This week is a very special guest blog for VVR. Primatologist, Wildlife and Conservation Campaigner Luke Berman has written all about his climb of Mt Kilimanjaro which he did in support of Wild Futures. This is truly an extraordinary vegan who went the extra mile for personal growth and to help the non-human animals of our planet. VVx
Over to Luke...
My Journey to the Roof of Africa
By Luke Berman
Luke Berman is a vegan of six years and extremely passionate about wildlife, conservation and especially primates. He has worked for local authorities, social enterprises and charities like ‘The Conservation Volunteers’, where he developed skills in teaching people how to manage and look after the environment. He is now developing a career in Primatology and is off to Kenya in February for six months working with Colobus monkeys; before hoping to start an MSc in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes in September 2014.
Am I crazy?
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has long been a dream of mine and I suppose like many people things just kept getting in the way. Well on September 11th I left the UK for Tanzania to climb the tallest single standing mountain in the world, sitting at 5,896 metres, which is truly the roof of Africa.
I did this climb for Wild Futures & to promote the benefits of a vegan diet. Wild Futures works to protect primates and habitats worldwide. At its Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall it gives ex-pet primates a home for life as they can never return to the wild. Unfortunately it is still legal to keep primates as pets in the UK and it is currently estimated there could be around 5,000 primates kept as pets.
This charity is very close to my heart and it was a privilege to be able to undertake this challenge for them.
I already had an alright level of fitness, but I knew I would need to build endurance for this challenge. You are walking for eight days for up to ten hours, so it is a mental challenge as well as a physical one. I started going for long walks on the weekends to build up my leg strength. Within a month of the climb I started to go for eight hour walks and find as many hills as possible; the dog was very pleased.
In all honesty nothing could have prepared you for the summit climb. After climbing for six days (7 hours walking a day) we began the final walk to the top. Leaving at 11pm in -10 degrees and dropping to -20 we climbed 1400m in altitude and walked uphill for eight hours. After three/four hours you are relying on mental strength alone, water bottles have frozen, eyes are closing, and the top looks so very far away. Once at the top you can only stay for an hour due to the altitude and so must then climb down for three hours, have some lunch and then another three hours to the camp where you sleep. All in all it was seven days up and one and a half days down.
The best moment (apart from being at the top) was when one member of the group turned round to me, about half way through the trip, and said ‘I have a whole new understanding and respect for vegans. Before I didn’t know much and thought it was unhealthy, but now I can see it is perfectly healthy.’
I took high protein & carbohydrate energy bars with me, as well as bags of peanuts and raisins to snack on during the walks. The cook we had with us was excellent and went out of his way to make sure food for me was prepared correctly and without animal products. Mornings consisted of porridge made with water, I added nuts and raisins with a cup of ginger tea (an excellent pick me up in the morning). Lunch and dinner mainly consisted of a carbohydrate (pasta/rice/potatoes) with a vegetable and bean sauce.
Next I am looking at Tough Mudder, a twelve mile run through obstacles such as crawling under barb wire, running through fire and swimming through frozen water. I am definitely up for more challenges after this.
Support and keep in touch
Wild Futures details
Still taking donations through justgiving – www.justgiving.com/luke-berman
I also coordinate activities in London for Wild Futures; let me know if you want to get involved. https://www.facebook.com/groups/wildfutureslondongroup/