Pick Your Own: Experiences of an Explorer
I've always heard tales of the wonderful oasis known as the Meri Acres farm. My friends had told me about the wonderful adventures to be had. They told me about how they had wandered for hours, filling their baskets to the brim with the delicious fruits (but mainly berries) of their labor. They had told me about the kind Gelert who runs the farm, beckoning you forth into the farm he had practically built with his own hands. I always listened, excited, and absorbed every detail of the nearly mythical Meri Acres Farm. I knew, however, that Meri Acres didn’t actually exist. There’s no way that, for the low price of 400 Neopoints, I could be allowed to take home as many berries as I wanted!
I didn’t believe in the farm. That is, until I got the letter. The envelope showed up in the mail, and its inconspicuous nature prompted me to almost throw it away. But something caught my eye on the top of the letter: it didn’t have a name or a return address, but simply stated “From the Farm”. I slowly opened the grey envelope, and what I saw defied every sense of reason that I had. It read:
You have been cordially invited to the Meri Acres Farm. Located in quaint Meridell, this farm is among the oldest in Neopia! We boast twenty unique areas to be explored, and we want you to be the explorer! That’s right, we’d like to extend a very special offer to you today. For 400 Neopoints, we will allow you to fill up your entire basket full of as many berries as you can carry (up to six berries). We sincerely hope that you’ll be able to take part in the wonderful tradition of Pick Your Own!
Meri Acres Gelert Farmer
It was real. It was really real! It was truly, really real! The story that had captivated me throughout my childhood was becoming a reality. Images of beautiful sparkleberries and juicy waterberries flashed through my mind. I gasped as I realized that perhaps I could be the first Neopian to come out of the maze of a farm carrying the elusive Twelve Leaf Clover! In any case, this was sure to be the greatest experience of my life. The only problem? The Farm was halfway across Neopia!
I live in Neopia Central. I remember considering the many beautiful plots of land upon which I could place my luxurious two-story neohome. I considered the Haunted Woods, but then reasoned that I wanted to live somewhere that isn’t perpetually haunted. I thought about Kiko Lake as a possible home, but I heard that the Kikos can be pretty intimidating to newcomers that aren’t Kikos. Finally, I settled on the idea of living in Neopia Central. It’s close to all of my favorite shops, and Neopia Central has long been the most iconic area of Neopia. In regards to my current situation, however, Neopia Central was among the worse places to be. The invitation letter certainly didn’t say anything about transportation. I gathered my bags, and said my goodbyes to my family and friends. It was going to be a tough trip.
In order to get to Meridell, I would have to cross the outskirts of Kiko Lake, (hopefully) drift along the outside of the Haunted Woods, and brave the sophisticated waters of Brightvale. I started off on my voyage, and I could see the outline of the home of Kikos in the distance. As I approached, it seemed like they were all rallying together, practicing for the Altador Cup. Those Kikos are always practicing for the Cup. I can’t count the times those little athletes had tried to solicit my items from me to fund their addiction to the Cup. But since they were distracted, I was able to walk along the sides of their compound unnoticed. As I escaped into the horizon, I took one last look at the Kikos throwing the Yooyuball about a million miles per hour and was glad I chose not to move there!
I wasn’t so lucky, however, when I got to the Haunted Woods. I initially tried to stick to the outskirts of the unnerving forest, but I accidentally ran right into a Gypsy Camp. I was swarmed with shopkeepers trying to sell me “the latest in Neovian fashion!” and “Treats so good they’re to die for”. I shuddered, shook my head, and kept walking. Outside of a small attic, I saw a large group of Neopians complaining. I couldn’t make out what the exact fussing was about, but I heard someone mention “AAA still doesn’t work… a year without progress…” Whatever their issue was with this AAA, they were surely angry about it. As a kind Neopian who doesn’t ever complain, I just kept walking. Eventually, I drew a sigh of relief as I saw the end of the forest. I had braved the Haunted Woods.
Brightvale has always been home to the smartest and brightest that Neopia has to offer. The village does offer, however, one of the most addictive wheels on the planet: the Wheel of Knowledge. The prizes are marvelous, and even when you lose, you win something! My love for the wheel was the exact thing I feared entering the fortified walls of Brightvale. If I gave the wheel even a single glance, I would be entrapped in its spinning glory, spending thousands of my hard-earned Neopoints in a few hours. Though the temptation was great, my will persisted. The promise of a trip to Meri Acre Farms, and the berries that this trip entailed, propelled me to keep a tight watch on my pocketbook. Before I knew it, I had made it out of Brightvale.
Brightvale is connected to Meridell by a beautiful, ornate bridge. As I crossed this bridge, the child and adult in me both rejoiced in the realization of a mutual dream. My family and friends had always told me stories of Meridell, of its beauty and of its crown jewel, the Meri Acre Farms. I wandered around for awhile, trying to take everything in. This had been a trip of three days and a dream of ten years, and I was finally here. I clutched the manila letter in my hand, excited for what was to come.
I smelled the farm before I saw it. It smelled… interesting. I had expected my senses to be assaulted with the thick scent of berries and flowers. But, while I certainly smelled berries and flowers, there was something else in the mix that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. This smell was but a minor glitch in an otherwise perfect plan, so I marched on. The farm was beautiful. It had ten unique locations, and from what I could see, berries were everywhere.
I walked up to the front, and saw an older Gelert holding a pitchfork. “Are you the Gelert Farmer?” I asked. He looked around, looked down at himself, and breathed out deeply, “Well, I’m a Gelert, and I run this farm here, if that’s what you mean.” Huh, I guess that was what I meant. I timidly showed him the letter, and his bored tone quickly morphed into a more welcoming one. He told me the rules, bobbing his pitchfork happily with every few words, for emphasis. He explained that I was welcome to fill my basket with up to six items. I thought it was odd that he didn’t say berries, because they were surely the only ‘items’ I would find. Whatever, I thought, I’m sure he just slipped up a bit. He finished the instructions, collected my payment, and directed me into the farm.
It was incredibly beautiful. As I walked around the area, I almost didn’t remember to fill my basket. The natural beauty of what could more accurately be described as a natural wonder of Neopia filled my heart with a kind of joy I had not experienced in a long time. Eventually, my curiosity called to me.
I approached a bush, stuck my hand in, and pulled it out again…
I placed what I assumed to be a delicious berry into my basket…
I looked down…
Ew! I guess I knew what that unsettling smell was. I thought that it was probably just a fluke. There’s no way I paid 400 Neopoints for some dung! Plus, I still had five items left. I marched on. I saw a great looking bush, and decided to try my luck again.
I stuck my hand in…
I placed the large item (maybe it’s a huge berry!) into my basket…
I looked down…
A rotten boot?
The story was much the same as I went forward. I eventually filled up my basket with four piles of dung and two boots. I was disappointed, but as I left the field, I figured something out.
There’s a moral to my story. Well, I mean that there’s a moral besides that you should never pay 400 Neopoints to go into a place that smells like dung. The moral is that sometimes it isn’t about the destination. As I travelled from my home to a new and strange place, I saw things and met people that I otherwise never would have seen. I got to watch last year’s Altador Cup winners practice. I got to see the latest fashion in Neovia, and I got to challenge my personal strength in Brightvale. The Farm may not have been what I expected it to be, but the experience I gained going to the farm was one of the most fun of my life. Remember, sometimes it’s okay to enjoy the journey, even if the destination is all dung.