Backpacking On A Budget - Part 4
Welcome to the fourth instalment in my series on travelling around Neopia without spending a fortune. The last article finished as we were leaving Moltara and heading towards Shenkuu. If the weather is amenable you have a good chance of reaching Shenkuu in time for the New Year Festival. The exact date for this is calculated suing the Kreludor year and so it normally takes place between the last week in the month of Sleeping and the first couple of weeks in the month of Awakening. Even if you can’t get to the Imperial City itself in time you will still be able to appreciate the wonderful sight of the fireworks as you draw closer to the mountains. In fact it may even be better from a distance as you will be able to see almost all of the displays taking place across the Empire as they light up the night sky.
You need a real head for heights to enjoy being in Shenkuu as the rope bridges which connect the mountain peaks can swing alarmingly as walk across them. At least the mists hide the true scale of the drop although that is no comfort for those with an overactive imagination. But by this point in your adventure you’ll be used to scampering up rigging and looking down from the Crokabek’s nest so hopefully it will cause you no problems.
Shenkuu isn’t the best place to camp as it is very exposed. You can head further down the mountain where it is more sheltered but the mist makes it very damp, and going right down to the valley floor means a long trek back up the mountains each day. Don’t despair though as you should be able to find a quiet corner in one of the pagodas to curl up in your sleeping bag with your Spotted Blanket to keep you warm. If the weather turns very cold Princess Lunara usually persuades the Emperor to open up the gates of the Palace so that visitors can shelter inside one the many grand halls.
If you want to explore the landscape of Shenkuu you can travel down into one of the numerous valleys. Here you will discover the unusual plants and creatures which make Shenkuu their home. The valleys also offer wonderful views of the numerous beautiful waterfalls which cascade down the mountains. Just stay away from the valleys in between Shenkuu and the Haunted Woods as there are stories of a tribe of huge Caprior-like monsters in that area.
Within the Imperial City a visit to the Lunar Temple is a must. Here you can learn all about the phases of Kreludor and its impact on the tides of Neopia’s oceans. There are many shops to browse, each containing examples of the local’s fine handiwork. There is also an active extreme sports community who meet most days for Shenkuu River Rush training and are happy to welcome beginners. If you prefer mental to physical activity then Linae and her friends would be glad to teach you to play Kou-Jong.
Once the New Year celebrations are over Shenkuu returns to its usual calm, reflective state that leads to the enlightenment this land is usually associated with. As such there are strong links between scholars at Shenkuu and Altador and there are regular deliveries of correspondence between the two. This is useful because it provides a way for you to travel between these two lands over what is an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous territory. Whilst the fastest and bravest individuals carry express messages over the mountains and across the open plains at speed less urgent letters and parcels are transported via caravan. There is usually work to be found with one of these as a driver, a cook or just an extra pair of hands. Not only will you be led safely through the mountains but you’ll have good company along the way and the messengers know all the secret hidden wonders of the landscape and have the best stories to tell as you make your way to Altador.
Altador City itself is a magnificent construction. King Altador and his fellow Councillors had a long wait to find the perfect location for their safe haven and a lot of thought went into the design. The city is always clean and well tended and there are numerous open spaces where you can set up your tent. Divided into four districts by the impressive aqueduct system there is something for everyone here.
In the very centre lies the Hall of Heroes and the Council Chamber, which, apart from when the Council is in session, is freely open to all. If you are into sport your first stop will of course be the Arena District and the Colosseum – home of the Altador Cup. During the off season a lot of the stadiums undergo maintenance but you can still enjoy Alabriss Chariot Racing and battling as well as looking at the paintings and memorabilia of famous players past and present. There are also rumours of a secret society of beverage aficionados that meet near the Colosseum – but you didn’t hear about them from me. It can be expensive to be in Altador whilst the Altador Cup is taking place as well as being hard to find passage in and out of the city, which is why I haven’t timed this visit to coincide with it. However there is no charge for tickets so it’s perfectly possible to visit on a budget. You could even take up a position as one of the volunteer stewards, responsible for ensuring there is sufficient room for everyone in the stadia. The advantage of this is that there is a rota to ensure each of you has a chance to get up close to the action whilst on duty.
If your are more into nature and peaceful reflection you’ll enjoy the Park District which is a huge space with many ponds, wooded areas, sculptures and even a waterfall. This is always a popular place to set up camp. It is also here that you’ll find the magnificent Hall of Fountains, which is full of beautiful stone carvings. If you’re a fan of the natural world I’d also recommend a boat trip out to the Isle of Yooyu. This contains a reserve for wild yooyus as well as a safe haven for those who have retired from their duties in the Altador Cup and are living out their days in comfort.
