Rob Valkhoff – the originator of Java Lava Exiles
After the first Java Lava trip to Gunung Merapi in the early 1980s, many enthusiasts had relocated elsewhere. Rob Valkhoff recalls that 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 retired to Europe in 1988 and look the lead in arranging annual meets. The last week of June has become the ‘jour fixe’ for the Exiles event. His vision was that, each year, they would meet somewhere usually in Europe for about a week – not on volcanoes as in tropical Indonesia but in temperate mountains, sometimes with snowfields instead. They wouldn’t camp under the Southern Cross in sleeping bags but sleep in comfortable hotels; they wouldn’t drink Bier Bintang but sample the local beers and other specialities of the region; they wouldn’t be supported by porters but do days treks instead. Most importantly, they would meet over dinner and share friendships developed during their earlier days in Indonesia.
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, Madeira, and more.
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 also relates that the Exiles adopted the Zimmerli doctrine, named after the Swiss Java Lavan, Rolf Zimmerli (another example of his wonderful sense of humour). This doctrine permits hikers to pass wind during hikes. Rolf, a Swiss national, was a founding member of Java Lava in 1983. As an experienced climber of the Swiss Alps, he taught us that it is permissible to pass wind (kentut) when climbing mountains. But Rolf was also a perfect gentleman and had a wonderful Pavarotti-style singing voice. After each kentut he would sing, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose-garden.”
Rob was a big supporter of the Java Lava website seeking to encourage climbers to extend their friendships around the world. In one of his last emails, he was encouraging the formation of Java Lava Exile chapters in Australia/New Zealand and Ethiopia.
Sadly, Rob Valkhoff passed away on 9 June 2018. He will be dearly remembered as a founding father of Java Lava in Indonesia and the inspiration and driving force behind Java Lava in Exile.
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.
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 Valkhoff retired as Chairman-in-Chief of the Exiles in 2015 and passed the ‘hiking boots’ to Karl-Heinz Waescher. Herbert Motz and Dave Donaldson continue to act as Honourable Chairmen.
As Rob said, Keep climbing till you leave this world!”