Yesterday I bought a couple of items that would be invaluable for today. The white t-shirt was a bargain at 2 Euros, and the waterproof camera would be a very useful.
We set off in good time for Bunol, about thirty kilometers from Valencia, and found a place to park the car, even though there were many more arriving all the time. Graham and Maria were my companions on this goal, and we walked down towards the centre of the town with the growing crowds.
The atmosphere was very festive, and there was an excitement in the air. The closer we got to the centre of town, the denser the crowds became, and we continued to worm our way through towards the centre square. It was packed there, and the crowd was surging back and forth, and there was still almost an hour to go before the official start at 11am.
The town centre was a lot more closed-in than I had imagined, and the narrow streets were packed full – it was almost impossible to move anywhere, and in the surges I lost Graham and Maria. I eventually made my way to the square just off the street, and a couple of steps up I found a bit of space, and eventually managed to bag a great vantage point on a wall.
The atmosphere was electric, the crowd singing and chanting, TV cameras on many of the rooftops, and a helicopter circling around. From my vantage point I eventually spotted Graham and Maria, who weren’t far away, and kept an eye on where they were in the surges as the excitement mounted.
At 11am there was a big bang to start the celebrations, and tomatoes started to rain down from people on the rooftops and balconies.
Before long a huge tomato-filled lorry made it’s way along the packed street, and people aboard it threw tomatoes in every direction. The crowd went wild, and watching the lorry drive through the packed street where a minute before it was impossible to move, I wondered how nobody would be run over.
The lorry was the first of six to pass through the centre, and each one caused an increace in the tomato throwing frenzy. When the fourth lorry tipped up and emptied tons of tomato semi-puree into the streets the scene took on incredible new proportions, the air being filled with tomato juice and semi-pulped tomatoes. It was amazing and hilarious to see.
The wall was not the best place to stand, as I felt I stuck out a bit as a target, and when the Irish guy in front of me, who was acting as a great shield, gave up and jumped into the crowd, I soon gave up and followed suit, re-joining Graham and Maria.
Eventually we made our way right into the centre of the melee, and found ourselves wading ankle-deep in tomato juice. It was incredibly packed, and as the crowd moved towards the edge of town it was impossible not to be swept along with everyone else. At times it was possible to simply lift up your feet and be carried along.
There was another big bang, and the hour-long food fight was over, but that did not seem to slow anyone down one bit. Eventuallly we got to a less packed area as the crowd thinned out, and happily made our way back up the hill out of the town.
The pictures here are off my digital camera, which I only used when I felt it was relatively safe to do so. The pictures from the thick of the action from the waterproof disposable are now being processed, and I will post them here when I get them later in the week.
What an amazing experience! It is well worth going, but one word of advice I would give – take some cheap, but sturdy shoes, and be prepared to lose them. Flip-flops are not the best footwear, and I eventually ended up barefoot, it seemed much safer, although my toes are pretty bruised!