A Travellerspoint blog

Good Morning Mama Tungurahua

Living beside an active volcano

overcast

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tungurahua

As mentioned in the last blog entry January 1st, 2010 would be the day our volcano, Tungurahua,awoke. She is a stratovolcano which means no gentle easy burping and leaking. She is a full on volcano like Mt. St. Helen's and must be monitored carefully for bulges and seismic activity. As the days went on she became more active. Small rumbles only felt near the volcano could be heard and felt on the far side of town as well. The puffs of smoke were becoming darker and bigger. It was a good show and even the kids were being trained in evacuation procedures at their new public schools. We took a drive to the top of the opposing mountain to spend an afternoon watching the explosions. Before the volcano became too active I trekked up its slopes to the last refugio with a local guide, Marticiel. Two weeks later boulders and lava would cover the upper part of this trek. No dangerous eruption would occur during our stay in Banos but it was fun wondering, and watching others freak out and worry.

The kids were enjoying their new schools and I hoped this would really improve their Spanish. During my spare time I, once again, took Spanish lessons and helped at the Biblioteca. They were now winding up for the Great Puppet Show for Ecuador’s biggest party holiday, Carnival. Ariel and Jordan were hard at work after school helping to make puppets and stage their own show.
I finally met a family that I had been sporadically corresponding with on the road. The Sather Vogel family are Mom, Dad and twin ten year old boys and they are incredulously biking from the northern tip of Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina.
They were truly lovely down to earth folks that inspire me and we wish them success in their goal to break a Guiness record being the youngest people to do this dynamite trip. Can't wait to get my lazy butt back on my bike at home!
My Dad arrived and unfortunately it was at the same moment our landlord was giving us grief. It's typical for short term tenants to be driven out right before Carnival as each room rented brings in a at least double of the regular rate. So off we were to move back into hostelland at least we were at the Chimenea. My Spanish teacher Jill offered her beautiful cabin on the beach in coastal Ecuador for a week so we took for a 10 vacation from my vacation and met my stepmother and stepsister in Puerto Lopez on the Manabi Coast, of Ecuador.

We were pleasantly surprised to find her cabin was part of an eco resort, with a pool, restaurant, and lots of games for the kids. The coastline had great waves and few people so we really enjoyed this time and the hammocks. After this wonderful time on the coast we returned to Banos so the kids could participate in the big puppet affair. Tickets sales were excellent and the show was a big success, it was lovely to see so many locals kids and volunteers work together to pull this off. How will Jody top this big show in the future, we shall see what hard working volunteers come up with?

It was sad to say goodbye to Dad, Carol and Yangzi and we would have many more sad goodbyes in the next couple of days. After the weekend puppet extravaganza it was time for us to pack up and head north to Colombia. This was a wonderful group of hard working, dedicated volunteers and I would really miss some of these folks. I did not have the heart to tell the kids at the Bib that we were leaving, I am sure they hear it all the time, get enormous hugs thrown at them, and watch people ride off into the sunset. They are all so warm and affectionate, something our North America society is lacking when it comes to kids and work due to stigma. Ariel had a difficult time saying goodbye to her girlfriends at school. I hope that she stays in touch with them and has an opportunity to see them again one day. Saying goodbye to people you probably won’t see again is really difficult, I only hope that there are a few that we will see again. Our local friends, the Martinez family, had a bag full of gifts for us and a promise to send letters.

We wanted a week to relax, sleep and shop for back to school items for the kids and Medellin is the perfect city for it. Our flight was out of Bogota and we would head there after completing our mission in Medellin. From Ecuador to Medellin would take 3 days of bus travel with delays due to the Ecuador Carnival and a stupid border situation.

