The year was 2005. I had just graduated college and was constantly searching for that first job that would set me on the road to success. I daydream A LOT though, and while I was bound and determined to put my degree to use, I also knew that life experiences were always far more important to me than any job or amount of money. While skimming the internet I came across La Tomatina, a giant tomato fight festival that occurs in the small village of Bunol, Spain. I HAD to go there. I didn’t know how, why, or when, but I HAD to go there. It was that day I told myself I would save very cent I earned and plan my first Eurotrip based around making it on time to this festival. And so the travel bug had bitten me. There was no turning back.
Getting to the small village of Bunol in the town of Valencia, Spain was no easy task! I was told by many that I should actually go into Bunol the night before the tomato fight because it started rather early in the morning. Of course, I didn’t know about this until the DAY of the tomato fight, so I ended up in Bunol with no hotel reservations. I tend to rely a lot on happenstance and luck. My mom has always said I am too trusting of a person, and perhaps that is true, but you will never know how NICE people can be until you give them a chance to be. Anyhow, there I was in this little village, wandering around trying to get “supplies,” and wondering what would happen next. Oh ya, if you’re going to be in La Tomatina, you need to buy yourself some goggles. This is serious people! Fortunately I happened to meet some Aussie travel buddies to venture along with. In the meantime, this little village of Bunol was going crazy. People were dancing in the streets. It started getting late and I would have probably got worried about where to sleep, but you know, I was 24 years old or something at the time. Eventually I ended up sleeping in an alley with my new Aussie friends and a few other strangers. I would probably NEVER do this today. Don’t do that. It’s stupid. Oh my word. I was too trusting! Fortunately I’ve wised up a bit since then.
I awoke to the sound of a blaring horn. Oh! It’s HAPPENING! I followed the crowd into a narrow street. My heart is racing! What is going to happen? The crowd is really filling up and I look over to see people climbing up a pole which appears to be slicked up with some sort of oil. I will never understand Spain’s traditions, but oh what fun! Eventually I confirm that they are trying to climb the greased up pole to touch a ham. Apparently the touching of the ham signifies the start of the fight. I prepared myself. God knows it would be my fate to die in the middle of a huge food fight being trampled to death.
The picture above most closely signifies what I remember. Unfortunately I don’t have any of my own pictures as I lost my disposable camera in the frenzy. I pelted, I got pelted, and I had SO MUCH FUN! I did however, see one girl with a black eye, and another woman get her shirt ripped off. (I do believe, however this was a purposeful incident? There was a rumor if you wore a big white shirt the guys would rip it off) It was so maddening, yet so exhilarating all at once. I believe it lasted about an hour or so, maybe an hour and a half. A couple hours later, the streets were cleaned by firefighters and there was not a trace of tomato in the land. Everyone who participated went and cleaned off in the village creek, which I’ll admit was pretty nasty. I didn’t want to see a tomato EVER again!
Afterwards, you could find missing flip flops, cameras, hair ties, and other assorted clothes lying around. I couldn’t figure out where everyone in the tomato fight disappeared to. I walked up a hill an found them all partying in the streets. This was probably the craziest party I’d ever seen. People were rocking cars back and forth that were trying to drive by. Some people were hitting a beach ball around in the air. It was outright lunacy. I was exhausted and done. You know, after I partied for a little bit. It was my 20’s people! As I went to catch the train back to Barcelona I realized I hadn’t brought enough money for the entire trip, and thus had no money left to catch the train back. I had no idea what to do, so I did what any smart girl would do…. I cried. Eventually some sweet woman ended up coming to help me and send me on my way. It was the first time I’d ever actually begged for money. It was so embarrassing, but it was real and it made me appreciate so many things in life; like money, and planning, and people.
I actually think something like this would be beneficial to us here in the states. It would help us get out some aggression and live a little. What do you say? Do you want to vote for more food fights? I do! OR would you be able to handle the gross factor? What’s the most unusual or eccentric festival you’ve ever been to? I’d love to hear what you think!
TRAVEL OUT LOUD!