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Summer of 2004

6 January 2004
I can see you are all waiting for commentry to begin so lets go. Set off from home on the 31st Dec after having packed up in the days before we still managed to find enough to do so that we didn't leave until 12 noon. Headed straight to get our last prescriptions filled before the end of the year and as it turned out took them 45 minutes to do it but we came away with sufficient to last us for a couple of months all complements of the government. That afternoon saw us having lunch at Babinda rest area fortunately under a large shady tree. Only one camper there perhaps it could be the weather. Booked into our usual at Cardwell and settled down for a cool New Years as one of the 2 guests in the park. Another lightning start for the first of the year with lunch at Rollingstone rest area with 3 or 4 campers in attendance. It must have been pretty uncomfortable during the night without fans or airconditioning. Via Townsville all closed for the day and onto the council caravan park at Home Hill. More than usual there but no entertainment from the community pool next door this time. Always a quiet shady park to stop at.Next day on to Sarina with a lunch break at Kuttabul rest area about 20k from Mackay. This site is definitely signed no camping and is that noisy you would wonder who would want to. There is a hotel less than 5kms offering powered sites for $7.50 so if you need an overnight that would have to be the go. Overnight at the Tropicana caravan park at Sarina, run by a CMCA member who has taken a run down park and turned it into a very pleasant place to stop. There is a new swimming pool and camp kitchen/BBQ area since our last stay further improving the park. Day 3 the long boring drive to Rockhampton lunching in the park at Marlborough in the blistering heat showing up as 38C inside the bus. The winscreen had accumilated hundreds of yellow butterflys that seemed to be be in abundance on this part of the road. Scraped them from the windscreen once we stopped. Only mechanical problem of the trip was the airconditioner belt started to slip over this section probably due to the excessive temperature and near continuous running. Once booked into a park in Rockhampton and after allowing the engine to cool down the belt was tightened and now peace has returned. Thunder overnight but no rain to speak of. Sunday morning headed off and ran into some heavy showers of rain through the day with one heavy one where we stopped for lunch. Checked into the usual Lake Monduran, this time more customers than we have ever seen on our many visits and new office facilities, camp kitchen and free BBQ's. Spent the rest of the daylight hours chatting to a couple in the adjoining site who had a LWB Coaster and were in the process of converting to motorhome. Lots of ideas changed hands before retiring for the night. As usual we headed off long after them in the morning,with intermittant rain along the way and lunch at a roadhouse north of Gympie.We managed to arrive at Robyn's folks place after the slow crawl up the hill to Mapleton. Today of course we have craft and shops for the women and the men set about installing 3 ceiling fans to help with the summer heat.

13 January 2004
It has been a fun filled week at Mapleton, what with strong winds during the small hours making it necessary to retract the awning in our night attire and causing one of the fittings to break or was it the tropical downpour that started so quickly we all missed taking in the washing. The usual fun times for the crew, a new water leak of course, this time in the drivers door wetting the door lining but no real damage and it has been corrected with the help of duct tape, visqueen, and contact cement from the local hardware. Even that was an experience, we had to choose this hardware that was reminiscent of Steptoes, with the fellow in charge complete with wellington boots !! There have been many hours spent at Tracey's place being plied with illicit liquor while getting their revamped website up and running correctly complete with credit facilities. For the curious have a look at and now and see the latest crafty wares. After the men's business installing the fans and web debugging tomorrow there will be more men's business with a new light to be installed in Nan's kitchen. We have Robyn's nephew here at present, haven't managed to get him to do any work but he reads a lot of books... I have located a replacement for the broken awning fitting so should have that in a day or so to return us to full capability. As for the weather well it rains its cloudy and most of all its darn hot for this neck of the woods.

