Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Date: Saturday, August 28, 1999 4:32 PM
Subject: Aug 24 - Aug 26...La Tomatina y Valencia

Tomato Fight!!!!

That was the purpose behind my pilgrimage to Bunol, Spain...about 20 miles outside Valencia...and it was the purpose behind the other 9 people with me...to smush tomatos into eachother´s faces, hair...and to generally re-live every kid´s dream...a huge food fight!

August 24, 1999

We found ourselves spending the morning on trains in Port Bou, France, Barcelona, and finally to Valencia. We arrived in Valencia...made some calls...and then descended like locusts on a hostel about 2 blocks from the beach...they were quite astounded to find 10 people wanting to check in...finally we all had various forms of accomodations within the hostel...then, we hit the beach!

It was actually quite pleasant...Valencia has pretty nice beaches on the Mediterranean and had a wonderful offshore floating platform for swimmers to use as a diving platform, hangout spot, etc...it was cool. We all worked on relaxing...for tomorrow was the Tomatina!

Actually, I relaxed for a while...but then was off to rendezvous with Dan and Tricia (remember...I had met them at the Pink Palace in Greece...talked them into the Tomatina...we were to meet at the trainstation in Bunol at 10pm)...

Dan and I met up at the Valencia trainstation and went to Bunol to find Tricia...hmmmmm...NO Tricia in Bunol...and it was 10pm...no trains back to Valencia...but hey, this was part of the plan! NO SLEEP...just partying with the Spaniards all night and then the Tomatina! Dan and I headed into sleepy Bunol (not being able to find Tricia)...and it was small and quiet...and very few people were on the streets...but as we approached the city center we discovered where EVERYONE was in Bunol. It was 1130pm and we were just starting to have dinner on one of the plazas...this was actually early for the Spanish who seem to want to dine as late as possible...we were told by the waitress that about 2am we should leave to catch a band on the mainstreet...

Anyway, Dan and I left around 1am after dining on Tapas...ahhhh, tapas in Spain...heaven! Anyway, we walked down the main street...and everything was either open and full of people...or closed and covered with plastic to protect it from the upcoming onslaught of tomatos...at the end of the main drag was a big midway/carnival area...and let me say...everyone was out...80 year old couples...7 year old children...everyone...the entire city was there...and actually, very few tourists...it was cool...

August 25, 1999
Continuing on...Anyway...the band STARTED playing on the main street at 0230 in the morning of the 25th...we danced and had a great time until 5am...met two American girls who had leased a van and were touring around Europe...they were going to Ibiza next and decided to join Dan when he goes there also...anyway...they were awesome and offered for us to crash in the van with them until the morning´s festivities...so we crashed from 0500 until 0830 in their van...nicknamed the Smoky Meatball it was truly a
travelling van...it was very neat.

We awoke to hordes of people walking down the street towards the center of town...we packaged up our valuables in ziplocks...left everything except essentials in the van...and followed the masses...I had acquired swimming goggles in Bern...and had brought an underwater disposable camera just for
this occassion...I was prepared! ...or was I??? The scene upon our arrival was somewhat tame...we saw lots of people in the street milling about...around 10am it started to get crowded...and people gathered around the greased pole...let me explain...

Now, none of us are really sure why or how the Tomatina started...I guess ya´ll could surf the ´net and find the origins...but anyway...what we did manage to glean from the locals was that there was a big greased pole on the square that had a ham tied to the top...the festival would NOT start until that ham was pulled off the pole...we observed groups of mainly Spanish guys pulling eachother´s shirts off and wiping down the pole to remove the grease (actually, it was pure lard...yes...good old fashion straight disgustig lard on this 35 foot almost telephone pole)...well, the guys started putting eachother on their shoulders and supporting their efforts to go up the pole...higher and higher the efforts pushed the guys up the pole...only to have a combination of gravity and lard overcome their efforts and to have them come crashing back to the bottom...this went on for about 1 hour with literally the entire crew becomming covered in lard..but one could see progress...they got higher and higher as they crawled over eachother,
literally stepping on eachother´s arms, shoulders, heads, chests, whatever it took to go higher...eventually one guy was propelled to the top...but could not remove the ham...it was tied on...and this guy did not have a knife...cést la vie...

They kept trying and eventually a guy reached the top and was able to rip off the ham...it was a great moment...the crowd was electric and started chanting for the Tomatos...but they were not to show for a while...but in the meantime, everyone was being sprayed with water and as tradition has it, all shirts were forceably ripped off anyone...then started the t-shirt fight...wadded up t-shrits were thrown across the crowd. Back and forth t-shirts were whiffed at random strangers...quite a spectacle...and actually
can hurt when a 5 lb wet, knotted shirt hits you in the head...so you end up throwing it back twice as hard in retaliation...quite fun...

The t-shirt fight lasted for another hour...and everyone was devoid of t-shirts at the end...there was much
chanting...yelling..dancing...everything to implore the arrival of the Tomatoes...then, in the distance down the street I saw the arrival of the first tomato truck...it was covered with people throwing tomatos at the
crowd...it would drive slowly through the street...stopping every 100 feet to dump a partial load of tomatos...this pile was descended upon by the masses and the hurling began!

