BootsnAll Travel Network

What's It All About??

I guess 2007 is my mid life crisis........making the decision to leave a good job, friends and family to show the world to the kids some might say is a bit mad but it just feels so right. They say you only regret the things you haven't done, not the things you have - I want to have something to talk about when I am old and grey! 9 months, 14 countries and 2 teenagers, how intact will my sanity be on my return??

March 21st – Bangkok – City Of Angels Apparently

April 2nd, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

Bangkok is crazy. How the city is even standing I have no idea. The traffic, pollution and noise are overwhelming and at night time the skyline is like something out of Bladerunner. The city goes on for miles and is concrete above you (with the new Skytrain system), people everywhere, street market stalls selling everything from shower caps to all kinds of weird and wonderful foods. The roads are packed with taxis, Mercedes, mopeds and tuk tuks and I have actually found it a bit harder to breathe with the air. I don’t feel like we need suncream as nothing is going to get through that layer of smog easily.

Our hostel – HI Central is very new and clean. It is right by the intersection of both Metro and Skytrain on Sukhumvit so would recommend it. The staff are really nice and nothing seems to be too much trouble. We spent our first day getting to grips with the very easy Skytrain system and people watching. Clothing is certainly more conservative here and teen’s hair styling seems to be taken seriously. I have seem nearly all teen boys with primped and premed hair, perfectly cut and teased into place with what can only be straighteners and a ton of hair product.

Our first day was an introduction – we went to the famous Chatuchak weekend market. The place is huge and a labyrinth of sweltering stalls packed with all sorts of goods. It really is hot here and is not for the feint hearted but what an array! We saw painted stones, tee shirts of all kinds including some very funky Japanese ones, puppies and kittens galore, flying squirrels complete with reigns and woolly hats (they are only about 6” long), bedspreads, old cowboy boots, second hand jeans, strange voodoo keyrings, bags, Guchi, Prado, Barberry and Tiffanee too. It is mindblowing but completely addictive. Anyone coming here should get the excellent Nancy Chandler’s map as her guide is invaluable.

After such a bizarre shopping experience we went for the more westernised mall – MBK. 7 storeys of goods and this is where the young Thais hang out at weekends. Again huge does really describe what is on offer here. The top floor is dedicated to entertainment with internet, gaming and electronic shops. You can also go to one of the glass oval Karaoke booths and sing a long to a few tunes if the mood takes you! Exhausted we fell to sleep without much effort.

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March 20th – The Longest Journey

April 2nd, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

What should have been quite an easy journey turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. On the way to Bali airport I realised I still had the safety deposit box key in my purse and all our documents were still stored in the safe at the hotel. This is the second time I have done this so shows that dementia is setting in. The cheap flight we got to Singapore was fine. We would stay there all night and half the following day before our flight on to Bangkok. I had read on-line about how fabulous the transit facilities are at Singapore, free internet, PS2, movies and city trip. It all sounded great. Slight problem – we had to come out of the transit area to get our bags from the flight and once these were collected were not allowed back in to the transit centre until we had our boarding passes for the next flight. The check in did not open until 6am and we arrived at 1am. We spent the night in a nest of seats at a pub – along with lots of others who were having the same issue. The kids slept fine – I could not.

5.30 came and the nice lady at check in for Cathay Pacific said we could go ahead and check in – great at last through to the comfy chairs! Got to the check in desk to find we had been bumped off the flight onto a waiting list – what! Our flights had been confirmed back in Australia and to cut a long story short Qantas had no idea what had gone on but endorsed our tickets over to another airline. We got through to the transit area finally at 10. We missed the city tour by 10 minutes, the free cinema was being renovated and all the internet desks were free but you had to stand up and log on every 15 mins. The kids loved it and had fun with the PS2 and MTV chairs that had speakers in them so we managed to waste the time until our flight at 3 quite well.

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What did we do in Ubud?

