[Geoff] Where did that 5 months go ?

A dining 'experience' never to be forgotten !

A dining ‘experience’ never to be forgotten !

We sorted out the issue with the bikes titles with Paulo the new owner, at the Registro Civil office we had ‘camped’ at the last 2 days.  The officer explained the situation and said there would be no issues and the transfer of ownership could then take place.  We rode the bikes to Paulo’s apartment block and then a trip to his bank (with shock horror no queues) and the transaction was completed.  Paulo’s dad owns a Kawasaki KLR650 and he happened to be in Santiago at the time of the inspection and gave the thumbs up.  Our 2 bikes will now be part of one big happy KLR family and Paulo and his brother will now be in tow behind their dad, great times ahead for you guys !

We sold the bikes with a lot of our accessories so we had a bit less to pack and bring home. HOME – OMG what a scary thought that was ?  After a week’s break in Santiago I could set off again and with so much to see in this continent, I could easily occupy another 6 months here.

We spent the last 2 days in Santiago walking the now familiar streets and looking for a few more small gifts to take home to friends.  On Saturday night we treated ourselves to a seafood theme restaurant near our hostel.  Ocean Pacifico’s is more a nautical museum than a restaurant, this kooky joint is complete with waiters dressed in sailors uniforms and a long bearded sea-captain resplendid in a full dress naval uniform, complete with pipe and trimmings.  The food was pretty average and my TripAdvisor review gave it high marks just for the amazing atmosphere which we understood took the owners 25 years to collect !

It may of been my last Pisco Sour..... in Chile.

It may of been my last Pisco Sour….. (in Chile).

By Sunday we had completed packing and Gus donated most of his clothes to one of the hostel workers along with all our left over camping food which we could not take home.  On Monday our airport transfer was even early and we were deposited at Santiago Airport with plenty of time to spare.  There was a Qantas 747 at the gateway and we even managed to score our favourite seats once again up the back of the plane.

I was introduced to a South American cocktail called Pisco Sour on this trip, and grew very fond of them, so it was a surprise to find a bar in the gate lounge with a very appropriate name… so with a few Chilean Pesos left we indulged one last time.  (Well sort of… there are 2 bottles of Pisco liquor stashed in my luggage !)

I really enjoyed this trip, South America is such an interesting continent and despite our poor Spanish skills we still navigated and traversed some unbelievable terrain with gorgeous scenery we never anticipated.  The Andes mountains are truly spectacular and on a motorcycle with uninterrupted 360′ views, they are even more impressive.  This was my first motorcycle adventure with a travelling partner and it was even more special to have Gus along – his first ever overseas trip, and to a non-English speaking continent and riding on the opposite side of the road and on motorcycles.  I cannot say how proud I was to have him beside me, knowing what effort he put in to getting here.  In saying that I think we would both have to carefully rethink if we would do it again.  Living 24/7/5 was difficult and testing on our relationship and there will be many good times to be spent reminiscing about all the great places and experiences we enjoyed together.

'Adios Amigos'

‘Adios Amigos’

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[Geoff] Back to the future…

We have been back in Santiago one week now and have nearly finished the process of selling the bikes.  We had a huge response to our listing on the local Chilean motorcycle forum, around 60 emails from prospective buyers.  We cleaned and detailed the bikes and on Sunday held an open day and we attracted 5 groups of people and we accepted the highest offer at close of business.  Fortunately the prospective buyer discovered a problem with our bike titles and so next day we visited the Chilean ‘RTA’ to sort things out….

Twenty or so years ago I penned the phrase “Spend a day at the RTA” – this was pre internet and getting  your car or licence renewed was just a long waiting game and most of you are familiar with that drill.  Fast forward to 2010 and I was gob smacked to find the same system still in use in Nevada when I went to register my motorcycle for the USA trip, I took a number and sat down with the other 300 or so people in an auditorium sized waiting room ?  I waited around 90 minutes and once my number was called at least the transaction tok only 10 minutes.  The Chilean situation is stuck in the 18th Century and they have a one stop shop that deals in all matters Givernment and legal, register the car, pickup a marriage or birth certificate, title transfers not to mention some strange certificates for insurance, you get the drift.  The place is full of taxpayers wasting hours and hours of productive human time which could be spent better elsewhere and amongst all this chaos they have one single counter manned by one single guy doing the motor vehicle stuff… yes one (WTF) !!

