Books on Australian Alps, Canberra & South Coast

Newsletters from Klaus....

Newsletter Number 13 from the House of Klaus, December 20,2014

Tim the Yowie Man wrote in the Canberra Times on 20.12.14

"Klaus Hueneke is known as a mountain man. Over the last 35 years, the affable lederhosen-wearing outdoorsman has penned many books on the Australia's high country, including his bestseller Huts of the High Country (Tabletop Press, 1982). Just two years ago, this column celebrated his exploits (Mountain King, 12 June, 2012) when he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to conservation and Australia's heritage, particularly the huts of the high country.

However, for over four decades its seems that Klaus has been harbouring a secret – he has been secretly swapping his skis for snorkel and mask and his knickerbockers for speedos and has been exploring a parallel universe on our south coast.

Klaus reveals that he has made "several hundred trips over the Great Divide down a breathtaking escarpment to dozens of forest-enclosed beaches and striking headlands between Jervis Bay and Eden." He reckons that "a speedometer for all those trips would read over 100,000 kilometres, or four times around the globe." Who knows how many more kilometres he's chalked-up rock-hopping around wind-swept headlands, tip-toeing across scorching sand and kayaking in his beloved Yellow Swan along every nook and cranny of the coast.

On many of these coastal odysseys, Klaus explains that he recorded ad hoc observations and experiences, "scrawling them on whatever he could lay his hands on – from notepads to opened-out tea bag cartons". One time, having forgotten a pen, he even resorted to a writing with a chunk of charcoal from his campfire. "There can sometimes be an overwhelming urgency to write," the Canberra adventurer-author explains.

Over the past three years, Klaus has been creatively collating these field notes into a book which has just been published in time for the holiday season. Exploring a Wild Australian Coast (Rosenberg, 2014) is more than just a collection of his observations, and it's more than an expose of his coastal escapades, it's a journey in which the real Klaus finally bares his soul (and sometimes more than that, but don't worry he spares us of those photos), and in doing so he succeeds in weaving personal experiences into the bigger picture of history, philosophy and the natural world.

If you are after a travel guide about where you can swim or the best places to stay, then you best pick another south coast title off the bookshop shelf, for this is a rollicking ride from a youth spent frolicking in the waters (and among the sand dunes…) at Garie Beach (north of Wollongong in the Royal National Park) to half a century later, living off the land (and sea) along some of our more remote sections of coast.

It's not always smooth journey either. This isn't the south coast that the tourism bodies would necessarily showcase, this is the coast viewed through Klaus' partly scratched binoculars – from the "stench of disposable nappies and rotting food scraps" at Mystery Bay campground to "prising paralysis ticks out from the more tender parts" near Eden. It also seems that each chapter has a snake or lizard ready to play chief protagonist, like the black snake that tried to nibble his feet at Nargal Lake near Narooma, or the lace-monitor that charged at him when it was cornered in the swamp near Potato Point, just south of Tuross.

After a flock of emus stole his backpack, Klaus devised a peculiar dance in which his hands, arms and body became a two-headed emu look-alike. "Whenever they came near, I rose, raised my arms above my head and with thumbs and forefingers, opening and closing like the beak of an emu, ran straight towards them," writes Klaus, who adds, "emus can't reverse, so at the last minute they would swerve to the left or right, accelerate at tremendous speed and head for open space."

Not all his close encounters are with live specimens. Near Meroo Head, south of Tabourie, our billy-boiling beachcomber stumbles upon a dead humpback whale with the "the stench of rancid fat, the ugly blotches of red and orange and the malodorous liquids oozing from several holes."

Some of the hazards Klaus faces are unseen. For example, while taking a must-have sunset shot of the sand ripples at Comerong Island on the Shoalhaven River Klaus finds himself floundering in quicksand. "Helplessly being sucked down by a terrifying subterranean force is a petrifying sensation," he recounts. Heck, I didn't even know we had quicksand on the south coast.

Don't get me wrong, Exploring a Wild Australian Coast isn't all a Bear Grylls-style man versus nature adventure. Klaus is a nature lover at heart and he also shares moments of ecstasy, like the day, after 40 years of trying, he finally gets to see a bellbird at Trunkatabella, near Tuross. The olive-green bird "was much bigger and brighter," than he imagined." Then there's the more tender accounts of romantic evenings canoodling around driftwood fires. Apparently, they are especially romantic at dusk as the wood burns green and blue due to the salt content.

