Photos are in reverse order and story is at the bottom, so just start from there : )
What a crazy crazy festival. We got up at 5am this morning to get ready. Out the door of the hotel by 6am and we were on the bus to the train station by 6:30. We caught the first train out to Bunol and were in Bunol by about 7:30 and in the center where the magic happens by 8. There were streetvendors all over the place selling sandwiches and beer and sangria, so when we got to the center we asked one where the pole was going and he said right where we were, so we got some sangria and ham and cheese sandwiches and took it all in while we waited. Just as I finished my sandwich, the pole showed up, and it was literally RIGHT in front of where we were standing. We couldn't have possibly gotten closer. They greased the pole right in front of us and tilted it up with the ham hanging from the top to massive cheers from the crowd. The bottom of the pole was in a hole, and a man hammered shims all around it to keep it in place. When he finished the perimeter-guys moved and the crowd had at the pole. I was right at the base and rather light compared to some others, so I was the third person to give it a go. I got on someone's shoulders and ended up about 12 feet up, but I slid back down when I tried to go higher. I stayed at the base for another 20 mins or so holding contenders up and helping people balance until someone stepped HARD on my shoulder without any warning, at which point I backed up to where Corey was, about 10 feet back. The crowd was unreal, and there was nowhere you could go where you weren't being compressed between other bodies. Definitely not an event for anyone who is claustrophobic. After another 20 mins or so I talked to a girl who was standing next to Corey about strategy, and she convinced me to give it another go climbing up. Another guy standing right there boosted me up above the crowd and I basically walked on people's shoulders to the pole, where I tried to start climbing, but another guy tried too soon to use my body as a ladder and we all slid back down to the base. I retreated about 10 feet back again and decided I'd let others have at it. There are still no tomatoes at this point, as either someone has to get to the ham on top of the greasy pole or it has to turn 11:00; they release the trucks with the tomatoes when one of those two things happens. Slowly but surely people got higher and higher, taking grease off as they went up. The last good attempt ended about 5 feet from the top, but then the cannon went off signifying that it was 11:00 and everyone started cheering for the trucks and pretty much forgot about the ham. I realized at this point that my watch was gone, surely the band was broken by some guy's foot as I hoisted him up, and I only noticed when I went to check the time. No big deal really. The first truck came in honking and there were people, I assume of the town, in the back throwing out handfuls of tomatoes at people. At this point it's pretty obvious what happens... The crowd goes crazy and everyone starts picking up the tomatoes and chucking them at one another. This happened for five trucks in total, and by the end there were tomatoes about ankle deep in places in the street. Most people went for long-distance throws, which is good I guess, but they hurt more when they come from farther away. The nice thing about that though is that you can pelt somebody and watch their reaction while they have no clue who just threw the tomato at them. The same thing happens to you though... there's no way of knowing who threw what. At one point some guys who were into removing other guys' shirts saw that I had mine still intact and ripped it off me, which was a little disturbing but they were giving me pats on the back afterwards, and it was only a black t-shirt that was, at that point, covered with grease and tomatoes, so I don't feel at a loss. It happened to plenty of other guys too. After an hour of this total madness, the cannon went off again and everyone started moving out via a street marked exit, though lots of people were still throwing tomatoes. This was the scariest part actually, because everybody tries to rush out at once and it bottlenecked reeeeally bad where I was. I was getting compressed HARD from all sides for a little while and some people were pushing so we would move fast for a moment and everyone would trip over the feet of the people in front of them. Eventually I made it out and to the train station. I looked for Corey for a while and decided he must have headed back to the hotel, so I got in line to get in the train station. I realized when I was about 10 people back from the front that you had to have a shirt to get through, so I ran back to one of many street vendors selling tees and picked one up for 10E. I skipped back through the line and got on the train, then transferred to the subway, then walked about 15 blocks from the closest subway stop to the hotel, stopping along the way for some chocolate croissants, water and Sunny Delight (which is everywhere here). I got back to the hotel expecting Corey to be here, but he wasn't. Eventually he came in... Turns out he looked for me for a while, then ran into some people we had met in Barcelona, then headed back this way. My eyes are burning from getting grease and tomatoes in them, and my shoulders and arms are bruised from helping guys up the pole, but all in all it was definitely an awesome experience.