April 2nd, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

Saw the monkeys at the Monkey Forest. It is not so much a forest as a large area of trees. The highlight is that it is inhabited by a large troop of monkeys. It was great to see them with their young and playing, grooming each other. O was not too impressed when 2 jumped on her and started to bite her. They soon got off and luckily her skin was not broken, she was a bit shaken up. She was soon back to her oldself when she saw the tiny babies clinging to their Mum’s – they looked so cute. Josh reckoned they jumped on her as O had used Herbal Essences shampoo that morning and the monkeys could not resist the tropical smell.

Attended a silver jewellery class. You got to design and make your own ring, pendant or whatever you fancied. You were given a certain amount of silver in the price and if you wanted to add stones or extra silver you just paid at the end. I had not designed anything before which was probably a mistake as you have a blank at the beginning. You soon get into the hang of it with the brilliant instructor and we were banging, stamping, bending and watching the soldering. I really recommend it – we went with Studio Perak who also do fabulous jewellery too. Even Josh had a whale of a time and his ring was very creative and quite retro. I am pleased to say that the designer liked mine and said it was different, I think in a way he liked!

Saw a fire and Kecak dance. There were over 100 men singing in front of the fire – well more like chanting and also a man dressed as a horse walked over the fire. It was quite a sight and it lasted for over an hour – it was a shame as we were hoping to catch the puppet show at the Monkey Forest but it was not to be. Ubud is certainly the place to watch dancing as there are loads of performances. From about 5pm everyone is out in the streets selling tickets – from the very young to the very old. It takes a bit of patience to keep saying no politely.

Paid a visit to an old Balinese medicine man and palm reader. For those of you who have read Eat, Pray, Love – it was the same man. He’s 87 and totally respected by the locals – the guy who drove us there from our hotel was intrigued to find out how I knew about him. Ketut does readings from his house – the house in typical Balinese style is part of a few houses of the family in a small complex. You sit outside and then he starts. Ketut looks and talks like Yoda – he is a slight man with less wrinkles than you would imagine but very long haired eyebrows which work hard to distract you. He checks your ears to see if you are good and bad and also your pulse (presumably to see if you are a payment risk), back, knees, collar bone, nose and forehead. Apparently I have good ears, I asked what bad ears looked like but he just laughed. O came with me and found the whole thing very bizarre – she would not be persuaded to have a go though!

Bartered at the market. The stalls at Ubud market are really on top of each other and squashed into a small building. Each stall holder tries to drag you in “just looking” with the promise of “I give you good price”. Every tactic is used to try and get you to buy something and although it’s great to see the variety of things that are for sale, it’s very tiring.

Explored the rural areas of Bali. We had to hire a driver again to get out this far and seeing green again. We always took the back roads – lots of interesting potholes to navigate – then suddenly we were in amongst the fields. There were rice fields as far as the eye could see being farmed by local women in much the same way as they were 100 years ago. The rice is cut by hand and chafing with the old sieves. The driver told us that farming is now a real issue, the work is long and arduous and the younger generation have absolutely no interest in doing it. Many of the female workers we saw were very old.

I loved exploring Bali and seeing village life as you pass by. Women are usually gathered on the corner (if they are not working) gossiping with babies clinging to hips. I was also surprised by the work ethic here. When you come across piles of dirt/cement for building and bricks it’s not the men who shift it – it’s the women who do it on their heads or carting the heavy wheelbarrows around. I have seen men lay down tiles but it’s the women who prepare the grout, carry the materials and then watch as men do what I suppose they think is the masterful bit. When you think that it is the women who also look after the children do the cooking and cleaning it certainly is tough for women in Bali.

We spent the last 4 days back in the same hotel in Kuta. The staff were really pleased to see us and make you feel so special. We chilled out by the pool, caught up on a bit of shopping (Geneva shop on J. Legian was very god and very cheap) and tried to navigate the streets without being hassled. I want to get a tees shirt made up that says,
“No I don’t want latest Hollywood movies, I am not yet stressed enough to want a massage, I already have sunglasses and Roxy/Billabong teeshirts are not my thing, thank you but “very good price” will not make me come into your shop so please LEAVE ME ALONE!”

