Relaxtion and Mudbrick Restaurant

We went into the small little main town yesterday and met up with Louise’s mom, who had done some washing for us. She lives on Waiheke Island and was more than happy to help. We had been pretty stinky for a couple days, wearing clothes that smelled like sulphur and were just dirty from our road trip. The little town is very cute with home made craft stores and some surf shops here and there. We ate lunch at a cafe there which was very nice. We ate some delicious tuna sandwiches and the boys got shakes while I got an iced coffee with ice cream. Yum!

Afterwards we went back to Delamore and lounged by the pool while the boys recorded some videos. We had wonderful hor dourves and drinks before dinner at Delamore, and then took a taxi to Mudbrick, which is a restaurant and vineyard on the island. We got there right around sunset and you could see all the way to the sky tower in Auckland. It was absolutely breathtaking. I am so lucky to be able to be here with people I love.

Dinner was excellent. We had a couple bottles of wine and some exquisite cheeses. The girls chose to have the fresh fish of the day and the boys had filet mignon, and we had some tasty dessert afterwards as well. Our taxi was late picking us up, and because our reservation was the last slot of the day the restaurant had closed while we were still waiting to get picked up. Needless to say, we waited outside and had a wonderful time looking at the stars, finding a beautiful bright green moth and singing songs, until our taxi finally came and picked us up.

Today, Wednesday the 12th, was spent reading books and lounging by the pool. We started off having a wonderful breakfast of fresh fruit a yogurt, and also pancakes and bacon. Josh and Matt did some more work today and Louise and I just spent the whole say relaxing and enjoying the sun. Tomorrow we’re checking out of this wonderful slice of paradise, and heading over to Auckland to spend a couple hours before our flight leaves in the evening. I honestly don’t think I’ve had this much fun on a vacation ever in my life, and although I can’t wait to get home to visit our doggies and kitties again, part of me wishes I could stay here on the island, in New Zealand forever.

Thanks to Josh and Louise Bartlett for taking the time (almost three weeks!) to show us around New Zealand and spend time with us. We truly enjoyed our New Years vacation in New Zealand with you both, and hope to do it all again soon! Perhaps we’ll be back in November for the Rugby World Cup! Until next time. :)

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Waiheke Island and Delamore Lodge

We woke up kind of early in the morning on Monday, checked out of our B&B in Waipu and drove up to Auckland to catch the ferry to Waiheke Island. We ate a bunch of New Zealand candy for breakfast. MMMmmmmm. We tried to catch the the 12:00pm ferry but missed it by literally 1 minute. The next ferry would be at 2:00pm, so we went and had lunch in Africa. Yes, Africa. Well, the restaurant not the country. Once we finally made it on the ferry it was a short 45 minute ride over to the island.

Once we reached the island we drove up into the hills to the Delamore Lodge. There are only 4 guest rooms here and it is isolated with total privacy and seclusion. It overlooks a small bay and a bunch of islands out into the sea. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! They are treating us like royalty here, and we love it!


I’m pretty sure that by the time we leave New Zealand on Thursday I will know all the different types of bugs in the country. We met some cool new friends here on Waiheke, including Mr. Stickbug.

When we had settled in and taken showers and gotten ready, we were met with before dinner drinks; some special Waiheke Island Brews, of which we liked the wheat beer the best. They also provided us with hor dourves before dinner as well. For or meal we chose to take a taxi down to the village and try the new Thai place, the Red Crab. It was right overlooking another small bay, and during our meal we thought we saw some orcas in the water. We had everyone in the restaurant up and looking out towards the water, but when Josh took a picture of the whale with his telephoto lens, we zoomed in and it was just a guy in a boat. We felt pretty silly after that, but they DO have orca whales here a lot according to Louise.

Coming back after dinner, the boys went in the spa and Louise and I watched a movie in our room. Then we all sat out on Josh and Louise’s porch and looked at the stars and took pictures of the moon.

This morning, Tuesday the 11th, we woke up and were presented with a wonderful platter of fruits and yogurts, tea and coffee for breakfast. We all had been craving fresh fruit for the longest time, so it definitely suited our fancies. This is a picture of yesterday afternoon from our porch.

