Bruno Castonguay’s Kilimanjaro climb
Earlierin October, Stanstead’s Bruno Castonguay, along with fifteen other adventurous Townshippers, returned from a trek up to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for the Fondation Claude Durocher. “I really enjoyed the trip a lot. The climb went well for me but it was hard on some of us; three of us had to be carried down. It’s a really hard climb and when we were going up we saw people being carried down who didn’t make it to the top. But we were all able to make it to the top, except for our guide,” commented Mr. Castonguay who raised more than $4000 before heading off on the adventure, much of it from the granite industry.
“Physically, I was strong enough for the climb; we often walked and climbed twelve hours a day. But getting used to the altitude was hard. I would get headaches while I was sleeping,” said Bruno about the hike that took six days to go up, two to come down. Three members of the group became seriously ill, developing cerebral edema from the altitude, the reason they had to be carried down.
“It’s strange what happens to the brain from the lack of oxygen. You want to sleep a lot and we seemed to be dreaming while we were awake. We had to keep talking to each other and we were all following each other as we climbed,” he explained.
It wasn’t easy getting used to the climate of Africa’s highest mountain. “It was warm during the day but as soon as the sun goes down the temperature drops twenty degrees in about twenty minutes. You can never warm up at night.”
The most challenging day was “Summit Day”. “We got up at 4:00 in the morning and left at 5:30. It was an eight hour walk to reach the top. We spent only about forty-five minutes at the top celebrating, but it’s hard to estimate the time because by then your brain is really in sleep mode. Coming down is very hard too because you’re using different muscles.”
Mr. Castonguay, an astronomy enthusiast who occasionally writes astronomy articles for this newspaper, was not able to bring a telescope up to the top of the mountain, but he did do some star-gazing. “When we were up near the top the moon was full so we didn’t see that many stars. The sky is very different there and I saw a lot of constellations that I had never seen before. I gave some astronomy lessons and I learnt a lot, too. We used binoculars; I couldn’t bring the telescope up because, after 4000 metres, every extra pound is really heavy.”
Although this particular ‘hike’ up and down Mount Kilimanjaro is about 100 kilometres long, Bruno’s trip was actually longer since he made a movie along the way. “I had to climb up, place the camera, then come back down a bit and climb up again. It started to get harder to do as we got higher and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to film all the way. But I did and I made an amazing movie. At about 20,000 feet, it looks like shots taken from a plane.” Bruno had to sleep with his camera batteries in his sleeping bag to stop them from being drained by the cold.
Mr. Castonguay was really amazed by a lot of what he saw in Africa, even before his climb. “On a safari we saw lions, elephants, hippos, zebras, giraffes; it’s amazing how many animals are there.” The whole group was shocked by the number of orphanages they saw, prompting them to donate food to one. “The poorest people I’ve ever seen in the world were there,” said Bruno, describing a city of one million that had no infrastructure and only two traffic lights. “But the people don’t complain. I asked our driver, who said he only had a job two or three months a year, if he