Always keep games on hand to occupy the kiddies...

Always keep games on hand to occupy the kiddies…

We returned again the next day after being told as tourists we are not able to have titles to anything, mmmm…. fortunately our bike buyer is very savvy and got a friend to pull our files to discover our Chilean tax ID was not given when the bikes were registered by the dealer.  With new ammunition and our words carefully chosen for the show down, we were pleasantly surprised to finally get to the counter to find it had been sorted, the file notes had been re-read, copies of RUT cards taken from the day before had been assinged and common sense prevailed – we were now ‘legal’ with 6 days to go before we leave !!!

So if ever you have to go to the Motor Registry ever again, just thank your lucky stars how the internet has helped all this Government Bureacracy streamline and keep the hordes of taxpayers away from the queues you are now standing in !

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[Geoff] Burn baby burn…

Lots of observatories here to view the heavens, due to the perfect clear Atacama desert skies.

Lots of observatories here to view the heavens, due to the perfect clear Atacama desert skies.

There is only one aspect we don’t like about Chile and that is saying a lot because we really like this country.  Our money does not go very far here with prices akin to back home.  Petrol is $1.70/litre while accommodation and food is generally on par.  Compared to the neighbouring countries who have a lower standard of living, Chile comes at a price and we have been burning our remaining funds pretty quickly since our re-arrival.

We are still on the coast south towards Santiago, we stopped in the popular surfing tourist town of Iquique staying at a grungy beachside hostel and surprisingly not the oldest couple in the house amongst the younger surfing set ? Funnily these low cost hostels are also starting to appeal to the ‘grungy’ older adventure travellers like us ?  Next day we put in a long ride bypassing the large coastal town of Antofagasta down to Taltal a nice smaller beachside town but struggled finding accommodation as the Chilean school holidays wind down in a week, wherever we went the price was the same ?  When our accommodation is expensive we eat poorly, so it was toasted sangas for dinner from the hotel ‘restaurant’.  This was in contrast to our hostel in Iquique which was cheap, so we lived it up with  an expensive seafood feast !

Lasagna $7.64
NesCafe $4.95
Shaving Gel $3.50
Wine $4.52 !!

We elected on another long ride the day after so from Taltal we bolted south along the dead pan PanAmerican highway, through more interesting desert than what we saw in Peru.  Roadworks delayed us in several spots as the very perfect Chilean Transport Department constructed more perfect highways.  One aspect many visitors to Australia acknowledge is our roadside Rest Stops and Chile is the only other country we have travelled which has something similar – they just don’t have garbage bins though… ?

We spotted a camping ground in our guide book in La Serena, but could we find it for the life of us !  Even their website had a vague address which Mr Garmin could not find, nor I, nor Gus and once again tempers flared on that one.  While concurring (aka shouting) with each other outside a hosteria with cabana’s, Gus stormed in and surprisingly scored an apartment with kitchen for $47/night  !  So we have decided to ‘camp’ here for the next 5 nights and chill out before heading back into Santiago for a two week stay while we prepare and sell our bikes.

‘Darling could you make me another pisco sour please’ ?


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[Geoff] Back at the ranch…

So who's a little piggy ?

So who’s a little piggy ?

Arriving back at Santa Marta Hostal in Arequipa was like coming back home.  We had a such a nice time here in January, it was an easy decision to return to such a nice city and visit all the friendly folks at the hostel.  They must of read our Tripadvisor review as we got an upgrade to a nice big room including a TV ! Seeing as we are on the cruisy part of our holiday we treated ourselves to the number one restaurant in town and it did not disappoint.  We may of looked like ‘dorks’ sitting at our table wearing paper bibs, but the sizzling meats on the volcanic stone slabs, do give off a little splatter.  We thought this was such an interesting meal the way it is served and the lamb, alpaca, beef and pork all went down nicely with a Peruvian wine followed by some indulgeous desserts.  (We won’t discuss the bill !)

