AUSTRALIA seemed a long way away for English bricklayer Karl Andreis and he never dreamed he would eventually ride around the vast continent on a bicycle.
But the idea became more than a dream 26 years after he immigrated to Queensland in 1983 with his wife Sharon and two children - it became a 14,000 km solo adventure through coastal and outback regions in five states.
Today, Karl, 64, says he never regretted the decision to ride off into the sunset in 2009, although he nearly called it off when he reached Winton, 1150 km from his Slacks Creek home in Brisbane.
"I sat around a campfire and thought of Judy and feeling a little guilty I took a bus back home," Karl said.
"My wife asked why I had returned. She said if I didn't go through with it I'd regret it for the rest of my life. She was right. I took the bus back to Winton with a better attitude, knowing it would be a great adventure."
Judy, who also likes bike riding, did think about joining her husband on the adventure but baulked at the idea of spending long days in the heat of the Outback.
Now Karl wants to share his dream with other like-minded adventurers who want to escape the stresses of life ... "and enjoy free time under the stars".
"Seeing parts of Australia on a bicycle is one of the most rewarding travel experiences you'll ever have," said Karl who has set up Pedal Away Cycle Tours which offers cyclists from all walks of life trips from two days to three months.
All the tours include a support vehicle (driven by Karl), all meals and accommodation, staying in camps or hotels.
"Imagine cycling the Australian Outback then ending the day around an open camp fire gazing up at the Milky Way or staying at a country pub," Karl reflected.
The tours are kept at a "personal size" - a minimum of 10 cyclists and a maximum of 20.
"It's not the distance of the tours, it's more the time spent on the saddle, usually about two to three hours, then a tea break and rest," says Karl. "Then it's on again for another couple of hours and another refreshment break."
He said when he rode around Australia it took all day to ride 100-120 km with frequent stops just to enjoy the moment.
"This way I didn't have the feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day."
Karl can be contacted at Pedal Away Cycle Tours on (07) 3808 3258 or email email@example.com