world’s biggest tomato fight!

Where is the Tomatina?

The Tomatina takes place in a small picturesque inland Spanish village, set in a pretty valley, called Buñol. It is located just inland from Valencia in the North East of mainland Spain.

It can be easily reached by car, bus or train from Valencia.

How do I go to the Tomatina?

This event has recently become a victim of its own success. Up until 2014 it was a free for all – arrive and get in there and starting hurling tomatoes. But for good health and safety reasons (it’s pretty full on daft as it is!) entry is now limited to about 22,000 wrist band holders. We were there last year and you would struggle to get any more folks in safely!

Wrist bands are low cost and primarily in place to restrict numbers.

How does it work then?

On arrival you head into the centre of the village (the route!) and get yourself in position. In the run up to the start there is plenty of action with locals and neighbours unable to stop themselves from throwing water and the odd tomato ahead of the starters gun! Great fun in the build-up.

Then after the official start (at about 11:00 am which is signalled by locals climbing a greased pole and racing to be the first to get to a leg of ham - or something equally bizarre!) the lorries start to roll into town.

These are full on heavyweight big tipper trucks. They roll in through the very tight streets, stopping at regular intervals to tip off their loads – tonnes and tonnes of the red gold!

On board each of the trucks is an army of helpers (actually ‘pelters’ is a better word). These guys vigorously hand out the tomatoes as fast as they can to those below in the streets (you!). As well as the truck tipper actions which unload big style!

Down on the street you are tasked with the impossibly funny job of taking as many of these tomatoes (giving them a quick squeeze to soften the unbroken fruits is good Tomatina etiquette) and then hurling them at all participants within your reach. Lean down, pick up a hand full of Tomatoes and launch it, repeat, repeat, repeat…..

Obviously you are coming under heavy fire yourself at this time – with the accompanying ‘splat’ ‘splat’ ‘splat’ from each hit you receive becoming funnier and funnier than the last hit! It’s a frenzy. Trucks after trucks come through and more and more ‘ammo’ is supplied. Until you are literally ankle deep in a sweet red mushy river of tomato juice.

And then all too soon it is all over (about 1 hour later at mid-day). A siren sounds to single the end of the ‘fight’ (or Tomato sharing) and pretty much everyone downs weapons. It really is too epic to
describe. I ached with laughter and was out of breath due to enthusiastic sharing, and the streets were flowing with liquid tomatoes.

Its then time to relax, head into town for a drink, something to eat, a shower and change of clothes.

Practicalities and Tips

What to wear for the Tomatina

White clothes you don’t mind throwing away! It is good form to wear white, it shows the hits and adds to the fun. On completion of the event the car parks are full of piles and piles abandoned ‘pink’ dyed clothes.

Eye protection – We both took DIY goggles, although to be honest they soon fogged up but they certainly took some hits.

At the end of the ‘sharing’ you will have tomato in every crease, crevice and opening in your body. Seeds in your hair, skin and seeds in your ears, etc. Its full on.

Other practical Tomatina info

Showers – Those on planned trips (we took one of these from Buñol with Spaintastic) generally have a shower included. These are basically a hosing down – fit for purpose and to be fair they shifted most of the residue from the fight!

Lockers – again most tour operators include a locker. The queues for our lockers were huge so we headed into town where several locals were offering the same service for about €3. So we left our gear with them and it worked out well.

Camera – a waterproof camera is a must! Don’t think your smartphone in your pockets will not get wet – it will!

Should I go to the Tomatina?

Do you like fun? Then YES YES YES YES YES YES ……..

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