20 January 2004
Plenty of time has passed since the last entry and not much of interest has happened. Collected the new bits for the awning and have fitted but during the rest of our time at Mapleton the rain was either too heavy or the wind too strong to use the thing. There has been plenty of crafting with quilting, appliqué and model figures being produced while the men either read or busied ourselves with another installation. This time a downlight for the kitchen. We had more guests for the end of the week swelling the household to 13 for the evening meals and followed with a trio of guitar players and a sing along for those with musical talents. Saturday the family reunion was on {Robyn's mothers side of the clan} with an early start setting up the local hall as the weather still would not cooperate. By lunch there were rellies to burn and very nearly did as there was a torrential downpour including one particularly close lightning strike. My guess is that there were a few underpants that needed changing following the thunderclap. Sunday after a late start we headed off to Redcliffe to visit with Mum along with my brother and sister. Must have been the warm weather as mum was content to sleep while we chatted but will catch up again at a more suitable time. After a stop at Shirley's to access the possibility of entering her yard through the trees we opted for the safer alternative of Tony's at Caboolture. His dog Bill was happy to see us and enjoyed our company through the day. Not sure yet on our departure as there is some flooding in the midwest of New South Wales that may cause problems if we head off too quickly. No matter we are relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet here for now.

25 January 2004
We had 5 days at Tony's and yet little time was found for crafting !! Perhaps it was time for as break after the past week at Mapleton. Found time for some housekeeping jobs and plenty of relaxing. Friday after a refill of water,some grocery shopping and a visit with Mum we then cruised the 5 minutes drive from the nursing home to our friends at Murrumba Downs for a bar-b-que and a night on their driveway. At last we are now on our way south first via the freeway over the Gateway bridge in Brisbane and then on to the Gold Coast for lunch overlooking the surf beach. Onwards again by the new motorway down the NSW north coast and heading west to Casino for a night at the new CMCA Motorhome Village. We had been watching the biggest blackest thunderstorm hovering around all afternoon but by the time we got to Casino we were assured that it had gone over to Lismore. We were treated to some heavy rain and lightning but only small stuff compared to the big one. Once it had passed I had a walk all around the village and should be very impressive once all the planned sites are constructed. There were about 20 other motorhomes there for the night and everyone was talkative and friendly. The price was right too, only $10 for the night. Today we travelled westward some more on the Bruxner Highway to Tenterfield for lunch and then south to Glen Innes for the night. If you have the chance to travel the Bruxner Hwy don't bother, it is forever changing direction and going up and down for the whole length, not a pleasure at all. Only bright point was a stop at Drake where second hand books were going for only 50c each to benefit the local centre so of course we got plenty and even donated a couple to them that Robyn had finished with. Tonight we are camped amongst the granite boulders with grey clouds and some rain threatening but not the big one....yet!

30 January 2004
Onwards from Glen Innes passing both Armidale and Tamworth to a small dam near Nundle called Chaffey Dam. With only another couple of campers in residence we set up for a pleasant nights stay, so much so we decided to stay on for another night BUT while we were settling down to lunch of hot chips, we had run out of bread, 2 caravans appeared and of course decided to setup near us. Well we had noted that one of the 'ladies' had a rather objectionable voice but thought this will be ok and it was until they finished setting up and on went the car stereo with probably their newest purchase direct from the Tamworth Country Music Festival at full volume!! But again we thought, this won't last too long so we'll wait and see. But as they had settled in for the long haul there was nothing to do but go stone their vans.... No No No it was a good thought but not to be so we packed up and left. Well thanks to the terrible campers we went up to the village of Hanging Rock [not the one from the film Picnic at Hanging Rock], no mean feat as its almost all 2nd gear going, but of course there was a pot of gold at the end. A quiet picturesque campsite by a small dam that was only populated by a few like minded campers. Good spot and its free for up to 30 days a year and there are trout in the dam apparently. Next day down the perilous road and of course we had a warning light come on indicating low brake fluid so taking it nice and slowly we got down the hill and I did a visual inspection.True enough the fluid was low but still ok but there was a nasty oil slick on one of the rear brakes. Didn't appear to be leaking much as the slick was virtually dry so we continued on to Scone. Mandatory take away lunch at a top cafe in the main street before shopping. Refuelled and grabbed a bottle of brake fluid to top us up until we can find a repairer. Next we went out to the local dam and as it was a blistering day booked into a powered site and started the cooling. Four loads of washing, managing to do all the weeks clothes,sheets, and towels. Most were dry before evening and the rest dried overnight. Next day was the quest to find a repairer. This took us away from the planned route and on to Muswellbrook where we tried all the places advertising brake repairs and finding not much luck. We managed to get one place to have a look and were going to fix it pending the availability of parts but after 30 minutes while they searched for the replacement bits we were out of luck. Next best bet was a brake and clutch place in Singleton so motored on and of course there was no problem with parts but claimed they were all booked out till Monday the 9th !! Needless to say we gave up and on the advice of the one place that did have a look continued on and keep an eye on the fluid while we travel until we find someone who is not fully booked. Now returning to holiday mode we chose the Putty road roughly 180kms thru the mountains but easy driving and little traffic.Ended up staying at a riverside park in Colo for the night even treating ourselves to fish and chips from the roadhouse adjoining the park. Quiet spot only occasional disturbances from F-111's overflying to land at Richmond. Today leisurely drive completely bypassing Sydney up to Katoomba to look at the famous Three Sisters. Heaps of Japanese tourists and we even had to pay $2.20 to park in one of the adjacent streets for 1 hour. After a walk down to the foot of one of the sisters had lunch and headed west to Lake Lyell near Lithgow. Nice and quiet and apparently after the heat of today is forecast to be in the low teens tonight. And as I type its just started raining.

