As per (what is turning out to be) usual I'm writing this blog from the airport as I wait for my plane to Palma de Mallorca!
The day after my last blog was a lovely relaxing one! I met Maria to try and exchange some money (note to self, REALLY should have transferred all of my money OUT of Peruvian Soles BEFORE I left the country… guess I have to back there now… hahaha) before heading back to their hotel and then onto the beach. This was also the first day (that I can remember) over the last 8 weeks that I had a 'bad day'. I was really missing South America and all of the amazing people I had met, and was slowly coming to the realization that I wasn't going to be running into them at the next hostel or the next town like I was used to. My last day in Lima, I felt like you do when your holiday is coming to an end and going home, only I was really headed to Spain which I think gave me some homesickness too. The first few days in Spain I felt myself comparing it to South America, and while loving some aspects, was finding it lacking… I think seeing Maria and Khathy together was making me lonely for want of someone from home too. I didn't realize how hard it was going to be leaving Kirbs in South America, and how much it was going to feel like I was going to miss out on the end of our holiday together. In many ways it was hard to separate the two trips in my mind without having visited some neutral ground first (like Aus or London) to reminisce and prepare myself mentally for a new experience.
At this point in time I need to say something about Valencia… the hostel I was in was NEVER cool… It seemed to trap the heat inside the walls, and strangle every little bit of warmth out of it… the first night in the hostel it was so stifling I barely slept until a cool breeze crept through the window, and then woke up first thing when the construction started outside the window… with no air conditioning you had very little choice other than dealing with it, or slowly dying from the heat… I know how it sounds, the spoiled little backpacker wanted to sleep in or have luxury comforts, but I honestly wouldn't have minded so much if they hadn't started at 6.15am… what sort of tradies are they?? Needless to say it was a REALLY long day for me! Another point about my hostel is all of the RULES it had… The owner was a REAL stickler for rules, and I got a vague feeling of what it would have been like to have a strict upbringing when Maria came to collect something from my room with me and we were told off as only paying guests were allowed in the hostel!
So, after meeting Maria, we picked up Khathy and headed to the beach… it was SO beautiful, so refreshing and SO hot! We got the bus there, and when we asked which stop we needed to get off at we were told (mainly through universal sign language) you'll see it (in sign language this involves pointing with both fingers forked out towards your eyes, and then turning them to point at the road)… The driver was right, and the second we saw the beach we were off the bus, and straight to… the markets. Yep, at the beach there was a boulevard with markets on it. Just the usual clothes, bathers, lighters, fans, beach mats, bongs, shoes, handbags and everything else under the sun affair… lol.
So, the day spent at the beach and by the side of the water, enjoying the last of the warmth of the sun (it was 8pm before we realized) we decided to do the only logical thing. Head to the restaurants to try some of the famed paella which originates in Valencia. We managed to find a lovely place with a set menu which got us more than ample food, and a beautiful jug of Sangria too. Needless to say the jug was without one single drop, and every last grain of rice had vanished by the time we were done. The seafood was so fresh it was just beautiful.
After dinner we headed back to the girls hotel for a reasonably early night before the VERY early start we had planned for La Tomatina… now, there's a reason I picked the word planned there… it seems every plan I try to make in Spain is foiled… this one was no exception. When we made it back to the hotel, we figured it was easier for me to stay there rather than going back to my hostel… which I was more than happy with as the room was so comfortable (and had air conditioning AND no construction outside!!!). The next day being Khathy's birthday it was only logical that we have a few drinks after midnight… which turned into a whole bottle between the two girls as I fell fast asleep around 2am. The planned 5.30am start was all set to go, except that when the alarm Khathy had set went off I thought it was a phone call and gave it to her, and 3/4s asleep Khathy turned it off… So, of course, when the OTHER alarm went off at 6.30 we were running about like headless chooks to prepare. It all worked out though, as we definitely could have used the extra sleep, and there were no massive queues for either train tickets, or on the platforms.
It was so strange though, as even though I say there were no MASSIVE queues we were still definitely part of a big multinational parade! The lines snaked through the platforms, spilling down onto the streets and thankfully guided us through connecting train changes (that we had forgotten about!) and into the main festival.
La Tomatina was somewhere between a music festival, a food fight and a food and wine fest. On first arriving we were greeted with 5 euro 1 litre Sangria cups (which of course we had to sample!), with loud dance music pumping up the crowds. Before we knew it, there was another parade as the tourists began to follow the truck filled with tomatoes that tried to drive through the streets. The hike to the place where the fight took place was interesting but REALLY hot. As we made it to where we thought it was going to take place (I think we were still a fair way back, but we thought we were in the middle) the first of the trucks came past… So, imagine a big semi trailer filled with non-ripe (over-ripe might be a better word) tomatoes, with about 20 people standing on the edges throwing them down on the people below… each time the trucks went past we seemed to be standing right next to it, so of course we were drenched!
