Any other time of the year, this tiny town 30 miles from Valencia is a fairly sleepy place. On the last Wednesday in August, however, Buñol is a dangerous spot to be, as it plays host to an all out war – of tomatoes.
At 11am on the day of La Tomatina, one packed narrow street stands in anticipation, waiting for the battle to unfold. Stores and houses along the plaza black out their doors and windows with plastic sheeting. As trucks rumble into the square, waves of excitement ripple through the crowd and you get a taste of what you are in for as you realise the people at the top of the street have already launched their assault. The men standing on the trucks instigate the fight, hurling squished tomatoes at random targets, then when a truck dumps a load of perfectly ripened tomatoes at your feet, you find yourself in the thick of it.
You’re unable to escape the line of fire from fellow travellers and seasoned veterans, and you soon discover there are no friends during the world’s biggest food fight.
Half an hour later, the streets are flooded with over 40,000kg of tomatoes, and the tired and weary fighters take a well earned rest in the sea of tomato juice.
Tips for surviving
• Tomatoes are acidic so if you value your eyes, take a pair of goggles.
• If you aren’t on a tour bus, hire a car to get to Buñol so you can take a change of clothes. You can park just outside the town. You can also take the train into Buñol, but remember you’ll be going home in the clothes you came in – standing in a hot packed train when covered in sun-dried tomato is not a good feeling.
• Try to avoid the water fountain at the end of street, it may look tempting to cool and wash yourself down, but there is evil lurking there – it all gets a bit crazy and you will get your clothes ripped off.
• If you want to clean up a bit, go up one of the side streets and you may strike it lucky and find a local cleaning their front steps who’s willing to give you a quick hose down. Otherwise, you can remove tomato mush from your hair and body down at the river.
• Stupid as it may seem when you’re about to be covered in red liquid, it’s traditional to wear white clothes – anything else makes you a prime target.