Day Trip to Blue Mountains & Featherdale Wildlife Park

Going on a Day trip from a big city in to the nature, it’s a huge difference and sometimes a welcoming getaway to see and do something else. To admire nature or wildlife and go on hiking for example in the Blue Mountains. It’s a perfect day trip when you are in Sydney. Most people who spend a few days in Sydney or in the area will do a trip to the Blue Mountains. The most famous landmark of the Blue Mountains national park are the “Three Sisters” see picture below :

three Sisters

Before my visit to the Blue Mountains national park, there was a stop at the Featherdale Wildlife Park, most of the animals here I also got to see at the Lone Pine Sanctuary park in Brisbane, except for a few species like the little blue Penguins. I have been to Antarctica and I know there are many different Penguin species in the world but this Blue Penguins are really tiny ones and their habitat is in Australia and parts of New Zealand. Other animals I saw at the park were Wombats,Walibi’s,Dingo’s,Kangaroo’s, Koala’s,Pelicans,Varans, Salt water Crocodile etc,…

Sign with the map showing were exactly they live

Little Blue Penguins

Penguin behind bars

D I N G O’s one of my favourite animals

Dingo’s observing

Wandering Walibi

After leaving the park, there was time for a quick lunch which was included in the day tour. Once the stomach was filled up, it was time to do some hiking in the blue mountains, but first a stop at the Echo viewpoint to take a picture of Jamison valley and the Three Sisters. You can see a blue spectrum over the green eucalyptus trees, when temperature rises the evaporation of the eucalyptus trees gives this blue color in the valley and that’s why it’s called the Blue mountains.
Eucalyptus trees are everywhere in Australia and the leaves are the Koala’s favourite meal.
You can take a cable car or you can hike down and climb up all by yourself, by following the different paths. Another nice spot was the Waterfall “Witches leap” with the rock formation of a human face. I enjoyed this trip and definitely recommend it if you are in Sydney to take a day trip to this place.

me at Echo Point with view on the Three Sisters

Blue spectrum in the distance over the mountains

It can be chilly in the mountains, so take a good jacket like I did

Human Face rock formation (waterfall Witches leap)

Cable car over the valley

Statue of the road builders, thanks to them you can hike in the blue mountains along the paths they made

 

 

Brisbane & Lone Pine Sanctuary

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What everybody want’s to see when visiting Australia are the typical Australian animals that you can only find Down Under. You can catch them in the wild, but even better is to see them more up close or to even hold them in your hands. If you would like to have the experience of holding a Koala in your hands, head to Brisbane’s Lone Pine Sanctuary.
It’s the oldest and largest Koala park since 1927. There are also other animals which you can have an encounter with, feed and pat the Walibi’s and kangaroo’s. In the cafeteria next to the kangaroo reserve you can buy food for the kangaroo’s. Also if you had your picture taken with a Koala, the photo will be on display in the cafeteria, ready to take your souvenir home.

Lone Pine

Lone Pine Sanctuary

The picture with the Koala is not included in your park entrance ticket, but to me it was worth the extra money. I might never see a koala from this close again. Afterall the highlight for me was to have my picture taken with one of these adorable Koalas, the symbol of Australia just like the kangaroo.
The platypus, Dingo, Tasmanian devil and many different birds and snakes are also represented in Lone Pine.

Holding the Koala

kangaroo selfie

Tasmanian devil

Platypus (in my language it’s Vogelbekdier)

Platypus swimming, it moves incredibly quick

Platypus diving

When I left the park, i had to wait for my bus, there is a bus stop in front of the entrance with a terrace and seating area. You can grab a coffee, charge your mobile for free and use the free wifi. There is also fast and free wifi throughout the whole park, so as soon as you got your picture taken with the Koala you can put it online on your instagram 🙂

Chillin out with the kangaroo

Feeding area

Feeding the kangaroos

Brisbane as a city was also a nice surprise, easy to walk around, the city centre is not that big, but I liked it more than Melbourne in a way. Nice skyline by the Brisbane river and for those who talk about a great vibe, well Brisbane has it. In the city there is a free-swimming pool that locals and tourists can use and a nice rainforest experience were you can walk through a mini jungle. Brisbane was a nice and surprising worth to stay a couple of days.

