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Around Neopia in 80 Days - Part Two


by burning_shadows_79

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Neopia is an amazing place, full of wonders and marvels. You haven't experienced Neopia until you've travelled to all its corners; any Neopian who stays in the shelter of their own home, and never explores the world, is missing out.

This is the second part of the itinerary for a trip around Neopia in eighty days. Last week, you toured Neopia Central and Kiko Lake, ventured into the depths of the Haunted Woods, traversed the sands of the Lost Desert, and admired the noble buildings in Altador. This week, you will be heading into the northern lands of Neopia: this part of the journey includes both the highest and coldest region on the planet, as well as the sweltering depths near Neopia's core. But first, it's time to leave Altador and travel to the exotic land of Shenkuu.

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SHENKUU

DAY 22 - Ride the Cyodrake's Gaze

Atop the cliffs that overlook Altador is a docking station for the Cyodrake's Gaze, the winged ship that led the rest of Neopia to discover Shenkuu. Previously the province of Shenkuu had kept to itself, but it has now opened its doors to tourists from all over Neopia.

When you buy a ticket to ride the Cyodrake's Gaze, you may be expecting a tour of the ship itself - the cargo hold, kitchen, map room, and the crew's cabins. However, this is not what the ship offers its passengers. Instead, you get Shenkuu's equivalent of the Yooyuball Blimp: a chance to drift high above the ground and enjoy a breathtaking view of the sprawling landscape far below. When you board the vessel in the early morning, you will be shown which guest cabin is yours; you will then be given a small bowl of Squid Root Stew, which will protect against motion sickness, but it's best not to use it unless you need to, because it's not a very enjoyable dish. Most of the food served aboard the Cyodrake's Gaze is much better, though, and you'll be able to enjoy it come lunch time. (Don't mention it to Chef Bonju, but it is generally agreed that his replacement as ship's cook does a far better job of preparing meals for the sailors and passengers.)

When the Cyodrake's Gaze departs from Altador, you'll want to head up onto the deck for the best view of the landscape; you'll need to dress warm to shut out the chilly wind, but it is worth the trouble to admire the most gorgeous of Neopia's unspoiled wilderness. You can also enjoy a most spectacular view of the clouds, especially as the sun rises and sets. The route from the Altador cliffs to Shenkuu City begins by heading northeast into the mountains between Altador and the Haunted Woods; in amongst the rugged peaks and boulders you may be able to see a few rough-hewn stone huts belonging to Scarlet's clan of mountain monsters, but the harsh terrain is essentially inhospitable to Neopets. The Cyodrake's Gaze will then head west over the olive forests to the coast north of Altador, before turning northeast again to cross the uninhabited high plains south of Shenkuu before arriving at its destination in the evening.

DAY 23 - Shenkuu Markets

After spending the night at Ye Olde Ship Inn near the dock, it's time to head over to the Shenkuu marketplace. A network of bridges connects the peaks of several close-knit mountains atop which the shops are perched. Here you can buy some beautiful souvenirs and enjoy the local cuisine.

The goods you can purchase here in Shenkuu are among the finest in Neopia; after all, Shenkuu is a merchant town and eager to make its wares as tempting as it can. Head into the battle shop, Wonderous Weaponry, and you'll see what I mean: the blades, fans, helmets and shields are exquisitely polished and painted to be fit for a king. The four-point paper star and the Black Fan of Shenkuu are ideal souvenirs, as the craftsmen here are experts in working with paper and these items are the epitome of paper weapon construction. At Fanciful Fauna you can see some of the iconic Shenkuu Petpets, including the Pandaphant, the Kazeriu and the delicate paper Quintilc. If you take one look at the Quintilc and find yourself captivated by its beauty and yearning to take one home, you can pop back into Wonderous Weaponry and pick up a Quintilc Throwing Star, which (although not alive) looks almost exactly identical to its Petpet namesake.

Across a rope bridge suspended over a steep valley, you will find Anshu's Remarkable Restoratives. Anshu specialises in herbal medicine and, perhaps surprisingly, this is an excellent place to enjoy a refreshing drink: a hot cup of Steaming Green Tea will warm you inside, more than almost any other beverage in Neopia. But if you want to be warmed even more, the Exotic Foods restaurant sells some of the finest curries you'll ever taste. Its most popular dishes are dumplings, rice, noodles, and spicy soups. Be sure to try some sushi while you're in Shenkuu, but if you don't mind a little afterburn you should sample one of the kimchee recipes - they're spicy, but good! Once you've finished browsing the shops, you can settle in for a nice game of Kou-Jong at Linae's place.

