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How to survive La Tomatina

Published July 31st, 2013

Start saving your tomatoes folks because the world’s biggest food fight La Tomatina, is on its way. Granted, you can’t just hurl squishy tomatoes wherever you are in the world - that would be way too messy! Instead, you need to make your way to the town of Bunol in Spain. Here’s all you need to know about surviving a food fight with 40,000 people.

 

La Tomatina in action

 

When to go

La Tomatina takes place on the last Wednesday in August, which this year falls on the 28th.

 

How to get there

The town of Bunol’s closest airport is located 27 kilometres away in Valencia. The airport, also known as Manises Airport, is serviced by a number of airlines including Delta and Lufthansa, and is a major hub for Ryan Air. To make the most of your food fight experience, many travellers opt to experience the festival with tour experts like First Festival Travel. With a tour, not only do you get to enjoy the fun in numbers, but most  La Tomatina tours take care of all of the details for you including transportation, accommodation inside or just outside the town (often in the form of camping), as well as souvenir t-shirts and entry fees to party nights and nightclubs.

 

What to wear

If you’re travelling with a tour group, no doubt your crew will be kitted out in an easily recognisable t-shirt to help you find each other once the madness is over. Having said that, expect your white shirt (and underwear) to turn red within an hour. And the same goes for pretty much everything as well. Beside the tour t-shirts, some punters opt for a festive costume – the most popular being an actual tomato costume. Creative! In addition to clothes, we highly recommend wearing gumboots and goggles. It may look dorky, but we think dorky beats tomato juice in your eyes any day.

 

How to prepare

On the day the town’s population goes from 9,000 to 40,000 in a matter of hours so be prepared for things to get quite squishy. A few drinks to calm the nervous, crowd-filled excitement may indeed be needed. Many say pre-La Tomatina beverages are practically mandatory with sangria often given out on the streets.

 

How it starts

La Tomatino isn’t just a ‘ready, set, go’ type of food fight. It’s set within a number of traditions beginning with a blast from a water cannon, which takes place at 11am in the Plaza del Pueblo. Following the water cannon, it’s then time for the ‘knock the ham off the pole’ tradition. Called the palo jamon, the tradition involves locals and travellers attempting to climb to the top of greased up pole in order to knock off a massive ham that balances at the top. Crazy? Yes. Easy? No. But if you don't mind physically exhausting yourself by  jumping , sliding and inevitably failing infront of a 40,000 strong crowd, then by all means, be our guests. More often than not a Bunol local will succeed in the task to a roar from the crowds, with locals particularly chuffed at defending the honour of their town.

 

How to fight

Once the elusive ham has been knocked off its pedestal, water cannons fire once again, giving trucks the go ahead to descend upon the plaza. It’s at this point you might want to stop giggling and start paying attention as the trucks push their way through the crowds. Once they’re in the plaza, a total of 150,000 squished tomatoes are dumped onto the streets, and then it’s on like Donkey Kong! This isn’t a place to hold back. You will end up throwing tomatoes at strangers. And strangers will throw them back. Things will get ugly. Dirty even. You will laugh till your mouth fills with tomatoes and you will feel tomato pulp in places where tomato pulp should never be.

 

How to recover

At the 60 minute mark, water cannons will fire for the last time, signalling an end to the world’s biggest annual food fight. At this point, you will have to wade your way through ankle deep, red sludge as you leave the plaza. And so, the clean up begins. For the town itself this means giant hoses. For you, it means a much needed dip in the Bunol River.

 

Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.