The markets in Arequipa are really amazing and we criss crossed all of them several times in search of a few special items to take back home.  As we were only 24 days away from finishing this was an opportunity to pick up some items at cheap Peruvian prices and we did not have to cart them too far ‘home’ from here.

The fruit section was like visiting the district exhibits at the Easter Show.

The fruit section was like visiting the district exhibits at the Easter Show.

Gus took the opportunity to get one of his boots resoled and like a lot of towns in South America, you just head to the district or street that sells that item.  Yes, all the boot makers are in one block, they all do the same or sell the same things and all at the same prices, just like the fruit aisle at the markets.

One block from our hostel was all the Optical dispensers, 4 whole blocks of them in one place… a little weird business practice but very convenient for consumers.  You should of seen the shoe market, a must-see womans destination !

Dashing across Peru desert back 'home' to Chile.

Dashing across Peru desert back ‘home’ to Chile.

From Arequipa we did our last stint in Peru to the Chilean border, another long stretch of generally flat desert sand but with some twisty bits thrown in so not as boring as expected.  Again we played cameraman on the dead pan straights and met some American bikers intransit to Ushuaia (southern tip of South America) where we had been several months ago.  Despite riding go fast BMW 1200’s we still managed to beat two of them to the border post (?), they were using paper maps, we were using a GPS.

Once again the border crossing proved difficult and Gus and I not seeing eye to eye on the difficulty presented to us by the authorities.  I thought exiting Peru would be a breeze, but another piece of stupid paperwork appeared this time and once again the Chilean customs made us remove all our bags for x-raying.  We lost two hours of time today due to timezone differences and Chile Daylight Savings time so we rocked into nearby Arica a little later than expected but still in daylight.  Just crossing into Chile was a stark reminder of the differences in these two countries, we were definitely back in a first world country…

With sunrise 2 hours later than yesterday, I did not want to get out of bed the next morning, despite Gus already being half packed and keen to move. Daylight savings always stuffs my body clock, but a two hour time difference killed me this morning and I elected to stay another day in Arica – just as well as Gus was still feeling a bit off from his food poisoning a week or so ago and his crash parts still ached a bit.  Although we have only ridden one day after staying 3 days in Arequipa, we both felt stuffed ?

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[Gus] Crashed Out

Huanchaco proved to be a small tourist surfing town and we found a small hotel with parking, but I got sick with a touch of food poisoning picked up back in Paita, so no alcohol for me and some rest for a couple of days.  Once recovered we pushed on south through the Pisco wine producing region, famous for it’s Pisco liquor which we have discovered on this trip and very nice indeed…[hic] .  I always wanted to visit Asia and surprisingly this was the name of our next town by the beach but finding some accommodation midweek proved difficult and tempers flared again between Geoff and I until we found a very nice place south of the town.  Not much to see here so we stayed in and ordered Domino’s Pizza – how ‘Australian’.

IMG_1515-1Back on the PanAmerican and we were treated to a sand storm as the wind whipped off the Pacific Ocean blowing the desert beach sand into a frenzy, something I never expected to experience on this trip !  The last coastal town on this strip was Chala and it was bigger than expected and we settled into the Turista Hotel with a seafront room and a good breeze and we had enough time for Geoff to do some shopping and clean and adjust his ever streaching bike chain.  We caught a moto taxi (Tuc Tuc) to the local Chifa Chinese restaurant where I had some soup to tame my suspect guts and Geoff settled on a warm stir fry with frozen prawns and frozen vegetables (?)

Finding a small watermelon to carry on the bike proved rather difficult, the 50c price tag was not an issue.

Finding a small watermelon to carry on the bike proved rather difficult, the 50c price tag was not an issue.

