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Backpacking On A Budget - Part 3

by equinewhispers


My first two articles in this series covered the basics of backpacking and suggested a reasonably easy adventure to get you started – perfect if you only had the summer free. Hopefully that gave you a taste for exploring Neopia and you are ready to discover more. So whether you still have the rest of your gap year to fill or you are just reading these articles as inspiration for your next holiday I hope to explain how you can explore Neopia on a budget.

I’m picking up where we finished in Part 2 –Tyrannia. If you’ve been following the route I advised then it will likely be the month of Storing by the time you’ve thoroughly explored Tyrannia. This is a good month to find passage to Mystery Island as the oceans are still fairly calm and there are plenty of ships transporting goods between the two lands. Tyrannians have a long history of exploring the seas and once they returned to the surface after the earthquake in Year 3 they were keen to establish trade links with the cultures that had developed in their absence. With your previous experience of working for your passage to Terror Mountain you should have no trouble finding a Captain willing to transport you as they deliver the last of the season’s produce to Mystery Island.

As you journey over the ocean you might be fortunate enough to catch sight of Maraqua. Travelers on all-expenses paid tours are able to hire magic Faerie necklaces to visit this underwater realm. For the rest of us, unless you happen to be an aquatic species, the best you can do is peer over the edge of the boat and hope the sea is calm enough to observe the beauty below. Should you be able to go to Maraqua I highly recommend a visit to the Ruins and the Mysterious Statue as well as a spot of Underwater Fishing.

Once you pass over Maraqua it will be all hands on deck again to navigate the treacherous Maraquan Circle and get safely into port on [b]Mystery Island[/b]. Most backpackers wait until the month of Running before heading to Mystery Island for the famous Gadgadsbogen Festival. However whilst everyone knows about Gadgadsbogen and all the wonderful fruits on offer, it is spring time on Mystery Island that is the most magical. It’s true that it is on Gadgadsbogen itself that new fruits rapidly emerge and those from the previous year die back, due to the blessing of the earth faerie Tyleine. However it is a bit of spin on the part of the Mystery Island Tourist board that they just suddenly appear from nowhere. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself on this island during the months of Storing and Celebrating you should be able enjoy the wonderful sight of the fruit trees in blossom. The sweet scent wafts across the island and the different shapes, colours and sizes of the flowers are just as impressive as the fruits they will later become. There are far fewer tourists at this time of year so you can appreciate the spectacle without getting knocked over by a crowd of enthusiastic fruit hunters like you do at Gadgadsbogen.

There is of course much more to discover on Mystery Island than the fruit trees. It is a great location for the budget backpacker with acres of open space where you can pitch your tent and miles of sandy beaches with the warm, blue ocean just a stroll away. The vast majority of island residents are really friendly and welcoming to visitors but there are rumours of Coco tribes residing in the very centre of the island that lay in wait for unwary tourists. As long as you stay away from that area and are courteous to all island life and they should leave you alone.

It’s a good idea to journey to the north west of the island and explore the lost city of Geraptiku, one of the wonders of Neopia. You get a real feel of what life must have been like there all those years ago as you wander the now deserted streets. There are still teams of archaeologists studying the ruins and they will usually fix you up with a few delicious meals in return for help with the excavations.

The Islanders relies heavily on tourism for their income and so do have to make a small charge for most of the activities on offer, such as the Tiki Tours, although there is still plenty to do on the island for free. If you wait until low tide it is fairly easy to make the journey over to Umbuku Island, home to the Island Mystic. Here you can wait in line to have your fortune told by the enigmatic Kyrii. To the north east is the island of the famous Mystery Island stone heads. It is unknown who carved these huge stone sculptures and placed them in position on the island but it was certainly an impressive feat. Equally imposing is Techo Mountain – an active volcano with the figure of an enormous Techo carved into the mountainside. It is rumoured to have secret passages built by the ancient Cocos running through it, but few have dared approach near enough to confirm this. If you are a keen linguist it is fascinating to see the ancient symbolic language occurring so frequently around the island. You’ll recognise it from codestones but here it is carved and painted everywhere. It is thought that the older Cocos still understand and use the language but they prefer to remain isolated and so little is known about it.