We had one day out at the water park – it was great fun with lots of slides, rubber tube rides and gentle water trails but God I was so tired when we had finished. The best bit……..going backwards down the covered windy slide in a double rubber ring with O. She said I kept laughing funny, apparently it was embarrassing!

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March 12th – 16th Ubud

April 2nd, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

We hired a driver for the day to see a bit more of the countryside. In the morning we were treated to a Barong (Balinese story dance) featuring costumes galore and Balinese dancing accompanied by music. The dancers are tiny and the movement is in the hands and with small movements. It was quite a sight. If it weren’t for the leaflet given to you at the entrance I would not have had the slightest idea what was going on. Our photo was taken at the entrance and by the time we left our image had been superimposed on a lovely souvenir plate. Needless to say we politely declined.
The driver does the route most days so it was nice to talk to him about his experiences of living in Bali and we threw him loads of questions during the day. Our trip took us to a Batik shop where tourists could take pictures of the girls drawing pictures with wax and feel guilty enough to buy something. Towns have been designated as a specialist in a certain area so for eg Celuk is where you go to see silver and gold and there are other towns for carvings in wood and stone. When you say village you expect a quaint little town with lots of space and green before the next one. The reality is a bit starker. Shops and stalls line all the roads and the boundary lines between one town and another merge and are lost in these endless rows of shops and open stalls. There is so much competition it is frightening.

The volcano near Kitimani was a beautiful spot to rest for lunch. We were exhausted from stopping off at pre-arranged shops that the driver knew. Each time you stop you get met by the staff and given a tour of the respective workplace and followed closely around the shop. This is only to see if you require any help but of you are not used to it it does feel a bit intrusive. I didn’t really mind but the kids found it really offputting.

The green of the volcano was a nice reminder that there are still some rural areas left. A perfect conical shape you could also see the black of the lava which was a souvenir from the last major eruption.

The afternoon saw a visit to a temple. We donned the orange sarongs (including Josh – a La Beckham) and were stunned by the beauty. The temple is a series of buildings, fountains and animals set in a very tranquil place. There was even a volleyball net! We snoozed on the way back to Ubud and arrived late afternoon. We had to look for somewhere to stay in Ubud as we hadn’t booked. The second place – The Ubud Inn gave us a good discount and was set in beautiful grounds. A quick unpack and off up the road to the market.

Ubud is famous as the craft capital of Bali. I came here to do some classes and see the monkeys. There are again lots of shops and the centre is full of hotels and restaurants. It is a lot busier than I thought it would be. We walked past the football field and watched the locals kick a ball around. I tried to think in which country we have not seen football played and I can’t think of one!

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March 8th – 10th Bali

April 2nd, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

It is nice to change scenery and it feels like a bit of an adventure again. Bali is beautiful – lush green scenery and small temples everywhere with the detailing you would expect. We are staying in Legian near Kuta for a few days and it is completely chaotic. The roads are packed with mopeds and cars and the shops and hotels are in a maze of streets with buildings that are not tall but just feel on top of one another. There are also tourists galore. We are staying in Adi Dharma cottages – a tranquil setting as soon as you enter the grounds there is a pool with waterfalls and beautifully landscaped grounds. The staff are so friendly and smiley and want to know all about you – it’s lovely.

Kuta is a short free shuttle ride away. There are all the main shops here – including M&S and Boots! We ate at The Hard Rock Café and noticed they had a hotel. You can use the pool during the day for a small fee so we decided to be a bit rock n roll (in small letters) the next day and use it. It was an amazing complex – the pool is a huge circular mass with different areas including a sandy bit with volleyball net, water fountains and Jacuzzi areas and slides. The kids had a great time. We also hired a cabana on the side, complete with beds and chairs and a ladder on the front that went straight into the pool. It wasn’t at all busy and the kids were so impressed that the speakers played music underwater. We finished the day watching the sunset across the road on the beach – an amazing array of golds, pinks and reds.

