A Travellerspoint blog

Rolleston & Carnarvon Gorge

26th to 29th August


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Up and off as previous days, not much to pack up again as not fully set up. Another fairly boring drive just 240km today. We drove through Emerald, refueled and then on to the road to Rolleston, stopping for a quick look at the only other town on the route – Springsure. A walk up and down the main street dealt with that, and then we were back in the car arriving at Rolleston around 1pm. We’d stayed here before, and it really is a one-horse town, but Pete seemed to like it a lot, so we thought we would add it to this itinerary! After setting up quickly we went for a walk around the “town”. It was a busy Saturday afternoon! (see photo). There has been an improvement since we were here before though, they now have a cute coffee and cake cart that has set up in the park, so of course we had to support local business. A walk to the airstrip, cemetery and down the main street took about 20 mins – we walked slowly – then popped in to the pub to look at the menu for dinner. Pete had a beer and a chat with the barman/barmaid – we weren’t sure!

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We went back for dinner around 7pm – it was OK, fun watching the locals and other visitors although only about 25 people in the whole place. We spent a bit of time trying to work out if the lovely friendly person who served us both times was male or female – we are thinking female but still not quite sure…..

Pete was determined to stay awake into the night as his UK rugby league team was playing in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley, and kick off was at midnight our time. I was long asleep by then and I awoke at 12.30am to his snoring, so assumed he had not made it! The good news was that they won, so one happy chappy!

We had planned on driving down to Roma next, about 280km, however I remembered that I’d seen an advert for a new campsite that had opened this year on the top of an escarpment overlooking Carnarvon Gorge National Park. We had a look at the details and decided to change our two nights in Roma to just one, and stop in at Sandstone Park. We’d been to Carnarvon Gorge on our big trip, and had a lovely time there, doing one of their guided walks for a day, and then some of the smaller ones. We’d stayed at the campsite down near the gorge, so this one would be different. They had no power or water, and fires were allowed, so we decided to go for our last bit of wilderness camping. The turn off to Carnarvon Gorge is 60km south of Rolleston, and then 40km from there. Last time we came the last part was a rough dirt and gravel road, and nw it is all bitumen so much better.

It was an easy journey and we arrived to check in at 11.30am, and were met by two little dogs. They came running out of the reception hut and were very cute. We checked in and were given a little information pack and direction to the camping area 2km down the road. What a great place! It is overlooking the escarpment as promised, on the top of a hill so has 360 degree views. The sites are massive – you could easily get four caravans on each – and we had the pick of the sites as hardly anyone was there. We set up and cooked a nice fresh lunch, eating it overlooking the amazing view. We quickly re-thought the next step of our journey and decided to stay another night here, it’s really beautiful.

So we went back to the reception area and booked in for another night, before heading down to the information centre for the national park to work out the walks we were going to do. We booked in to do the night walk on Monday, and chose the walk we would do on our own in the morning along the lower gorge. We also went to the daily talk at 4.30pm to learn about the flora and fauna, walks available, and other general information on the history and the location. Then it was time to go back and enjoy the sunset and light the fire – bliss…..

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So on Monday we packed our lunch, dug out all the walking gear and set off for our bushwalk in the lower gorge area. It’s really beautiful and unspoilt, mainly because the area is so dense in vegetation and has never been logged. Whilst there are many other remote area that were explored and settled, this was just too rugged, so everything is mature and natural. The whole national park is 3000 square km, so the actual gorge area we visited is such a small part of it. We did a guided walk last time we were here for a full day, and it was lovely to go back and see some of those spots again.

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We walked through gum trees, thick rainforest areas, on stepping stones across creeks, up and down many steps and into two of the key points of interest – the Amphitheatre and Moss Garden. The amphitheatre is a 60M deep secret chamber hidden inside the gorge walls, gouged out from the rock by running water. It has towering stone walls and a natural skylight which creates an amazing atmosphere within. We climbed up the steep metal stairs, then walked through the small crack in the rock into the chamber. There were four other people in there when we got there, but they soon left and we were there on our own. You can almost feel the silence. Pete stood against one of the walls and sang the national anthems of both UK and Australia, and the acoustics were brilliant.

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The Moss Garden is accessed off the main track, up and down various steps in the bush track and over the creek. The track is through many ferns, and at the end there is a small waterfall tumbling over a rock ledge into a little pool. Water drips constantly from the sandstone and sustains a lush, green carpet of mosses and ferns. It was really cool in there as there is a canopy of large trees overhead, and we had our lunch there.