Tomatos were flying in all directions...it was a blast! Like nothing else I have ever seen...we were throwing tomatoes at anyone and everyone in sight...putting tomatos down someone´s shorts...putting a sopping mass of tomato paste in someone´s hair...ahhhhhhh...it was great! But alas...it did have it´s downsides...tomato juice in the eyes is not wonderful...tomatos hitting your ears, eyes, nose, head, and personal parts was not always pleasant...and for all of my vertically challenged amigos...let me assure
you that being of above average height was not a benefit at a tomato fight...and wearing my tan hat just made me that much more of a target...I personally received a direct hit to my southern region...almost brought me to my knees...ouuuuuch! But, hey, that is part of it...you love it...and you also hate so many tomatos being hurled at you...we were all glad we participated...but were also glad when it was over...the streets literally were covered in tomato juice...and in the low parts of the street it was probably 8 to 10 inches deep with muck...we all laid down in the sauce and played like schoolchildren...very fun...we had experienced it and came out smelling like...well...um...not exactly like a rose...hmmmm...more like
rancid rotting tomatoes...there is nothing like the smell of tomatos in your clothing, hair, shoes...etc...it was truly disgusting...and as we walked back to the Smoky Meatball, there were many locals willing to douse us with buckets of water, and garden hoses...we accepted their friendly hospitality and were somewhat cleaned off in the process...but it is truly a task to get rid of all of the tomato bits...

All of our eyes were watering and it was hard to focus from all of the tomato acid...but we regrouped and had lunch while the crowds returned to Valencia by train...we then piled into the Smoky Meatball and drove to Valencia.

Dan and I had both left bags in the train station lockers in Valencia for safety...and along the way we decided we would find a 1 hour photo lab to develop the pictures and make 4 copies...so we arrive at the train station get our bags and search for a 1 hour photo lab...we find one...drop off the film...and start walking back to the Smoky Meatball when I hear, "Texas Doug!!!!"...I look at a car in the street...and lo and behold it is Tricia at the wheel...she has found us!

Tricia had waited at the Bunol train station from 4pm until 9pm...being early and having waited for 5 hours (and the last train from Bunol to Valencia left around 9:10pm) she took the last train to Valencia for the
night...now, you will recall that the plan was to meet at 10pm in Bunol...hmmmmmm...needless to say, I told Tricia that she had earned no brownie points for being at the train station for 5 hours and leaving early out of Bunol...but what do you expect...she is a CANUCK!!! Hee..hee...just kidding...but I did give her a complete ration of shit...anyway, we were all happy to see eachother...and it all worked out because she had met some Aussie girls and Kiwi guys to hang out with and had a great time at the Tomatina. Dan and the American girls headed off for Ibiza...Tricia and her crew went to look for hostel accomodations...and Jane (a cool POM from our hostel who was also in the Smoky Meatball) and I took the Metro back to our
hostel.

Back at the ranch...or...ummmm...hostel...we went swimming in the ocean...and not just swimming...many of us went in our Tomatina outfits because we wanted to wash out the tomato smell...so I went in with
everything on...hmmmmmm...didn´t work so well...because when I got out I smelled like a rotten, fishy tomato...oh, well...

We went out that night...I talked the group into eating paella...it was pretty good...but somewhat short on actual seafood or meat...strong on rice...oh well...and then we hit the nightclub...it was OK...we got there
early (about 1am) when things were starting...by 0230 things were starting to really kick...but being lightweights in the ways of the Spanish, we were thoroughly exhausted...we all crashed!

July 26, 1999
Many of the folks from Interlaken left...including the ramrod of the event, Kim. Kim, I am definately going to visit you in Prague babe...we must party on!

Jane (the POM) (note...if you don´t know what a POM is...ask an Australian friend of yours...), Shoni (an Australian gal from the Interlaken group), and I all decided to tour Valencia for the day...we walked to the
Cathedral...and saw one of the best displays for the blind...and the worst display for the non-blind...that I have ever seen. Outside the cathedral is a small bronze replica of the thing...with lots of braille explanations and information written...so the blind can feel what the darned cathedral looks like...and can read about it. Now, don´t get me wrong...this is a good idea...infact we saw it at another sight later on...but the fact remains that the non-blind would like to read it also...and there was no normal writing to read about the building...the information was ONLY available to you if you could read braille...And, come to think of it...why the heck would you feel the need to place the darned thing right outside of every building...why not put these things on display at the train station so the blind could arrive...feel all the major sights of the city...and leave without having to navigate the dangerous streets to get to each display...this seems to be a lot more logical...eh?

Met Tricia back at the hostel...decided that Shoni and I would leave the night of the 26th for Seville...Tricia would follow on the 27th...and we would see Seville and Ronda together.

Anyway...Jane decided to be somewhat domestic (and to save money) when we returned to the hostel...and offered to cook dinner...we jumped on that idea like a duck on a june bug! Anyway...it was great...thanks Jane! Shoni and I headed out on the overnight train to Seville...

Upcoming Sketchy Itinerary...
Seville
Ronda, Spain
Portugal (Faro, Lagos, Lisbon)
Bilbao and San Sebastian, Spain
Then Ireland with Emer!

Adios for now...
Doug