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Published: September 30th 2017
Taken early in the morning with our pristine white shirts.
Geo: 39.4182, -0.790768
Up at 6:30 AM for La Tomatina, the giant tomato fight taking place at Bunol! There was no time to sit down and have breakfast at the hotel so we just grabbed a bun and some pastries, eating them on the way to the train station. The train was PACKED!!! There were people sitting in the aisles and in the doorways. This was OK as it meant there was a higher concentration of hotties on board ... and it got even better as we arrived in Bunol.
It was a two km walk to the city centre from the station. Hordes of people were streaming off the train and cutting across the train tracks. Normally this probably wouldn't be allowed, but how could you stop that many people?
Even at 8:30 AM, the makeshift beer gardens were starting to fill up. You could see people sleeping in their cars, tents pitched on the sidewalks, and people just out having a good time. The locals probably make a killing selling t-shirts, waterproof disposable cameras, and goggles. A lot of people had t-shirts specially printed for the occasion, and some just made their own with markers. We noticed some Canadian girls
Eagerly awaiting the fight, ready with our goggles.
- obvious because of the two sole letters written on the back of their shirts - 'EH?'
Police were patrolling the perimeter of what would be the centre of the action - we were forced to remove the caps from our water bottles to make them less dangerous projectiles. We gathered at the central square, eagerly anticipating the festivities. I made a casual comment to Mary "We're drinking juice and water while everyone else is drinking beer and sangria!"
Some guy overheard us and offered us some wine. He actually lived in Calgary for a number of years and recently quit his job so that he could travel ... hmmm ... sounds familiar ... but sadly for him, he decided not to buy a house a few years ago. Imagine how long he could travel for if he did buy a house before the boom, and sold it now?
He was at La Tomatina with a Brazilian Londoner. She heard us talking about the booming economy in Calgary and asked him "So does that mean you're rich?" "Uhh ... uhh ... he's probably richer, since he's an engineer" he replied, gesturing to me. "Oooohhh ..." she purred to me. So that's all
On the right hand side of the "Cemex" banner you can see the greased pole. A ham is placed atop, and the fight cannot start until someone climbs up and claims the ham.
It takes hours to even get close to the ham, as people need to slowly knock off the grease until they can climb higher and higher. It's rather comical watching people climbing over each other, pulling each other down in a vain attempt to push themselves higher. Kind of like the corporate ladder!
The crowd would alternate between cheers as someone would get closer and closer, then boos when they inevitably slipped back down the pole.
Notice that yellow thing at the base of the pole? It's a guy wearing a banana suit. Mary enjoyed seeing him - she commented "Oooh ... is that how big the bananas get in Spain?"
it takes, eh?
It quickly became crowded and the crowd was starting to work itself into a frenzy. It was hot. The atmosphere was electric. It was incredible. Chants of "Ole, ole, ole, ole!" were sung as the masses rose and fell in unison. People starting ripping off each other's t-shirts and tossing them around (BTW - wet t-shirts all twisted up really hurt when you get plastered in the face with one). Slippers, water bottles, shoes, juice boxes, and even a banana (courtesy of me!) were all used as projectiles.
We saw a creepy Spanish family enjoying the festivities. There was what appeared to either be a brother and his much younger sister, or a boyfriend and his MUCH younger girlfriend. Either way, it was creepy how they were so touch-feely ... but even creepier was when the entire family tried to rip off her shirt! A little too close, if you ask me ...
Before the fight can acutally begin, a ham placed atop a greased pole must be captured. After a few hours, it finally happened. I actually looked away for a few seconds and just missed it! The cannon was fired, signaling the start of the fight.
Look closely at this picture for a very unique projectile ... do you see the inflated condom?
The anticipation built to a feverish pitch - already squished and barely able to move, our bodies were crushed even more as the fire trucks made their way through the streets delivering the ammunition. I really don't know how we managed to make way for the trucks ... but somehow they got through.
The carnage began. Chaos. Debauchery. Madness. Mayhem. I have NEVER seen a free for all like this EVER in my life (except at all you can eat buffets with my family - scary!) An orgy of tomatoes began to rain down on us. I was absolutely nailed several times in the head. In the ear, the temple, and the eye - it actually knocked my goggles askew.
I managed to "catch" a volley of 10-15 tomatoes (more like 10-15 tomatoes bounced off of my face and slid down my body and into my arms that were pinned against my body). It was so tightly packed that I couldn't even reach down to gather them. After some time I was able to bring a few tomatoes up and fling them - it was impossible to wind up and blast somebody with the tomatoes. All I could do was
Alright - we were talking with a group of people and this guy goes "Hey guys, take a picture of me. I'm going to pee in my pants!" We all laughed until he actually did it. You can kind of see it squirting out the base of his pants.
flick my wrist!
I lost a bunch of tomatoes trying to adjust my goggles - my initial volley was the best, though that doesn't say much. Mary wasn't tall enough to really get any good shots off - a few times I accidentally blocked her with my raised arms. Usually, she passed tomatoes up to my open hands and then I tossed them wildly, with no intended target.