If anyone out there reading this is interested in volunteering at a fantastic organization in a gorgeous comfortable town in Ecuador, please write to me or contact Arte del Mundo directly. Jody and Bobby are amazing hosts and you could not pick a lovelier town to settle in and enjoy everyday life. It's so great you might forget about your 3 months a year "only" in Ecuador unless you extend your visa!

big plume

big plume

plume above her (2)

plume above her (2)

plume above her

plume above her

hillsides by volcano

hillsides by volcano

great shot Tungurahua

great shot Tungurahua

Tungarahua

Tungarahua

Marcello

Marcello

Jordan on truck

Jordan on truck

Chimborosa

Chimborosa

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DSC06386

DSC06361

DSC06361

Kaitlin and Peg

Kaitlin and Peg

Karly

Karly

new road

new road

Jody

Jody

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DSC06544

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DSC06403

Carol and Beatriz

Carol and Beatriz

Beatriz and us

Beatriz and us

Beatriz (2)

Beatriz (2)

Ariel riding

Ariel riding

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DSC06532

mulling (3)

mulling (3)

pr (3)

pr (3)

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DSC06524

outside of cabin

outside of cabin

ocean

ocean

mud pool

mud pool

look at those feet

look at those feet

injured boobie

injured boobie

humback whale bones

humback whale bones

cabin (2)

cabin (2)

Yangzi in Lopez

Yangzi in Lopez

Manabi coast

Manabi coast

Jill's cabin

Jill's cabin

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DSC06476

Posted by sostrander 05:11 Archived in Ecuador Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Back to Banos

Arte del Mundo, the library, and Christmas in Ecuador

semi-overcast

Arriving back in Banos was a great feeling. We checked into one of our favorite hostels, Chimenea but I was also on the hunt for an apartment as we would stay in this town for a while. We dropped by the Biblioteca or Arte del Mundo to introduce ourselves in person and we were welcomed as lovingly as reflected in Jody's email. What a great feeling to stop in a perfect little town and volunteer with cheerful and great organization doing to kind of work I believed in.
I would be the library person reading and helping the kids with their reading as well as cataloguing in the simplest style. Jordan and Ariel immediately loved Arte as they had a cute dog named Bibi and lots of arts and crafts to help with.
The existing group of volunteers were really friendly so again we were welcomed. On our second day in Banos we scored an apartment near Arte and town center, the landlord and wife seemed very kind although rather nosy.
The local kids were full of smiles and hugs for us and reading Spanish childrens books would surely help my ongoing learning. While in Bolivia I worried where we would spend Christmas and I didn't want it to be in a hostel amongst strangers. In Banos we had new friends from North America who understand our desire for a real turkey and jiggles Christmas. So our apartment hosted Christmas dinner for 13 people and it was wonderful. In Ecuador Christmas is not a big deal at all, the children receive a few gifts but that's it. No commercialism other than storefront decorations, I think these folks have the right idea as us North Americanos really need to calm down on the materialism of it all, and what's up with our stressed out running around like idiots for a month THING?

For Christmas Eve we had dinner with a local family, in fact, it was the family of our favorite juice lady, Marguerita, whom we met our first time in Banos. When we dropped our gear we were in need of some fruit and energy and we sought her out right away. Her family happened to visit her stand and we instantly had a wonderful Ecuadorian family to called friends. We took turns taking the kids out on weekends, as Marguerita had a eleven year old granddaughter whom Ariel befriended.

New Years was a completely different experience here. More celebrated than Christmas a very wild as they not only set off firecrackers throughout the day but also burn massive effigies in the form of favorite characters at midnight, then they dance until dawn in the streets. The fireworks display at midnight most be a healthy budget because it was outstanding. There are no rules, cars, drunk adults, children, crazy teenagers, firecrackers, 10 foot burning effigies and no one get hurt, no ones out-of-control, no burning buildings. How do they do it? In North America their would be a riot within a few hours, a burning building or two, and a knifing.

We had a terrific Christmas season and Jordan & Ariel were ecstatic to have hosted and helped organize the big dinner and other celebrations. Soon volunteers would leave and other would replace. Jordan enjoyed delving into his fascination with the Hindu religion with Kirti and I enjoyed questioning Craig on Ecuadorian politics as he was doing his PHD here. Jill Sare, another remarkable friend, agreed to teach me Spanish for a short time. She speaks, reads, and writes about 8 languages with a master in international education. Can you imagine?
Although our time was short, she was my best teacher throughout the trip.