Brisbane

Brisbane skyline

Brisbane River

Victoria Bridge Abutment

Melbourne vs Sydney & The Great Ocean Road

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Melbourne

Ok Melbourne, straight forward you didn’t impress me much.
I don’t understand what all the fuzz is about between Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, so maybe it’s a good thing Canberra got the title of being capital city of Australia, although I don’t know much about Canberra since I haven’t been visiting the city and when I talked to other people locals and tourist they all told me there is nothing interesting to see.
Alright who cares, maybe Melbourne will be nice right, nope forget it, it’s overrated or maybe its me who don’t get easily impressed by another big city.

Melbourne

I started with the free walking tour, just like I did in Sydney to get first impressions and to revisit the parts of the city that I like the most later on. The tour starts at the State library of Victoria at Swanston street. Before the tour started I went inside to see the interior, it’s amazing, with a great view from level 4. I was surprised how quiet it was in the reading room and in the computer room, so many people and such a silence makes it a good place for reading and studying. There are also exhibitions rooms with free art galleries.

State Library of Victoria

View from 4th floor

During the tour I saw old buildings mostly churches, not so old as those in Europe but still nice ones and old enough for Australia I guess, a prison with a nice story, but then again I visited Alcatraz so nothing is going to beat that, however the guide did his best to promote his city, to tell about the different buildings, good commentary added with some knowhow about the past and recent history. Overall the tour was good, but nothing really did stand out to me.
In the tour we make a stop at Hosier lane suppose to be great for its street art and graffiti, really haven’t seen much art or great graffiti , it was disappointing. Later on my Australia trip I was surprised to find the best street art to be in Brisbane. It’s not the most important thing to see in a city, cause street art and graffiti no matter how great some of it can be, a few months later that great wall graffiti that you took a picture off most likely will be gone, covered by some other graffiti, so what’s the point anyway.

The most interesting building that I saw in Melbourne wasn’t even on the free walking tour since it was to far from city centre, so went to see the Shrine of remembrance myself.
When you enter the monument there is a museum about all the wars that Australian soldiers got involved in.

Shrine of Remembrance

 

The Great Ocean Road

The other best thing you can do from Melbourne is to do the Great Ocean road tour and that’s for me personally the only reason why I would recommend someone to go to Melbourne to start from there your Ocean road trip. It can also be done from Adelaide in the opposite direction.

Entrance of the Great Ocean Road

South Pacific Ocean

Before I continue about the Ocean road let me just say this, the arguments from people who like Melbourne more than Sydney are from me as a European tourist completely hard to understand.

The Melbourne vs Sydney thing 

The locals prefer Melbourne because of the good vibe, the food, restaurants, bars etc,… Then some of the backpackers are just like parrots and instead of thinking things through a bit they just copy the same arguments as the locals do.
Locals always see it different from tourists, well mostly;
First of all, there is good food, restaurants and bars in Sydney aswell. When I had a talk with two French girls their arguments were great coffee shops and vibe. I told them you have this in Paris too, why you come to Australia ? You come to Australia for this really, to taste the coffee ? Maybe you should book a flight to Colombia or Costa Rica if you want good coffee.
I don’t even know why I waste my time talking to stupid people. Since when does coffee or vibe make a city better than the other ?
Sydney has the Harbour bridge, the Opera House and great views.
Melbourne doesn’t has the views, they might have good restaurants, but so does Brisbane Every Aussie should be proud of a city like Sydney instead of looking down on it favoring Melbourne because of food and coffee seriously. To those parrot backpackers repeating whatever they have heard without any knowledge or valuable arguments, go home and pour yourself another cup of coffee, may i suggest Colombian probably won’t disappoint you.
Anyone from Melbourne reading this, don’t be angry cause Melbourne is a nice city but it’s not a “must visit place” when coming to Australia. If it wasn’t for the Ocean road I would have skipped it from my itinerary.