DAY 24 - High Waterfalls

The waterways in Shenkuu are not to be missed by fans of riding rapids, or for that matter, fans of stunning views in misty valleys. As you will have learned already from the Cyodrake's Gaze, Shenkuu is a place best enjoyed by those with a head for heights!

There are two routes down the largest mountain to the Hotel Opera in the valley, where you'll be staying the night. The first is on foot, down a steep path carved from the rock, which winds back and forth along the face of the steep incline and passes around and behind several dazzling waterfalls: a great experience for keen bushwalkers, but soon to be rendered redundant by tomorrow's hike from the hotel up to the Lunar Temple. The second route is only for adrenaline junkies - the streams themselves are fantastic for surfing, although they should not be traversed by the clumsy or unfit. Unlike the similarly thrilling and dangerous Tubular Kiko Races, the journey down the rapids in Shenkuu may be undertaken by anyone who wants to participate, but pay close attention when the local river guide gives you the safety briefing. You'll be equipped with a life jacket, a helmet, and padding for your knees and elbows; you can choose to ride a surfboard or a sturdy wooden canoe. The first section of the waterway is relatively easy to navigate, being fairly slow and wide with fewer rocks jutting out of the water, and this will help you get your bearings before the going gets tougher. Further down, the stream is narrow and twisty, and also very steep which means there will be quite a few jumps. It's a test not only of agility and strength, but also reaction time: the rapids are, well, quite rapid, and you need to react fast to avoid any obstacles looming around corners. You have to be very brave to go into the valley this way!

As exciting as the waterways are to ride on, it's much more peaceful to simply walk down. Whichever mode of transport you choose, the views of the misty ravines below are breathtaking. The further you descend, the more you will appreciate the sheer size of the peaks that tower above, because the dense mist that cloaks the valley floor prevents you from getting a clear view from the mountaintops. The air in the gorge is cool and pleasant, and the spray from the waterfalls is refreshing. When you reach the Hotel Opera, settle in for a good night's rest: you'll need your energy for the uphill climb tomorrow.

DAY 25 - Hike to the Lunar Temple

Deep in the cloudy Shenkuu gullies, in amongst the maze of cliffs overhead, a clear river flows, overlooked by the Hotel Opera. A journey from here to the topmost peaks is long and gruelling unless you have wings, but it's also much the best way to take in the beautiful Shenkuu wilderness.

Like the descent from the mountaintop markets, there are two possible routes to take. The first, again, is by walking - but let's not take the same path that was offered yesterday: a surprise awaits those who opt for the slightly longer path. Head east over the rope bridges, into the shadow of a mountain with no buildings perched atop it. There is a path here, rarely traversed and narrower than the road that winds along the rapids, and halfway along it is the Mysterious Negg Cave, where the Clockwork Negg was hidden by its late protector Rutu. Fortunately the Neggbreaker is no longer here, so the cave is now safe to visit: you can enjoy a small logic puzzle in the form of a coded lock that opens the Negg. You may receive a prize if you successfully solve the lock - hopefully a local food item such as Exotic Fried Noodles, so you can have it for lunch. You can explore the cave and investigate the Neggbreaker's empty den, too.

The other way to the top was made possible by Princess Terrana, the Shenkuu Emperor's youngest daughter, who just happens to have a passion for climbing with grappling hooks. Terrana spends many a day securing ropes and hooks to the cliff edges, and recently the emperor decided to put these ropes to good use, setting up counterweights and pulleys with Terrana's help and rigging up sturdy wooden cages to the ropes to create a cable-car system, powered by water wheels. It's quite slow, similar to a gentle ride on a ferris wheel, but it allows non-flying travellers to ascend the steep slopes without wearing out their legs. If you climb the mountain on foot and run out of energy halfway up, don't worry: there are several places to board the cable car. Enjoy the view of the rice fields until you get to the top, then rest at the iconic and beautiful Lunar Temple before boarding a winged boat to Happy Valley.

