This is the conclusion of Tomatina – Part 1.
I think I spent two minutes actually participating in the fight before I realized, what the hell was I thinking? I was already irritated with the crowd before the fight, and the messy tomatoes being hurled around just made it worse. I hated it. I told Val and Jaime I was out.
We originally agreed to meet at a bank, and the back-up meeting place was “the park.” Which park, I had no idea, but for some stupid reason I thought it would be fine. So I started pushing my way through the crowd, glad I was wearing goggles to protect my eyes from tomato goo. I had to deal with two more tomato trucks (I think there are 5 or 6 total), push people aside, strain to remain on my feet, trod through tomato sludge that went past my ankles, and endure accidentally being hit by a few stray elbows. I estimate it took me 25 minutes to go about two or three blocks.
When I was nearing the police line that marks the end of tomato zone, I realized the bank we agreed to meet at was still in the tomato zone, so it was unlikely I would actually find Andy, Val or Jaime there. I wandered down a side street and let some locals dump water on me from three or four floors up. It didn’t help much, but it was better than nothing. I took my disgusting shirt off (I wore a bathing suit underneath) and watched the tomato-covered people go by, hoping to see Andy, Val or Jaime.
Well after I heard the ending signal at noon, the crowd started thinning and I still hadn’t seen them. So I started walking. I thought I knew which park Jaime mentioned during the chaos but I wasn’t sure how far it was. I kept on walking, tomato slop squishing in my sneakers, sun beating down on me. The sunscreen I put on in the morning had long washed away with the tomatoes and water. Andy had all our money so I couldn’t buy anything to drink. I kept walking.
Eventually I realized I was fairly close to the train station, and I really didn’t think they’d walk that far since we all agreed we wanted lunch before going back to Valencia. I turned around and started walking back towards town. Finally I saw their faces through the crowd.
That’s when I lost it. I needed food, something to drink, and I needed to get my disgusting shoes off. No amount of hosing off would make those sneakers comfortable to wear back on the train. Luckily Andy is amazing at calming me down, and within minutes I had a sandwich, a can of Coke, a new T-shirt, and a new pair of flip flops.
I’m really glad I went and tried to participate in Tomatina, even if I ended up hating it. I would’ve regretted not going and always wondered what it would be like. Val and Jaime both enjoyed it an said they would definitely do it again. Andy and I have decided once was more than enough. And now, even though I found tons of tips out there before I went, I feel like I have a few more to add for those of you would decide to go someday:
– There are tour companies that will bus you from Valencia (and even Barcelona) to Buñol, so if you want to go with a big group, have a decent place to store a change of clothes, and maybe get a free T-shirt, this is something to look at. I saw prices anywhere from 30€ and up.
– If you take the train, go to the St. Isidre station, not the main or north station. Get there early! (We were there before 6AM for the 6:30 train and there was already a long line.)
– There are people in Buñol who will charge you to hold your stuff if you want to bring a change of clothes. I still wouldn’t recommend bringing much, and definitely don’t bring anything valuable, but the option is there.
– Bring goggles or buy them there. Val said hers didn’t help her much, but I can’t imagine not having mine. They don’t cost much, and if there’s even a chance they’ll save your eyes from the sting of acidic tomato juice, it’s worth it.
– If you want to participate but you don’t want to be right in the thick of things, find the greased pole and keep walking. The crowd should start to thin towards the end of that road. That’s where Andy ended up, and I think my chances of being elbowed in the head would’ve been minimal there. He still got some tomato fight action without the claustrophobic masses.
– There is a white bridge towards the middle of town near a Santander Bank. The tomato zone began with the bridge and went into the center. This might change in the future, but make sure you and your friends make a meeting point that is before the bridge so it’s easier to find each other after the one hour tomato insanity. Jaime and Val had no intention of splitting up but it only took a few minutes before they separated.
– If you decide to buy clean clothes after the fight, there are plenty of cheap T-shirts. However, I couldn’t find any shorts, and only one guy selling flip flops, so don’t wait too long. I was very glad I decided to wear a bathing suit under my clothes so I could ditch the T-shirt and shorts I wore during the fight.
– Before that day, I read about participants all jumping into the river to wash off, but the only river I saw looked like a trickle of a stream that was difficult to access. But there were plenty of locals waiting to dump buckets of water or hose people off with cold water. There are also outdoor showers set up at the train station because they won’t let you on the train if you’re still covered in tomatoes.
For more tips, pictures, and stories about Tomatina, please check out these great posts: