Scarlett shows us a map of her holiday route and meets a mysterious young traveller named Allain - the mystery being why he, too, is heading for Viendenbourg.
We've been travelling for two weeks now and I realise I haven't properly explained how our holiday works, or shown you a map or anything. I can't send a map over, but I've loaded up a quick one on my website at http://www.thescarlettkite.com/hikemap.jpg for you to have a look. It's quite cunning, really - the idea is basically that you hike from one pre-designated rail stop to the next, and then take the train through to the next part of your hike. A lot of students do this sort of travelling; you take a tent with you to sleep in during the hike, and then have a couple of days on the train to rest before the next leg of the journey. The train company even take on your extra bags to your next stop for you. Our journey goes in a wide loop, so that it's not much further to come back than it was to go. We're planning to make five hiking trips with rail journeys in between. Number 4 takes us closest to Viendenbourg. It won't be easy to make it there and back in time to get the train, but I'm more curious than ever.
In any case, this has been our first week of proper hiking (Hike 1) - and my feet are sore! It's been great though. We've seen some amazing places - we took the Absent Woods path, walked through the Wentome Hills and saw the seven-tiered waterfall at Amanra. We even took a dip in the pool at the base of the waterfall. It's been a wonderful week - I'm so glad we came. There's a thing that happens when you're walking all day - your mind slows down, your thoughts become clearer, everything seems to pop into focus. So I think I was just a bit stir crazy last week, imagining that someone had been going through my stuff or trying the door. I was just trying to see conspiracies at every turn, but I'm feeling a lot sunnier now!
The other great thing about a long trip like this is the people you meet. This kind of trip is popular with students, so there have been a few people taking the same route as us. We've met up with a party of six students from the University (I didn't mention that my dad's the head of the Academy - those University people can get a bit touchy!), a honeymooning couple and a guy named Allain who's travelling by himself. Allain's pretty cool, actually. He's shy and keeps quiet a lot, but he knows a lot about botany and geography - we walked with him for a couple of days and he told us about the way this area's ecology had developed, the kind of plants you find here. When Sanj got stung by some hoare-ivy, Allain climbed a tree to get some berries for him to rub on it which took the pain away. Cool, huh? If I wasn't dating Brede I think I'd be interested in Allain. I think Margot's pretty into him ;-).
Anyway, Allain's travelling on the same train as us right now. Yesterday night, a bunch of us all had dinner together - me and Brede, Sanj, Margot, the guys from the University and Allain too. It got quite late - one by one everyone else went to bed so it was just me, Allain and Brede.
Allain seemed more comfortable talking when it was just the three of us. We discussed our itineraries. Amazingly, he's taking almost the same journey as us, with the same stops and treks. Except that, on that fourth journey, he's planning to spend longer than us. "Yeah," he said, "I've got a little private excursion I want to make. Off the beaten track." Brede said: "Why, where are you going?"
Allain ran his hand through his hair, looked down at the table and then back up at us. "I know this sounds crazy," he said, "but I'm going to a place I'm not even sure exists - Viendenbourg.