TERROR MOUNTAIN

DAY 26 - Happy Valley

Welcome to Neopia's winter wonderland. This region is the precise opposite of the Lost Desert, where it feels summery whatever the time of year; here in Terror Mountain, the scenery is cloaked with snow even in the warmest months. Happy Valley is the main population centre, and the first place you should explore.

Obviously, before setting out to see the sights you should wrap yourself in warm clothes. Then head out into the picturesque village square. At first glance there seems to be a lot to see and do, but many of these activities are restricted. The Advent Calendar is here, but unless it's the Month of Celebrating you won't be able to get any gifts - however, you can browse through the old video clips from previous years if you like; they're fun to watch and will give you a good laugh. Mr Chipper's Ice Cream Cart is here too, but visiting it is a pointless exercise because he won't accept Neopoints: you need a coupon to buy an ice cream, but don't bother getting a coupon because they're surprisingly expensive. If you want ice cream, enter the nearby factory from whence Mr Chipper gets his goods. For reasons unknown, the Ice Cream Machine blends ice cream by firing it into the vats with catapults, and there's fun to be had in finding out how far into the factory you can get before one of the scoops hits you in the face. Remember to open your mouth when you're about to take a hit!

Outside in the snowy fields, another game awaits you that works along similar lines: snowball fighting. (You don't need to open your mouth for snowballs.) You can also build a fortress out of snow, much like a sandcastle, and see how well it can withstand a snowball attack. Building a snowman is not an official activity, but a trip to Terror Mountain is not complete unless you do so. Check out the Wintery Petpets store if you want to see creatures that sport a distinctively seasonal style. Refreshments are available at the Slushie Shop, but beware, not all the flavours are desirable - the best slushies are the fruit flavours, such as Florange, Mangorific, Flatfruit, and the local favourite, Snowberry.

DAY 27 - Ice Skating

Apart from the frosty conifers and snow-capped brick buildings that make Happy Valley look like a holiday greeting card, its most striking feature is the series of frozen lakes and streams that serve as ice-skating rinks. The favourite activity of Bruces, ice skating forms the foundation of several different activities in Terror Mountain and is well worth a whole day's attention.

The primary skating activity is a graceful dance accompanied by music, held on the largest lake in Happy Valley. The local Bruce population holds an annual competition among themselves to find the best performer, but anyone can attempt the activity at any time of year in the form of the Rink Runner game. If you're not a Bruce, or any other Neopet species accustomed to being immersed in very cold water, be sure to wear a thick wetsuit in case the ice cracks and you fall into the lake: the cold water really bites. (Skating on thin lake ice is not recommended for Neopets painted Fire or Magma. Magma pets, particularly, may solidify into solid rock if submerged.)

There is an alternative to skating on lake ice, if you don't want to risk an unwelcome dip in freezing water. However, the other ice-skating rink in Terror Mountain, situated a little way up its slopes, has a different drawback: it was constructed in the wrong place by a terrible engineer who didn't think to build a steady foundation. Perched precariously on a narrow rocky platform, the entire slab of ice tilts one way and then the other as the skaters move around on it. This too has been converted into a game, namely for anyone who cares to help operate the machinery that controls the rink's tilt angle. If you choose to skate on this rink, you place yourself at the mercy of those who man the controls: a false move on their part will send you sliding over the edge. It is safe to say that neither of the two main skating arenas is for novices. If you're not a proficient ice skater, it's best to head into the Ice Caves a day early and spend the day gliding smoothly across sheets of thick, steady, solid ice.

DAY 28 - The Ice Caves

After all the ice-skating action you've had so far, hopefully you're not getting tired of ice yet. In fact, you can't wait to see even more ice! It's one thing for the ground beneath you to be composed of solid frozen water, but it's quite another to enter a network of caves formed entirely from crystal clear, sparkling ice: the beauty of this landscape is unparalleled.

