We’re too far from the action – we’re going to miss it!”
My friend looked to me in disbelief. She was right. We had just travelled from London to Spain and into the tiny Spanish town of Buñol to take part in the world’s biggest food fight.
With our goggles strapped tightly to our heads and decked out in outfits which we had strategically purchased from the sale racks at Primark, we would have felt pretty silly if not for the fact that everyone else around us looked exactly the same.
We had heard all of the stories prior to embarking on our journey; legendary tales of those who went to La Tomatina and barely made it back home in one piece. People who found themselves ‘tomatoed’ – for want of a better word – to the point of non-recognition.
A glance around at our 40,000-odd opponents provoked mixed opinion. It would be true to state that most seemed well-prepared and primed for action. However, there was also a solid few who were clearly too intoxicated to talk, let alone aim properly.
As we edged closer to the town centre, more and more locals appeared, carefully lining their shops and homes with plastic to prepare for the annual onslaught.
We attempted to dodge the bucketfuls of water being lurched from the first floor balconies of smiling locals watching the action from front-row seats above.
We looked on in amazement as those who had fought their way into the centre of the crowds began launching their now wet t-shirts like missiles into the skies.
All of a sudden the blast of water cannons rang out over the masses, signalling the start of the action. Everyone on the outskirts, including our group, watched with baited breath as trucks drove past one by one towards the centre of the madness, packed and loaded with the juice of around 150,000 tomatoes.
It was at this moment we realised that if we did not make a move now we would miss the action completely.It was now or never.
Goggles – check. Waterproof camera – check. Making a quick decision to break away from the shelter we ran parallel to the increasing action, dipping frantically in and out of the back alleys of Bunol to make our way straight into the cross-fire.
I had never seen anything like it.
Suddenly, as if some freak volcanic eruption had wiped out the entire town centre, tomato came oozing like lava down the sloping streets toward us.
Admittedly the first few fistfuls of tomato were thrown with some hesitation, however, it did not take long before tomato was being flung in all directions, covering every inch of our bodies.
With tomato in our ears and, laughing so hard at the state of ourselves that we could barely breathe, we managed to slosh our way slowly back to dry land.
People around us pointed and laughed hysterically as we paraded past; it seemed that somehow, miraculously, we had managed to top the most beaten and bloodied list. Asked countless times if we would mind posing in photos with people, one guy even approached us to shake our hands. We were famous.
I won’t pretend that the feeling of tomato drying and clinging to my skin on a hot afternoon was the most pleasant feeling in the world, however the fun of the day made it every bit worthwhile.
A large helping of seafood Paella washed down with a Sangria (or three) and a hasty clothing change behind a car was all that was needed for us to feel rejuvenated enough to continue on with the celebrations.
And why shouldn’t we celebrate? We had not only survived to tell our tale but had somehow managed to come out as tomato war heroes. We did, however, need to enforce a group ban on tomato consumption for the remainder of our trip.