It was my first time experiencing la tomatina, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The footage on the news always looked fun and celebratory. I found it to be both these and something more but I just can’t sum it up in one word…
For the end of August, in Spain, the weather had been unseasonably cool and cloudy. It rained the night before & the forecast was the same for the big day. The outfits we had organised were for warm weather so we were already off to a bad start. The tour company we went with wasn’t one I (or any of the travel agents I asked in Australia) knew of, called PP Tours, but we were really happy with them!
We got to stay in a 3 star hotel (but in Aussie standards at least a 4 star) in a private room for 2 nights and breakfast included, as well as transfers to la tomatina, entry to the pre party, our entry to the official after party and 2 free drinks p.p. All for a crazy price of 159€ each. I would definitely recommend them!
PP travel La Tomatiña 3 star hotel package
On the day you are due for departure at 7am, drive from Valencia to Buñol to be walking the gypsy trail to a street where all the action takes place by 8:30. Gypsies are selling anything and everything you need – flip flops, goggles, novelty outfits, sangria, cerveza etc.
it’s weird being around so much vibrancy but you literally are walking around with the bare minimum as you WILL be saturated and need to throw everything you have on you. Pp travel warned us of this for weeks leading up to it. Yet somehow there is always the idiots walking around with phones and cameras not in waterproof cases.
Some other things I have learned, with the power of hindsight, that other first timers may want to know;
• DO NOT expect to keep anything. Honestly all your stuff will be ruined and not worth the euro it takes to wash it
• goggles are useless- invest in a peak cap and/ or sunnies
• it WILL destroy your hair- do as I did and wear a swimming cap, it’s incredibly worth the unattractive look.
• wear fitted underwear and bras! Don’t be stupid and wear swimmers, bandeaus or g-strings…. I have warned you.
• try not to get too pissed before the event as the bathrooms are far away and usually destroyed well before kick off.
• we were told we would have more room and more fun if we stayed out of the ham pole area. We did this and were very satisfied. Drop off point 2 has alley ways for escaping either side and a water fountain.
• traditionally there are water fights in the hours leading up to the start of the tomato throwing. Don’t be an idiot and expect to not get wet- it will make you a bigger target.
• the ham pole is lubed with pig fat – lots of it– people throw it at passer by.
• the ham pole is attempted the entire morning until 11am when the cannon sounds to begin the tomato fight
• bring a topical cream for later, after you shower, as a small group of people get a rash due to the filth the tomatoes combine with (urine, excrement, glass, bacteria etc) unfortunately I was one of them. And it is an unattractive one!
• the 4 trucks will roll through the tight streets, and you will get squashed, and the trucks throw tomatoes at you from above. Be ready for them to hurt and only hit you in the head!
• as soon as the truck passes, it’s all hands on deck to grab as many good tomatoes to throw— aka the messy part
• after 1 hour of this, the cannon sounds again and it is illegal to throw or fling tomatoes at anyone at that point
• police presence is at a high so don’t be a fool!
• after the fight make your way to drop off point 1 (via the lower side street) and you will reach a police blockade and porta loo’s. Don’t use them! head downhill until you reach the river. This has clean porta loos and a great rinse station. If you don’t use this you will wait in line for a local to spray you with a hose and you won’t be as clean.
• Bring a clean change of clothes and once you have changed leave your dirty clothes laid out for the local scavengers to collect them.
• so you can eat and drink after the fight, bring money wrapped in a ziplock bag, tucked in your sock (if you can), and split it evenly over both shoes. Many people lose a shoe- if you put $$ in only one… Chances are that’s the one you lose.
The attendees made it feel like it’s a mini Australia there, so you won’t be a minority if you’re an Aussie! Second its most populated by crazy Asians! These are all in costume and so funny to watch. They act like they are dying when they get wet.
One of my fondest moments was when we were walking back to our bus and walked past a nursing home and all the oldies were partying on the verandah. One little old lady had flamenco maracas & a lady in a wheelchair was chucking ‘woo girl‘ arms. But my favourite was the one swaying her hips to the music and had the biggest smile on her face, like this is the best day of her year. I started doing my salsa hips while clapping with them and it looked like (I think) they were loving it! So fun & special!
By the time we got back to the bus, everyone was waiting, looking all shambled, with a very unimpressed look that I read as “I’m freezing, filthy and want to go the fuck home” …. Lol
After hot showers and a good sleep it was time to get dressed up for the traditional pool after party! HOWEVER, our year was special and the venue (and by default the theme) had been changed, on account of the flooding from all the rain! It was now just a discotheque & no pool party (my pasty patisserie indulged body was grateful)
It was a sight, but mainly a pick up palace, so if you are like me and not there for that – you may have a bad night. I didn’t because i enjoyed the music. One thing was common amongst the attendees was the serious outbreak of conjunctivitis, thanks to all the tomatoes in our eyes earlier. Pretty funny, everyone looked like they were stoned!
One negative I did notice, was a lot of creepy guys, but wrote them off as harmless, until I met up with a girl who was waiting for her friends at the bar and didn’t want to stand alone on account of the creeps. My partner was at the bar also so I said she can dance with me while we both waited and she filled me in on why the place was creeping her out….
Turns out the creeps I had noticed weren’t the half of it. They were slyly taking pictures of girls who were either pretty or completely trashed. They were scouting… For what exactly I won’t ever know (thankfully)… And they all had approached her and her friends. I thought she might of been over reacting as none of them had approached me or said anything off putting. She explained they knew what they were doing and would of observed I was there with someone. Or, a nice way of saying, ‘your unattractive thats why’. That’s when she started to point them out from our vantage point looking over the dance floor. Almost every 2 minutes she saw them… Saddling in on a drunk group of girls. Eerily watching women, alone, from a dark spot. Tugging hard on the elbows of pretty girls. I was flabbergasted! I had been so oblivious to all of this. The whole time she was dancing with me (the bar line wasn’t moving for a long time) 5 guys were trying to grab her, and only her, or convince her to leave me and dance with them. Once I explained this to my partner upon his return, it wasn’t long before we left, as he saw it too and we knew it was something super suspect!
For the most part though this festival is well worth at least one participation in your life! I’ve never witnessed anything like it, nor will i again, because its that extreme! Add this one to the bucket list & I guarantee it will be an eye opening, and later eye infecting, event…