Although beautiful, the Ice Caves are not entirely safe. This is not only due to the fact that moving around is difficult due to how slippery it is - if you don't wear spiked shoes you're likely to fall over - it's also due to the fact that the fearsome Snowager makes his home in one of the caverns here. He sleeps for just three hours a day, but you can hear his snores from some distance; if you're brave (and I mean REALLY brave) you can sneak inside while he's dozing and try to abscond with an item from his vast stash of treasure. Be warned, the Snowager is by no means a heavy sleeper and he's just as likely to wake up and catch you in the act; if he does, you may emerge from his cave seeing stars and encased in frost. You'd better bring a powerful Healing Potion just in case.

In another part of the cave network is a series of treacherous tunnels and caverns that are only for the bravest explorers; Hannah and her friend Armin are regular visitors here, having helped to map the caves. However, the biggest attraction is the central cavern: here, you can find the home of Kari the Negg Faerie, as well as the Ice Crystal store which specialises in winter weaponry. This is the place to go if you want to shop for souvenirs, although be sure not to choose a memento that will melt or go off - the Crystal Negg is recommended, but most items for sale here are unsuitable. In the upper reaches of the caves, Dieter the Polarchuck can be seen eagerly munching his way through blocks of snow (and occasionally pausing to burp), and near the openings in the cave ceiling you can sometimes spot Snufflies racing down slippery ice slabs connected to the ski slopes, which you will visit in a couple of days.

DAY 29 - Terror Mountain Peak

The summit of Terror Mountain is the highest and coldest point on the surface of Neopia. Near-constant snowfall and regular blasts of icy wind are enough to make your fingertips freeze, so be sure to dress as warm as you can. For those who can brave the bitter temperatures, a whole host of attractions await.

Taelia the Snow Faerie lives in an elegant igloo atop the highest plateau. She warmly welcomes guests, and often asks them to fetch items for her spells in exchange for rewards - but attempting such a quest would be an inconvenience during a holiday, so leave her alone for now and focus on other activities. Not far from Taelia is the local cafe, which has the lengthy title "Super Happy Icy Fun Snow Shop", perhaps to compensate for the number of food items which are made of plain frozen water. Ignore those, because what you really want are the shop's iconic treats: Brucicles and Chia Pops. Brucicles, like the slushies in Happy Valley, come in all flavours but the best are the fruits; Chia Pops are similar. Of course, most Chia Pops will have no effect other than to taste good: only a Chia can be transformed, and only by a very rare Magical flavour of Chia Pop.

With the exception of the Super Happy Icy Fun Snow Shop, the retailers here are unlike any others in Neopia. A pair of Chia siblings, Mika and Carassa, have a small igloo in which they sell all kinds of items from all around Neopia: the Igloo Garage Sale. This is so popular it even has its own game, but somewhat more enigmatic is Tarla's Shop of Mystery, a lucky dip where all the wares are hidden from view until after they are purchased. But there are other activities apart from shopping. Those with sharp aim can test their snowball-throwing skills against the local Darblats. If you've broken anything during your travels, you can get it fixed in Donny's Toy Repair Shop. Only at the end of the day should you visit Taelia; her warm, cosy fireplace, enchanted so it won't melt the igloo, is too comfortable to leave one you've settled in with a hot mug of cocoa.

DAY 30 - Ski Slopes

Having stayed the night in the Mountainside Inn, it is now time to descend from the top of Terror Mountain to the passageway in the Ice Caves that will take you to your next destination. With skis or a snowboard, you can come down the fast way!

There are two stages to the downhill run. The first is the exposed upper slopes of the mountain, blanketed in thick snow; the second is the very slippery ice chutes that lead into the Ice Caves. For stage one, it is possible (but not advisable) to make the journey at speed even if you don't have skis and poles. The Snow Beasts that live on the highest cliffs have developed a habit of intimidating the villagers below by barraging them with large snowballs; they envelop any objects in their path and grow to a terrific size, carving out paths clear of trees and rocks that now serve as ski runs. Of course, it is recommended not to be swallowed up by a huge snowball in order to get to the bottom of the slope at speed, as this is very uncomfortable, so your best option is to hire some skis or a snowboard for the day; you can return them to the local skiers' lodge when you reach the entrance to the ice slides. This is a good time to take a break and enjoy a pre-packed lunch.

