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We were waking down an alley in the albaicin, the old, Arab quarter of Granada, a maze of brick walls, enclosed, classical white Arab compounds with lovely courtyards, small hidden city squares, all built upon a twisted, steep hill. We were walking through a curved, rock-paved pedestrian street that started in new Granada below and waved up the mountain. The smell of tea shops, hookahs, from the Moroccan-owned boutiques and tea houses on either side of the street permeated and gave the air a thick, silky texture.
Suddenly, I saw a large, yellow flier posted next to the door of an Arab crafts shop. The big black words were all in Spanish, yet they were words that nearly every American could understand.
FIESTA DE AGUA
"Whoa!" I said as I screeched to a stop. "Look! Fiesta de agua?"
Fiesta de Agua. It was only 10 euros.
What is a Fiesta del Agua? Good question. We had tickets, swimsuits, and little else, and now, we were on a bus full of Spaniards, slowly figuring out we were headed to a village where we would, according to what little we could understand, be drenched with water. We had brought no extra clothes (as everyone else on the bus had), nor had we brought a towel.
When we got off the bus, we were handed buckets. That´s right, Buckets. Medium sized, blue, plastic buckets. We followed the throngs, countless hundreds, through a beautiful, green, mountain path toward a picturesque small valley town, the lights glimmering over the clear night sky. This was where the fiesta was taking place?
The crowds were amazing. The streets were packed with students, families, children, grandmas, all with buckets. From the balconies, people with hoses sprayed water down on the crowds, everyone trying to catch as much water as possible in their buckets. ¨Mucho agua, mucho agua!¨chanted the completely Spanish crowd. Within minutes, we were completely soaked with frigid water, but so was everyone else. The energy of the crowds was amazing, people were being sprayed with fire hoses, buckets, even the occasional gutter splash. The streets were running with dirty, warm water, not a single soul in the city was dry, even the hosers on the balconies were not spared the pain. It was a true water fight, truly a massive FIESTA DE AQUA.
I could never have guessed when I saw that sign that I would, with 12 hours, be ambushing random people with buckets of cold water, evading super-soakers, and in general having a fantastic time. This experience, one I will never forget, could have been so easily lost had I glanced the wrong direction, had the slip fallen out of my pocket, or had not called the number But most of all, the experience never would have happened had we decided to take a risk. That was the true lesson:
You can never get anything out of traveling unless you take chances.
Nithin returned from his trip in 2007, and in the years since has worked to better the world through environmental and human rights activism. Purchase his book, Traveling Softly and Quietly, at Amazon and Createspace.