7 February 2004
Great night at Lake Lyle only turned out to be a light shower and the rest of the night was fine and cool. Leisurely start and then onto the restored Zig-Zag railway and did the run down the hill and then up again on an old steam engine and carriages that were actually supplied from Queensland. Kept thinking that we may have travelled to work in Brisbane 35 years ago in the very train !! Onto Bathurst and of course the compulsory circuit of the Mt Panorama race track in the bus putting in a good time of 15 minutes including stops for pictures. Next took us to the nations capital Canberra and overnight in a caravan site. There were quite a few motorhomers there presumably on their way to Tassie for the big rally. In the morning we went in search of the elusive craft shops and sadly (he grins) all but one had either gone out of business or moved from their listed addresses. We then drove onto Cooma where we finally had the first direct storm hit but luckily even though it was black as night it passed quickly and was followed up by fine sunny cloudless blue sky. We did a couple of loads of washing but had to use the driers as there was little drying time left after the rain. Next down to Bega ,craft Shop, and then a little north to Mimosa Rocks NP where at last we had the perfect campsite. Right on the surf beach and surrounded by the sounds of waves breaking and birdsong from the trees. Very pleasant camping and only $5p/p p/n. Made pigs of ourselves and stayed on for another night and day of pleasurable camping wishing we could stay on for a week. We could have except for the need to go to where our postal votes are for the Saturday election in Queensland. Long days drive thru the forests of East Gippsland finally in Victoria. Now encamped with friends from the motorhome club for a few days until we can get the brakes looked at on Monday. First night here we had a prolonged happy hour with another motorhome couple also staying overnight here with many tall tales and ideas discussed. Yesterday the obligatory local craft shop run and some groceries followed by Keith and I going over to one of their rental cottages right on the water to round up a swarm of errant bees that were intent in entering the cottage via a hole in the sheeting where a pipe had once been. With bluff, skill and good luck along with a large can of bug spray we managed to turn them away long enough for me to fashion a patch from scrap fibro sheeting and attach it to the wall with some sealant. Top class job of course and now the confused swarm is returning to the hive that was provided for them. Being right on the waterway and the tenants have a rather expensive boat and with a little quick talking by Keith had us on board for a trip down the river to the open water with a spin up the channel and then back to the mooring. A quick check on the bees confirmed they were heading back to their hive so it was back home for the night. Today market for the women with men doing what we do best...not much!

12 February 2004
Time has been slipping by but not the miles, we are still residing with friends here in Vic. There have been any number of markets, craft shops and sewing for the ladies while the men..... well you know how it is, we have been kept busy with men things. Monday was the crew's 30th wedding anniversary but a number of things precluded us from celebrating with a dinner out so we had a quiet meal back here and had a celebratory dinner out at the local Chinese restaurant today, great food and good company, it was worth the wait. Our hosts have now sold their old motorhome to some lucky people in SA and we have been getting on with some modifications to their new more powerful, faster, and most of all loooonger Coaster. Robyn has been sewing curtains while I modified the windows to open fully as they were still in bus configuration where they open only a bit for the safety of the occupants with the neck snapping acceleration they may be thrown out if they opened fully .... or so I'm told. Of course now the Pod has been into the workshop and returned Wednesday with new brakes better than they have ever been so there will be no trouble restraining the surging horsepower from the highly tuned Mazda motor. Of course we have to now fit 4 point racing harness' or the crew will spill out on the road with the rapid deceleration. If you are travelling this way and need a fix it would be hard to go past Bryan Skeen's Automotive in Bairnsdale, top fellow and top job too. The weather has been on and off for the last few days with heavy rain on the last two but its fined up this morning. Should be able to get in some work today although the 2IC is down with a headache and trying to sleep it off as I type so had better make myself scarce and leave her to rest.