Being right across from the fire hoses, we were constantly getting blasted with cold water. Mary was shivering like you wouldn't believe! I like to think that she was trembling with anticipation as I held her in my arms ... The fight continued for what seemed like an eternity - people tried leaving but couldn't navigate through the throngs of people. It was like salmon swimming upstream, but far more hopeless. The momentum of the crowd was unforgiving and relentless; it simply could not be contained. You didn't move where you wanted to move - you went wherever the crowd dictated.
We were in an impossibly bad spot near the wall - the people in the street had all the fun. The crazy part is that we were only a few feet
Smart - people cover their houses with tarps.
away from all the action, but couldn't get there! The people just behind us directly against the wall had it the worst - they actually had to turn themselves away from the action and brace against the wall to prevent from getting crushed by the random surges of people.
The fight finally ended, signaled by another cannon shot. People were supposed to stop fighting at this point, but of course nobody did. We had gotten hosed down pretty good by this point and were fairly clean - but during our getaway we became filthy once again. I don't know how many times I got smacked in the kisser with flying t-shirts. In addition to being the world's biggest tomato fight, this also was the world's biggest wet t-shirt contest!
It took several minutes of sloshing through tomato soup and dodging (unsuccessfully) flying t-shirts to get to the showers. I actually had tomato seeds in my teeth ... nasty! The showers were little more than one long horizontal pipe with several holes punched into it; it was simple but did the job. Mary conveniently separated from me as we lined up for the showers. I finally found her - showering with 6
Just before the fight began. The numerous brief blasts from the fire hoses really whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Chants of "Queremos agua!" (We want water!) filled the air until the people got want they wanted. My cries of "Quiero chicas espanolas lindas!" (I want beautiful Spanish girls!) were not as successful. B@stards.
guys!!! It was actually kind of funny - they were all picking bits of tomato from her hair, like chimpanzees picking each others' lice.
It was cold walking through the shaded streets in our soaked clothing. The breeze didn't help. It was much better once we got out of the city centre and into the sun - we dried quickly. We passed numerous impromptu dance clubs and beer gardens. And several locals hosing off people as they walked on by. Perhaps Bunol would be a good spot to retire one day - where else could a guy get away with hosing hotties down without getting arrested?
It was a wild scene at the train station - the lineup was huge and it really wasn't a line up at all, just a mass of people milling about. Buying return tickets in advance didn't do us any good - we weren't entitled to simply waltz on board.
We waited a good 45-60 minutes before finally getting on a train. The cars were so packed that the workers instructed us to go into one of the off-limits compartments of the train. It was oven-like in there ... but at least we got to
The damage - people covered in tomato guts immediately after the fight. People in this area were actually pretty clean because of the fire hoses. We got filthier as we walked throught the streets over to the public showers.
sit down and nap on the ride back to Valencia. We also chatted with a Dutch couple - I guess they won a trip to Bunol for the tomato fight.
Back to the hotel for a shower - Mary didn't get much of the tomato out of her hair, so apparently the tub looked like a blood bath as she showered. After, we went looking for a pair of flip flops to replace the set Mary lost while bathing in the streets of Bunol.
We were b!tch-slapped by the oppressive heat as we stepped out of the hotel - 42 degrees in the sun!!! I imagine this is what it feels like to be roasted inside a convection oven. Off to El Corte Ingles, the grand department store of Spain. We grabbed a quick tuna and onion pie for lunch in their basement supermarket. We didn't have any luck finding cheap flip flops for Mary and ended up having a café con leche in the cafeteria upstairs. Pretty fancy for a cafeteria; more of a restaurant than anything else.
We've been seeing a lot of "Sfera" clothing stores in Spain this year so we checked one out. Nothing special. Mary
Tomato splattered walls.
Moment #14: Mary almost got stuck in a bathroom stall. Cries of "Por favor?" could be heard throughout the restaurant. After Mary successfully escaped the toilet, we walked around town.
The cathedral, basilica, its adjacent square, Plaza de la Reina ... we pretty much covered the entire town today. We paused for some tasty gelato and then went to the Museum of Belle Arts. Several El Greco and Goya portraits were on loan from the Prado in Madrid. There were also some sculptures, but there was too much to see before it closed. The museum was free, so of course it was good!
We took a brief respite from the heat in the cool and shady Royal Gardens. The bad thing about Spain is that you need to kill time until the restaurants open at 9 PM. We chose a beautiful spot on an outdoor terrace in Plaza de la Virgen. We wanted sangria, but they ran out, despite only being open for dinner a short time. We had some pretty bad red and white wine instead.
I wanted a salad but they were out of that too. Not a good sign for the forthcoming meal. Luckily, it was better than I
This was one of the cleaner streets. The streets were more than ankle-deep with tomato juice in the main square where the fight started.
expected - but it still was nothing to write home about. "Aroma del Espresso" is definitely NOT worth a return visit. But at least it was cheap!
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