The main plan for today is RELAX! We’re going to lay by the pool, read books, and maybe head into town for some lunch. Then we’re off to a restaurant called Mud Brick for dinner.  Wish we could stay at this lodge for even longer; it truly is a paradise!

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Hobbit Holes & Our B&B

So Saturday morning the 8th we woke up really early head head from Hamilton to Matamata, where the Shire parts of the Lord of the Rings were filmed. In 1998 Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema ‘discovered’ the Alexander farm during an aerial search for suitable film sites. The fantastic views and rolling countryside of the Alexander farm closely resembled that of The Shire as described by JRR Tolkein. The farm was perfect. The large established pine tree, later to become know as the ‘party tree’ in the movies, was already perfectly placed in front of the lake. The surrounding rolling farmland was untouched by 20th Century clutter such as roads, building and power lines. This place was basically out in the middle of nowhere (a.k.a the “wop wops.”)

When we arrived at the Shire’s Rest Cafe to start the tour, we didn’t really know what to expect. We had arrived really really early, and even the parking lot was still closed. There was actually a little baby lamb that had “escaped” its fencing and was wandering around at the parking lot fence. We went into the gift shop where a girl was working and asked where we should park because the gates were still closed. She told us to go ahead and open the gate and we told her about the lamb. Evidently he is quite the escape artist. :)

We weren’t quite sure what to expect from the tour, we basically thought it would be extremely touristy reconstructions of what had been in the movie. But, we had to sign a confidentiality agreement that we couldn’t post any pictures of what we saw online, or on any social media. We found out that they were prepping the area to start shooting the Hobbit next month and that they had already had some crew there and set designers preparing everything! What a treat! So, that is why unfortunately we can’t post any cool pictures from the Shire at all online, but if you’re lucky enough to come to New Zealand yourself, definitely take a tour there, but it has to be within the next couple of weeks because the tour guide said any day now they would be getting a call that they would have to stop taking tours down there.

The set was really intricate and the details were really thought out. Each hobbit hole was different with different windows and curtains. Each had a small garden and some had fireplaces and clotheslines. We each picked out one we would want to live in if we were a hobbit, and Matt and I, of course, picked the hole at the very top, which was Bilbo Baggin’s hole. :)

After the tour around the Shire, they did a short sheep shearing demonstration because the farm land that the Shire sits on is still functioning sheep farm land. I had a whole video of the sheep shearing but for some reason of Zi8 is malfunctioning and says the card is full.

We made our way to our next lodging, a really nice bed and breakfast type place in Waipu. It’s right on the Waipu cove on an estuary. They rescue a bunch of animals like alpacas, hogs, miniature horses, and sheep, which we pet (and then found out we weren’t supposed to). They also have kayaks which we used to row around, and threw the rugby ball around in like 3 inch deep water.

Today, Sunday the 9th, was spent starting with breakfast in the kitchen downstairs (which we later found out we weren’t supposed to use), a dip in the spa and then basically lounging around all day just being lazy. They have a theater room here and we just finished watching Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring which was really cool to watch again now having been at the actual place they filmed the Shire.

Tomorrow, Monday, we’re headed off to Waiheke Island for the remaining part of our trip before a day in Auckland before we leave on Thursday.

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Lake Taupo & Jet Boating, & Crazy Glowworm(maggot) Caving

After a night of killing endless amounts of bugs in our hotel room , we woke up and continued on to Lake Taupo. We didn’t take many pictures over the past two days because we have been so busy and in a couple different places we couldn’t even take pictures. We drove straight to Taupo without having breakfast, so when we got there we went to a cafe called Lava Cafe and had some pretty scrumptious grub. We drove around for like four hours (not really four hours, but Josh likes to exaggerate) to find someplace to stay and ended up in a completely awesome hotel that the boys actually picked, so we’ll give them the win on this one. We got two separate rooms with amazing views of the Lake. Here’s a picture from our balcony as the sun was going down.