Being the clever girls that we are we decided to try and get closer to the action, which was great fun until it all turned nasty… first let me explains what happens - no one is actually aiming tomatoes at anyone else, well, there are a few people doing that, but for the most part it's just picking the tomatoes up and throwing them without aim in a random direction. The locals in the high rise apartments join in the fun too by randomly throwing buckets of water onto the crowd below. Which is really welcome when you and 50,000 other people are standing in 30+ degree heat!
It was all fun and games until the pushing starts… it's not like one person is pushing you, you can feel the entire weight of all of the people behind you, trying to push you into the stoic mass in front of you which is going nowhere, OR who is trying to push back in the opposite direction… I have never in my life EVER been so thankful to be tall as what I was once this started. Your arms are pinned to your side because of the number of people, and you can barely breathe, let alone pick a direction to walk. You can feel your shoes coming off, but there's no way that you can stop, or try to slip them back on, as even when you move WITH the crowd you're being squeezed and stepped on and suffocated. If I was any shorter I would have started having flashbacks to Potosi and my mild claustrophobia. Luckily the girls and I had set a meeting place as we were all separated as we tried to get out of the crowd and into the sides. People were being lifted over the barriers as others tried to help them escape from the pandemonium.
Not surprisingly, I was REALLY annoyed that my new cute shoes I had bought were now 1 less than a complete pair. As soon as I could, I made my way BACK into the crowd to try and locate my and the girls shoes... you wouldn't think that this would be mission impossible, BUT the catch is that you're not allowed on the train without 2 shoes of some sort on, so people just take what's on the road. Khathy was lucky enough to be given a pair by a lovely lady, and I had to use one I found on the street! Once we all regrouped we walked around to have some more sangria and to try the paella in Bunol… only catch being it had all been eaten… the next challenge was the train ride back to Valencia (1.5 hours later…) with everyone else who managed to squish onto the train. The girls kindly took me in to their room again for that night so that we could celebrate Khathy's birthday.
We took a cab to try and find the old city, and somehow got the BEST cabbie in ALL VALENCIA! Now, it wasn't just because he was Argentinean, but that did help… when we asked him where the best place for paella was in the city and he didn't know, he used the dispatch radio system to ask all the other cab drivers for advice. Sitting in a café right in the heart of the old city, once again with sangria and paella was the PERFECT advice. The waiter we had was so grouchy that it was almost endearing, and he even gave us a free bottle of mini champagne for Khathy's birthday to celebrate. A group of Australians (there were 90% Aussies on Valencia I think!!) gave us some advice to go to La Claca for the after party for La Tomatina.
After a short walk through the old town, and marveling at all of the beautiful buildings we stumbled on an open air music concert, with a band, singers and dancers with castanets! Now in the dancing mood we headed to the club where we met Katie the Barcelona-living-Irish-flyer-chick who made sure we were always having a great night. Will hopefully catch her at the Travel Bar back in Barcelona with Nick! As per the rest of Valencia, the club was FILLED with Australians but it was nice to hear the accent again after so long! By 2:30am it was time to head home, all of us having had a long day and night and being tuckered out, stuffed with paella, sangria and a few other drinks…
The plan to get up early for the beach the next morning clearly didn't go as planned, and after packing, checking out, heading the super market for picnic ingredients, getting the girls new 'flip-flops' and hailing a cab, it was past midday when we made it to the beach. Probably a good thing as we all managed to get sun burned anyways! THANKFULLY I was clever enough to ensure my face and back were always covered with sunscreen (particularly my back, as there's no way I could manage my backpack otherwise!!), but was NOT smart enough to think about my feet… which are currently burning and stinging… after heading back to the hotel to collect our luggage we order a cab which turned out to be the same driver from last night!
Maria, Khathy and I parted ways at the train station as they headed off for Madrid and I headed off for Mallorca! I had such a great time with girls, and am looking forward to seeing them at Thanksgiving for some more partying! I've now said goodbye to my second set of travel buddies, and will welcome the third set tomorrow with the arrival of Jayski, Kel, Troy and crew in Mallorca! Apparently I HAVEN'T really learned my lesson though, as when I was on the plane I realized I forgot to write down the address or name of the hotel I'm supposed to be going to… hahaha… I had Hisperia in my head for some reason (it was Hesperia so not too far off!!) but luckily the cab driver knew where it was, but will def get my act together for the rest of the trip!!!
Missing everyone from home, but when it's still 29 at 8pm it's kind of hard to want to come home too much… Hahaha
Thanks to everyone for all the messages, posts, chats and comments, I'll get my act together on replying when I get to London!