The highway turns in land from Chala across more Peruvian desert so we took the opportunity to head back to the city of Arequipa where we came to visit the Dakar race back in January. On the way we stopped in a small town for a drink and once again the Peruvian hospitality shone through with the store keeper offering us big chunks of melon (for free) if not for our no thanks we have to go, she would have kept us there to eat the whole thing ! This has been one of the more pleasing things about Peru, everyone is so kind and helpful.  Enroute through some tight winding roads, DISASTER struck when I rounded a hairpin bend to end up in a patch of sand deposited on the road from the strong winds, luckily it was a low speed fall and the crash bars did a great job protecting the bike, while my jacket took some grazes on my left arm.  I was probably more mentally scared than any physical damage but I have decided the rest of the trip will be more cruisy than racey and not try to match Geoff’s crazy cornering speeds. The score is now 6 – 5 Geoffs way so I dont want to equal his falls although this one was my worst so far….

The notorius corner. [Google it HERE !]

The notorius corner. [Google it HERE !]

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[Geoff] Equations

Japanese Kareoke bar in a Spanish speaking Ecuadorian seaside town... go figure !

Japanese Kareoke bar in a Spanish speaking Ecuadorian seaside town… go figure !

Our beachside layover at Puerto Lopez was really relaxing and we were keen to find a similar location for another couple of days a little further south, so we picked a spot on the map and headed off.  When you need to navigate a big city, in this case Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second biggest, you need to be prepared.  Fortunately Mr Garmin behaved very well and I only misinterpreted one turn, but this was enough to flare tempers between Gus and I.  The city had a very good by-pass and we avoided a possibly messy situation.  We made our destination Machala by lunchtime, so we decided to push on to the border, which all turned sour.

We ended up getting separated in traffic and we missed each other twice by the side of the road and I arrived at the Peru border without my papers as they are stored in Gus’s bag.  He eventually showed up and we had ‘words’.  I had to turn back to Ecuador to Customs 10km back !  He saw the place and I didn’t… by the time I returned after getting my bike stamped out of Ecuador, Gus had still not got his Import Permit from Peru Customs, they were just being bastards and stalled us no question, deliberately… so we did not lose any time at all.  Their ‘paperwork’ is third world stuff and I have no idea why they even bother as no one even checks the bike serial numbers, which is what this is all about ?

It was getting late afternoon and we bailed out in the town of Tumbes, which our guide book said to avoid.  Turns out it was one of the nicest and cleanest towns we have found in Peru.  We also found a nice hotel with parking and topped the night off finding a great little restaurant bar, with good pasta, steak and Pisco Sours !  All this while watching a Paul McCartney concert on a big screen, a rather fun night for us.

Beer, fish and a gorgeous day on the Peruvian coast.

Beer, fish and a gorgeous day on the Peruvian coast.

Next morning we were back on the road to our seaside destination, but all went bad when it turned out to be an ‘oil town’, which was quite grubby and not a great beach after all.  Plan ‘B’ and we shot off for Paita which started to look like a similar town, but to our surprise a big fishing town with hundreds of trawlers moored in the bay which was a really colourful site.  Not a lot of hotel options, but we tracked down something quite decent and then later a nice beachside retaurant bar with an amazing seafood menu (and more Pisco Sours !!)

Peru has a surprising big desert along it's west coast.

Peru has a surprising big desert along it’s west coast.

Next day was long boring stretch of desert road down the PanAmerican Highway and my bike chain became quite loose needing a short roadside stop under harsh sun with no trees for shade for miles.  We rocked into beachside Huanchaco, quickly realising it was Sunday and the towns traffic was mayhem with weekend and day trippers.  A need for cash at the ATM brought us unstuck as not one machine in town would accept our card ?  Fortunately I had some US dollars left over from Ecuador and the Currency Exchange booth saved the day.  The hotel search was long and tedious and this always flares tempers between Gus and I, a constant issue when ‘crashing’ towns.  Eventually solved with parking and WiFi and I logged into our Bank account to discover an unauthorised $1079 transaction at a cafe in Turkey !  The ‘plot thickens’….. rang the bank and I was put through to the fraud section in Melbourne, they had frozen the card, hence the ATM issue but was unable to contact us.  Good to see their systems work.  I have 4 backup systems for funds, so it was no drama and grateful my experience and planning easily solved this dilemma.


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[Geoff] Going Coastal

It all loks pleseant, but you can't hear the deafening samba MUSIC in this photo !

It all looks pleasent, but you can’t hear the deafening samba MUSIC in this photo !