After we settled in to our new hotel, we headed over to the Huka jets! If you haven’t seen our post of facebook yet, here’s the link to our video and slideshow. We did bring our little camera on the jet boat to take pictures but somehow I don’t have them on my computer.  Video: Our Hukajet Video

Slideshow: Our Hukajet Slideshow

The jet boat was so much fun. The driver would come so close to the cliffs and trees and anything that got in our way on the river and would so quickly turn away from it going crazy fast. Down the river the boat stopped at Huka Falls which were really cool. There were tons over people that came to view the falls and I know they wished they could be on our boat with us. :) We all got pretty wet after we were done with that boat.

Once we were done with the Huka jet, we went back to Taupo and I signed up to skydive the next day! However, the girl there said they hadn’t been able to jump all day that day because of the little bit of rain and wind we were having that day. I guess it’s good they don’t take any chances with this sort of thing. So I ended up not skydiving the next day…maybe some other time! We visited the All Blacks store (The New Zealand Rugby team the All Blacks Haka ), and then had some lunch at a horrible restaurant called Breakers.

After that we went back to our awesome hotel overlooking the water, watched the sun go down and then went in their heated pool. We had a great evening that night after the pool, having some beers and playing Mexican Train into the wee hours of the morning.

The next day (Friday the 7th) we drove up to Waitomo and booked a tour through the caves there to see some glowworms and so some black water rafting! Unfortunately we couldn’t take our cameras down there and didn’t want to pay the very very overpriced cost for one picture ($15 for one picture!!) But we had a crazy time, it wasn’t at all what we expected. They put us on a bus from the office and drove about 20 minutes through farmland (which looked quite like Hobbiton which we saw the following day…but more about that later), and then we suited up in full wetsuits and hardhats with torches once we got to the sheds above the caves. We trekked in full wetsuits in almost 90 degree heat past numerous sink holes to an opening into a cave below. We had to climb down a crazy step ladder into pitch black, only our torches lighting the way. Once we got down there where the water flowed a bit quickly in an underground stream, we hiked for awhile over sharp rocks and dips, and swam through the cave water, and all the time looking at the gorgeous glowworms above our heads.

We learned a lot about glowworms that day, including the fact that they are not indeed worms at all, but fly larvae….maggots….. Um, ew. Not cool to think about when they’re about an inch from your head in a dark cave. What if one falls?..and lands on my head?? :) But they are pretty nonetheless. Oh, and that blue glow you see? Well, it’s actually a chemical reaction from their excrement (gag) which helps them attract their dinner like flies and moths and other bugs which may be down in the caves. The tour kept going and we got to float down the river in inner tubes, turning off the torches on our hard hats so the glowworms above looked like the night sky. All this took about a little over two hours underground and it got a bit strenuous and tight in places. Our thighs and calves were hurting the next day because off all of the climbing, squeezing and crawling we had to do. Even though this isn’t pictures of us, exactly, here’s an idea of the crazy gear we wore, and the pretty glowworms.

Tumu Tumu TOObing

In the evening we headed over to the Thirsty Weta cafe in a small small town on the way to Hamilton from Waitomo. I tried a very strange chicken, banana and kahlua pasta which was unusual but kind of good. Everyone else enjoyed their meals too. We ended up picking a motel in Hamilton to stay the night, which turned out to be the worst pick of the trip so far. We’re on our way up North to go through Matamata to see where parts of the Lord of the Rings were filmed, and then up to the Bay of Islands to do some relaxing, snorkeling and swimming.

Cheers!

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Shop ’til You Drop, & Matt the Chief

I’m going to preface this posting by saying that I do not proofread my blog posts at all, because (a) it would take more time away from my vacation to go over my grammar and spelling than I actually want to, and (b) I’m just cool like that.

The last couple of days have been pretty busy. We’re continuing on our road trip around the North Island of New Zealand. When we left the motel on Tuesday morning, we drove straight to Rotorua which is home to some famous bubbling mud pools. The scenery on the way down was beautiful with sweeping meadows, a few rolling hills and some deep gorges. We saw many sheep and cows, and a few pukekos!  We went straight to Josh’s favorite place; Starbucks! Basically all we did for the next few hours was shop, shop, shop! We visited some cool outdoor stores and a lot of clothing stores. :) For our lunch and dinner, we stopped at a historic pub called the Pig and Whistle. Josh got to test out the new camera he bought, and Matt tried red chicken curry for the first time. He sweated throughout the whole meal.