Exploring a Wild Australian Coast also dabbles into maritime history such as the tale of the SS Merimbula stranded during a "pig and whistle run" (so-named because of the main cargo carried and the whistle that went off before leaving port) on the rock-shelf near Currarong on a stormy night in March 1928. Thankfully no one died in this incident, but Klaus reveals that, "on some voyages pigs were carried on the top deck while passengers ate in sumptuous dining rooms beneath them" Mmm…I hope the floor didn't leak.

This book was always going to be a winner with this columnist for it ventures off the beaten track and in doing so uncovers hidden gems like the "sauna" an anonymous number of campers created using a gas burner concealed under a sheet of canvas in a remote sea cave. "The rocks would heat up and then they'd splash water around to give off the steam" explains Klaus who adds that the ingenious had even had carved a boulder-free path to the ocean where they no doubt cooled off. Then there's his perplexing account of a possible UFO encounter, the (clearly) mythical Wallagoot Monster and enough simulacra (don't miss the Pinocchio nose poking out of sea stacks at Wonboyn or the setting sun shining through Australia Rock at Narooma) to fill this column's simulacra corner for months.

Klaus' trademark descriptive and honest prose is interspersed with enticing photographs, colourful sketches (May Gibbs' aficionados will love his "banksia man going walkabout") and a generous splashing of hand-drawn maps (haven't they made surprising come-back in today's increasingly digital world). It is also clear that Klaus has been enamoured by the writings of the late Englishman Roger Deakin, who masterfully combined incisive observations of natural history with local history into a number of semi-autobiographical traveller tales.

Just as Klaus describes his favourite bush camping spot as "hard to leave and easy to return to," so too is Exploring a Wild Australian Coast. It's the perfect last-minute Christmas gift for anyone who makes summer pilgrimages to our south coast."

The book:

Exploring a Wild Australian Coast: on the South Coast of New South Wales

(Rosenberg Publishing, 2014)

available now at PayPal Shop on this website for $30

Newsletter Number 13 - House of Klaus, August, 2014

NEW BOOK available NOW

Volume two of my south coast books

Exploring a Wild Australian Coast

Klaus Hueneke

On the South Coast of New South Wales

"Coming out of dark Mystery Bay forest into blinding sun I was greeted with kids shouting ‘There’s a whale, come quick’. And so we did including a father who tugged at his long, heavy kayak. ‘There she blows’ or is that two spouts? Yes, ‘its mother and baby’. ‘Wow, they’re both breaching, never seen that before, look at the splash, quick dad get out there and have a look, but don’t get too close’. At the end of the school holidays this was grand theatre for young and old. After half an hour the spouts faded."


"Coming out of tall, misty forest at Meroo Head near Ulladulla, I glimpsed a yellow-brown lump lying on the rock platform. It looked like a sea stack recently parted from the cliff above. Then the smell – something organic and very dead. Defying the rotten smell of rancid fat, the ugly blotches of red and orange and the malodorous liquids oozing out of several holes, I stepped in close. It was 8 metres long, 3 metres wide, a metre high, with fins or flaps about 2 metres long. A wayward teenager perhaps. I poked the skin with a stick. It was thick, heavy duty like the mud flaps of a truck.

In contrast to the frolicking, fin thumping mother and babe, this was a bloated monster weighed down by illness, sadness and grief. The rope attached to its fin could not save it. It may lie there naked and unburied for a long time. ....."

From volume two of my south coast books

Exploring a Wild Australian Coast

Klaus Hueneke on the South Coast of NSW

Newsletter Number 12- the house of Klaus July, 2014

Nureyev on Skis


The Emperor of Illawong

Eulogy for Alan E J Andrews, Mona Vale, 26/6/14

I have known Alan in person since about 1984 and I’ve known about his writings and journeys across the high country since the 1960s. He had a big impact on my life and my book publishing business Tabletop Press.