The slides are a different challenge entirely. Like the river rapids in Shenkuu, they can only be taken at speed and you need quick reactions in order to avoid dangerous obstacles. Fortunately, for beginners there is a fairly easy route, but thrill-seekers will want to head down one of the faster, more exciting runs. The surfaces along these tracks vary, from smooth solid ice to snow that has fallen through openings in the Ice Caves' ceilings, and in some places, open water (which is far too cold to be immersed in). There are also rock walls and boulders to avoid, as well as territorial Gabars defending their dens. As with the Shenkuu rapids, you'll be given a helmet and padding to protect you in case of a mishap, then a stopwatch will start as you set off. If you make it down the slides in a fast enough time, you'll be rewarded with a delicious ice lolly.

TYRANNIA

DAY 31 - Concert Hall

An opening at one end of the Ice Caves leads to an ice-free stone tunnel containing a mine cart track. After a long and thrilling ride in the cart to reach the bottom of the mountain, you will emerge on the high plains of Tyrannia, far warmer than the freezing cliffs above. Enjoy the sunshine, hike down the rocky path onto the main plateau and head out to enjoy the star attraction: the Concert Hall.

At the Ticket Booth you'll have many performers to choose from, depending on the date and time; the main concert is held in the evening, but in the morning and afternoon you can often watch the rehearsals of other bands. The Concert Hall features musicians to suit every taste - disco music (Chomby and the Fungus Balls), country and western (2 Gallon Hatz), classical music (the Neopian Philharmonic), heavy metal (Wock Til You Drop, and the gothic Twisted Roses), electronic (Blue Kacheek Group and Moehawk), smooth jazz (Jazzmosis, of course) and good old rock music (Sticks N' Stones and Gruundo). If you want to see a more exotic performance, the music of every land in Neopia is represented: the Mellow Marauders specialise in the sea shanties of Krawk Island, the traditional music of the Lost Desert is played by Jub Zambra and the Cobrall Charmers, and the songs of the Hikalakas evoke the tropical beaches of Mystery Island. If you've got youngsters with you, M*YNCI and Yes Boy Ice-Cream are sure to please. In short, anything you want to listen to is bound to be here, each band bringing its own unique style.

Once you've got your tickets, it's best to pick up some food to munch on while the band is performing. Fried Trilo Bites and Golden Ivy Leaves are ideal snacks, which you can get at the Tyrannian Food Shop on the other side of the plateau. When you go to see a rehearsal you'll leave empty-handed, but at the evening concert the band will distribute complimentary merchandise to their fans. These goodies can include recordings of the band's music, hats and T-shirts, mugs, wall posters, and toys. After the concert is over, it's time to head to the Straw Hut Hotel for a much-needed quiet rest.

DAY 32 - Tyrannian Plateau

As the sun rises over the stark rock formations of the Tyrannian Plateau, you will probably be woken by the sound of hundreds of locals moving across to gather a slice of the Giant Omelette while it's still fresh. Since this is a perfect breakfast meal, not to mention the most famous dish available in Tyrannia, don't hesitate to join them.

The egg which forms the Giant Omelette is laid regularly by a gargantuan dinosaur. The rocks it is laid on are heated by lava just below the surface; the heat splits and cooks the egg and the result, as improbable as it seems, is a colossal omelette. Bring your own fillings to add to the egg; chunks of meat are a popular addition, as are cheese and onions. Be careful of the hot rocks as you collect your slice of the omelette, but don't come back for seconds - Sabre-X, a local general, guards the Giant Omelette to prevent anybody taking more than their fair share. Once you have your slice, it's time to tuck into a very filling and delicious breakfast. (The creature that lays the enormous egg is believed to be none other than the infamous Beast, which lives in a vast cave not far away. Entering this cave will result in certain damage; Neopets who dare to venture in are known to emerge sporting lower hit-points than when they entered. Even if you're curious, the Lair of the Beast is best avoided.)

As well as the Giant Omelette, there is also the Tyrannian Food Shop you have already visited. Some of the best dishes are Ransaurus Steak, Soft Tyrannian Cheese and Crackers, and Tyrannian Flat Bread - but since you've just filled up on omelette, they are best left until dinnertime. There are plenty of activities on the Plateau, most of which involve demolition: you can pick up a mallet and help bring down sub-standard brick walls (they're sub-standard because they're fragile enough to be smashed to bits), or you can watch the local demolition derby, which will explain why there are no cars in Neopia. If you feel like an adrenaline rush, you can even go skydiving from the high cliffs.