We had been trying to figure out where Louise had booked our room for the night, and it turned out to be a different place than she thought she had booked, and it was actually at Lake Rotoiti, not by Lake Rotorua. When we arrived at the bed and breakfast, it was an awesome house owned by Karl and Bernie (who Louise thought was a man the whole time she had been communicating with her, and actually turned out to be Bernadette), overlooking Lake Rotoiti. Karl and Bernie were really nice, and they provided us with a bottle of wine and some cheese, strawberries and cakes when we arrived. We walked down by the lake where they had kayaks we could use if we wanted, and chatted with some of the people down there. (We didn’t get a chance to kayak because it would be too dark, and in the morning we already had plans for something else.)

Overlooking Lake RotoitiThis morning, Wednesday the 5th, we checked out of our bed and breakfast in a rush, and drove to Hells Gate, a geothermal spa and mud pool. We got our wonderful mad bath and then took a dip in the sulphur pool. We didn’t know until after, but their water pump was out so we couldn’t shower after either! We had to get into the car all sulphury and stinky and attempt to find accommodation where we could all take a shower.

After we found a place to shower, we went downhill Luging! They take you up to the top of a mountain in a gondola, and then you ride little go cart looking things down the hill on different tracks they set up.

After luging, the boys decided they wanted to go zorbing. Basically the fill a huge blow up ball with water, and then a person gets inside the ball and they roll you down a hill. They had so much fun doing it. Of course Matt and Josh went down in the same ball. :)

They also tried a stationary type where they just spin the ball around with a motor. Again, Matt and Josh went in the same ball. :)

We also went to a traditional maori hangi at the Tamaki Village. Everyone that went to the village had to get on four different buses and they would shuttle us out there. Each bus had to choose a “chief” to represent a visiting tribe. Our bus driver chose Matt to be our group’s chief, so he had to stand up with the 3 other visiting chiefs when the maori warrior would come out and try to intimidate them. Then the warrior would choose one of the visiting chiefs to accept a peace offering (New Zealand’s silver fern) and then we could all enter the village. The warrior chose Matt again, so without breaking eye contact Matt had to pick up the fern and and back up to where he had been standing before. It was quite funny to watch Matt try and feel around on the ground for the fern leaf without breaking eye contact with the guy.

All four chiefs lining up to greet the warriors

Accepting the peace offering from the Maori warrior

Once Matt had lead all the visitors into the tribe’s village, they people would recreate different scenes from Maori life, like traditional tattooing, fighting practice, cooking, ship making etc… They also showed us the pit where they bury the food in the ground using volcanic rocks heated white hot and covered by the earth to cook the food. Matt and Josh actually met an internet marketing buddy of theirs at the Maori village too, which was really cool. It really is a small world afterall.

After we had our meal, the chiefs were taught the All Blacks haka (the war dance to scare away enemies). We also have a video of Matt doing the haka, which we’ll try to post on here later.

After the hangi we went back to the motel and Matt and Josh squashed about 500,000,000 bugs which had flown through the windows, and we watched the end of Red Dragon, and  documentary about the Wahlberg brothers before went went to bed. The weird things you watch on vacation, right? :) “oh oh oooohooohhh, oh oh, ooooooohoooh. The right stuff.”

The blog posts may be a bit delayed in getting posted because we may or may not have good internet access.

Today (Thursday) we did a bunch of cool stuff, which I will write about on a different post later!

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Volcano!

This morning we left on our road trip! We jammed everything into Josh and Louise’s new VW Passat, and headed off early in the morning to make our way to Whakatane to catch a boat to take us over to the world’s only active marine volcano, White Island.  It is estimated to be between 150,000 and 200,000 years old. It is only accessible by guided tours and nobody else is allowed to set foot on it.

Once we got on the boat “Pee Jay” in Whakatane, we set off four our six hour tour. It takes about two hours by boat to get there, and then about two hours at the volcano, and two hours back. We saw bunches of common dolphin on the way over and a sailfish basking in the sun. The weather was terrific and the sea was calm.

