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For 364 days of the year nothing really happens in the drab industrial town of Buñol, 38km west of Valencia, Spain.

But today things are a little different - we’re about to take part in the world’s most famous food fight. It’s 8am and an already buzzing crowd is pushing its way towards the central square, pints of sangria in hand. In a few hours there’ll be thousands of people crammed into these mean streets, and the early birds are trying to secure a spot near the ‘palo jamon’ (which loosely translates as greasy pole), a huge pole covered with lard, with a ham on top.The tradition is for men, and occasionally women, to climb over each other in an attempt to reach the ham and become the hero, or heroine, of the festival – a near impossible task, but it’s the intention.

The premise of La Tomatina though is incredibly simple, stupidly so: throw, mash, squidge or otherwise propel over-ripe tomatoes at as many of your fellow Tomatinas as possible. As 11am, the official start time, approaches, tensions build.

Despite the fact that massive speakers have been blaring out Spanish pop tracks and everyone has been dancing, drinking and seemingly enjoying life for a few hours, they’re also sinisterly preparing for what’s about to unfold. Then, a cannon explodes and at the end of the packed street massive trucks roll into sight, the facilitators of what’s about to go down.

Somehow managing to navigate through the crowd, with a swoosh a tsunami of juicy tomatoes flood the street, turning the world red in a flash (you say tomato, I say bring it on!). For the next 45 minutes or so, all hell breaks loose, people throwing tomatoes faster than they can think.

“BOOM”, the second cannon is sounded and weapons are laid down. Game over. Euphoric but exhausted and dazed, the crowd, looking like extras from Kill Bill, shuffles home slowly, exchanging laughs while marvelling at the destruction that has befallen this-once sleepy town.


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Festival Guide: La Tomatina
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