On New Year day puffs of smoke began to appear from Mama Tungurahua, our resident volcano. She had been completely silent for several months. Would this activity be a little smoke or something more serious like in 1999 with full evacuations or semi evacuation and washed out bridges like in 2006?

As the old year wound down a special project at the Biblioteca was winding up. The Great Puppet Circus would be our big event in February during the grandest celebration in Ecuador of the year - Carnival.

the party (4)

the party (4)

our place at Christmas

our place at Christmas

our kids

our kids

my town

my town

old lady and the puppet show

old lady and the puppet show

kids at Bib

kids at Bib

library at Arte

library at Arte

effagy (2)

effagy (2)

effagies for burning

effagies for burning

costumes in parade

costumes in parade

climbing

climbing

bibpictures

bibpictures

Yessi

Yessi

Robinson and Bryant

Robinson and Bryant

Quilatoa countryside

Quilatoa countryside

Olivia and kids

Olivia and kids

Moricio

Moricio

Mikala and Olivia

Mikala and Olivia

Kirty and Craig

Kirty and Craig

Karly Ariel and Jordan Ambato

Karly Ariel and Jordan Ambato

Jordan on slide

Jordan on slide

Ecuator

Ecuator

Craig and Jordan

Craig and Jordan

Christmas day

Christmas day

Christmas

Christmas

Bryant and Robinson

Bryant and Robinson

Bibi

Bibi

Banos derby (2)

Banos derby (2)

Banos

Banos

Angie (3)

Angie (3)

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DSC06346

Posted by sostrander 04:50 Archived in Ecuador Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

The last stops in Bolivia

Love those eco hostels

semi-overcast 14 °C

From Tupiza we looked forward to another 12 hour bus ride to Tarija, Bolivia. NOT! The buses here really tested my endurance and tolerance for conditions and this would be our last long haul ride in Bolivia. I decided after the next stop to fly or it would have been a 20 hour ride to Santa Cruz in the east.
Tarija is a beautiful small city with many parks and great restaurants. It was not touristy at all and we were able to to find a nice hostel with a cool cozy feel and friendly staff. I gave up on wifi and internet during this stretch.
From Tarija we flew to the big city of Santa Cruz where life apparently is wealthier due to the oil industry here. Although we saw less indigenous people I did not see a city as character filled as LaPaz and Sucre. These are the humid lowlands and when its wet its muddy everywhere. Our hostel was very nice but expensive so we only stayed for a day then hightailed it to the countryside in search of a beautiful cheap eco hostel.
And we found this in picturesque Samaipata, Bolivia and a charming hostel called Andena. As usual in eco hostel we stayed in a lovely spacious earthy room with big beds, balcony, clean bathroom and natural touches everywhere. We spent five days here and worked on homeschool and small hikes. We had to leave a day early and spend an entire grueling 24 in Santa Cruz due to the Sunday Presidential election. The potential for mass protests on the road from Samaipata was great and we choose to play things safely before our flight out of Bolivia. During this trip we had never been inconvenienced or delayed by large protests but others we met reminded us of well known experiences and some their own such as rerouting and delaying a bus ride by 17 hours or blocked out of a town completely for a day or until police arrived. So this was not a flight I was willing to mess with, it would take us back to Quito and then comforts of dear Banos and our new volunteering gig and Arte del Mundo.

the walk

the walk

the hostel

the hostel

the falls

the falls

scenery (3)

scenery (3)

sandcastles

sandcastles

red rocks (5)

red rocks (5)

hostel (2)

hostel (2)

dog on motorcycle

dog on motorcycle

architecture in blue

architecture in blue

Tarea park (2)

Tarea park (2)

Samaipata scenery

Samaipata scenery

Samaipata park (2)

Samaipata park (2)

Samaipata hostel

Samaipata hostel

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DSC05855

Ariel

Ariel

Andeno hostel

Andeno hostel

Posted by sostrander 05:28 Archived in Bolivia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