When we arrived at the volcano, we had to transfer to a smaller boat which took groups of us onto the volcano itself (the big boat can’t dock really anywhere close.) We got off the little boat onto the old wharf, from when the volcano was mined for it’s sulphur in the 1900s. They quality of the sulphur on the volcano didn’t turn out to be so great however, and there had been a couple landslides and deaths from the volcano, so people decided that it wasn’t worth mining there anymore. There are still some crippled ad dilapidated buildings from the old mining days on the volcano, which we got to explore. When you step foot on the volcano they make you wear hard hats and gas masks to keep you breathing okay. You can breathe alright without the masks unless the steam is right on you, and then it makes it really hard to breathe and you cough a lot. We also got to walk right up near the bubbling hot spots in the ground and see the main crater in the volcano which is super acidic and boiling boiling hot! You had to follow exactly where the guides stepped because there were gas pockets that could come up at any time.

The Main CraterSteam VentsAfter the hike on the volcano, we went back on the boat and they let you swim right in that little bay where the big boat was moored. There were bunches of little jellyfish in the water but they didn’t sting you. The water was FREEZING though, and again, only Louise and I went in! Boys=chickens. After the swim they fed us a delicious lunch, and I got to taste my first mince pie, crunchie bar, and asparagus roll (a Kiwi treat I’m told..). Everyone then fell asleep on the boat ride back.

When we got back on the main land, we decided to check out Ohope which was pretty close to Whakatane. We pulled over at a little park area where there was a cool estuary with trees, birds, little tiny crabs everywhere and warm warm water to swim in. The boys only went in up to their thighs… le sigh.

There wasn’t any lodging in Ohope, so we went a little further down the road to Opotiki and found a small little motel to stay in for the night. Nothing much was open, and the town is pretty small, but it’s good for the night before we move on to Rotorua tomorrow and do some rafting, zorbing, shopping, and whatever else strikes our fancy! Good night :)

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Rugby and Mt. Maunganui

Today we had pizza for breakfast. And not just ANY pizza….it was dessert pizza! Banana, chocolate sauce and berries, all on top of pizza dough. YUM! It was actually left over from the previous night, when Matt and Josh went to pick up some pizza at Hell’s Pizza, which is a NZ only pizza chain. They have really cool pizza boxes with scary pictures on them, and 7 Deadly Sins themed pizza pies. So we ate our pizza last night while watching Seven, which was really appropriate considering the movie is about a serial killer who kills people who violate the seven deadly sins. A terrific movie, but we found it was not the best movie to watch while eating. Matt snapped this picture at Hell’s Pizza of a scary Christmas tree they still had up.

After we finished eating our delicious pizza for breakfast, we went down to watch a “7′s” Rugby tournament. Louise explained the rules of the game to us and we sort of kind of got it. It looked really fun to play, but it also looked really rough. The following are just some cool shots I took on my rebel.

Afterward we headed over to Mt. Maunganui where there were tons of tourists. It is an extinct volcano on the very end of the peninsula where Josh and Louise live. We had some very good NZ ice cream, which promptly melted all over our hands and arms as soon as we left the ice cream shop. We walked around the Mt. which took about a half hour or so. It was a gorgeous day, and there was a ton of people on the beach there playing soccer (football) and there was also the Miss Mt. Maunganui contest going on.

We went and had an early dinner at Bluebiyou Restaurant right on the beach by Josh and Louise’s house. Matt and Josh had lamb and Louise and I had the seafood platter, aka Mountain of Seafood! Matt was dared to eat a mussel, which he hated, but it won him $10. We had great dessert also; Matt had a chocolate teardrop, Josh had a rum raisin something, and Louise and I had banana cheesecake.

After dinner we went home and are now going to watch Wolf Creek. We are also nerds. The End.

Tomorrow we begin our road trip around the north island with our first stop being White Island, an active volcano!

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Video From New Years in New Zealand

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Ringing in 2011 with the Kiwis! (And a man from Bristol)

Yesterday was New Years Eve day! Hooray! And we got to experience 2011 before a lot of other people, one of the very first New Years’ in the world!