The Money District might seem like an odd place to send the budget backpacker but there are lots of free activities here. A commonly overlooked feature is the Gardener’s Rest, near the outer wall. The Park District can get crowded at times but the Gardener’s Rest, a secluded area complete with a lilypad pond and swing, is much quieter. The main reason for visiting this district is the Neopia-renowned Altadorian Archives. They are a repository of information from around the globe and you’ll find the answer to most of your questions here and if not there will likely be a student working on it. Finneus, the librarian, welcomes all scholars and will be pleased to have an extra set of eyes to read over texts. After being lost for so many years there is still a lot of work to be done to bring the archives up to date. You could even try and complete the Altador Plot during your stay.
The Bazaar District is worth a look even if you can’t afford to buy a great deal. If there is something that you absolutely have your heart set on you might be able to find employment at one of the farms which lie between Altador City and the Docks. Another place to visit is the famous Perfectly Flat Rock Quarry which produces the stone for rock shields and writing tablets, this too can provide employment if you are keen to stay in Altador for any length of time.
Once you are ready to leave Altador you should to head down to the Docks to find work on yet another boat as you head back west across the ocean. We are heading for Krawk Island but there are a couple of places you may be fortunate enough to see on your journey there. The first is the Lost Isle, whose existence has only been confirmed in recent years. This is an island to view from afar as it is surrounded by rocks and inhabited by huge Petpetpets which have thrived in their isolation and grown to massive proportions. However being able to say you saw the Lost Isle is a great memory to take away from your travels so keep your eyes peeled.
The second place you just might see is Lutari Island, long thought to only be a rumour more evidence is now amassing to show that such a place exists. If you believe those who claim to have visited, it moves from place to place and has dense jungle with huge trees big enough to build in. There is a bank, a training school and a Wheel of Happiness. There haven’t been any new reports of visits for number of years but when a tropical storm blows in the old sailors say it’s one of the lost islands moving near. Sometimes you only know Lutari Island has been near when you find a Talisman bead bobbing along on the waves.
In order to avoid the Maraquan Circle your captain may set course below Mystery Island and thus travel near to the southern pole of Neopia. Few have explored this region and almost nothing is known of who or what lives there so keep your eyes peeled as you never know what you might see.
It might not be known for its beaches but Krawk Island is just as nice a destination as Mystery Island. It can take a bit of time to understand the local dialect but once you get the hang of it you’ll find the locals are really very friendly. It’s still taking some time for the island to shake off its uncouth image and so only a few tourists come here and you can wander for hours on the beaches without seeing another soul. Of course there is the added bonus on these beaches that there is a good chance of finding hidden treasures buried beneath the sand, especially on the Forgotten Shore. To find the right beach you’ll need a map but the Governor hands these out if you take a turn manning the cannon which protects the island’s anchor chains. These chains hold together the various small islands which form Krawk Island. You can see these for yourself by diving down underneath the water. Just be sure to clear it with the Governor first so that you aren’t mistaken for a marauding Krawken.
The main hub of activity on the island is Warf Wharf where most of the trading occurs. As well as the various shops selling local petpets and foods you can dress up like a pirate at Krawk Fashions or watch a few games of Krawps or Bilge Dice. Warf Wharf is also home to the famous Food Club competition and each afternoon a crowd gathers to cheer on their chosen competitor and hurl the leftovers at the losers. On the outskirts of town is the Academy. Cap’n Threelegs is always keen to see you have payment before he lets you train but he has been known to let promising students attend a few classes for free if they are willing to swab the floors in return. To the north of the island is the infamous Smugglers Cove where exotic goods are known to occasionally wash ashore. The residents don’t mind you paying the odd visit but if you start going there too often they won’t be happy about you bring attention to the area. To the north of the Governor’s Mansion is the Fungus Cave where you might have the chance to see Krawk Petpets turn into Neopets after eating the special fungus.
If you are feeling brave you could take a trip over to nearby Scurvy Island. This is where the more salacious residents of Krawk Island moved when Governor McGill tried to clean up its reputation. There is, however, a rather large sign warning you to ‘Keep Out’ which you ignore at your peril.
That wraps up the fourth part of this article series. I hope it encourages you step off the main tourist trail and visit some of the more out of the way areas of these lands. Look out for the fifth and final part of this series which will cover Faerieland, the Lost Desert and the Haunted Woods.