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From there it was about 3km back, and we were hot and tired by the time we got to the creek. We had a lovely surprise on the way back when an echidna walked across our path. We took our boots off and sat on the stepping stones with our feet in the icy cold water – it really was freezing, but so refreshing!

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It was a lovely walk, about 10km, and we were ready for a cold drink so popped into the Wilderness Lodge to grab one on the way back. I’m a bit ashamed to say that we then went back to the caravan and had a nana nap – poor old buggers! We felt much better after that, a shower and an early dinner.

Then it was time to go back to the Ranger station where all the walks start. We’d booked on the night safari tour at 7.30pm, and arrived at the designated starting point to find we were the only people there. Pretty quickly a car pulled up and Michelle our guide got out. She told us we were having a private tour as we were the only ones booked! She equipped us with binoculars, and explained that she would use a red torch to spot the animals and we could use our own head torches for when we are walking around, but to turn them off when not walking. It was absolutely pitch black, and very peaceful. She walked us through the trees and shone her big red torch upwards to spot sugar gliders. She was so knowledgeable and passionate about everything and answered all our questions. We knew nothing about sugar gliders – they are very cute looking nocturnal marsupials that live in the tall trees. They feed off the nectar of blossoms and bugs that live under the bark. Apparently there are five species in this area, and during the tour we saw two. They are surprisingly big, considering they fly, or glide, between trees. The biggest one we saw was a Great Glider, that was 2ft tall. They look a bit like a possum when they are walking on the branches, and have thick bushy tails. When you see their underside, you can see the web of skin between their limbs, which looks like their body when on their feet. Unfortunately we didn’t see them in full flight, they were too busy eating, but we did catch one landing. At one point early in the tour, Michelle was spotting with the red torch, and saw something so ran towards the tree. We both followed, looking up in the tree and I ran smack in to a gate that I hadn’t seen – ouch. I bashed my right knee and then the top of the gate across both thighs. I wanted to cry, but just carried on, it was so painful. I also felt really silly……… More bruises!

After an hour or so we went down to the creek to see if we could see any platypus. It was so different in the dark, and we saw cane toads and frogs but no platypus. We went back and saw more gliders. Michelle was great, answering all our questions. We left there about 9ish, and were really chilly by then.

The whole day had been fab, such a lovely experience, (apart from the connection with the gate). We were so pleased that we had decided to pop in again on the way past.

Posted by Capes Crusaders 03:22 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Mission Beach to Clermont

24th to 26th August


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We were up and about early, and decided to take our breakfast over to the beach for a last farewell. It was beautiful again, and we even had a paddle before we left.

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We hit the road around 9ish, and had a big day driving. We drove south through Cardwell and down to Townsville, through sugar cane country. We had to stop at a railway crossing for the sugar train to chug through.

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We had initially planned on going just past Townsville, however we got there around 1.30pm, and Pete was fine to keep on driving. We decided we’d keep going until he was ready to stop, as there were a number of free camps along the way so we could pull in when ready. We ended up driving 550km, heading inlaid from Townsville and stopping at Blackwell National Park rest area. It was a bit of a boring drive once we left Townsville as it is just one road, although it was nice to see bush land and scrub areas as we had on the way up. The campsite was small and there was only one other caravan there when we got there around 4.30pm. We did a quick set-up – not much to do when staying only one night and you don’t disconnect from the car or have power and water to deal with. We noticed there was a little camp fire area, so rummaged around to gather some wood and Pete quickly lit a fire.

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As we were sitting there with a drink another caravan pulled in and set up. It was starting to get dark and was really lovely sitting by the fire. Pete invited the new people over and we sat chatting to them for an hour or so. They were older than us, and new to caravanning and travelling so were asking us lots of questions. Seems very strange that we have experience that others want to know about and learn from.

We all went our separate ways and we had our dinner by the fire, and of course marshmallows to follow. It was a lovely dark and quiet site, in the middle of nowhere. We had no TV or internet so was peaceful. We ended up listening to more of our audio book that we had started that day. We slept really well, although there was the odd road train passing throughout the night.

We were on the road again around 9ish, again the one road and all the way through to Clermont – about 200km. We stopped for fuel at the only place on the way – Belyando Crossing Service Station, and arrived in Clermont around midday. Not much to report along the way, lots of road kill again which brings eagles and other birds to the roadside, and a number of emus in the scrub.

