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My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - My Big Adventure

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [137] | Scholarship Entry

My cousin, Becca, and I awoke before the sun rose in Valencia, Spain to put our game faces on, to , gulp a liter of sangria, put our game-faces on and run to the Valencia-San Isidro Train Station. We left our hostel at 6am 6 AM in Valencia, Spain, streets were covered with rowdy Australians running to catch the trains to Bunol, where La Tomatina is held. First weand took the metro to the train station with the rest of the rowdy Tomatino-goers. Somehow, we managed to board an extremely crowded train, and we were off to Bunol. . As the metro doors opened, people stormed out and ran to the train station as if it was the day after Thanksgiving and the super-sale at Walmart just opened. Three police officers were standing guard at the foot of the stairs to the train station. They held everyone back until the incoming train’s passengers exit. As the police officers let us through, I practically leapt up three flights of stairs to be the third one in line to purchase a train ticket. Thankfully, I had been preparing for this moment, because the hundreds of people behind us had to wait on the staircase for the next 55 minutes as the police let five people at a time into the station.
The first tomato of La Tomatina was thrown in 1945. No one knows for sure how this festival began, but today it consists of garbage trucks filled with tomatoes, and people throwing them at you as the trucks roll down the narrow streets of the small village of Bunol. I couldn’t wait to join in on the 65th La Tomatina celebration with tens of thousands of other participants! The best way to describe the scene when I stepped off the train at Bunol is to compare it to an American football tailgating party…that took over an entire town. People were drinking, eating paella, dancing in the streets in crazy outfits, singing “fútbol” songs, and squirting sangria-filled water guns at each other. Complete and utter mayhem. Becca and I squirmed our way to the epicenter of action: a telephone pole covered in butter with a large piece of ham at the top. Traditionally, the tomato fight officially begins once someone climbs to the top and cuts off the ham. In the meantime, 40,000 people cram into one narrow street and continue to drink and cheer while they wait. By 11 AM, nobody had reached the ham. According to the rules, regardless if the ham is cut down or not, the festival must begin by 11:00 AM.
A large horn played, initiating the madness, and garbage trucks infiltrated the crowds on the street. Volunteers in the trucks launched the tomatoes into the masses, as the trucks raised their beds up and down like a fleet of mechanical bulls. People were covered with tomato juice. The streets were filled with the squished tomato piles that rose past my ankles. In the higher piles of tomatoes at deeper portions of the street, some people were willingly swimming in tomatoes while others were unwillingly thrown in. When I paused to take a picture in the midst of the craze, several revelers picked me up by my feet and shoulders and promptly swung me into the river of tomatoes.
At 12 PM, a final bell rang to signal the end of the fight. Bunol locals began to spray the streets down, and many people jumped in the nearby river to clean off. Becca and I headed to the train to leave—at the same time as 40,000 other people. Needless to say, the wait for the train was incredibly long, and the 45-minute train ride back to Valencia was incredibly stinky. Even after scrubbing our bodies, we could not rid ourselves of our tomato-stench. Let’s just say I wasn’t very excited for the smell of marinara sauce I was about to encounter the next week in Italy.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011

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