Tourism on Mystery Island: Completely Overrated
Should you happen to find yourself in the midst of a conversation concerning the planning of a vacation, there’s a decent chance that you’ll hear of Mystery Island as a prime destination. The beaches, villages, and landmarks of Mystery Island are reputed to be some of the most fascinating tourist destinations in the world. In fact, Mystery Island sees more tourists every year than any other land of Neopia. But this should be expected, shouldn’t it? After all, the shores of Mystery Island have so much to offer. There’s the crystal-clear waters, those tantalizing tropical fruits, vast expanses of jungle home to some of the most exotic animals, and one of the largest open-air markets in operation. Mystery Island is home to just about everything anyone could want.
That’s what they tell you in those little brochures and on giant billboards. And it couldn’t be any farther from the truth.
I recently spent some time on the shores of Mystery Island, and it proved to be one of the most awkward and enraging weeks through which I have ever lived. I’ll never go back, I’ll never tell anyone else to visit, and, contrary to what the guy at the Tombola Hut had told me, I will most certainly NOT have a nice day.
I’ll start with the arrival. This, of course, was the only part of the trip that actually made the coming days on the island look promising. The boat docked at the harbour and I took in the sights. The first thing one sees are the rows of palms that line the coast and shake so gently in the breeze. The small hut at the end of the dock gives the appearance of quaint islander construction. Usually, there will be a group of natives dancing on the shoreline to greet the guests as they disembark. From the sights I took in at the dock, I was almost completely certain that a wondrous trip awaited me. So that night, I took my luggage to the little cabana that I rented and I quickly fell asleep on a comfortable bamboo bed, ready to embrace the coming morning.
And then the trouble started. I was roused from my sleep at approximately six o’clock in the morning by a deafening screeching noise. When I was fully awake, I looked up to where a bright orange tropical bird was perched on the back of a chair in the far corner of the room. It was making the most annoying squawking sounds that I had ever before heard in my life. What’s worse was that the bowl of fruit that had sat in the middle of the table on the previous night was now nothing more than a bowl. The stupid bird ate all of my fruit. I didn’t know how that bird got in the hut, but I intended to get him out. I walked to the door of the cabana, covering my ears from the screeching, and upon reaching it I pulled it open. The bird didn’t move from his perch. So then I decided that I’d have to use force. I walked over to the chair and grabbed that infernal winged bullhorn. I marched outside, intending to set him on a tree branch when the thing decides to bite my thumb and then fly off.
Disgruntled, I stomped back into the cabana and climbed back into the bed, hoping that I could get a couple more hours of sleep before I woke for the day. Turns out that I slept for just under another four hours and I woke up at around ten o’clock, with a good part of the day wasted, and only because my sleep was disrupted by that stupid bird! I didn’t let myself get too aggravated, though. I just told myself that it was a tropical island, and that on tropical islands it’s common to see those loud, bright-colored birds. After all, I was sure that the time I was going to spend on the beach would make up for my crummy morning.
Boy, was I wrong. I walked down the path to the beach with my chair and umbrella under my arm. I noticed that a horde of people had already arrived and had taken up most of the space on the sand. Grumbling again about waking up late because of the stupid bird, I continued toward the beach, passing a couple of small huts. Just as I was making my way past the third hut, I hear a voice in a thick Neopia Central-like city-accent.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
I turned to my left to see an island Eyrie sitting on a folding chair outside of the hut with a magazine in her hand, chewing a wad of gum. I referred to the chair and umbrella under my arm and I responded, “Well... I’m heading off to the beach.”
She gave me the most apathetic stare that I had ever seen. “You’re not going anywhere without a badge.”
I had to buy a beach badge to get on the beach. I had to buy a beach badge to walk onto the beach of a TROPICAL ISLAND. And it wasn’t a cheap beach badge, either. That crummy 400-neopoint piece of plastic was highway robbery (it was a little white round disk with the label “TOURIST” on it, in big red letters). When I finally passed the little badge checkpoint, it took me a half-hour to find a decent spot on the sand. I had never seen a beach more crowded than that one – not even the popular beaches on Krawk Island. So I set up the umbrella and the chair and sat back to relax. And just as I closed my eyes, I felt something whack me in the head. I sat up to find a volleyball in the sand next to me. I looked to my right, where a crowd was looking in my direction.
“Hey, man,” one of them shouted. “Throw it back!” I sighed, stood up, grabbed the ball, and bumped it back to the guy who had shouted to me. I returned to the chair and tried to relax once more when something struck the OTHER side of my face. This time it was a one of those Altador Cup Flying Disks. I got up once again and returned the disk back to the kids that were playing with it and for a third time I tried to relax in the chair when I felt something whack the BACK of my head. As I got up, I wondered to myself what type of sporting equipment flew at me that time. But to my surprise, it wasn’t sporting equipment at all! It was a coconut. And this time, it wasn’t an accident. I spotted a Mynci hanging from a palm tree, laughing hysterically with a coconut in his hand.