We started the day off by feeding some crazy ducks and birds by Josh and Louise’s. We even saw an infamous Pukeko! They look like tiny little dinosaurs.

Then we went to the beach by Josh and Louise’s house. We drank some beers, swam in the ocean (which was so warm, by the way!) and played rugby and a hybrid kiwi-american version of 4 person cricket. Matt and I couldn’t figure out how to bowl (pitch) the ball without bending our arms like a baseball throw. It was pretty fun and isn’t as confusing as one could be led to believe. I couldn’t exactly master how to throw a rugby ball either, but one thing at a time! One guy on the beach said there was a shark in the waves, but we didn’t see anything. Louise and I get to say we swam with the sharks though, and the boys can make no such claim because they didn’t even swim in the water! (chickens…)

After some cleaning up, we prepared for our New Year’s Eve celebration! We went over to a friend of Josh and Louise’s house and ate some food, started drinking there, and watched everyone play a GIGANTIC Jenga game. They had some delicious food to eat and everyone there was super nice. They had hired a bus to take everyone (about 40 or 50 people) to a boat on the harbor for New Years. When we got on the boat we had some more drinks, and danced the night away until 12:00am, when we watched the fireworks the shot off around the bay. We had tons and tons of fun on that boat. :)

This morning, the first day of 2011, we all slept in late and were a little worse for the wear. Josh and Louise had some friends and family over for a BBQ and they made some yummy burgers and sausages. We got to eat some NZ ice cream (hokey pokey and goody goody gumdrops), and I’m really enjoying the Lemon and Paeroa soda they have over here. I’m going to have to figure out how to get some of it when we’re at home!

For tomorrow, the plan is to go to a rugby tournament. They’ll have drinks, music and food all day long, and we’ve never seen an actual rugby game, and even though this is just “7′s” which is a shorter and quicker match, it should be really cool to see. It’s bed early tonight I think! Cheers!

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Monday, What Happened to Tuesday?, Wednesday & Thursday

So! We made it to New Zealand, as you could probably tell from our cryptic facebook posts. We left LAX at 10:00pm on Monday December 27th, after a traffic-filled drive up from San Diego, and arrived in Auckland, New Zealand at around 7:30am Wednesday December 29th. Our flight didn’t seem too long, because it was a red eye, we got a bit a sleep and watched some movies. I wouldn’t say that the flight was exactly quick, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as we had thought it would be. The airplane was actually quite nice, and had adequate leg room. Our new neck pillows and some homeopathic sleep remedies helped as well. :)  Josh and Louise were there to greet us at the airport, and it is weird to be the ones being driven around for once!

So we missed out on Tuesday (hopefully Tuesday treated you all well in the US), and after landing Josh and Louise took us for some coffee and along the way to their home, which is like 3 hours away from the Auckland airport, we stopped for lunch at a little train station cafe. They have a train that operates there still as well. The weather was gorgeous and sunny, and as we were trying to figure out the calculations between Celsius and Fahrenheit, a man tried to explain his own calculation to figure it out, but ended up just confusing us even more.

We had some sandwiches and I got to see if my credit card would really work over here (it did). And then we continued along to Josh and Louise’s house. We finally got to meet the infamous Winston, and also met Louise’s dad.

Josh and Louise showed us the beaches right by their house, and drove us up to Mt. Maunganui which is close too. There are a lot more people here this time of year, because it’s peak season in the summer and right around New Years. We weren’t really feeling too much jet lag but we still went to bed pretty early after watching Taken at their house.

This morning, Thursday morning, we woke up late and had some fun shopping around where there live; the boys to the electronics store, and the girls to the clothing stores! Later in the evening we went to De Bier Haus and had some drinks and played pool, then to one of Josh and Louise’s favorite restaurants, The Flying Burrito Brothers. They made pretty authentic Mexican food, and we should know. :) After dinner we all went to see Little Fockers at the theater in Tauranga.

Tomorrow being New Year’s Eve day, we’re going to have a ice picnic on the beach, and then go on a boat in the harbor for the Eve!  That’s all for now! -Alana

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