Java Lava Exiles


After the first Java Lava trip to Gunung Merapi in the early 1980s, many enthusiasts had relocated elsewhere. There was a strong desire to maintain friendships – we were all missing our climbs together. Voices cried in the wilderness, “Help us, give us Java Lava in exile!” And that is how the Java Lava Exiles came into existence.

Rob Valkhoff, who retired to Europe, look the lead in arranging annual meets typically in the last week of June each year. One of the first meets was at the Grand Canyon, a “reverse” climb starting at 2,000 m descending to the Colorado River at 400 m then back-up. Numerous trips followed: Austria, Italy, Slovenia, France, Corsica, Montenegro, Slovakia, Spain, Canary Islands and more. The Exiles adopted the Zimmerli doctrine, named after the Swiss Java Lavan, Rolf Zimmerli, that permits hikers to pass wind during hikes!

What is the difference between Java Lava (Indonesia) and Java Lava in Exile? Both have a complete absence of constitution, laws and by-laws and formal membership. They are just a group of like-minded individuals who enjoy mountains and invite others to join. The Exiles, like Java Lava, is no more than a mailing list.

But the Exiles do differ in some ways. Each year, they meet somewhere usually in Europe for about a week – not volcanoes as in tropical Indonesia but in temperate mountains, sometimes with snowfields, instead. They don’t overnight in tents under the Southern Cross but sleep in comfortable hotels – pyjamas instead of sleeping bags; they don’t drink Bier Bintang but, instead, sample the local beers and other specialities of the region; they are not supported by porters; they make their own travel arrangements and pay their own way; there are no early-bird knocks-on-doors or tent roofs to get up. Instead Exiles like to rely more on themselves.

Java Lava Exile trips are usually announced early in each year so that you can make your annual plans and to reserve hotels that fill up quickly during the summer.

Exiles come together, not just to hike, but to meet friends, tell tales, and even enjoy some entertainment between hikes. The hiking agenda is prepared but not disclosed in advance. Exiles may split  into several groups depending on abilities and interests and head to different places. But, most importantly, they meet again at the dinner table after a day on the mountains.

Rob writes (jokingly): “There is entertainment between hikes, presidents, prime ministers and celebrities speak. The Blue Bell Girls from the Follies Bergere perform. The crematorium on volcano La Fournaise on island Reunion, managed by a prominent founding founder, is at the disposal of all ageing participants. A stock of artificial limbs is available at all times and, last but not least, tandus (royal chairs, used by the Sultanates in Solo and Djokjakarta) are available to carry members in the mountain. Keep climbing till you leave this world!

Rob Valkhoff retired as Chairman-in-Chief in 2015 and passed the ‘hiking boots’ to Karl-Heinz Waescher. Rob, together with Herbert Motz and Dave Donaldson, continue to act as Honourable Chairmen.