Rather than risk suffering a cerebral injury, I decided to go for a swim in the ocean. There were a lot of people and pets swimming around already, but I figured that there’d still be adequate room to go out for a good swim. So I walked down to the waterline and eased my way into the water. I swam around for a little while, just taking in the salty smell of the air. And then I smelled something else. The stench was putrid, and I had no idea what it was. At first, I figured that it might have been another one of the swimmers around me. You know – they might have had really bad hygiene or something. But after a time I soon gave little credence to that idea because of how unbelievably bad that stench was.
And then I saw it. There was this jetty along the shoreline to my left. When you were on the beach, all you saw was a jetty. But from the water, one could see the end of sewer pipe sticking out from behind one of the rocks on the end. The jetty was built around a sewer pipe that emptied out into the ocean. I could only grimace at what I imagined had come out of that thing on a regular basis. Needless to say, I was out of the water, and fast.
I was officially fed up with the beach. I closed up my umbrella, folded my chair, and began to walk back toward the path which I had walked earlier in the morning. I once again passed by the Island Eyrie in the folding chair, who looked up at me as I passed.
“You know,” she said, in that same apathetic tone of voice, “If you told me that you only were staying on the beach for an hour, I wouldn’t have given you the day badge.” When I had inquired as to what she meant by this, I learned that a three-hour beach badge was also available at the hut. And that badge only cost 50 neopoints.
Needless to say, I was pretty fed up. I got off of that beach as fast as I possibly could and returned my chair and umbrella to my cabana. I then decided that I’d find something to eat, because it was nearly time for lunch. I remembered that, halfway between the beach-tag-rip-off-hut and my cabana, there was a little stand called “Island Delicacies.” I figured that I’d walk over there and try some of those famous island dishes. You and I both know that nothing could rival savory tropical foods, right? Well, you’re wrong!
The stand was quite small and there were only enough tables to seat eight people. There was already a group of five present. I had recognized them as some of the volleyball players from the beach. I approached the counter of the stand to find something that I did not in the least expect to see. The Island Lupe behind the counter was wearing a grease-stained apron and one of those white paper hats. He was holding a really big spatula in his hand that was completely caked with something that I could not identify. There were frying bins next to him filled with boiling frying oil and a whole bunch of overcooked potato wedges. Where were the island delicacies? It looked like one of those grease pits that you’d find in downtown Neopia Central.
“What’ll it be, bub?” the Lupe asked me. Of course, I didn’t know what my options were (aside from potato wedges and that unidentified blob on his spatula).
“Uh, could I have a menu?” I asked him. He reached under the counter and pulled out a one-page menu. These were my options:
I could have ordered a burger, some fries, mashed potatoes, a hot dog in a folded grilled cheese sandwich, cream-chipped beef, something called the “Grease Bun,” something called “Rat Bait,” or something called “Bruno’s Mystery Meat Surprise,” among a whole bunch of other stuff that was so outlandish that I can’t even remember it.
Utterly confused, I asked the cook, “But... where are all the island delicacies?” A puzzled look came across his face.
“They’re right there on the menu, bub.” And what frightened me the most was the fact that he was being completely serious, too. If I wanted something that could have given me a heart attack, I could have paid a visit to Neopia Central. Where was all that exotic fruit? Did you have to go into the jungle and pick it all yourself?
“You know what? I think I’ll just have a Neocola, alright?” I said weakly as I put the menu down on the counter.
“Sure thing, bub. We only have it in bottles, though, no cans. Is that alright?”
He then proceeded to move to a refrigerator in the back of the shack and take out a bottle of Neocola. He pried the cap off of the bottle with his teeth and poured the contents of the bottle into a really dirty glass. He put the glass on the counter in front of me.
“Fifty neopoints, bub.”
“WHAT? The three-hour beach pass costs that much!”
“Shoulda asked before you ordered.”
Just to avoid any additional trouble, I paid the cook and took the glass. I just dumped it out behind the shack where that Lupe couldn’t see, left the glass on the counter, and I walked back to my cabana. I was going to eat some of the fruit that was in the bowl on the cabana’s table, but then I remembered that my little bird friend ate all of it while I was sleeping.
And that was just half of day one!
In the middle of the week, I had decided to take one of those Tiki Tours, where one of those coconut-wearing natives pulls you around in a rickshaw. That sounds like an exciting islander experience, doesn’t it? Well, you’re wrong! The first thing I noticed was the tag sticking out of the side of the guy’s mask. He bought it at a costume shop – it wasn’t even a legitimate islander mask. The second thing about the tour that annoyed me was that the guy didn’t seem to know too much about all of the landmarks we were passing. The rickshaw was lopsided, too, so I had to keep moving over to the left side to avoid falling out whenever we hit a rock. When the rickshaw ride was finished, I was dropped off at the bottom of Techo Mountain along with tourists who had been traveling on other rickshaws (that looked just as dissatisfied as I did). Our rickshaw-pullers told us that the tour continued up a small path on the side of the mountain. So the lot of us followed this path up the side of the mountain. Before we reached any significant elevation, we noticed a hut off to the side of the road. There was an Island Kougra sitting on a folding chair outside of the hut, reading a magazine and – you guessed it – chewing a wad of gum. When we passed by, she got up and ran ahead of us.