19 February 2004
Sunday we left our friends and headed off into the wilds. First stop was Bairnsdale for some shopping and then to Mitchell River NP for lunch. It was hot and dry there so didn't fancy the 20 minute walk each way to the river. Then up into the hills to Dargo which is an old gold mining town and more recently famed for its walnuts from trees over 100 years old. Apparently it is also the most remote town in Victoria, can't figure out why but who are we to question. About another 10kms on we found a good spot by the Dargo River so settled in and waited for it to cool off. By next morning the cool weather had arrived and has remained so. Two nights of peace and quiet with only the sounds of the river made for a good rest. Did some running repairs on the bus found the clutch switch on the exhaust brake was broken so with some skill, solder and luck repaired it and worked admirably on the trip down. Off again this time with lunch at Stratford (on the Avon River) and then to the coast and uninterrupted beach views of 90 Mile Beach. There were many campsites along the road so there was no trouble getting one with sole occupancy. Just the sounds of the ocean and the cool breezes for company. More bus repairs this time adjusted both the fan belts and now silent when running. This morning another late start and lunch at Sale shops after a look at some craft things at the art gallery!! Just a few kms and we are on top of Holey Hill with as yet only the forest ranger up the observation tower and views to the coast.

23 February 2004
Our night at Holey Hill was quiet and cool in contrast with the following day where heat wave temperatures convinced us to head on into Traralgon and stock up the cupboards before booking into a caravan park and relax in the airconditioning. Well it was supposed to be that way but managed to fit in doing all the washing and drying with the winds strong and hot drying took no time at all. Next day the weather took a dramatic turn and became cloudy and cold so with many craft shops to visit we continued. Nightfall saw us in Noojee SF park where we camped on the riverbank amongst the tall gum trees. Nice spot and after nightfall the sounds of trail bikes subsided and light rain began. Good sleep in as it seems the bikers were also sheltering from the cold. Almost decided to stay on for another night when 4 (yes four) 4x4's arrived to invade our small campspot with many children and dogs in tow for the day so we did what we had to do....left. Next stop Blue Rock dam for lunch and then onto historic Walhalla township for the night. At the town camp there were a few travellers in tents and an older couple in a bus. Needless to say the old couple liked to have their country music and liked it loud !! Fortunately they expired early so everyone could get some rest in the freezing cold. It was 9.6°C at 4am and rain followed so no one there was keen to rise early BUT of course the first were the old couple and of course with a fanfare of country just to get everyone else moving. After breakfast we did the tour of the town on foot and then scaled the mountain goat trail to the cemetery and checked out the old graves most over 100 years old. Some single plots had up to 4 family members buried together and mostly the children died one after another very young. It must have been a busy time for the undertaker of the time. Some graves had been consumed by pine trees that had grown on top of them while others had crumbled over time. Must have taken strong men to haul a coffin up that hill. Those times were hard for the gold miners and their families. It appeared that the only two original surviving buildings there after bush fires early in the 20 century were the post office and the fire station! After all that walking we did some more hill climbing in the bus and back to Morwell for lunch, craft shop and then followed the power station route where most of Victoria's energy needs are generated from brown coal mined in huge open cut mines. One station boasted that it uses 600 tons of coal an hour... and that was just one. After a fruitless drive through the backblocks looking for a bush camp that seemed to have disappeared we came back to Traralgon for another night and have done the housework, filled with water, hosed off the dust and of course secret men's business.