DAY 33 - The Obelisk

Only recently discovered, the famous Obelisk of the Oracle has in fact been present for as long as life has existed in Neopia. Buried in lava a long time ago, it was partially uncovered by a series of earthquakes and sparked a frenzied battle as several different factions sought to be the first to reach it.

The initial contest to open the Obelisk involved six factions. These were the Thieves Guild, headed by Kanrik; the mysterious society known as the Sway, led by a Lenny known only as the Duchess; the Order of the Red Erisim, a sorcerors' guild headed by Rasala the Bright; a group of warriors called the Brute Squad, under the leadership of Commander Flint; a think tank called the Seekers, composed of explorers and academics, governed by Professor Lambert; and the Awakened, a motley collection of undead creatures summoned by the twins Lanie and Lillie. All were enticed by the magic held within the Obelisk, evidenced by the beam of bright light shining from its peak. This magic was channelled to test the factions' strength of spirit by summoning their greatest weaknesses for each of them to overcome. The eventual winners of the contest were the Sway, but the Duchess was most surprised to discover the occupant of the Obelisk: a mysterious being of light, the Oracle, who believes that only the worthy can be truly strong in combat. She shared her blessings with the members of the Sway in acknowledgement of their victory, only for the battle to break out again as three other factions recovered from the previous clashes and resumed the fighting. To this day, the Oracle continues to reward the victors of these contests with the benefits of her magic.

The battles take place in the Ugga Dome, which can be reached from the Tyrannian Arena on the nearby Plateau by a portal that leads to the Battledome in Neopia Central. The Obelisk itself is now relatively quiet, especially if you visit during times of truce. You can admire the impressive stone spire where the Oracle resides and listen to her words of wisdom, and explore the original battleground at the excavation site, where there is a helpful Zafara digger to show you around.

DAY 34 - Tyrannian Jungle

Below the vast Plateau is a lush prehistoric jungle. This is the centre of commerce in Tyrannia - as well as being the place where the locals buy their furniture, clothes, weapons and Petpets, for tourists this is the ideal place to shop for souvenirs.

The first place you should visit is the weapon store. Most of the items here are on fire (and that's on purpose), so they won't be suitable to carry with you unless you want the rest of your belongings burned to a crisp - however, there are a couple of items here that will catch the eye of clothes shoppers, especially those who are cashed up. Fur Boots and Fur Lined Bracers are a terrific ensemble, but quite pricy - however, they are very durable, warm and comfortable, and a worthy purchase if you can afford them. Before browsing the Tyrannian Furniture hut, be aware that a surprisingly high number of objects for sale there are crafted from dung... the shop smells very unpleasant and will likely require a nose clip, but if you'd like a cheap souvenir this is the place to go: they have solid stone pots and boxes (if you don't mind the weight), fur blankets and wall hangings, and Fire Tapestries (which aren't actually on fire, so they're safe to take home).

The Tyrannian Petpet shop is no place to get a souvenir, but it has another feature: the Petpets are kept in enclosures in the jungle, with fences constructed from large tusks and bones. It's quite a memorable place to visit, especially as the jungle is filled with the high-pitched cries of prehistoric birds such as Airax and Skree. If you're very lucky you might spot the elusive Krawk Petpet in its vast enclosure; the Pet Rock is somewhat less difficult to find, but far too expensive to buy, even though it's the only Petpet you've seen on your journey so far that's appropriate as a souvenir. On your way out, you will pass by the Cave Paintings room, which may be a collection of colouring pages but is worth a look, especially as the outlines are drawn on bare rock and illuminated by flaming torches. There aren't any good places to stay the night here in the jungle, so head back onto the Plateau and return to the Straw Hut Hotel.

DAY 35 - Village of Tyrammet

In the shadow of the Plateau cliffs is a quiet settlement which is home to several hundred Tyrannian natives. While the centre of the Jungle is home to the bulk of Tyrannia's commerce, the village of Tyrammet plays host to lots of entertaining activities.