What was planned as a quiet day by the beach, all turned ‘ferral’ as the four day Carnivale was still in swing wherever we went.  Mompiche Beach was dropped due to crowds so we went further south to Perrinales and it was even more crazier, but somehow we managed a beach front hotel room with parking at the $45 ‘tourista’ price.  The madding crowds, crazy loud samba music had us reeling the next morning further south.  Canoa was supposed to be a nice quiet place, but the crowds had infiltrated there as well, so once again another beachside hotel but at least it was the last day of Carnivale, so by nightfall the place became desserted ?

The guys at the Manta bike shop were VERY obliging !

The guys at the Manta bike shop were VERY obliging !

We still had not found what we were looking for so off we went again next morning via the town of Manta for a desperate oil change which took far longer than expected thanks to lots of bad navigation asking the locals.  We struck pay dirt at the Yamaha bike shop finding the right oil at the right price, then backtracked to a little shop we tried earlier and they helped us do the oil change.  We have a ‘code’ now that the nice guys get our money and despite these guys wanting no money for their service, we insisted and stuffed a $10 note in his pocket for ‘beer money’ – fancy no one wanting to take your money in South America, but it’s happened to us on a few occasions now and we find it refreshing.

Exit Manta and back along the coast and soon we were bitching to each other on navigational issues, bad spelling and lots of finger pointing as to where we were supposed to be going !  Welcome to Puerto Lopez(where we were supposed to go in the first place), mmmm… very quiet here, nice long beach, lots of fishing boats and look, a beachside hotel with welcoming staff plus HOT WATER(Gus is happy) – yeeaahh and $20 a head with breakfast –  COME ON IN !!! We have stayed two days as it is a relaxing chill out place and even the saltwater is warm but still cant get Geoff to come for a swim.But he has just changed his mind and coming swimming now(wait for pic folks!!!)

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[Gus] Holy Water Batman

(I stole this photo off Wikipedia as it gives far better perspective and not so many bloody people in it, like our shots !)

After our ‘earth shattering’ day in Colombia we sought devine intervention near the Ecuadorian border at the ‘Sanctuary of Our Lady of Las Lajas’, an amazing church built across a river which has been fully restored to it’s 1802 heritage.  Our visit was badly timed on a Sunday and the place was hopping with pilgrims and touristas alike, all after some of the ‘holy water’ flowing beneath it’s arches.  Unfortunately there was not enough water in that river to cleanse Geoff of any past tribulations and it ran off him like he was teflon coated… nice try though !

At the border post we stamped out of Colombia very easily, exchanged all our COP currency for US Dollars with the money sharks and their rigged calculators (not taking me for a swan mate).  A short ride across the bridge and the fun part started in Ecuador, again I had some visa issues, probably due to the earlier stuff up when at the our first Ecuadorian crossing when they did not ‘computerise’ me.  The customs paperwork was slow and for once we had to buy Third Party Insurance at $8 for 90 days… what a bargain and surprisingly, underwritten by QBE in Australia (go figure ?).

We had picked up another ‘hitchiker’ at the border and what was beginning to look like a foursome ride, both Clive our Canadian rider and the new Brazilian guy decided to turn south when we mentioned the dirt ride west to the coast we were planning on taking.  A spot of rain and then the scenery changed back to tropical jungle which surprised us this far west, a long way from our earlier eastern escapes.  An Army checkpoint insisted on Passport inspection, but everyone was nice as by now we were accustomed to all the boys with big ‘guns’.

The local Fire Brigade's water canon kept the crowds at bay and nice and chilled !

The local Fire Brigade’s water canon kept the crowds at bay and nice and chilled !

Our coastal destination came up pretty quick, the humidity was killing us and the town of San Lorenzo was pumping as we soon discovered it was the Carnivale four day ‘weekend’.  Eventually we found a hotel with parking and AIR CONDITIONING (which was $5 extra), a couple of cold beers then back into town to check out the party down by the harbour.  Surprisingly as the only two white ‘gringos’ in town who stick out like.. you know what,  no one was really bothered by our presence and we felt right at home amongst the celebrations.  Funnily though while hanging out with all the crowd at the entertainment stage, we were ‘shadowed’ by six guys in riot gear, two with shotguns, two with M16’s and two with sub machine guns ?  Unsure if that was for our safety or for the locals !!!!