1 March 2004
Next day off in search of more craft shops and we found Quilt Barn at Loch, unfortunately in the process of moving across the street but still there was time and money spent and of course lunch. Then off on our closest brush with civilisation we went on the new tollway bypass of Melbourne and even though I don't know the cost yet as it was debited by telephone from my credit card, it was certainly worth it and we were able to get through the city and heading north on the Hume Hwy in about 1h 45m from Loch. That afternoon we searched for another elusive forest camp and after many kms I made an executive decision and headed back to the highway and found us a caravan park at Seymour right on the Goulburn River by the dinner time. After a call to our eldest we decided to head up to Cobram and meet with fruit picking friends, Robyn & Des, who lived in our street until last year but have gone in search of nirvana on the road with caravan and 4x4. Like us except they are actually doing some productive work to help the taxman and they are travelling fulltime. An afternoon of washing and drying followed with much talking and exchanging of travel stories. Next day was a designated rest day and Ryan arrived late in the afternoon on his way to a new life and job hopefully in Melbourne. Of course I had to do what a dad does best....his washing!! Friday late start and some shopping and craft shop in town then farewelling Ryan south while we headed north. Lunch in a shady park in Finley and then camping out on the Murrumbidgee River near Narrandera. Nice spot except that the Sturt Hwy is not more than 200meters from the other side of the river and of course endless trucks pass that way through the night. Moved on with lunch again at a nice park in West Wylong and then to Weddin Mt NP. (Not a typo it is spelt that way). Quiet for a saturday night with only one other inmate and a couple of kangaroos. Stayed on sunday even though half the population of Grenfell came out to BBQ for lunch but luckily went home early. In the cool of the afternoon we took the 1.5km uphill walk/climb to bushranger Ben Halls cave. Worth the climb as the view was excellent. Usual leisurely departure with a visit to the adjoining historic site of Seatons farm. Still mostly as it was in the early 1900's these people made themselves a home and almost everything from old sheets of galvanised iron and fencing wire. The farm machinery still sits where it was abandoned along with the store of bits and pieces of junk stored by them for future use. Forbes and a craft shop before lunch of hamburgers with the lot at a roadhouse outside of town before booking in for the night at Dubbo with a replenishment of water and at last some mobile phone coverage.

12 March 2004
After a night in Dubbo we were off to visit Lake Keepit near Gunnedah. We had been there before but this time the dam was so low its a sure sign that the end of the drought is a long way off even if some of the costal places have had rain. It was possible to walk around the end of the water with about 100-200 metres to spare between the water and one of the rockwall dams. Pleasant night, beautiful sunset and bright clear night sky and we were the only ones. As it was so good we stayed on another night just to be sure. Next morning secret men's business and onward to Armidale after lunch at Tamworth. After lunch of KFC did our washing while there was bright sunny sky and breezes and was dry and put away long before nightfall. Refilled water and in the morning proceeded along the Waterfall Way towards the coast over the mountains. Stopped at Ebor Falls and went on the falls circuit walk and viewed the upper and lower falls before returning by walking along the roadway to the top rest area. Beautiful falls and deep valley views to enjoy.On to Dorrigo for fresh bread for lunch then Guy Fawkes NP HQ for a walk on the skywalk over the treetops. Would have been better if the wind and rain had not been around. Down the steep decent to Bellingen making use of the newly found exhaust brake, worked a treat. This place is of course mostly craft shops and cafe's so not being really interested I settled down to reading the Saturday paper while Robyn did the street walk returning with not only craft but pies and cakes for dinner. Around this time there was a large storm brewing up near the Queensland/NSW border and there were expected to be heavy rain and strong winds extending down the coast so decided not to go the extra 35kms to the coast but booked into small park there for the night. As it turns out we just had some rain overnight but nothing substantial so in the morning we headed off in the rain to Coffs Harbour where we had decided to shelter in the shops for the day. But as we approached Coffs there were already patches of blue sky appearing overhead. By the time we had done the shopping there was not a cloud to be seen. Another 25kms and we were at Corindi Beach and with the weather looking good we decided on 2 nights to enjoy it. That day I had put out the awning and the offside shade to keep us cool then early in the morning (3:30am), after a clear starry sky in the evening, heavy rain started so in my sleeping attire I propped up the awning so the water would drain and returned to bed. Of course you can guess the rest, by 6am so much water had accumulated in one end of the awning that the prop made an uncontrolled descent and we were awoken by the outrushing of the torrent!! Again in my bedwear I reset it all and fortunately soon after the rain abated. By the time we were having breakfast the sky had cleared and between reading the Sunday paper and beachwalks the washing was done and dried. Sunday night no surprise weather and next morning off to Brunswick Heads to meet with Robyn's parents who were kayaking with their group on the river there. We spent much of the rest of the day talking, eating and crafting for some Afterwards we had fish and chips for dinner. In the morning we drove up to Redcliffe via the freeway bypassing Brisbane and did a tour run around the peninsula to see how much it had changed since we lived there in 1974. Seems like there are now endless parks surrounding almost the whole peninsula and we had lunch and more reading at Woody Point one of the few with enough shade in the carpark. Afterwards we visited with mum in the nursing home and brought her some much needed new nighties. She was not very alert as it was another hot day, over 34C and humid. That evening we stayed with friends David & Debbie before another visit to mum then Morayfield for two new tyres on the front of the bus replacing one that was damaged and had started to wear badly and kept the other good one for spare. Stayed the night with Tony and his dog Bill. Managed to make myself useful by setting up his digital TV box after dinner. Yesterday very early start for us (8am) with about 45 minutes up the highway to Woombye to get the bus serviced by cousin Gerry. Spent the day with Tracey and Andy at Flaxton before picking the bus up and driving up to Mapleton for the next couple of nights. The in-laws are not expected home until tomorrow afternoon so we have the place to ourselves.