Alan was a lover of:-

Australian History especially the early explorers,

the Australian Alps and skiing in all its forms,

the mountain huts especially Illawong and Albina,

old style poetry with rhyming verse,

the ballet and bacon sandwiches and

an old Holden Station Wagon.

He loved reading, drawing and using maps,

and the careful composing of numerous articles and books.

He enjoyed helping others with their own research and replied at length to any questions or correspondence sent. He did this in careful, often quite tiny, longhand or neatly printed with lots of curly bits. You can view it in some of his books. When his distinct handwriting was not on the last parcel of books I thought, ‘something must be seriously wrong’.

It was.

His books and long sojourns at Albina or Illawong hut above the Snowy River were very important features of his life. When he was at Illawong it was like the Emperor was in residence. Not a domineering Emperor who demanded our attention but a quietly spoken, quietly smiling, self effacing Emperor, one who didn’t have to shout it from the roof tops.

I loved listening to him reciting Australian classics as well as his own poetry.

This is an extract from The Fan-shaped Snowgum.

There it is, the fan-shaped snowgum,

Glinting in the morning frost;

Reminding us of courtly pleasures

From time forgotten – long since lost.

Lovely eyes ‘neath lowered lashes,

Flirting sweetly, ringlets tossed,

Fan on crinoline laid demurely,

Clamouring suitors imperiously bossed.

But look again, the trunk is twisted,

Leaning perilously askew.

Another instant it had fallen,

Yet still survives, to grow anew,

The branchlets fanning to the northward,

Others stretching southward too;

Now proudly standing tall, defiant,

A sentinel to welcome you.

In 1982 I wrote Huts of the High Country. Alan took note that there was a new kid on the block and on a later visit to Illawong we spoke about my new book Kiandra to Kosciusko. He offered to draw a number of maps and gave me permission to use his articles about early ski tours in different parts of the Snowy Mts.

When the book came out he said ‘but you only spent a couple of pages on the history of Mt Kosciusko itself’. Sorry Alan. It got him going and in 1990 he asked me to design and publish Kosciusko – the Mountain in History. It covered all the first European explorers who reached the high tops and filled a missing gap. As usual, the research was meticulous.

In 1993 he wanted me to do the same with Skiing the Western Faces but this time he said, ‘I want the book to breathe more’. ‘Breathe?’, I thought Can a book breathe? It showed how books to him were living entities with eyes, lungs, heart and soul. No wonder his and Muriels house is full of them.

He showed me a book which had lots of space around the text and between chapters. I got the message and Skiing the Western Faces became his most popular book. It inspired many others including his sons Neil and Ian as well as my step-son Chris, who brought me here today, to explore the dramatic western faces. I always know it has been a good snow year if orders come in during September and October.

By 1996 he was ready to go with Rainforest and Ravished Snow. Half of this book dealt with his bushwalks on the Comboyn and in the Upper Manning River area, one in which some of his relatives once lived and where Ian, his son, still owns a plot of bush. After skiing became too hard for him, Alan often went there to communicate with nature.

It became obvious that Alan had been sitting on a large body of drawings, maps, photos, writing ideas and unpublished work. I was very glad he chose me to bring them into the world. These were books with small print runs not commercially viable for big publishing houses but important nevertheless.

In 1998 I received the manuscript for Earliest Monaro and Burragorang, his last major work. It is jam-packed with historical detail, black and white photos, dozens of hand-drawn maps and many references. It has been well received by old Monaro families and local historians.

His books have been selling steadily for the last 20 years and will continue to do so for a long time. I often say ‘History doesn’t age, it just gets older’.

Before I came along Alan published a number of books with Blubber Head Press and smaller hand-made ones like Where the Wombat Goes and Surveyor Thomas Townsend, his work in Australia 1831-1854. Another was a compendium of all the articles and books he had published between 1950 and 1983. Yes, starting in 1950, 64 years ago, when he was a young 24. A note in one said, ‘This really is a table top book – written, made and printed at home’.

On one of our day trips he took me on to Twynam West Spur and showed me the gap in the cornices through which I could thread my long, thin skis and descend into Siren Song Creek. ‘Ski down there?’ I thought, and went off to sit at the end of the Crags to bask in the sun and contemplate the vista to the crouching lion Jagungal.