Tyrannian Mini Golf is probably the most popular among the various games here. In a peaceful clearing on the south side of the village, you can pick up a golf club and find out how efficiently you can putt that ball into the hole. "That ball" is actually a choice of three different golf balls, but for health reasons it's best not to use the ones made of dung. For an extra challenge, the course is by no means perfect: there are sand pits which can slow down your ball, and even lava (for some reason) - to add interest, there You'll get Neopoints at the end of the nine holes, depending on how many putts it took to finish the course - the fewer the better, so see how low you can go!

If you prefer to take a punt rather than a putt, there are other activities that are sure to interest you. One is situated at a nearby nesting site for Grarrls: an 8x10 grid of nests, each containing a single egg. In Grarrl Keno, you place a wager on which eggs will hatch - the baby Grarrls have a one in eight chance of emerging when they hear their parent roar. The other two activities are card games - in Tyranu Evavu you'll guess whether a hidden card is higher (tyranu) or lower (evavu) than the card you can see, but in GoGoGo! the chance aspect doesn't kick in until the end of the game. The last three cards you have to play are hidden, and you can only hope that they'll be legal moves, otherwise your bid to clear all your cards will be set back by having to pick up the stack pile. If you hear a commotion in the nearby cluster of small huts, it's likely to be Geoffrey Chia trying to drive away a few local pranksters with their mudball guns; you can join the effort if you'd like. If you hear a commotion overhead, it's bound to be a Pteri chasing away Tyrannia's more destructive pests: pterodactyls and wild Grarrls.

MOLTARA

DAY 36 - 7,000 Foot Shaft

Before setting off for Moltara, you'll need to be well-prepared. Pack some durable flame-resistant clothing, thick gloves and a helmet, and don't forget to bring plenty of water as well. Moltara is a dangerous place for the unwary, but it's also full of entertainment.

You'll cross from the Tyrannian coast to Moltara's entrance via a large trading ship. At about noon, you will arrive on a small and beautiful island covered in tropical plants and flowers, including the famous Mysterious Orchid which was discovered shortly before the entrance to Moltara was reopened. Take the opportunity to settle in for a picnic lunch, and enjoy the cool, refreshing sea breeze while you can. When you approach the entrance, the rush of hot air as the door opens is reminiscent of a fan-forced oven. Head into the uppermost level of the shaft, but be ready: the heat is enough to make anyone sweat (except for Moltarans). The source of the searing temperature is seven thousand feet below, in the depths of Neopia's core.

There is a steam-powered elevator that allows tourists to get from the surface to Moltara City, but the best way down is by parachute. A staircase leads from the entrance door to the top of the massive shaft, which is overlooked by a steel balcony; in exchange for some Neopoints, you'll be able to drift down the shaft like a falling leaf, which is truly a sensation. You'll be lent a jumpsuit and helmet and strapped securely into your chute; when you walk out onto the balcony, you'll feel a strong updraft of hot air rising from below. It's thrilling to the point of terrifying just to stand there, but it takes even more courage to jump from the tiny metal ledge into the fiery abyss beneath you! Most of the descent will be made in freefall; this has been described as "like flying at high speed over the surface of the sun". When you pull your chute, the enormous shaft is easily wide enough to allow you to descend to the bottom in broad spirals. If you find yourself too reluctant to make the jump, don't worry: your Neopoints will be refunded if you change your mind and resort to the safety of the elevator.

DAY 37 - Moltara City

This is Neopia's steampunk city, scorching hot, powered with steam engines heated by lava and fuelled by seawater piped in from high above. It is here that Neopia's highly unstable core is mechanically stabilised, keeping the planet's energy under control. No matter where you go in Moltara you'll sweat like mad, but if you can brave the heat, the unique landscape and infrastructure here is amazing.

There is barely a trace of plant life here, being so far underground; all the buildings are constructed from stone and wrought iron, with gears and steam vents working away on almost every surface. One of the largest and most conspicuous buildings is the Town Hall, where the events that led to Moltara's rediscovery are recorded for posterity (although many consider this story to be somewhat lacking). There is also a vast obsidian quarry for fans of pretty rocks - it's best to visit this quarry and pick up a spare piece for later use; you might find some scrap metal or loose gears lying around, too. These trinkets will be useful tomorrow in Tangor's Workshop, but for now, it's time for some shopping.

