The Chosen One: Stoke’s La Tomatina
Editor’s note: over the winter we ran a competition to find the “Chosen One”, a one-of-a-kind, absolutely average, everyday hero who would win our Most Ordinary Extraordinary Job In The World — a summer of back-to-back Stoke Travel trips, where not only would they be expected to have the time of their life, but to also much in and set up tents/serve you heathens your beer. Well, our old mate Ryan is the winner, the Chosen One, and this is his blog about his time with Stoke Travel. Five trips down, who knows how many to go, get ready for the most fun of your life, Ryno.
I arrived in Valencia late afternoon and took a taxi from the bus stop in town to Camping Puçol as the sun set, where I could already hear the beat from the DJ booth. Rounding the corner of the cafeteria, I saw the party-pit, the plot of dirt where people dance or play drinking games surrounded by the reception tent, kitchen, DJ, guru tent, and bar. Sifting through the hundred or so people, I shook hands and hugged the friends I made from previous festivals, and then partied until the camp’s curfew, eventually walking to the beach for communal skinny-dipping. The next day, after breakfast, the team hosted another swim, this time clothed in the camp’s pool, followed by more games of beer pong which allowed the guests traveling to the unofficial water and wine fight a chance to pregame. Having been soaked by the day’s rain and participating in the sacred Spanish tradition of being doused in vino at the other festivals, I hung back around camp and enjoyed live music. The next day, buses would depart in the morning for La Tomatina.
We pulled up to the city of Buñol around nine in the morning and pregamed the world’s largest food fight by chugging drinks through snorkels until about ten when we made our way into the city streets. Clustered together, and becoming increasingly closer and closer to each other as the streets narrowed, we moved as a horde toward a ham sitting at the top of a greased pole. Should somebody have reached the top, the fight would have begun, but since no one could beat the meat, a pistol sounded off at eleven and dump trucks rolled down the streets toward us. The first truck pulled up several feet (meters?) away from me and the other Stokies, lifted its back, and tomatoes rolled freely from it onto the street. Immediately, the festival goers gathered their ammo and indiscriminately launched the fruit through the air at friends and foes alike. For one full hour, a total of six trucks rolled by us on the streets, some hosting people in the back who rained tomatoes onto us from above from their bunker, and we were forced to pick up after their mess so as not to be overwhelmed by assailants at every turn. Eventually, a second pistol rang out in the sky, signaling the end of the fight, and we trekked back to the rally point, sauced and exhausted, where we packed back into buses headed to camp for a nice, much-needed shower.
Dinner commenced, and we piled back into buses, headed toward Valencia, and arrived at the official after party. Again we crowded about each other, this time dancing, swaying, embracing each other as the DJ blasted a range of electronic music, remixing classic rock and peppering in some classic singalong songs, well into the early morning hours. At two, us and the bus drivers had enough, and we returned to Camping Puçol, leaning against each other or the bus windows until we found our way home. The final day of Stokes La Tomatina was spent at camp, and we continued on, doing what Stoke does best; drunk on the idea (read: beers) that fun, only fun, could mend our bleeding hearts. Or at least mask the smell of tomatoes.