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We set up at another free camp 2km out of town, and went to explore Clermont. We knew nothing about the place, and at first glance it really wasn’t anything special. We found a café for lunch and were really surprised at how great the food was – lots of choice and really fresh when it arrived. After lunch we wandered around the town, but couldn’t find an information centre. We had a drive out of town to a place called Copperfield that had been a mining town for a few years at the end of the 1800’s, visiting the general store and the chimney – the only things left.

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We learnt that Clermont town had been in a different location prior to 1916 flood that washed the town away, so went down to the river to see if there was any water there now. And wow – it was really beautiful! They have made a walkway along both sides, rebuilt the bridge that got washed away in the flood, and created a memorial walk. We walked both sides of the river and looked at all the points of interest. There were lots of birds in and around the water, and turtles too. It was really peaceful and beautiful, and not what you would expect of a small inland country town.

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We had a drive around the outer streets and looked at the houses and other parts of town – it is so clean. Definitely a lovely place to stop for one night.

Posted by Capes Crusaders 03:20 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Mission Beach

16th to 24th August


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On Thursday morning Pete went fishing down at the beach and I did some catching up on the blog from before we went to Cape York – am a bit behind! Then in the afternoon we went into Mission Beach town and had a look around. There are a few shops and cafes, an information centre and four estate agents, so we checked everything out and had a coffee – decent one too, plus a Connect 4 tournament! Pete went back fishing around 4pm and I headed to the beach for a quick lie in the sun – feels very decadent, and just a little weird that we don’t have anything specific to do or anywhere to be in the short term. We are back at work five weeks today – that feels a little unnerving but we are not thinking about it and are determined to make the most of the time we have left. It is quite different now as we have no planned itinerary, so we are getting used to a different way of “being”.

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On Friday we had a leisurely breakfast cooked on the bbq, then went off to have a look around some properties – amazing what you can buy up here – it is a little kept secret of a place.

Then we had lunch at a little shack café in town, went to the visitors centre and for a bit of a drive to seek out cassowaries – an endangered species of birds that live in the area. No luck. Checked out boat hire for later in the week, then back to the beach for a walk and a swim. Shower time and joined the oldies for happy hour. Apparently there is usually a campfire but no one had any wood. We all said we would see what we could find for the next day.

Saturday we had a lazy morning at the beach – bit of sunbathing and swimming, then back home for a shower and left overs for lunch. We opened a bottle of Prosecco and felt rather decadent – didn’t match the leftovers but all went down very well!

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In the afternoon we went to the Banana Festival at the local school that we had seen advertised. It was a school fete, with a number of different stalls and activities happening throughout the afternoon, and ending with fireworks at 7pm. We checked out the stalls, bought a book, a dvd and jar of grapefruit marmalade, then settled down to watch the woodchopping.

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One guy created a table by chainsawing a massive log then finessing it with an axe - b bizarre! Then the competitions commenced. As they were chopping away, we wondered what they did with the off-cuts. We had a word with a chappy there and he said they just take it all to the landfill site, so we asked if we could grab some for our campfire. We found a box and went back to fill it up, then took it back to the car. We took it over to the camp fire area and were popular with the oldies! Someone else had a few logs that were cut up, so they had started the fire, and our stash meant we had enough for the next night too.

On Sunday we did a bit of research to plan the rest of our journey. It feels a bit sad that we are heading home, but we still have four weeks left so shouldn’t be ungrateful. We deliberately had no definite plans for this part of the trip, as we had quite a rigid itinerary to meet the timings for Big Bed Bash, Boulia and Cape York. After working out our route to take in a few visits to various people on the way, (and collect our order of Nespresso coffee pods!) we headed to the Sunday market in Mission Beach. Then we had brunch at a different café, before heading to the beach and watching the sky divers landing. We found two coconuts to take back with us, which Pete then attacked with his axe to remove the husks. The nuts inside looked intact, and he opened one up. It was lovely and fresh, so we had coconut water and flesh – delicious!

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The husks were good for the campfire too. We went over at the usual time, and then again after dinner, taking the marshmallows and my super toasting fork. We were the only ones there and the fire embers were glowing so perfect for marshmallows. Will certainly miss this type of thing when we go back home; not sure we are allowed to have fires outside there!

On Monday we went for a drive south to Cardwell, and did the Cardwell Forest Drive. First we had a coffee in the town, bought some freshly caught local fish and then finally found the start of the drive. It’s around 26km starting from the centre of town, and takes you into the foothills of the Cardwell State Forest. Such different terrain again – you drive through pine forest to a number of different lookouts and water holes. Cardwell lookout was the first stop up a fairly steep track, then a 300m walk that seemed almost vertical! The view over the town and Hinchinbrook Channel was worth the walk though.

