The Thin Red Line

Tomatina Festival


Colombia-Villa De Leyva

We could hear the crowd cheering as we drove to the stadium in the back of a van. Security was tight, guards dressed in military fatigues stood scanning the crowds with M16’s casually strung over slouched shoulders. If I didn’t know better I’d swear we were on our way to a political rally of some corrupt regime. But luckily I did, and I knew that the pile of tomatoes would be the only missiles fired, and the only screams would be the silly, happy ones that adults cry when allowed to do something normally verbotten

We’d come to Boyoca’s annual harvest festival, and we were there, along with several hundred other, to take part in a tomato frenzy- a giant food fight.

Two truck loads of tomatoes were piled in the centre of the stadium separated from the restless crowd by a flimsy cordon. Ten minutes left until the first piece of fruit was scheduled to fly and stray tomatoes were already airborne, as splinter factions decided to take this battle into their own hands. The announcer did his best to maintain control, but you could just sense that the peace was delicate. There were old scores to settle, and no doubt new ones to make, and as the seconds ticked down to the starting gun we eyed up our opponents’ nice bright white t-shirts. Looking deep into their eyes for any sign of weakness.

Then, with the sound of a horn, it was on. Like bold soldiers we surged over the top, moving forward into the mellie, with little regard for the red projectiles and shrapnel that filled the air. Myself and Si moved together into the fray  firing indiscriminately as we went, body fell left and right, as our comrades from the hostel went down one by one. Gringos of all nations fought and fell together. 

Once in the trenches though, it was every man for himself, so I tried to faceplant Si into the tomatoey mire. Unfortunately I came unstuck on a some stray pulp and landed belly first in the deep mud, by now crimson with the juice and pulp of brave souls. But intoxicated by the adrenaline of the fight, I picked myself up and soldiered on, catching a short Colombian on the side of the cheek with a well aimed volley of pulp. I was back in the fray. 

The fire was relentless, but we fought hard to maintain our ground despite coming under some heavy fire.

The battle raged for almost an hour after which time we retreated to the sidelines, and stood shell shocked, ears still ringing from the flack, and cuts stinging from the acidy bite of the pulp.

On the battle field of the Tomatina there were no winners. We lost alot of great men that day.

For those of strong stomach, more photos of the brave and mighty in our flickr set here.                      


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