There’s really only one place that the World’s Largest Food Fight, could really exist in my opinion. Coming from a country known more famously for it’s “Running of the Bulls” or rather, “San Fermin” in the city of Pamplona, comes one of the most odd and thrilling experiences in my life. A chance to get downright dirty.
As the Annual festival approaches in the city of Buñol, I would like to commemorate my experience there last year, and give you some advice, encouragement, and knowledge on another adventure in this grand world we live in.
Before I had begun my 3 month backpacking trek through Europe I looked for festivals around the continent to come up with a route of sorts for my trip and see what kind of trouble I could dig into. La Tomatina, being one of the craziest that came up, well I simply couldn’t resist a food fight in the middle of an otherwise unknown small town on the outskirts of Spain.
Honestly, I wasn’t that prepared. When it comes to travel I like to fly on the heel of my boots. In other words, I plan as little as possible to simply enjoy as much of the moment and come and go when I’m good and ready. But with this, it left me in a position. But just as it always does, the answers magically turned up just at the last moment just as desperation started its onset.
A couchsurfer I had reached out to had messaged me saying he wasn’t able to host me but he had another friend who possibly could. He gave me her couchsurfing profile and told me to message her saying I had already spoken to him. It took a little back and forth, amazingly I had a place to stay.
I was staying with a pair of Polish Erasmus students who decided to go to La Tomatina last minute. Little did I know I was no longer alone. No, instead my hosts and newfound friends had told me that there was a party in Buñol the night before the fight. All for it.
And so it started….
What did we bring:
- change of clothes and shoes
- some snacks
- some petty cash
No that’s it… others were prepared with goggles, and other random junk that I personally didn’t want to carry with me, have stolen, or damaged, and frankly I felt everything else was useless ( goggles just get full of tomatoes).
We met up with another surfer my hosts had hosted a while before and had since moved to Spain. She has also shared her own experience at, La tomatina .
When we arrived there were no signs on where to go, we simply followed the crowd.
(P.S. They sell tickets for the event as soon as you get off the train for a lot less than I bought it for online)
So we wove through the city and eventually found our way to the center when the homes where covered in blue tarp and the streets were adorned with decoration and lights. A stage was set up with a live band, and the alleys were lined with one long table that went on for about a half mile full of food and villagers welcoming the festival.
The dancing, singing, and food carried on into the night as Asians wearing outrageous costumes and carrying torches of colored lights filled the streets.
We slept in the park.
For 2 hours…
Waking up to the sound of people buzzing around getting ready. We see people dressed as Power Rangers, burgers, meat suits, etc. Asians duct tapping their sandals to their feet and putting goggles on, and others like myself changing behind blankets in random corners.
We walk towards to fight center passing through security that checks that you aren’t bringing in weapons. Then arriving at the crowd. A mass surrounding a tall, greased pole with a ham on top. People were already trying to climb the pole. The object is to get the ham. This starts the fight… at least attempts to. If it’s not retrieved by 11 am the cannons sound and the trucks full of tomatoes start pouring in. Noone has reached the ham. Not a single year has it ever happened. But I was determined. Hardly any girls had attempted the climb, who would, the guys were climbing on each other’s heads and pulling people off the pole because they wanted to get it.
Well, being the hard head that I am, I made my way through the crowd. Getting closer I received elbows, pushes, and then… a couple of Aussie’s looked at me and said “Are you trying to climb the pole?” I said yes, and tried to continue the sentence but was cut off by a couple of men reaching down and grabbing my legs, then throwing me over the heads of the crowd for me to land next to the pole. Luckily there were enough people to break my fall. The guys I landed on looked at me and said, “ hey, yeah you’re small and light, let’s get her up there”. They picked me up and made a bridge out of their hands for me to hop on and then I started climbing shoulders. Everyone started jumping up to make stairs out of their hands for me to continue further.
The crowd began cheering loudly as I got closer to the top, and then… I saw someone jump on top of everyone and grab my leg, and give a good ‘ole yank. Down I go. The people below saving me from reaching the ground. I heard the crowd getting angry and boo-ing. They started pushing the guy and throwing shoes at him.
I walked away with a new bruise and a few scratches, my arms and legs trembling from the adrenaline and people stopping me throughout the crowd to pat me on the back.
My only regret was that I didn’t get a picture. (Until I went to Madrid and met other travellers that had been there. Magically someone had a perfect picture of me climbing, YESSS!!! )
The canon went off and the trucks rolled in, and the tomatoes came pouring.
People from rooftops were dumping water onto the crowd and there was a water gun that sprayed into the fight making a small pool in the streets mixing with the crushed tomatoes.
Soon there were shoes, goggles, and clothes laying all over the ground. When the canon went off to end the fight people happily ended to sit in the sauce, making tomato angels, swimming and sliding through it, dumping buckets of the sauce on random people, and everything else you can imagine.
As we exited the streets the locals started clearing the sauce with brooms and hoses. Festival go-ers were tearing off clothes and dumping them in piles in the streets to find showers. There were locals hosing people off in random alleys, and others rinsing off in the nearby river.
Walking back to the train we grabbed some grub being cooked along the street, filling the air with delicious scents.
The world is waiting. It presents opportunity after opportunity of culture, adventure, thrills, and ways to break free from the usual and join the unexpected. Live a lil bit.
If you would like to be a part of the fight you can get more information at, La Tomatina .
Please Advise: I got an eye infection afterwards because the acid from the tomatoes were stuck behind my contacts, maybe bring some contact solution to use afterwards to avoid this.
Discretions: This is solely my experience of the event and I am not affiliated or speaking on behalf of those who run the event.