On Sunday I was going trekking in the mountains with a group of walkers with whom I walk once a month or so. The walks are quite demanding, though some more than others, and usually last for between six and eight hours, which means they therefore require an early start otherwise we would be returning to the city far too late.
The arranged meeting time in the city centre was at 5:45 a.m. which meant leaving home before 5:00 a.m. to guarantee arriving on time, and being British I hate to be late. I normally get up about an hour and a quarter before the time I intend to leave which gives me plenty of time to prepare my food and liquid, double check that I haven’t forgotten anything and pack, so I planned to get up at 3:30 a.m. or thereabouts.
However, I couldn’t do anything about the Alborada, and I really wanted to go on the walk as for me that contact with nature helps to keep me sane. Plus I enjoy (and need) the exercise, even though at times when climbing for a few hours at high altitude you can’t wait to reach the summit, and have to search deep to muster up the last drops of energy hiding in those tired leg muscles to get there. I also love the camaraderie of the group - like minded people sharing their love of nature and the great outdoors.
To try to ensure getting sufficient sleep the night before the walk I went to bed at about 7:30 p.m. and even though some people had already started letting off the occasional firework it wasn’t difficult to get to sleep. Occasional bangs disturbed my deep sleep, but I soon drifted back into that beautiful world of blissful slumber until the momentum of the explosions started to increase significantly around 11:30 p.m. and it became impossible to go back to sleep, and left me with no other option than to get up and watch the Alborada as it got into full swing.
The idea of the Alborada is to welcome in December and the start of the Christmas festivities, therefore the amount of fireworks being let off reach a peak at midnight when November turns to December. Most of the fireworks are rockets which are sent up into the midnight sky using the hand as the rocket launcher, and the majority of these rockets do nothing more than explode loudly with three bangs.
We have two dogs, one is now quite old and deaf and so for her nothing is happening and she remains oblivious to the noise around her, but the other is young and every extra loud bang sent her running to the balcony, jumping and barking at the lights falling in the midnight sky. She slept with us in the bedroom all night, poor thing.
The crescendo of noise reached its peak just before midnight in a wave of dissonance that certainly tests the patience of anyone not taking part, and with a desire to be fast asleep in a warm bed. The intensity started to die off around 12:30 a.m. and that was my cue to go back to bed. I was woken a few more times before getting up at 3:30 a.m. but considering the circumstances I didn’t feel too bad.
The journey from the centre of Medellin, where I met up with the group, to the town of La Ceja (The Eyebrow) where we stopped to have breakfast was just over an hour and I fell into a deep sleep on the bus which recharged my batteries and meant that at the start of the walk about an hour later, I felt fine and ready to cope with the demands of a long, hard, energy sapping walk.
The weather was cool and cloudy as we are currently in the rainy season and so the conditions for walking were good, as the heat tends to make me (and the Colombians too) feel tired much quicker. The problem with walking in the rainy season is that the ground tends to be muddy and therefore more slippery; hence, great care has to be taken to tread carefully as a moment of distracted concentration from the task at hand can easily lead to a fall resulting in a twisted ankle or a damaged knee making it difficult to continue.
We stopped for lunch on the banks of the river Buey and the stark comparison of this peaceful setting and the cacophony of noise from the previous night made me wonder why most people would apparently choose the Alborada over a strenuous trek in the mountains!
Here is a video which shows the Alborada in full swing. The quality isn't great as I took it with my mobile phone, but it will give you an idea of the noise levels. The rumbling sound is the sound of all the fireworks exploding in the background, and this sound is interupted by louder explosions from those rockets closer to our flat. You will also hear the sound increasing as the time reaches midnight.