16 March 2004
Saturday the parents arrived home and straight into the entertaining as Robyn had organised a family get together with sister Tracey and partner Andy, the terrible two Liam and Jaimie with the infamous mechanic cousin, Gerry and wife Elinor. Plenty of eating, drinking and talk, men about men things and the women ..... craft. Sunday the rain as usual continued to fall during the perilous trip down the range and on to Gympie but cleared after that. We knew we were once again heading north into the tropics as the temperature and humidity had risen dramatically and overnighting at our regular Lake Monduran was all the better with the airconditioning on for the night. Next day more heat but no rain and with lunch at Hungreys in Rockhampton and a tank of discount diesel we continued on to overnight at Marlborough. Few travellers but again much appreciated cooling at night. Amazingly we managed to leave earlier than normal (9:30am) but were still the last to leave! Easy day today with some shopping at Sarina, and of course the craft shop, then lunch at a roadside stop before a quick drive through Mackay and onto St Helens for a night amongst the palms. Then came the most amazing co-incidence, soon after another identical motorhome arrived and was parked right next to us. These people had seen our motorhome when it was built and had commissioned one similar from Ballina Campers. They had a much prettier colour scheme with the same exterior design but their own selections inside. After a couple of hours going over our innovations and problems it seems that between us we have had similar things go wrong and have been forewarned of others that may occur later on.

20 March 2004
A few more ideas exchanged and then the twin busses parted company one north and the other south. Uneventful day driving and with a stop at Home Hill for craft shop we spent the night in Ayr after some reprovisioning. Usual late start and as the clouds closed in showing evidence of a developing tropical low we motored on via craft shop in Townsville, refuelling and some cakes for what would be our last night away from home. Quite heavy rain encountered up towards Ingham but complemented by a handy tail wind. Booked in at Cardwell for the night and caught up on the storm news from the net. In the morning we were told that the Mulgrave river was over the bridge at Gordonvale but as luck would have it, aided by the lunch time low tide and the strong SE winds, it was not under when we got there and we crossed with no problem. The rain of course got heavier and the wind stronger and we made the decision not to park the bus in the back yard as there was a lake between the road and the gate and of course the ground would be soft. She's now resident in the front driveway as you can see as close in as we can get while we await what happens with the tropical low hovering around here. So far it seems to be heading off as today there has been little rain and no wind to speak of. I think its confused the weather bureau as they don't seem to be able to figure out where its going ( this is not surprising as weathermen don't usually know how a normal day will turn out). Home at last after an eventful trip with a page full of small jobs to do on the bus and a couple of biggies to. We have had 80 days away from home many of them being entertained by family and friends and lots of memorable bush camps. The bus has done 9564kms, had 2 tyres replaced, rear brakes repaired in Bairnsdale, 1000's of insects stuck to the front, 4 kgs of gas, 1313 litres of fuel, a major service in Woombye, 13 website entries, 421 digital photo memories and 39 different campsites. Thanks to all of you for your interest and we will try to get on track for another adventure some time later this year.

In memory of Lawrie's Mum who passed away in May 2004

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