Hysterical, clothes-optional, tomato-smeared fun.
Unless you’re taking the pictures.
‘La Tomatina’ has been going since 1945 and is always on the last Wednesday of August. The town of Buñol is a 40 minute drive from Valencia.
I arrive at 8am and park my car on the outskirts. The town is swelling with party goers from all over the world.
The sangria is already flowing and all 25,000 are heading for the centre of town. The majority are in their 20s. The locals safely lock themselves in their homes.
Security is tight and no bags are allowed but my first obstacle is to get by the cops with a camera and a couple of lenses.
I’m told: “Sorry, no cameras, only little ones”. Time to think of a plan and quick. I ask a cop where the town hall is as I need to get my supposed press pass.
He points the way and I arrive into the mayhem of a press office. Of course I have no press pass but I tell them I’m supposed to be on the list.
I’m sent upstairs to talk to another official but stumble upon a room full of TV cameras pointing out the windows with directors and presenters doing their thing. Hmm…
That’s it. I walk into the room like I live there and find a position between the edge of a window and a large video tripod. I park my carcass and wait for the action.
Once I’m happy that I’ve got a few nice aerial shots, I head downstairs and out into street battle. I’m hit a few times but continue to shoot.
The event lasts just one hour before the siren signals the cease fire. The locals reappear and turn their water hoses on the victims as they wearily leave the centre of town.
I return to my car and am beginning to smell a bit high. I’ve got a change of clothes in the boot and do a full change. There’s a large skip across the road and I dump all my clothes.
It’s back to Valencia and a long cool shower before I spend my final evening in the El Carmen district.
Would I do ‘La Tomatina’ again? No. It’s great fun if you’re a kid and you’re willing to risk the possibility of pain and stinking for a week.
I can see the attraction photographically but as a cultural experience I found it empty.
However, I’d return to Valencia in the blink of an eye.