Apostle 13 🙂

Back to the Ocean Road

The highlight of the tour is the 12 Apostles, the rock formations at Victoria’s coastline that rise from the ocean. Wind and water from the ocean eroded the limestone cliffs to this spectacular formations. Another nice place on the westside of the 12 Apostles is the Loch Ard Gorge, cliffs with blowholes and narrow openings to the sea. Also the London bridge which used to be a double stone arch connecting the land untill the sea made it colapse. Till this day only one arch remains.

12 Apostles

Loch ard Gorge

London Bridge

 

Australia my 7th Continent

Sydney

Most people visit Antarctica as their 7th continent, for me since I’ve been to Antarctica last december (2016) Australia was the last continent and my 7th continent to visit.
After long flight from Brussels to Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur I finally got in Sydney where I would begin my Australian journey.
On my Australian trip I planned a visit to Sydney,Melbourne and Brisbane aswell as Uluru and the great Ocean road, all on my itinerary.
How was my experience in Sydney well it’s surely one of the nicest cities I’ve been to.
Sydney has the views, from the Harbor Bridge over the bay with the Opera House at the opposite site, it’s the photo image of Sydney you see on every postcard but to see it for yourself with your own eyes it makes it even more beautiful.

Sydney Harbour seen from the Harbor Bridge

Walking on the Harbor Bridge

It’s also a very busy city for the locals, Australians in Sydney you see them in the morning and evening when they go to work or come back from it. during the day you see most tourists and immigrants who run their little businesses. Mostly of them are Asians and they got their own restaurants, bars, massage rooms (Thai massage) etc,…

What to do ?

You can visit the Opera House if you are interested in seeing an empty room and a stage, nothing for me as I have been visiting the Music Hall in New York years ago and it also didn’t live up to the expectations. The MTV Music Video Awards were held there and that’s why I wanted to see it and booked a tour of about 2 hours but it was disappointing so I promised to myself never to tour Music halls or Opera buildings again, I don’t find it interesting. The opera house is nice from the outside and I prefer to enjoy to view of it from different angles when I’m outside, then to check out the empty hall inside. Seen pictures on the internet about it and it didn’t convince me to pay the entrance for that. I’m not saying it’s not nice inside from what I’ve seen on google images, but just not worth for me personally to buy a ticket for.
Same thing with the Harbor Bridge, it’s a nice bridge and in Sydney they are proud of it, and how it’s been made. One local guide who I had been going on tour with to the Blue Mountains had allot to say about the history of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and about the possibility to climb it.

Opera House

It’s a nice huge bridge to climb and you have various climbs you can do, depending when you want to go in the early morning or the late afternoon. Prices differ from how long you want to go. Climbs of 1,5 hour or 3 hours.
I personally found it to expensive and also the fact that you can’t bring your camera or smartphone to take pictures is lame. They take pictures for you but then they off course sell it and for the high price that you pay to climb that bridge they could have include the pictures of the experience in the price. So I think they like to rip you off as much as they can for this experience.
Also they make you wear a ridiculous blue suit, why ? I don’t know cause I once saw a Touristic program on tv about bridge climbing in Germany. The bridge was over a highway and you had the nice view of the highway and the natural environment behind it. No crazy suits, smartphones and cameras allowed, so yeah why are there so many rules here, it beats me.

Under the Sydney Harbor Bridge

In general compared to Europe no matter what excursion you want to do in Australia, its expensive cause even day trips that I did to the Blue mountains and the Ocean road later on from Melbourne weren’t very budget friendly. Again in Europe you would never pay this much for day trips. I won’t be comparing prices here , since there are many agencies and many similar tours you can book, but when you do a little research on the internet you will see the difference if you look for daytours from Melbourne or Sydney or let’s say from Barcelona or Athens.
Australia is expensive and it reminds me of Argentina which for backpackers isn’t the most budget friendly place either. Ask backpackers who travel around South America and they will tell you. Trust me, believe me it’s true 🙂

The first thing you can do in Sydney to get to know the city a bit is to go on a free walking tour. They start at on one of the most important streets of Sydney which is St. George street between Town Hall and St Andrew’s Cathedral.