As well as taking part in Mynci Beach Volleyball Tournaments there are many other sporting events held throughout the year and they are all free to enter. If it gets too hot in the sun you can retreat to the shade of the jungle where you may be lucky enough to spot the famous Mystery Island Parrot who provided vital clues in both the search for Coltzan’s crown and the Volcano Mystery. The Cooking Pot usually draws sizeable crowds which gather to watch brave individuals place items in the magical pot in the hopes of creating something special. You can try your luck on the Tombola or play a spot of Gadgadsgame in between sunbathing as well as listening to a new Haiku every day from Rorru.

Some would find it easy to stay on Mystery Island for the rest of their trip, enjoying the warm sunshine, taking part in surfing competitions by day and then watching the incredible tropical sunsets every night. But once you’ve been bitten by the travelling Scarabug you get a taste for adventure and will soon be ready to explore somewhere new.

If you did wish to visit Mystery Island during Gadgadsbogen it can be very pricey. But it is perfectly possible to enjoy this traditional Neopian festival on a budget. If you arrive a few weeks before the festival begins you can volunteer as a fruit picker on one of the many plantations across the island. In return for your hard work climbing up to reach the more inaccessible fruits high in the trees, or the rarer ones deep in the jungle you will receive board and lodging plus time off in the evenings to enjoy the festivities.

After Mystery Island I recommend a brief trip to [b]Moltara[/b]. The waters can be treacherous on this journey so pick a ship that looks seaworthy and make sure the Captain isn’t planning on taking a shortcut through the Marquan Circle. The Moltarans are very fond of the preserved fruits and cured fish of Mystery Island so there are plenty of trade ships making the journey to the archipelago which contains the entrance.

Once you’ve finished unloading the ship’s wares you’ll be free to explore Neopia’s only underground realm. Just remember to purchase some food yourself as it can be hard to come by in Moltara and is worth the expense to know you won’t go hungry during your stay. After the peace and quiet of Mystery Island the noise of Moltaran machinery can take some getting used to (although the heat and hard stone to sleep on will be familiar after the Tyrannian Plateau). Many visitors also find the lack of natural daylight difficult and can lose all sense of time. The machinery which keeps Moltara running and the fresh air circulating has to work continuously and so there isn’t much to distinguish between day and night. After so much travelling by sea you can probably sleep through anything but I would still recommend making your way down to the Moltara Caves to find a place to sleep. It’s more peaceful and there are more quiet corners where you can lay out your blanket and sleep undisturbed without workers rushing to the next shift tripping over you.

The best place to begin in Moltara City is the Town Hall. This contains a fantastic exhibition all about the rediscovery of Moltara in Year 11 and will give you a good background to the recent events in Moltaran history as well as its origins. After that it’s worth looking around the shops such as Lampwyck’s Lights Fantastic and Cog’s Togs for some brilliant examples of Moltaran ingenuity. A visit to Tangor’s Workshop is always fascinating as you watch him make Petpets from nothing more than Obsidian and scrap metal.

Away from the city there are many caves to explore but tread carefully and listen to the residents if they warn you about a certain passageway being dangerous – unless you’re a Magma pet you don’t want to get too close to the boiling lava. Within the large chamber which houses the Magma Pool is the largest collection of caves. Here you can marvel at the unique Moltaran creatures for sale in the Petpetorium and stare in wonder at the vast quantity of knowledge contained within the Arcanium. If you are enjoying your stay in Moltara and wish to extend it you can sometimes find work in one of these shops, either going out to find new petpets and then caring for them or sorting out the books in the Arcanium. You can also visit Igneot – widely considered the leader of the cave-dwelling Moltarans – and ask this sage Gnorbu for advice. He also takes in students who wish to learn to control lava with the power of their minds. There does seem to be a requirement to become a Magma Pet yourself however so unless you plan on remaining in Moltara for a long time that may be something to leave for another visit.

For most Neopians a trip to Moltara is a brief one as they are soon longing for daylight and fresh air again. From Moltara I suggest you journey to the Shenkuu Empire. The quickest and most exhilarating way to get there is on a Shenkuu flying ship but the captains are understandably wary of taking on inexperienced crew members. Therefore the budget traveller must cross the ocean the old fashioned way, working for their passage on the large ships which transport the heavy and bulky Moltaran exports of Obsidian and metal to Shenkuu.

If you wanted to get back home for the Day of Celebrating now would be the time to leave and head back to Neopia Central. I hope Part 3 of my Backpacking on a Budget series has given you some ideas and encouraged you to see Mystery Island and Molatara in a new light. Look out for my next article where I’ll cover Shenkuu, Altador and Krawk Island.

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