“Just where do you all think you’re going?” she asked us all in a thick city-accent. A Hissi to my right explained that we were simply taking a Tiki Tour and that our guides told us to follow this path up the mountain.
“I already knew that!” the Kougra snapped. “But you can’t just climb up the mountain without purchasing a mountain-climbing pass.” It was at this point that I spoke up.
“WHAT? We already paid for the Tiki Tour! Why the heck do we need to pay again?”
“Because you do. 500 neopoints a piece.” She held up a bag filled with little plastic badges with the world “TOURIST” printed on them in big red letters. They were EXACTLY the same as the beach tags. Grumbles of frustration erupted from the crowd of tourists.
“500 neopoints each?” I asked her. “The day badges at the beach were only 400!”
“What? 400 for the beach badge?” asked an Ixi to my right. “I was charged 700 for mine!”
“Look,” said the Kougra firmly, “I was in the middle of reading a magazine, and I don’t feel like wasting any more of my time. You can either pay to finish the tour, or you can walk back down the mountain.”
The whole lot of us turned and walked back down the mountain, unwilling to dish our more of our hard-earned money to complete an overpriced tour we had already paid for.
That evening, I found myself walking back through one of the larger villages. I was pretty agitated. Spending a grand total of four days on the island could drain someone’s entire life savings. With this in mind, I was naturally relieved when I came across something that I could do without fear of having my wallet drained: Tombola. I was right near the Tombola stand. I figured that I’d give it a shot. So I approached the Tombola stand and I drew a ticket out of the tumbler. It turned out that I had picked a winning number. Needless to say, I was overjoyed by this small victory, mostly because it was the first halfway-decent event of my trip.
“Hey, you won!” said the Tombola man. “Here, I’ll give you your prizes.” He reached under the counter and pulled out a small sum of neopoints and a glass filled with what looked like yellow and red slush. Thankful for this small fortune amidst the sea of calamity through which I was sailing, I took the money and the drink. Assuming it was some kind of cherry-banana mix, I eagerly began to gulp it down so that I might refresh myself on that hot day.
As it turned out, I was dead wrong! The Tombola man was obviously too much of a gourmet to throw cherries and bananas into the drink. It was a strawberry and cheese milkshake. And it was disgusting. I felt like I was going to hurl, so I staggered around the village, looking for a bucket or a bowl or something of a similar nature. In the end, I just ducked behind the Haiku Generator hut and reemerged a few minutes later, feeling much better. Thankfully, the Haiku Kougra wasn’t there to see me, or, more importantly, what I left on the bushes behind the hut.
Of course, my misfortunes didn’t end there.
On the very last day, I was walking around the marketplace in search of a souvenir. A friend of mine had asked me to bring back something from my trip for her. I had searched the stalls for two whole hours under the burning island sun in hopes of finding something that my friend would like.
I eventually found one of those little Coconut God statues and decided that I’d buy it. After all, my friend was a collector of little trinkets, and the Lupe running the stall told me that it was a genuine island craft, carved from the rocks of Techo Mountain. I had agreed to buy it for about 1,500 neopoints. I walked through the market, observing the statue, when all of a sudden an Island Krawk runs by and steals the thing right out of my hand!
I was completely enraged. I did NOT spend two hours at the market just to have the expensive statue I bought for a friend stolen right out of my hand. I pursued that Krawk as he ran through the marketplace, doing my best to avoid merchants and customers alike, as well as giant, inconveniently-placed carts of fruit. It took some doing, but I finally caught up with that little thief and I tackled him, bringing him right to the ground. I wrestled the statue out of his hand and I took off running.
For once, I managed to turn one of my island misfortunes around. I made sure that the last day of my trip wasn’t ruined like the previous days. A common thief attempted to make a profit off of something that was rightfully mine, but, in the end, I had emerged the victor. Let me tell you, nothing could have ruined my high spirits.
Well, almost nothing.
You see, I figured that I would inspect the statue closely to check and see if it had got damaged when I had tackled the Krawk. The statue was in perfect condition, but something else caught my eye. On the back of the figurine, there was a little golden sticker. I squinted to read the small black lettering at the center of this sticker.
“Made in Neopia Central.”
I paid 1,500 neopoints for a mass-produced statue that was made in some factory in the city for probably a seventh of the cost.
So next time you’re thinking of taking a nice, relaxing vacation, make sure that you don’t so much as set foot on Mystery Island. And if you find out that someone plans to go to Mystery Island, politely try to talk them out of it. If you can’t, hope that the horrors of the island have mercy on them. Spend some time on Krawk Island instead. They have beaches. They have decent food. Sure, they have pirates, too, but all you need to do is adapt that funny-sounding pirate vernacular and you’ll fit right in.