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Mar 2nd – Mar 5th The Outback – The Final Frontier

March 6th, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

It was with some excitement that we landed al the way out in the middle of nowhere. You don’t really know what to expect, except heat and desert of course. The reality is a little bit different. Luckily we had been booked to fly into Ayers Rock Airport – short note for anyone travelling here – Alice Springs is over 400km away. There are free buses that pick you up and take you into the small Ayers Rock Resort. The “resort” consists of a small set of shops, about 4 hotels and a campground. The YHA (which we had booked) is called The Outback Pioneer Hotel & Lodge and is also a hotel, there are no YHA signs anywhere. We were all pleasantly surprised to find our room had a mini bar, tv and bathroom – certainly the poshest YHA I had ever seen. We got a phone call a couple of hours after arriving to say that they had put us in the wrong room and for the small fee of $130 per night we could stay there or move. The 4 bed dorm room we were moved to was much more of what we had been expecting. It had air conditioning though so can’t really complain. Josh also swiped most of the freebies from the room so we have lots of new body products to smell.

There is a free shuttle that runs every 20 mins to take you into the small town and supermarket. The food is of course more expensive but compared to the $46 pp for a meal at the restaurant it is still cheaper. We stocked up on provisions and spent the rest of the day looking into trips. Again – extortionate for the 3 of us so it looks like I will be hiring a car as the most economical way to get around.

Day 2 – it feels hotter today – apparently it’s 36 degrees. Only 1 car firm has any cars left and we have to get it from the airport – at least the bus there is free. We have it for 24 hours so it’s straight in and off we go to Uluru to see it up close. All adults have to pay a $25 fee to enter the park but this lasts 3 days and under 26’s are free. It’s only after we pay that we find 2 old passes in the passenger door with 2 days still on them!

How can you describe the national park? The earth is red and everything gets covered in red dust which is kind if cool. There are flies everywhere and fashion has taken a back step as even O is wearing her hat and netting over her face. The scenery is surprising – I was expecting arid desert but the earth is covered in trees, not very tall about 5 or 6 meters high and interspersed quite widely. There are lots of bush shrubs and camel coloured swishy swashy grass makes the sound of the wind more rhythmical. The heat radiates off the ground and you long for the shade as soon as you step out of it.

Uluru up close is majestic. No picture can do justice to the sheer size of it – 9.4km round and over 380 meters high – The Eiffel Tower is 300m. The nooks and crannies of the rock look so different up close and some of the rock even looked like tree bark. We set off to walk round it (I gave the kids the option of staying at the resort but they both wanted to come). Needless to say with 2 teenagers and the heat of late afternoon one of them was soon complaining, stomping and doing the Aussie salute in a very bad mood so we gave up about a third of the way round and after finally reaching the car did the rest in the comfort of an air-conditioned cab.

We parked at the sunset viewing area to watch the sun slowly set and the rock change colour from red to brown as the night descended. The silence of this place is beautiful and apart from some German tourists who kept taking pictures and texting (with silly mooing noises) it was amazing to just listen to the breezes and take it all in.

Day 3 – I was supposed to get up this morning and drive out to the sunrise viewing area but sleep called trumps and we had a lay in instead. After a late start we set off for the Olgas or Kata Tjuta as they are now called. No walking around these massive stones, you can walk through 2 of them, Walpa Gorge. It makes you feel incredibly small looking up at the huge rocks on either side of you. The path is also rocky and you feel a bit like walking on the moon, how does the song go “I hope my legs don’t break – walking on the moon”, a few slips and it was back in one piece.

Time to get the car back and try to re-pack once again. We seem to have got a lot of extra weight although I don’t know where from – it’s a mystery. After having dined on unexciting food for the past couple of days we treat ourselves to the outdoor BBQ. You choose your meat and cook it yourself. The choices were v Aussie, Crocodile, Emu, Kangaroo, Barramundi or the usual sausages and chicken. I couldn’t face Kangaroo so was boring and went for chicken. It was so hot cooking but made you feel like you had earned your dinner. A live act played guitar and didgeridoo to songs like Imagine and Sail Away – a bit depressing but you get talking to everyone. There are so many people staying here, I don’t know where they all fit. You get the Japanese, complete with gloves, long sleeves and white dust masks, Germans with Crocodile Dundee hats and the Brits with luminescent skin and beer in hand. It’s quite a slice of life.