St Andrew’s Cathedral

If you have never on a free City tour before then I explain it :
You turn up at the starting place of the tour (info can be found on http://www.imfree.com.au/sydney/ ) your local guide in green t-shirt will tell you about the city during this 3 hour walk. There is one at 10.30 am and another at 2.30 pm. You can leave the tour at anytime you want and since it’s a free tour you don’t have to pay, but you can give the guide a small tip at the end of the tour to show how much this tour was worth for you. Most people do give something for the effort the guide did to tell you a bit more about his or her city.
I took the morning tour which is the same as the one in the afternoon, I preferred to go in the morning so then in the afternoon I could go and explore the highlights of the tour again by myself.

The Sydney Tower with its 309m over the Business district is the highest construction in Sydney from which you can have a magnificent view over the City

Another place that I visited which was not on the tour was the Anzac War Memorial in Hyde Park. This monument is a tribute to remember all the Australian soldiers who died and served their country in the many wars all over the world.

Anzac War Memorial

Bullets in Hyde Park

 

Uluru The Outback in Central Australia

The real Australian experience is when you go visit the Outback in Central Australia and it’s most famous rock the Uluru (also called Ayers rock). Uluru is the name that should be used as this is sacred to the Aboriginals, the indigenous people of Australia.
In this Area there are other rock formations like “Kata Tjuta” and Mount Conner.

Uluru

I was here on a 4 day camp trip with a group of people from all kind of nationalities and had a good time.  From preparing your own food, to go out, find and collect wood to start the fire at night when we go sleep in our swags around the campfire under the stars, it makes the outback experience complete. You might hear some Dingo’s at night 🙂
During the day hiking and exploring the beauty of nature here is the best you can do and let it all sink in. I went on this trip with Mulgas Adventure Travel so go and check out their webpage for a great Outback experience. During the many hikes the guide tells you a little about the history of the place, its indigenous people and about the fauna and flora.

group picture

around the campfire

Dingo tracks at campsite

Hiking around Uluru

Uluru rock paintings

Kata Tjuta aka Olgas

Hiking Kata Tjuta

Having a drink with Kata Tjuta Olgas in back of me

Mount Conner

 

I didn’t visit Mount Conner, I saw it from a distance, just like Uluru it stands out alone in the middle of a flat area. Instead I visited Kings Canyon that was on the itinerary.
At Kings Canyon, you can do the Canyon rim walk, descending the stair case through the garden of Eden to have a break at Kings Creek.

Kings Canyon

Heart attack hill

descending Kings Canyon

Garden of Eden

Kings Creek

great autumn colours

 

 

Spotting Killer whales in Antarctica

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The Lemaire channel  is a strait between mainland of the Antarctica peninsula and Booth Island. It is small between huge mountains and it’s not always possible for ships to pass through. In December when there is still a lot of Ice, Icebergs can block the narrow passage, then ships have to take another route or just head back.
Our vessel was heading for Pleneau Island but because of Icebergs blocking our way and big part of the water was still covered by a big ice shelf, it was clear that Pleneau Island wouldn’t be possible to reach. We did get on the zodiacs and explored a part of the channel that wasn’t frozen anymore and saw the ice shelf and icebergs that were blocking the rest of the channel.
There is more chance to go through this channel later in the season then it is in December. January and February would raise your chances to sail through the whole channel.