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There were three other stopping places along the drive, all were water holes and creeks, but none were very full as there has been no rainfall for a while. Attie Creek, Dead Horse Creek and finally Cardwell spa pool. We sat on the edge of the water at the last one, and saw hundreds of little fish and tadpoles in the water. Pete fed them with the rice crackers from our lunch, and apparently at full flood there is an inviting pool, with natural depression in the creek bed which causes the water to bubble and swirl like a Jacuzzi. Apparently the cold water then flows into an adjoining swimming hole. We had to imagine that, and didn’t get to swim – there was a sign there saying it was not safe to do so due to lack of water. I guess it was because it was stagnant water rather than flowing. It was still a lovely place to visit, and we’d enjoyed the drive and scenery.

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On the way back to Mission Beach we stopped in at the town of Tully. This town has the highest rainfall in Australia, and we had heard that to commemorate this there is a huge gumboot statue that you can walk up inside and look out. We got there and found the glowing golden gumboot behind railings – from the look of it, it had just been painted so was not open.

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We wandered the main street, but were fairly uninspired – no one was really friendly and most of the shops were shut, with signs showing their opening hours as Weds to Saturday – it was Monday! The garbage bins were nicely decorated though - all with gumboots!

We got back home and had showers and got changed as we had decided to treat ourselves to dinner out at the pub around the corner. It was a cool evening, and nice to walk around to the pub. The food was good, not amazing, but included a salad bar and dessert bar in the price, so pretty good value for a three course meal, and no washing up!

Tuesday was to be our last day here at Mission Beach, and we had planned our journey through Townsville to collect our order of Nespresso coffee pods – no shops north of Brisbane sell them, so we placed an online order to be delivered to Townsville post office. It should have arrived on Tuesday, so we had planned to pass through on Wednesday to collect it, then go on another 100+kms to our chosen camp spot. However I received an email to say that the delivery had been delayed and would not be there until Wednesday. Oh no! So we decided to book in for another day here – not really a hardship! – and then head off on Thursday instead. Pete decided that morning that he really NEEDED some more of the amazing smoked bacon we had bought in Babinda, so went for a bit of a drive whilst I sorted out a bit of home admin and some bookings for camp sites, before going to the beach for a couple of hours. The “bit of a drive” was actually 87km each way, but he also got some smoked ham and found a barbers for a much needed haircut!

In the afternoon we sorted out our shopping list for the next week’s meals and went to Woolies, and for a quick wander around the shopping centre – only one shop open, so didn’t take long! We spent half an hour preparing and cryovacing the 2kg of bacon, and headed over for happy hour. It was quite a fun time as we are getting to know the regulars now, and there were also some new people today – we are still the youngest by far, but it is a pleasant way to pass an hour or so comparing travel stories, and having a drink as the day cools down. We came back to cook dinner – the Spanish mackerel that we had bought from Cardwell yesterday. It was really delicious – Pete pan fried it on the BBQ, and I cooked potatoes to a new recipe, and steamed broccoli. We decided it was a much nicer meal than the pub the night before, so lovely to have fresh food and eat it outside to the sound of the waves. We went back to the fire afterwards taking the marshmallows again, to find a whole lot of different people there – five of them – so met some more travellers, shared the marshmallows and chatted for a good hour with them.

On Wednesday I was awake early, and decided to go for a walk along the beach. It was beautiful. Hardly anyone there, and the sun had come up but was not yet hot as only about 7am. I made a coffee and took it with me. This place really is naturally stunning, and we can’t believe how few people are around.

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When I got back I spent a bit of time sorting out the travel blog notes from Cape York – still so much to type up, but managed to get two days of notes done and three days of photos. Pete went over to the beach to do a spot of fishing, and I joined him later for a bit of a sunbathe and then we both went for a swim. After lunch we went down into Mission Beach for one last coffee at the cute café, had a wander around and then back home to start the preparations for dinner and packing up ready for an early departure in the morning. I chased up our coffee pod order to find that they had stuffed up the delivery address and the earliest the delivery would get to the correct place in Townsville was Friday – not happy! After 20 minutes on the phone new arrangements were made for the order to be returned and another to be sent by courier to Roma – where we will be on Monday. Grr….

After dinner we were sitting outside and the new neighbours that arrived today came over for a chat, brought their chairs and seemed not to want to leave! We wanted to get packed up ready for the next day. I finally said I was getting cold and needed to go in. We all said our goodbyes and we finished off packing up ready for the off tomorrow.

