In the first week of the journey I eased into my new life by cycling across the low lands of the Netherlands and along the banks of the Rhine. There were undulations and small hills along the way but nothing that I considered a real climb.

As I left the the Rhine valley and turned east in search of the River Main I found myself facing the first of many short but testing hills. As you can see from the photograph (taken half way up), it doesn’t look all that daunting but after a week of pancake flat cycle paths it presented the first real physical challenge of the trip.

By the time I had struggled the 40kg of bicycle and belongings to the top of the 10% gradient I was seriously doubting whether I’d ever be able to traverse the rolling countryside that lay in front of me toward Nuremberg, let alone the infinitely tougher mountain passes that I would no doubt face in the Swiss Alps.

Since that first hill in the German countryside 12 weeks ago, I’ve cycled 4000km to Istanbul and ridden over the Alps, the Balkans and every other mountain pass that each road lead me to the foot of. In that time I’ve climbed 54km in altitude (straight up!) and now have the confidence and the strength to make it over any mountain no matter how high or how long the climb.

It all begins with just getting over the first hill. The rest is easy