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Icebergs blocking the rest of the Lemaire Channel

That day we were very lucky to see something else then pleneau Island and the most southern living Gentoo Penguins on the peninsula. Killer whales aka Orca’s (free willy) where swimming in front of our boat and then they turned and where swimming around the boat and under the boat; It made people run over the deck from one side to the other to see more of this orca family swimming together and entertaining us with their presence , giving us a great photo opportunity to capture this display of Antarctic wildlife. Really this was amazing. After Seals and Penguins we got to see killer whales in the wild, no seaworld, no tricks, the real deal, in their natural habitat. They come a little to the surface and then go under again.
Under water they look like green ghosts, really amazing to see. All this was happening so close to the Lemaire Channel.

Orka family they stay together and it makes them stronger when they hunt

Orca family they stay together and it makes them stronger when they hunt

Orka comming closer

Orca coming closer

under water they look like ghosts

under water they look like ghosts

 

 

 

 

 

A Day in Tierra Del Fuego NP

The few days that I spend in Ushuaia prior to my Antarctica expedition, gave me the opportunity to do a day trip to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park which is only 11km away from Ushuaia centre. Because of the bumpy road it was a 20 minute drive.
Through my hostel I booked a ticket and headed to the main busstation, from where busses leave in the morning and some around noon, depending if you want to spend a day or half a day at the park.
In the late afternoon they pick you up at a central point in the park, in my case it was at restaurant and visitor center Alakush from which most bus company’s pick up the visitors.
Some people stay a few days to camp at the park and to hike and go a little further, visiting Isla Redonda and such. I did a few hiking trails myself , on the map that I got at the visitors centre it showed which trails you can do, from what I remember I did trail number 2 and 3 and for me it was more than enough. I have been to Parks like this before (Yellowstone NP and Banff NP) so it didn’t impress me that much but the nature is nice and for people who like to hike its worth the visit.
It’s not cheap, you pay for the transport to the Park, then again for the entrance and if you want to take the most southern train in the world you pay extra again. Its tourism its business I guess, but still I think tickets to visit a Park should include the entrance because whats the point getting there in the middle of the woods at an entrance gate not being able to entre the park ??
Here are some photos from my Day at Tierra Del Fuego NP :

Tierra Del fuego NP

Tierra Del fuego NP

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Danco Island

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Danco Island was without a doubt the nicest experience I had in Antarctica.
It was a steep hike to reach the top of the Island and for this 45 minute walk they gave me snowshoes. These snowshoes are used on soft snow and it makes me wonder why we didn’t get to use them on our other landings for example at Neko Harbour.
Anyhow it was the first time I wore snowshoes and I had some difficulties to strap them on in the beginning, but once I figured that out, I was ready for my walk up to the top.

The long walk up was all worth it, I passed by Penguins using their penguin highway again and it’s crazy to see how fast they climb up and down like it’s nothing.
On my way I’ve passed by many penguins nesting and laying on their belly, some in the snow others on their nest formed by the rockstones that they use to make it with.

Once on top you really get a magnificent view and with the sun coming out, the color pattern changed the landscape and made it look even more magical than this place already was. Danco Island I will never forget this place.

enjoying the view at Danco Island, not even half way the hike

enjoying the view at Danco Island, not even half way the hike

my snowshoes

my snowshoes

Penguins curious who 's comming to visit this time

Penguins curious who ‘s coming to visit this time

having a wow moment

having a wow moment

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icebergs

icebergs

Finally made it on top of Danco Island

Finally made it on top of Danco Island

expedition buddy's (Belgium-Germany Holland)

expedition buddy’s (Belgium-Germany Holland)

Penguins on their nests

Penguins on their nests

observing the magical view and the penguins

observing the magical view and the penguins

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Neko Harbour

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Neko Harbour was the 2nd continental landing, if you’re not out kayaking, it was your chance to set foot again on mainland Antarctica. I skipped kayaking and I did not regret it cause after climbing a mountain I had a great view over the place, a spectacular scenery with the glaciers calving. The boat in the distance looked like a toy compared to the mountains around.

Gentoo Penguins at Neko Harbour

Gentoo Penguins at Neko Harbour

Snow, ice, glaciers, clear water and the many Gentoo Penguins who welcomed us at Neko Harbour is just unforgettable, my favorite spot in Antarctica.