From Sucre to Salars

Sucre, Potosi Mines, and fascinating Salt Flats

sunny 15 °C

Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia and we were drawn here by many great reports from other backpackers. And rightly so, Sucre is a small stunning white washed colonial city with beautiful parks and structures. The residents are happy and friendly, the city is small and walkable, the food cheap and good. We were lucky to find a wonderful small hostel with a warm sociable hostess/manager. Roxanna would organize communal diners, pick nicks in the countryside, and even outings for the kids. Wasi Masi hostel was one of our favourite places to stay on our trip and because of her social organization we met lots of wonderful travelers such as Robin and Jake from Seattle, Washington.
As recommended by a fellow backpacker and friend we visited the Nanta organization for children in Sucre, in hopes of volunteering for the foreseeable future. Everyday we played with the kids and waited for the coordinator of volunteers but we did not cross her path at the correct time. Those kids were truly precious and deserving of so much more than their circumstances. During our stay in Sucre I received an email from a lady named Jody who was running a library/kids program in Banos, Ecuador. She had stumbled across my blog and invited us to come volunteer as a family at their organization called Arte Del Mundo.
As things weren’t working out at Nanta for a volunteer position with the kids I made the decision to fly back to Ecuador from Bolivia but only after spending another few weeks in this exciting and interesting country. Although we really wanted to keep moving south into Argentina I knew that it would break our budget and the flights out of there would be quite expensive. Arg., Chile, Uruguay and Brazil would have to wait for another trip and a bigger budget. The kids and I were excited to revisit Ecuador and especially the fun mountain town of Banos.
From Sucre we taxied with our new Seattle friends to Potosi, a town famous for wretched mines with cruel human conditions. Potosi is also the highest city in the world and a UNESCO site but had a rather sad vibe, maybe it was the rain but I think it was the coca addicted residents who lives were always dependent on the mines that surround the city. We all took the eye opening claustrophobic mine tour and when it was over breathed a sigh of relief. There is a famous documentary on these mines called “the Devil’s Miner” and I have always meant to borrow it from the library, I am looking forward to watching it after this experience.
The following day we missed the day long bus ride to Tupiza by minutes. So unexpectedly we had a day to wonder around Potosi and change our minds about this town. We ate in friendly restaurants and had coffee at the only art studio in Potosi. Art and colour is what this city could use alot of. Although Jake, Robin and ourselves specifically bought tickets for the first class bus line choosing the best seats, we end up being reshuffled to a dingy bus with the worst seats. Our friends were both over 6 feet tall and yet they ended up with no leg room at all, I felt bad for them and no negotiating seemed to change our circumstances.
It was a rough ride and we were happy to reach Tupiza although our bus arrived at 5:30am. The surrounding countryside here was startling with red jagged sandy hoodoo structures, peaks and ridges. Bone dry but stunning formations everywhere.
I found a good tour company for the 5 of us to explore the Salar de Ayuni otherwise known as Salt Flats.
What are the Salt Flats? Salar de Uyuni (or Salar de Tunupa) is the world's largest salt flat at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi). It is located in the Potosí and Oruro departments in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes, and is elevated 3,656 meters (11,990 ft) above the mean sea level.[1] The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with the average altitude variations within one meter over the entire area of the Salar. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium. It contains 50 to 70% of the world's lithium reserves,[2] but that lithium is not being extracted yet. The large area, clear skies and exceptional surface flatness make the Salar an ideal object for calibrating the altimeters of the Earth observation satellites.[3][4][5][6][7] The Salar serves as the major transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano and is a major breeding ground for several species of pink flamingos.
We took a 4 day jeep tour with a wonderful guide and his sister Alicia as our cook. After this tour it was sadly time to say goodbye to Jake and Robin as they headed to Argentina and we to other parts of Bolivia.