And I went up to the lookout to see if we could see Uluru in the dark – no is the answer! The stars were out so we used our glow in the dark star chart (fantastic) to see if we could work out some constellations. We saw Orion, the rest we could not make head or tail of. O went back to the room as she was tired so I grabbed a cushion and went back up – there was no-one there this time so had a wonderful half hour just lying down and looking up in complete peace. Quite randomly on the i-pod came the “The Sounds Of Silence” and “The Tourist” by Radiohead – very fitting. The world looks such a huge place under such a sky and to make it complete I actually saw a shooting star, it was very quick but I made a wish.

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Feb 29th – Finding Nemo

March 1st, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

Why do most people come to Cairns? It’s not because of the beaches – there are only mud flats – it’s for the accessibility to the Great Barrier Reef. The trips range in value from $200 for a day trip to the one we found for $60 an adult. Compass has a reputation for being on the oldest boat but the crew we had all day made sure we had such a laugh you didn’t miss air conditioning (who needs it on a boat when you are moving) and hot water showers.

It takes a couple of hours to reach the outer reef, through surprisingly murky waters and lots of islands. We had 2 different site visits and from the moment that you enter the water, which had thankfully changed colour to a clear turquoise, it’s like a different world. The coral is technicolour and the reef is very shallow so you see so much. There are over 600 varieties of fish and we saw so many – angel fish, Nemo, big ones, green and turquoise ones just sooo many. To actually watch the coral moving and the fish dart in and out was amazing. You don’t really need to swim far you just glide and watch as the world beneath you unfolds.

O and I also ticked another on the Top 10 things to do list – we had an introductory scuba dive. We could not persuade Josh who was more than happy to keep on snorkelling. I was really nervous but there were only 4 in our group and the instructor was very patient. Breathing was the first issue – your brain takes a minute to adjust to it but then it was OK. The ears were something else – each time you go down you have to equalise the pressure by blowing them out – mine would not go and it took about 10 minutes to get used to it and make my ears work properly but by then we were swimming by ourselves. You really get a different perspective and we touched the giant clams so they shut and finally found Nemo! If I ever get the money I would love to learn properly as there is so much more freedom with it, but alas it was over before we knew it and off to the other reef site.

The other site was near to a nesting turtles site but still for poor O there were no turtles to be seen. We did see a couple of reef sharks which was quite exciting. It did not help that some bloke behind me thought it would be funny to grab my foot – I nearly jumped a mile out of the water. It was a shame when we got called back into the boat but a glass of wine helped!

All in all it was a great day and it has to be the best snorkelling to date – we saw so much and the colours were fabulous.

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Feb 28th – Kurunda

February 28th, 2008

Cairns 256

Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

The rain has nearly washed the van away. The rain meant we could not have the windows open last night and the humidity meant a hard going night. The free pancake breakfast here made up for it though. They were really nice and it feels like so long ago we had a hot breakfast. There were companies there plugging cruises (of course nothing is for free) and managed to find a cheap one that visits more than one site on the outer reef. The only downside is we have to be ready at 6.30 tomorrow……………..

Before the rain started again today we quickly made our way up to Kuranda and the Barron Falls. The water rushing through there was amazing and had a real power to it. As we were quite early no tourists either! There is a lookout on the hilly way up to Kurunda and the view was breathtaking. You could see the green of Cairns (as there really are no beaches here to speak of – just mud flats) and the calmest bluest ocean stretching out into the distance beyond – incredibly peaceful. Well it was until the kids started arguing about the radio and who was singing the song, I could hear them from where I was standing and it was the Rolling Stones for those who might have been wondering – quite prophetically “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, silence is golden and all that.

The drive to Kurunda was more fun than the town itself. It is really a tourist trap with markets and stalls selling opals and didgeridoos galore. You can spend a small fortune catching the train up or riding on the gondola if you needed a way to bust your budget – the drive is just as much fun on the very windy roads. We were overtaken by a carload of Aborigine workers who all cheered and waved as they passed – I wondered if they were congratulating my driving or just cheering that they could actually pass me – at least they were smiling!