Here I still have my zodiac lifejacket on which is different then the one used for kayaking

Here I still have my zodiac lifejacket on which is different then the one used for kayaking

Penguin highway

Penguin highway

Penguins comming down hill from the Penguin highway

Penguins coming down hill from the Penguin highway

When I climbed that mountain many penguins were passing me by on the penguin highway. The penguin highway is the path in the snow made by penguins and only to be used by penguins to make themselves get around easier from one place to another, cause with snow being very unstable at some places, penguins just like humans, fall over and have it difficult to move around quickly.
We humans just follow sticks put in the snow by the expedition crew that mark the path we have to follow to reach the top of the mountain. Two sticks in form of a X  mean to stay at a distance, mostly because snow can be very deep at a certain points with crevasses, or its being used as a warning to stay at a distance not to disturb the penguins hatching eggs.

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glaciers at Neko Harbour

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red X means stay where you are, Penguins nesting place

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Feels like being on top of the world

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look how small the boat is compared with the mountain

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Some more pictures of the Penguins

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Penguin using the water as a mirror

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Penguins running to the shore

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Wandering albatros stole a penguin egg

Wandering Albatros stole a penguin egg

 

Kayaking in Antarctica yes or no ?

I read a lot about kayaking in Antarctica on the internet prior to my trip and eventually decided to give it a chance. I never done kayaking in my life, so it’s special to try it a first time in a place most people don’t start their kayaking career to say the least.
Kayaking was fun and much easier than I thought it would be.
It was a great experience however since I was in Antarctica on a 9 days trip with only 4 days in Antarctica itself (because the other days you spend on the boat making the crossing over the Drake Passage) I don’t recommend it to anyone who’s going for a similar trip, here is why, first of all it’s not cheap and in a short period, kayaks only go out a few times, when weather conditions permit, this means no heavy wind, snow etc,…
Also you have to make a choice and this is the part I didn’t like.
If you go kayaking, other people go with zodiac on land making a continental landing for example. If you come so far to Antarctica, the last thing you don’t want to miss is a continental landing, so you can actually officially say you set foot on the Antarctic Mainland. I only have been kayaking once and enjoyed it, but in my opinion its more worth considering doing kayaking if you go on a longer Antarctica cruise, those of 12 or 13 days, these cruises visit more Islands and you can skip a zodiac excursion to one or more islands and go for the kayak option then to skip continental landings on a short expedition like the one I did.

The thing is, I read on the Internet on several blogs, that it’s a must do, and that it’s a great experience, to be honest for me the experience of kayaking was indeed great as it was my first time ever.
Is the wildlife, the snow, the ice, the water nicer seen from kayak then from a zodiac?
In my opinion not, the views are a bit different cause you get to see things from a different angle or get up close to wildlife, like seals sleeping on the ice shelfs  then you see it from the deck of the ship or while you in a zodiac.

Kayaking boat were for 2 persons

Kayaking boat were for 2 persons

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Here I am in the front saying hi, to the camera

Once you go for Kayaking, you get the gear from the kayak crew leader.
The green life jacket that I have (picture below) is only for kayaking.
You get another life jacket when you go on zodiac excursion and there is another one in your cabin for use in case of emergency on the boat.
The gloves are with holes so you can shove it over the paddlestick and they protect your own gloves against splashing water. You also get a rubber suit, with rubber kayak shoes.
The kayak shoes you only use when you go out kayaking, when you go out with a zodiac on land , you take other boots which is also provided by the crew the first day when you are on the ship. So when you go for a Antarctica cruise, you just come with your regular shoes as the rest is provided anyway.

Still on the boat in my kayaking gear waiting for the kayaks to be pulled out

Still on the boat in my kayaking gear waiting for the kayaks to be pulled out

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picture taken with my phone

Penguins on ice

Penguins on ice

seals sleeping, they don't seem to care about our presence

seals sleeping, they don’t seem to care about our presence

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