Origenes (3)

Origenes (3)

Mirador

Mirador

Jordan hanging from truck

Jordan hanging from truck

Jake in truck

Jake in truck

Dinosaur footprints

Dinosaur footprints

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DSC05332

Bolivia Venezuela

Bolivia Venezuela

Roxanna

Roxanna

Sanjay and kids

Sanjay and kids

Sucre (3)

Sucre (3)

aquaduct (2)

aquaduct (2)

bouldering

bouldering

loading up

loading up

me

me

night out

night out

the truck (2)

the truck (2)

Posted by sostrander 04:47 Archived in Bolivia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Beautiful Bolivia

Culture, cities, mountains and way up there!

sunny 12 °C

The Bolivian border was one of the easiest, yahoo. And we headed to the small
town of Copacabana not to be mistaken for Barry Manilow's mythical party palace.
Copa is a small town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.

We noticed the women of this region wear their traditional ropas (clothes) and unique little boller
hats tilted at an angle. (How do they keep them from falling off?).
These folks are weather worn and the older people look really aged from back breaking farm work,
literally, as they are often quite stooped. The young ones look much older than their years I
suspect. They are short and round at an early age. Their skin is much darker than natural due to
constant sun exposure.

Copa was touristy but cute and splurge on a hotel room for $14 with 3 comfortable clean beds .
We booked passage on a boat to the Island of the Sun where the Inca believe the sun was born from the rocks. As well, they believe the two first Inca rose from Lake Titicaca. The kids and I hike the entire island stopping for Inca ruins and to gaze at the stillness of the lake. The few tourist boats are slow and quiet, this lake is not covered with power boats. We spend the night at a hostel and a 3 bed clean room costs $10. This island is probably much the same as it was a century ago. The work is manual and the heavy hauling is done by humans and donkeys. There are no motorized vehicles here at all. Everything is made of stones, the trails, fences, and houses. The small towns are stunning and the people are very traditional. I wake early the next day to walk to the very top of the island to view the stillness of the morning around Lake Titicaca. How beautiful! I hope the pictures do it justice. South across the lake are the massive Cordillera Real and Yunga mountains covered with glaciers. We may think about doing a trek in these parts as it is inexpensive to hire a guide, all the equipment, mules, and food. The only thing you have to do is carry a knapsack with water and extra clothes, they do the rest.
We return to Copacabana to catch a bus to La Paz a city which instills fear due its reputation for
high crime and poverty. Everyone has a story about La Paz and the lesson is to be extra diligent. Never leave your hotel with more than what you need and don’t bring passports or credit cards. Carry your knapsack in front and only use certain cab companies. Lock the doors of the cabs and write down the drivers number. Yikes, I can’t let fear consume me or we won’t enjoy it there.

The weather has been sunny in Bolivia and we are treated to blue skies as we travel near these gorgeous mountains and beside human labored farms. Watching the Bolivians is so interesting again with their traditional clothes and quiet mannerisms. As we drive into La Paz we are treated to an awe inspiring site when the bus starts heading downhill into the valley and center of the city. High mountains loom overhead yet still quite far away, jagged small peaks line the area of one side and mud brick buildings and homes line the steep walls of the city. At 5pm, the sunlight hits these elements perfectly and everyone on the bus is snapping pictures and leaning to the left, good thing we aren’t in a boat. The streets are crowded with traditional Bolivian woman selling their crops and wears. Our bus stops in Witches Market, the hostel infested area and luckily steps away from where we need to be. This is an appropriate named place as Halloween is two days away and there are many stalls of costumes and decorations. The hostel we have chosen is very clean, colorful and comfortable and more expensive for Bolivia at $30 but includes a nice breakfast. We find a nice place to eat and after today we should switch back to big cheap lunches and small dinners. We are going to spend several days here getting caught up on school, resting and recovering from whirlwind Peru, and planning our trajectory through Bolivia. Naturally the kids want costumes and trick or treating info right away so we head to stalls and choose some great costumes and locals inform us on where and what to do for Halloween night.

