Tough Tomatoes

Trip Start Jun 01, 2002
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72
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Trip End Sep 11, 2007


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Flag of Spain  ,
Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The giant slowly picks himself up from the ground as his shoulder length dreadlocks fall to the side of his head. Staggering to his feet he gains his full height again. My brain registers - at least 6" 2', possibly more - GULP!

My eyes start to take in the bigger picture, a tattoo; a full fire breathing tattoo of a dragon, wrapped and holding a naked woman. The dragon stretches from his neck across his massive frame passing down his chest, then as quickly as it appears; it dives back behind his back somewhere. GULP GULP!

His stare is piercing. I am frozen to the ground not sure how to move or how to try and run. I force my brain not to accept the 'images of my short life' to flash right past me. He takes a step towards me and raises his right arm above his shoulder, pulling his arm as far as it can go behind his head - I can see that I am in all sorts of trouble... Oh shit, this it.

I can't move, still frozen to the spot. I cannot believe he is going to retaliate with all the energy left in him. I want to tell him that when I hit him, it was not deliberate hit, a mistake, just friendly-fire!

Yet before I can think of my next thought - his stare breaks into a superbly friendly Spanish smile as he launches a fresh tomato straight at me - I try to swerve it, but my timing is out - SPLAT!. Into my chest the fruit explodes, sending tomato shrapnel everywhere, I take a dive like a shot soldier being hit by a piercing bullet. MEDIC! MEDIC! I shout as my enemy bellows out a laugh as loud as the dragon inked on his chest.

My Spanish giant meanders his way over to me and slaps my tomato covered back (leaving a hand print as a souvenir of his friendship) and then moves onto his next prey!

Back on my feet, googles lowered - Right who is next.....?


* * * * * * * * *

In the past 3 years or so since I left home, I have had some amazing experiences, a lot of them different. But the La Tomatina festival was just amazing.

Established as a festival for the end of the picking season, the years have seen it grown bigger and bigger. This year some 40,000 people and 140 tonnes of tomatoes, this was going to be one of the biggest food fights in the world and I loved the idea of being part of it.

The little town of Brunol, which is about 40 min train ride from Valencia, was full of people from all breeds of the world. Some still trying to nurse hangovers from the night before. As we arrive into Brunol you can feel the excitement in the air and it just builds as you grab your first Sangria for the day at 9am!

As the crowds walk the couple of kilometers to the town, there are stalls selling anything that this event could need, clean t-shirts, swimming goggles (yes goggles!) and of course beer! As we arrive into the main street it is an awe-inspiring sight. A small and peaceful town all year around, yet this town comes alive for this day. 20,000, people / 30,000 people and more cram into the little streets and it is only 10am.

As the 11am time starts to creep closer there is "something in the air" that is giving everyone chills up and down their spine. By 10:30am the excitement of throwing something is all too much and before you know it there are t-shirts, shorts and anything else that can be thrown whizzing past your ears! At the other end of the street, hundreds are drowning each other in water from all directions, including the little old ladies watching from the safety of their balcony.

Then sharply at 11am, there is an almighty crack, a firework bang perhaps! The cheer from the crowd is deafening and your hairs on your body stand up to attention once again. Then you see it, just a glimpse as it rounds the old town corner. The first of the 40 tonne dump trucks - full of Ripe Roma Tomatoes! Another roar goes up and the chant of "Tomatina" is screamed at the top of everyone's voice. As the truck nears our patch you get your first view of the 20 or so 'truck throwers' in the back of the dumpster - an amazing site to see them already covered in a blood red stain.

The truck blares on the horn, trying to part a wave through the sardines of humans that stand in front. Then the truck stops in its tracks - not sure what is going to happen in this madness already. The dumping tray begins to make its' vertical climb' and thousands of tomatoes start to fall from the back it onto the street below. Luckily it was not mushrooms in the truck, because with all the people there would not be "Mush-Room"

Anyway.... back to the story.

Before you can say, who is making the "Bloody Mary's" there are tomatoes being launched from any and every direction. Already up the street I can see the next dump truck making its way down the ill fated street - that will be the 2nd of 6 trucks to pass through in the next hour.

Carnage and exhaustion are the only two words I can use to describe the scene (and hopefully the photos make it more clearer) but for the next hour, there are thousands of people laughing, slipping and diving in tomato 'pulp'! Amazing.

BANG! 11am hits and the throwing is over. Some people have said to me, "only an hour" and trust me when I say this - once you have experienced this hour, the excitement, adrenaline and pure exhaustaion take its' toll on you.

Also, over the past hour I believe I have tomoato in every orifice possible and probably some I did not know I had!

The streets are now flowing with blood red water, unlike a war move everyone is laughing and "swimming". The majority of people are now seeking the friendly faces of locals, who have their water hoses out, spraying down strangers wanting to be clean once again.

As Katie and I wonder aimlessly for a while, seeking a) a hose and b) a beer. We take photos of the carnage of this little town. Already the locals and organized groups are starting to begin the clean up process.

After securing a wash and securing the most powerful sangria every consumed we lay in the sun and bask. Later we would release that we have become human sun-dried tomatoes but for now there is nothing to do except lay in the sun and smile!

I strongly urge anyone who has the opportunity to visit this festival to do so. And if you do and in by any chance you see a Spanish man with a dragon tattoo across his chest, make sure to say hello from me and make sure to throw the biggest tomato you can find at him!!!

Until next time - Jay
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