Posted by Capes Crusaders 03:19 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

After Cape York - Cairns to Mission Beach

15th to 16th August


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We woke up in our cabin at Ellis Beach, listening to the waves coming in. Must admit it was lovely sleeping in a bed, although we were really comfy in the swags whilst on the adventure. We had a leisurely breakfast, showers, then packed up and headed off to collect the caravan. We were booked in to the Cairns caravan park for one night, that we had stayed at before the trip, so checked in there and tried to remember how to set up the caravan rather than the swags and camping gear! We then spent the day unloading the car, cleaning everything as all was covered in red dust, repacking the camping gear we won’t use for the rest of the trip, washing and vacuuming out the car. Pete also changed the air filter - check out all the dust! We also did food shopping and got the caravan all back to normal. It was a busy but productive day, and was satisfying to have things all re-organised for the rest of the journey.

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We’d booked ourselves in to Mission Beach for three days, as we felt like stopping somewhere and not packing up for a little while. It was a couple of hours drive south of Cairns. Must admit it felt sad to be starting the journey south, but we shouldn’t feel that way, we have had such an incredible time so far, and still have over four weeks to go. I think we were coming down after the amazing Cape York adventure. We stopped for a coffee on the way at a little town called Babinda – how cute. We’d seen a sign on the side of the highway advertising smoked ham and bacon, so decided to check it out. We wandered up the main street and found the butchery shop with the smoked meats, and also the bakery that served great coffee.

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We arrived at Mission Beach around 1pm, and checked in to the campsite. They allocated us a spot and we set up – very lucky with the site – we are at the edge of the site against the fence, and the other side of the fence is a little road with the beach on the other side. Stunning. After being here about an hour we decided to see if we could extend the booking, and found out about a deal – pay for 6 nights and stay 7 – done! So now we are staying in paradise for a whole week.

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Posted by Capes Crusaders 03:19 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cape York - day 19 - and the end

Cooktown to Ellis Beach


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Departure time today was scheduled for 9am. After breakfast, packing up and showers we drove into town to pump up the tyres – it’s bitumen all the way now. Another sign the adventure is coming to an end…….

We all met back at the site for today’s briefing, and at the end we gave Dave a slab of his favourite drink and a t-shirt to say a big thank you for the trip. He has been great – his knowledge of The Cape is incredible, and he knows all the little places to go to that are off the beaten track. I thin he was a little embarrassed by the speech given by Dawn on behalf of us all, but we wanted to say thank you.

The journey today is about 330km back to Ellis Beach. It was easy driving and green countryside most of the way – it certainly felt very tame compared to the rest of the trip. We stopped at Lakeland Roadhouse for coffee – the place we had stopped on Day 2. The people in there were as rude and inefficient as last time, although nobody got the wrong order today, just took forever and no smiles from any of the staff. The next stop was at Black Mountain. It seemed very weird to see the big hill covered in volcanic rock amongst all the greenery. We walked up the track a little way for photos, then back to the cars for the final leg.

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We are back in banana plantation area now. Our last stop was the layby near Mount Carbine for the view, and then country and coastal scenery to arrive at Ellis Beach at 2pm. The tour officially ended in the car park, although most people were meeting up for a late lunch at the café.

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The full trip was tracked by Dave on GPS and is on the Great Divide Tours website www.4wd.net.au. This link should take you straight to it - Cape York Safari 27th July to 14th August 2017. We drove around 3,000km over the 19 days. We reckon about 85% of it was on unsealed roads, and we went over millions of corrugations!

After lunch we said our goodbyes to six of the group, as they were heading straight off. The rest of us had booked cabins in the Ellis Beach camping and caravan park for the night, so agreed to meet up again later for drinks and dinner.

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We had a lovely chilled afternoon on the deck of our cabin. Pete sorted his fishing gear into the new fishing bag he had bought in Cooktown, and I went for a swim in the very cold pool. Then it was time for showers and more socialising. We had another fun evening, talking about a number of the things we had done on the trip, the funny moments and generally taking the mickey. Will miss these guys!

We all walked back to the site, and peeled off as we arrived at our respective cabins, saying goodbye at each. This really was the end now.

It feels so sad that it is over; we all got on so well. It was such an amazing adventure, with everyone getting back safely and with the cars mostly intact. Feeling blessed and lucky, and very much looking forward to sleeping in a real bed!

Posted by Capes Crusaders 03:17 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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