Trip Start Aug 27, 2007
34Trip End Sep 17, 2011
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Kim and I arrived into Valencia to be greeted with blue skies and 29 degrees of heat, a vast change from the grey skies and rain otherwise known as the English summer. Stepping off that plane it was like walking into a wall of heat. It just hit you.
Our plan for the holiday was to take part in a tour by First Festival travel to go to La Tomatina-the world's largest food fight.
Our first few days were spent sightseeing
The old buildings and statues were amazing but what I liked the most was the City of Arts and Sciences a collection of unusual modern buildings which was just unlike anything I have ever seen before. Its so futuristic it felt like being on the set of The Jetsons.
As part of our tour we travelled to a small village South of Valencia called Requena for a water and wine festival. It's a celebration of the previous years harvest and to bring good luck for the next.
It begins with he townspeople gather at the bullfighting ring for a competition between the towns 5 brass bands. After the competition at about 1.30am the bands take to the streets to parade around the village. Each band has its own following and to just see the town come alive with the music and dancing was incredible.
Now its not called a water and wine festival for no apparent reason. To celebrate the harvest petrol tankers filled with freshly made wine not even fermented are brought in.
You take your vessel to the trucks and its filled up with what can only be described as pure vinegar tasting wine. As all this takes place the locals stand on the balconies with their hoses spraying the crowd as they dance down through the streets
Our tour group were the only foreigners at this event as we were invited by the local council. It was one heck of an experience and I felt very honoured to be able to take part. Looking around you all you could see were smiling faces jumping and dancing with the music and looking up all you can see are drops of water and wine flying through the air.
I came out of the parade dripping wet and stained red with the wine that gets thrown about but it was well worth it. I can't even begin to describe the atmosphere.
Three hours, several scrapes and bruises (from falling down a hill when trying to pee in a bush) later we were back at our hotel and boarding our bus again to head to Bunol where La Tomatina is held.
We had been warned that as females we shouldn't enter the event without wearing at least three layers of clothes and without male protection but none of this prepared me for the event that was to come.
We arrived at Bunol about three hours prior to the start time and already the tiny village inhabited by 9000 residents was full of visitors
I was expecting there to be lots of people but I was not expecting there to be so many that u have the wind knocked out of you just standing. I wasn't expecting not to be able to move at all, to not have my feet touch the ground and was not expecting to be swept away in a sea of people fighting to stay near Kim. The only smell in the air was sweat as the sun beamed down and Sangria as it flew through the air.
The event begins with a ham. Yup a ham. Its put on top of a greased pole above the ground and the festival does not begin until someone can mount the pole and knock the ham off. Needless to say this took hours. When it finally happened there was huge cry of relief as it meant that in only an hour we would be able to escape the crowd and breath again.
In addition to the 40 000 people crammed in the street huge dump trucks have to get down the road chucking the estimated 110 000 tomatoes into the crowd. It was a night mare and a real fight to get out of the trucks path...virtually impossible and it was the biggest struggle to keep you feet from under the tires
Within minutes it is a sea of flying tomatoes coming from all directions. Tomato gets in everywhere.....and they actually really hurt when they hit u at full force. I was prepared with goggles but tomato juice gets everywhere and the goggles didn't protect me for long.
The only was to describe the event was feral. It was something I could never have dreamed of and don't get me wrong I am glad I went but it is something I will never ever go back to. It was the most violent and brutal thing I have ever seen in my life.
The reason women are told to wear layers is that not only is it a tomato fight it is a tshirt ripping event. The locals just shred your clothes off you. Traditionally it was only the men that did this but as more foreigners go it is now seen more acceptable for the locals to accost women. I saw girls crying their eyes out standing butt naked having been encircled by a bunch of men and stripped. One girl had to be hugged from front and behind by two foreigners and crabbed walked out to try preserve her dignity.
Luckily enough Kim and I were fine. At one point though we were ripped apart by the movement of the crowd and I was worried I was never going to find her again. At this point I felt a guy behind me grab all my layers and bra and twist the lot trying to rip them off. Because he had so many they wouldn't rip and the collar wouldn't give meaning he was choking me. Out of no where Kim was there pulling this guy off me. Thank god she was there, as I was starting to panic and couldn't get him to let go
Now for the brutal bit. Metres ahead of us I saw a young boy of 14 maybe 15 pulled off a balcony by a group of local males. The threw him in the air and wrenched his clothes off of him. They then preceded to throw him up in the air again and then the group stepped back to watch his body slam into the concrete below. I can still hear the thud as his body pounded the payment. When a bunch of Aussie blokes to stepped in to pick him up and get him help his head had been cracked open and there was blood everywhere. I cant describe the look on those guys faces as they did it to him but they looked like animals, absolute monsters.
People climbed balconies and scaled walls to try get out of the panic. One girl climbed a balcony and got pulled back in to the crowd and also to the concrete floor...the last I heard they didn't think she was going to make it. I saw faces cut as glass bottles hit them and black eyes where shoes had been hurled at them
I will never forget the looks of the panicked people being washed down the road in the sea of people. Of the girl crying begging for help trying to hold on to me as she had a panic attack and couldn't get out. I grabbed her but another girl and I couldn't pull her out against the force of the crowd.
The festival was great fun and a real adventure but it was manic and I can honestly say that I have never seen anything so violent or crazy. To anyone thinking of going, do it at your own risk and never go on you own...its is just far too dangerous
Walking back to the busses we were hosed down by the locals but no amount of water could get the tomato or the smell off. Three days after I was still combing tomato out of my hair and finding it appear in random places. Unfortunately it was virtually im possible to take photos as u r so jam packed up against other people. I had a disposable camera but the photos r so blurred by tomato mush that im going to have to steal some photos online.
The day after our tour we moved to another hotel for a day of relaxing before heading back to London. It turned out that another couple from our tour had planned the same thing and were going to the same hotel.
We headed to the beach with them and spent the day relaxing by the sea. Before heading back to the hotel we checked out the F1 course and had a shared ploughman's dinner.
The rest of the night was spent sipping cocktails by the pool while gossiping and watching the sun set. I don't think there could have been a more perfect way to finish our holiday.