For those of you who don’t know what La Tomatina is, maybe you’ve heard of that big tomato fight in Spain? Or the world’s largest food fight? La Tomatina is an annual event held on the last Wednesday of August in the small town of Buñol, Spain, about 40km from Valencia. The town comes to life, packing itself to capacity and bringing in over 90,000 pounds of tomatoes for the food fight.
Most people come into Buñol from Valencia where accommodation is a lot easier to find. We easily booked a hotel for a moderate price semi-last minute. The morning of La Tomatina you’ll need to wake up early, the sooner you catch the train the better as lines get huge quickly. Or you can pre-reserve a bus, or take your own car. It’s about a 40 minute drive, however I have no idea where you’d park, and you’ll probably want to drink, so I recommend the train (despite the crowds).
The first event of the day is the greased pole climbing. The locals tie a ham to the top of a greased pole, and people try to climb the pole to cut the ham down. Once the ham comes down they bring out the tomatoes in huge trucks which drive through the crowd, inches from the people. From here you know what happens, the biggest food fight in the world for the next 30 minutes. Afterwards they spray the crowd down with fire hoses to get the worst of it off, and some of the locals are kind enough to lend their hoses. People then return to wherever they came from, or stick around for a massive street party. By late afternoon the party dies down, the tourists leave, and Buñol gets the massive cleanup job started.
La Tomatina seems like all fun and games, and it is for some people, but it’s not as glamorous as it looks. In reality you have a crowd packed shoulder to shoulder, pounding alcohol for hours in the heat, not able to retreat for the toilet because they’ll lose their spot and their friends. You have people wasted out of their minds, puking and spitting drinks on each other. You have people covered in sweat, both their own and other peoples, peeing their pants (and I’d bet a couple poopers), throwing their trash on the floor. The ground is pretty disgusting before the tomatos even arrive, then add 90,000 lbs. of tomatoes to this stew, this is what people are covered with in these photos.
If this doesn’t turn you off, maybe the crowd will. La Tomatina is one of those crowds where you have no control, you go with the flow. You’re going to get pushed and shoved from every direction. Girls need to worry about being groped or having their wet clothes torn off. Before the tomatoes, people are sweaty; it’s a relief on the occasion the locals throw buckets of water or spray their hose into the crowd from their balconies. You won’t know if you’re wet from your own sweat, the guy next to you’s, your neighbors spit, or the locals bucket of “water” which you just tried to jump under. In reality it’s probably a bit of each.
The other downsides are the effects of 90,000 lbs. of tomatoes. The acid from the tomato hurts your eyes, this is why you see people wearing goggles. It’s tolerable, but irritating, so if you have sensitive eyes consider bringing some protection. Also, expect to get hit by a couple big shots. The tomatoes are supposed to be smashed before throwing so they don’t hurt, but a few sneak through every now and then. If you love eating tomatoes, be prepared to take a break afterwards. Just the smell of tomatoes haunted me for months after La Tomatina.
If this isn’t enough to turn you off, and you think the fun of the event out weighs all this, then you’re like me, and you’ll love Tomatina. I went with a like minded friend of mine, and we had an amazing time. I just wanted you to know that this is definitely not the event for everybody.
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