We visited the museum of contemporary art and saw incredible pieces by Bolivian artists. I hope I get a chance to buy a piece as they were not expensive and yet very dynamic and colorful. Among the artists
were Gustavo Ayala, Mamani, Erick Tito, Freddy Escobar. We will continue to search galleries while in Bolivia in hopes of finding more treasure. The following website features some of the artists but unfortunately not my favourite Gustavo and Luis Hinojosa. http://www.3sarte.com/otros.htm.
On Halloween we are invited by the hostel owner to a birthday party before we hit the streets of South La Paz where revelers are dressed up and trick or treating or as they say here “trabasura o trouka. The party was incredibly elaborate with a cast of entertainers, a waiter in tux serving snacks and treats to kids and parents, party favors like I have never seen at a kids birthday. And the kid was only a year old!
With arms half loaded with candy and lout items we head to the south side to experience the crowded streets of a very wealthy Bolivian neighborhood. The kids and I had a fun time going from store to store collecting treats and watching the huge crowd of merry makers for Halloween.

The days following are spent on a trek from Condolaria to Huyana Potosi Mountain. This gruelling trek includes many passes all of which are between 4400-5000 meters. Good thing we are acclimatized for it.
Our guide and cook are very kind and take care of everything. This is a harder trek then Salkantay and colder as well. I am glad we stocked up on winter clothing. Once again the kids are tough as nails and no whining at all even though our ground mats are useless, it’s cold, high and the days are long. Everywhere we hike there are llamas and el paca grazing and gazing at us. They are so cute and interesting to watch. I am glad we struggled through the last few days, it was rewarding and unforgettable. I highly recommend trekking in Bolivia somewhat non-touristy, very beautiful, inexpensive and the Bolivians mountaineers are kind and interesting.
We return to La Paz and are treated to the amazing downhill ride into town. From La Paz we take an overnight bus to Sucre which is the official capital of Bolivian as opposed to the governmental capital of La Paz.

Sucre has been recommended to us by everyone who has traveled through. Facebook is a useful tool for travelers as road friends ahead of you will tell you to steer clear or stay awhile in certain spots. We are also hoping to volunteer with an organization called Nanta for orphaned and street kids. In Bolivia the travel distances are enormous and the buses are not as comfortable as other countries. This makes a 12 hour overnight bus ride gruelling and sleep is scarce.
trek

trek

trekking on isla

trekking on isla

Bolivian border

Bolivian border

Bolivian shoreline

Bolivian shoreline

Copacabana

Copacabana

Copacabana (4)

Copacabana (4)

Cordillera Real (2)

Cordillera Real (2)

Incan rock

Incan rock

Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol (9)

Isla del Sol (9)

Isla del Sol (11)

Isla del Sol (11)

Moorish church

Moorish church

bus on barge

bus on barge

ferry (2)

ferry (2)

folks of Copacabana

folks of Copacabana

llama hurding

llama hurding

shoreline of Isla

shoreline of Isla

trekking on isla

trekking on isla

Ariel Halloween

Ariel Halloween

Cruz de Los Andes Hostel

Cruz de Los Andes Hostel

Halloween in South LaPaz

Halloween in South LaPaz

Halloween stalls

Halloween stalls

La Paz (3)

La Paz (3)

La Paz (11)

La Paz (11)

La Paz library

La Paz library

Moon

Moon

Valley of the Moon (2)

Valley of the Moon (2)

Witches market (3)

Witches market (3)

costumes

costumes


us_and_Huy..osi__2_.jpgsnow_in_the_morning.jpgsnow_in_the_mornig.jpgpacking up

packing up

mules and helpers (3)

mules and helpers (3)

more glaciers

more glaciers

more glacier

more glacier

me and the cordillera

me and the cordillera

me and Cordillera

me and Cordillera

llamas (2)

llamas (2)

lake and llama

lake and llama

kids

kids

in the clouds

in the clouds

frosty tent

frosty tent

glacier

glacier

glacier of Potosi

glacier of Potosi

breakfast

breakfast

alpacas

alpacas

at our tent

at our tent

Huyana Potosi (6)

Huyana Potosi (6)

signpost

signpost

scenery (7)

scenery (7)

packing up (2)

packing up (2)

Posted by sostrander 09:22 Archived in Bolivia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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