2 nights left in the van and then………………..air conditioning!

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Feb 27th – Cairns At Last

February 28th, 2008

Cairns 253

Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

What a relief to have reached out furthest North destination. It sounds strange but it has been harder driving North. Someone said it was because every mile gets you closer to going home so you will find it harder but I am sure it is the direction.

On the way we travelled through the Cane Cutter’s Way – named due to the vast swathes of sugar cane fields. You also cross over tiny train tracks which are used during the season to transport the cane to the refineries. Paronella Park was on the way and so worth a visit. A mad Spanish man had a vision and basically built a concrete castle here in Meena Creek – the middle of nowhere. It is now in ruins due to neglect and a few cyclones but the story is amazing. In the 1930’s he bought the land with a waterfall and built a small power station to light the ballroom that he had also built. The town did not get power until the 1950’s. The land cost £120, but for £40 he purchased a disco ball and put it up in the ballroom. New York only had 3 or 4 at this time and there was one in Meena Creek Australia! I love these tales of madness. The grounds are incredible and we saw bats, eels, turtles and lots of fish. There are huge Kauri pines and the amazing electric fern which is green but in the sunlight turns blue. If you ever pass stay here – the guide was local and obviously loved the place as his enthusiasm showed. I could have stayed all day (which would have been good as you also get a free night in the caravan park) but the kids were too hot and bothered so we pressed on.

The front of the van is covered in splodges but most I have to admit are not bugs but butterflies. There are so many here that seem drawn to our windscreen and I hate it – yellow, white, black, blue and green ones we have seen them all in the last few seconds of their lives. Bugs I don’t mind squashing but butterflies are so beautiful I feel so guilty. At least we have not had a run in with a kangaroo – there has been a lot of evidence on the roads up here of animals not so lucky. I swear I also saw a crocodile on the road (about 2 feet long) but the kids think it was a lizard.

Cairns is also experiencing some rain – we had a fun moment on the way up here when we passed a road with about 2 feet of water. I was being followed by a huge truck so I thought if worst comes to the worst he can at least bump me out of it so we just kept everything crossed and went through it. Thank God we didn’t stall is all I can say!

Staff at the park are amazingly helpful and although it has 2 pools the kids are not tempted to stray far from the van. We explored the city when we first reached here and before the rain started again, the air conditioned offices of the tourist office a welcome change from the humidity outside. In the evening we spent a few merry hours looking around the night markets and trying to ignore the kangaroo hides that seem to be on sale everywhere.

We actually have 3 days here so we feel a bit spoilt with all the time – what will we do with ourselves?

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Feb 26th – Mission Beach

February 28th, 2008

Cairns 218

Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

A small town with a great beach. It’s so chilled out here I could easily spend some more time just soaking up the vibe. The holiday park is right across from the beach so O and I went for a long walk along the beach and into town before the rain started again. We spotted loads of small sand crabs that dig and make amazing patterns on top of the sand with little balls and a jellyfish. It didn’t look like a stinger but we stopped walking in the water just in case. We walked too far and had to cut through to a closed sales home to get back onto the main road. Walking along through a murky lagoon I could only think snake and crocodile and was so glad to see civilisation again. Every time something rustles you jump!

Mission Beach is also famous for Cassowaries. They are the size of emus with a face like a turkey and a helmet made of horn on top of their heads. We were lucky enough to see one running into the bush on the way down here, I don’t think the lady in the tourist office believed us – she kept trying to describe a bush turkey but I somehow think a turkey of 5 feet was pushing it a bit! I love the wildlife here, there really is no place like it on earth. Go to NZ if you want scenery but if you want wildlife definitely come here to Oz. O came running back from the bathroom as she had seen a green tree frog in the shower. Even in Costa Rica we had not been so lucky.

Another surprise and who should pull up on their posh campervan but the couple we stayed next to in Easter Islands – what a very small world. We spent a while catching up and they were of the same opinion as us – Tahiti was ridiculously expensive and not very nice compared to the islands that surround it.

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