Before heading to the food shop, Molten Morsels, be warned that the shop name is perfectly accurate: most of the food on offer is made of molten rock, at least partially. Very few of the dishes here can be safely eaten by anyone other than Magma Neopets - Fried Ginger, Root Pancakes and Hot Onion Salad are among the more palatable options - but you can get a few good beverages here, including unique fizzy drinks made of carrot juice or sweet potato. If you're daring enough, the favourite food of the locals is the tongue-scorching Molten Lasagne. The Moltaran fashion trends, however, are far easier for outsiders to follow. A visit to Cog's Togs will allow you to avail yourself of all kinds of steampunk attire, crafted from thick leather or sturdy fabric, and styled with brass buckles and decorative cogs and gears. While none of these things will keep you cool, they are very resistant to damage by heat; you can also buy goggles in case the steam from the city's generators stings your eyes. At the end of the day, make tracks to Hotel Obsidian, which is mercifully cool enough for a good night's rest.

DAY 38 - Worm-watching

Tracking down all of the glowing worms that dwell in these searing caverns is believed by many enthusiasts to be the most frustrating, but nevertheless the most rewarding, activity in the land of Moltara. To avoid losing patience, it is advised that you should not expect success when searching for these tiny creatures. Still, it's definitely worth a shot.

Despite having been on a shopping trip yesterday, head first into Lampwyck's Lights Fantastic. It is true that you can pick up a souvenir here (a Gear Lamp is an excellent choice), but just as importantly, to start your worm-watching expedition you'll need one of Lampwyck's spare Empty Lanterns. Once you have your lantern, you can collect the worms you find. There are ten colours: blue, red, green, yellow, purple, orange, pink, white, black and rainbow - five of them can be seen around the centre of Moltara City, and the other five prefer the Moltara Caves below. The ones you're likely to have the hardest time tracking down are the black and rainbow worms: the former because it's so difficult to spot, the latter because it's exceptionally rare.

If you're lucky, you might find all ten worms, at which point you should place them into your lantern. Although faintly lit on their own, their light output increases enormously when all ten colours are brought together. Armed with a now-dazzling light source, head into a small opening at the rear of the lava-filled Moltara Caves to search for the elusive mineral called Red Moltite. (Inside the cave, you may encounter a huge lava monster intent on eating you, but don't worry. You're faster than him.) If you've missed a worm or two, you can always buy some moltite from one of the locals. You can now bring the moltite, along with any gears, obsidian and scrap metal you may have found, into Tangor's Workshop in the city centre and put together a small robot - check the blueprints on his wall and pick your favourite, and you'll get to take it home!

DAY 39 - Moltara Caves

You've visited these caves already in the course of finding the glowing worms, but there are more attractions here than just the worms and the Moltite Cave. I just hope you're not tired of all the heat yet, because it's even hotter here than it is in Moltara City.

The caves of Moltara are closer to the planet's core than the city centre is, and virtually all the locals are Magma Neopets. The feature most tourists come for is the Magma Pool, which (astonishingly) is not deadly to be immersed in and will endow the Magma colour to those who endure its searing heat. The guardian of the pool, a large and fiery Tonu, will not allow anybody to pass unless they have been deemed worthy - but as yet, no one knows what the criteria are for being granted access, so the vast majority of visitors have to wait until the guard is sleeping before taking a dip if they want to be painted Magma. Igneot, leader of the Magma Neopets and mystic of these caves, is much more welcoming; this Gnorbu reads fortunes by interpreting shapes and patterns in flame, and if you approach him with a question, he will consult the fires to find the answer.

There is also shopping to be done here. If you would like to read about Moltara, the bookshop - known as the Arcanium - stocks plenty of tomes about lava, gears, rocks, and steam. (Caution: some of this books are quite literally too hot to handle.) The Petpetorium is more interesting to visit, because although there is virtually no plant life in these magma chambers, there are some incredible fauna that subsist on pure heat energy; these creatures are definitely worth seeing and learning about. Also, the Petpetorium has examples of all of Tangor's robots on display, although they cannot be purchased here. When you've finished exploring the Moltara Caves, it's time to head back to the elevator in the 7,000 Foot Shaft and begin the long ascent to the surface.

***

You are now halfway through your journey, and hopefully enjoying it hugely. Next week, you'll be headed for the gorgeous jungles of Mystery Island!

 
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