He, meanwhile, wasted no time and in a series of adroit, light as a feather, linked turns, leapt, carved and flew into the sirens arms. It was Rudolf Nureyev (a famous ballet dancer from the 1980s) delicately balanced on a couple of plastic planks in the steepest snow country we have.

About the same time I discovered he adored the Australian Ballet and the stunning, lithe, pink-clad ballerinas. He wrote poems about them too. The ballet must have rubbed off for it was ballet on skis that he displayed that memorable day.

Writing this about Alan, the word ‘fey’ kept bouncing around inside my head. The dictionary explained. It means, ‘as if enchanted, under a spell and aware of supernatural influences’. Yes, that was Alan all over and that’s what explains his love of skiing, his poetry, his wry sense of humour, some of his drawings and his ability to morph from a cheeky Shakespearean imp to a serious historian over the same cup of tea.

I will end on a poem he wrote after ascending Twynam North Spur.

It could be his epitaph:

We leave our stately sentinel

And pass on through the Arc of Trees,

Then upwards still and cross the snowbridge,

There possibly to take our ease,

But not for long; it’s on to Twynam

To the throne to pay our dues

And find our fealty rewarded -

The granting of the kingdom’s keys.

You may be sure we will not waste them.

Full many a secret we’ll explore.

Full many a slope will feel our ski-tips:

Past craggy slate and granite tor,

Down gullies steep and awesome,

We’ll ski them all, you may be sure.

So when at last we hand the keys in,

As needs we must – so stands the Law –

There’ll be no need for compensation.

There’ll be no need to ask for more.

I will miss him, his annual hand-illustrated and written Christmas cards, his tightly composed letters often with poetry, his years of support and all that he stood for with all my heart for the rest of my days.

Alan, you were an inspiring scholar and an old fashioned gentleman.

Klaus Hueneke (OA-AM)

Books from the high priest of high country history

Alan Andrews..............

SPECIAL deal on four of Alan Andrew’s books

Pay $145 plus postage ($20) instead of $160

The books are:

‘Kosciusko – the Mountain in History’ (normally $45)

‘Skiing the Western Faces’ (35)

‘Earliest Monaro and Burragorang’ (45)

‘Rainforest and Ravished Snow’ (35)

Go to the Pay Pal Shop page.....and click

Alan Andrews Special.

Newsletter Number 11 from the house of Klaus, 2014

Dear fellow explorers, friends, past customers and readers of a good book,

This year Tabletop Press will be 27 years young. Thank you for your support, some of you for all those 27 eventful, up and down years. Where would I be without you. Lining up at a soup kitchen!? It’s been a creative researching, writing, photo-ing and publishing life, just what I needed and wanted.

Softly, Softly does the trick....

‘A String of Pearls’ shows the beauty and diversity of the south coast for the first 120 pages and then in the last 10 ends with photos presenting a very altered landscape and a strong conservation message, ‘lets look after the coast as if it were a string of pearls fit for an empress or a queen’. Years ago when writing ‘Huts of the High Country’ I decided that the best way to show the value of something is to bring it to life with photos and entertaining words and not by telling people they must preserve it. It took 30 years to turn the NP&WS around but they did. Through a couple of new books I hope I can also contribute to greater respect for the natural and cultural beauty of the south coast.

. Martin Chalk of the National Parks Assoc of the ACT captured the spirit and message of the book in a lovely review which he ends with the words...

"This book has the capacity to give pleasure to anyone who picks it up.... and to influence those who view the South Coast as a personal playground to take a more reflective and responsible view of their activitites."

No more reprints

Stocks of some of my books are running low:

‘Huts in the Victorian Alps’ – out of print

‘People of the Aust High Country’ – out of print

‘Kiandra to Kossie’ – about 70

‘One Step at a Time’ – about 220

‘Kosciusko – Where the Ice-trees Burn’ – 6 only

They will not be reprinted. So get your copies NOW!

Klaus Hueneke receives an Order of Australia from the Govenor General for Services to Conservation and the Environment in October 2012.

A big Thank you all for your support of our online shop at

We look foward to helping you again very soon . ENJOY!

For today happy travelling to your favourite place, in the heart or in the bush.

Greetings from Klaus, and Patricia too.