In the distance I heard the ring of the starting gun; the sign that the carnage had begun.
Surrounded by thousands of people dressed in white, be-goggled and clutching GoPros as if their lives depended on it, we waited anxiously for the van to come into sight.
Watching it inch forward through the lens of my camera, I didn't notice the first tomato hurtling towards me until it landed, with force, in my left ear. As the juice trickled down my neck it quickly dawned on me – this was going to be one hell of an hour!
Ever since my first visit to Valencia last summer, I've been a little bit in love with this wonderful city. Beautiful old buildings, bright blue skies and the world's best paella. What I didn’t realise at the time however, was that in Buñol, a quintessentially Spanish town just 45 minutes away, something quite remarkable was happening – La Tomatina, the world’s largest food fight.
Originating in the 1940s following a small street brawl, and now held on the last Wednesday of every August, La Tomatina is the very definition of organised chaos: 20,000 locals, Spaniards and international thrill-seekers and an entire hour to pelt friends, foes and anyone within throwing distance with more than 60,000 kilograms of over-ripe tomatoes.
And thanks to Topdeck, this year I got to join in!
Crammed into tiny streets, only made smaller by several passing trucks delivering fresh ammunition, what begins as the odd red splodge on crisp white T-shirts quickly descends into a river of tomato sludge. Everywhere you look, bright red projectiles fly through the air. They will coat your hair, run down your shirt and obscure your eyes. You will slip, you will fall, you will land in a sea of red – and you’ll get back up and start all over again.
You will leave with clothes forever stained pink and discover bits of tomato long after you depart on the tour bus. I found tomato in my bra and inside my ear, I have a camera strap that will forever smell ever-so-slightly of rotten produce and remarkably, a camera that lived to tell the tale.
Most of all, I will have the memories – and La Tomatina gave me a bunch I will never forget.
Turns out there’s no better way to make friends on the road than hurling squishy red tomatoes at them.
Emily Gough is a traveller, blogger, creative, writer, digital influencer and photographer (sometimes all at the same time) at Along Dusty Roads, one of the UK's leading travel blogs. Whether it’s discovering the hipster area of an old European city or an up and coming destination, trekking through rainforest in South America or road-tripping around the Scottish Highlands, there’s an adventure, a story and a new discovery to be had wherever you go - and Along Dusty Roads tells its followers exactly how to have it. @alongdustyroads