That night the ‘hot’ water hosed away the sweat from our now very wet bodies, thanks to the water canons, buckets of water and dreadful humidity and we thanked the ‘AIR CONDITIONING GODS’ for a decent nights sleep !  Next day another weird breakfast, then we lined up for gasoline and headed off south along the coastline in search of some nice quiet beachfront location…. NOT !

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[Geoff] Dancing Queens

Maribel and I don't look very flattering here, can't work out that damn camera flash yet ?

Maribel and I don’t look very flattering here, can’t work out that damn camera flash yet ?

It’s amazing who you bump into on the dance floor of a Colombian night club… well sort of ?  I wanted to visit Cali to catch up with a work collegue from a few years ago when I worked at Hurstville Private.  It took some effort but we finally got together at my friend Maribel’s very swish Favela Club, an amazing discoteque dance club that would put many overseas venues to shame – this is one IMPRESSIVE entertainment venue.  Luckily we went early so we could have a good chat before the music went into overdrive.  My clubbing days are long long over, but I have to say the young folk in Cali have a world class venue thanks to Maribel and her partners who have excelled themselves on this project. (It belongs in London, New York or Sydney !)

I wish Mardi Gras was this colourful !

I wish Mardi Gras was this colourful !

Unfortunately our time in Cali was limited and we had to continue south the next day, picking up a Canadian ‘hitchhiker’ who wanted to join us on our next leg into Ecuador.  Clive is from Toronto and rides a BMW F650, a model not dissimilar to my F800 back home.  We departed Cali on time and wound our way out of the city, a much easier experience than Bogota a few days earlier… however the EARTH started MOVING !  We were stationary at a set of lights and my bike started rolling up and down,  I thought Gus was nudging my bike from behind and then I looked sideways and everyone and everything was floating up and down, the power poles swaying, we had just experienced our first ever EARTHQUAKE !!!

Despite the overcast day, we had little rain along the way, made a few short stops and decided to call it a day at Pasto, around one hour north of the border.  With two bikes in tow this time, it took us a while to find a hotel, but with the help of some very friendly Colombian Transit Police we found a really nice place with parking for $30 a head. [STOP PRESS] We have just discovered this mornings 6.9 earthquake was centred 6 miles from where we are staying tonight… go figure !

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[Geoff] Cherry Ripe

Bogota is one big fat city with around 9 million people, so it was an easy decision to cut and run after 2 days once we had Gus’s brakes sorted.  After spending just one hour in traffic going to and from the Kawasaki dealer, it was enough for me.  It took us around 90 minutes just to ride to the outskirts of the city and hop on the I-25, the nice interstate highway didn’t last long and it turned into a single lane roadway winding back into the mountains.  Once again full of petrol tankers, all appearing to head to Medillan, Colombia’s second biggest city and the usual overtaking suicide drivers.

'Ground Zero where it all begins.  It takes 8 months for a cherry to ripen.

‘Ground Zero where it all begins. It takes 8 months for a cherry to ripen.

We pulled off the westbound highway losing the trucks and headed south to Manizales, a coffee producing region and one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Colombia.  Hacienda Venecia is a coffee plantation where you can stay overnight and get a tour of how the coffee bean process starts.  Our local guide spoke good English and we started in the classroom with some interesting history and facts and figures.  Doning a nice clean pair of gum boots, we set off for the nearby coffee tree plantation for an indepth look and feel for how it’s done.  This particular region is fortunate with it’s rainfall, temperature and altitude where they get two harvests a year and because they pick by hand (16c/kg) they can pick the red beans and leave the remaining green beans to ripen for next time.  A process not available to mechanical picking.A walk thru the middle of the crop saw me standing among thousands of coffee plants (I’m in heaven!!) then on to the processing plant where they peel the first skin off the beans, dry them, then the second skin comes off ready to bag and sell overseas.A great day except the espresso machine was in getting repaired.

Dig the dorky gumboots...

Dig the dorky gumboots…

Sun dried beans.

Sun dried beans.

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