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Chakra

Thanks everyone. My humble efforts are not worth so much appreciation. I sincerely hope some of you, who have not been to this area before, will now seriously consider this as destination.

I personally feel it would be lovely to include the coastal areas as well, which I could not fit in. Those get even less visitors and if you can afford then a night or two at Sanparks temporary beach cottages would be wonderful.

 

When I was talking to Eliza an Lente, she told me to go to Soebatsfontein as the flowers you find there are different from the Skilpad section. There is a road which forks off from the 5 KM loop of Skilpad towards Soebatsfontein. I drove about 2 km on that and then turned back.
A 4WD Is recommended but I was told the roads were not too bad and I could take my Avanza. Soebatsfontein is in the heart of Namaqua NP. And of course if you have a 4WD and the time then the legendary caracal Route is a must. I'll return one day.

I was really temped to visit the Goegap but was again ran short of time. I spoke to the lady at tourism office at Springbok in details and went east from Springbok over the valley towards Concordia and a little more. There were flowers but after seeing Skilpad it was difficult to get impressed. The lady did say that Goegap had a nice combination of colours and I thought on the way back from Richtersveld towards Augrabies I could touch that. But that never happened.
So after a nice relaxing lunch overlooking the Orange Empire I waved bye to Skilpad and drove towards Vioosdriff via Springbok. It was a long drive but a nice an enjoyable one with lots of flowers present all the way to Steinkopf.
As you know I had cancelled my reservation with Sanparks inside RV NP for Tattersberg and Seldelingsdriff and decided to go with a private company. I'm aware of rules of this forum so I won't go into great details here but we did have a great time. I'll now share some photos from rest of the flower and follow that up with the absolutey mind blowing desolation of 2000 million years old Richtersveld NP and my quest for the Halfmens.

 

Now some pics of a few more flowers and the road to Vioolsdriff.

 

My wife :The Greatest Flower Macro photographer in the world. Her Instagram account is full of flowers !!!

 

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The Lord's Prayer

 

 

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Time to refill the tank

 

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I shall cherish this memory for ever

 

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The Cape- Namib route

 

 

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The Endless Horizon : I am approaching Namibia

 

 

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The Celestial Light

 

 

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Sunset over the Gariep

 

 

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As we approached the gate there was a lady who had some laminated pages on her hand with coloured pics of flora and fauna of the park. She explained the route to us nicely, including where we could ge

Dear friends,   This is my first TR here so please be patient with me. I have several friends who post here regularly and some of them have been encouraging me to share my experiences here. I have

OK , looks like the bug has been zapped !!   Firefox to the rescue !!   Let me focus on the Langebaan lagoon first , which kept on surprising me with its change of colour with sun and shade. On th

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pomkiwi

@@Chakra What a beautiful report - thank-you.

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Chakra

@pomkiwi : most welcome. I'm glad that you liked it.

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@

 

@@Chakra, this is amazing!!! We did not make it so far north, we stopped in Paternoster, but wish we had the time for the drive to Namaqualand...wow!

 

Next time do not stop til you reach Namibia !!

 

 

Hmmm, based on some TR here, I don't think I'll stop when I reach Namibia....we'll keep going :)

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Chakra

@ xyz99 : The Endless Horizon of My Arid Eden = Namibia. A camera can never capture its beauty. I want to be there right now !

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Marks

That last flower closeup is hypnotic!

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xelas

"Time to refill the tank" - was that a soya burger ;) ??

 

And, have you posted the "Roadwork(ers) ahead" signs before taking that meditative photo?

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Peter Connan

Wonderful photos of absolutely stunning scenery, thank you.

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Chakra

Thanks @@Marks, @@Peter Connan and @@xelas.

 



"Time to refill the tank" - was that a soya burger ;) ??

 

And, have you posted the "Roadwork(ers) ahead" signs before taking that meditative photo?

 

No mate it was a proper one :angry: :angry:

 

And I love to practice Yoga in the middle of open roads. On this stretch of N7 we met one car in 10 minutes so there was ample time for me to make a pose for the photo.

But this is nothing compared to the wilderness of Skeleton Coast after Ugabmond gate where I met a car after one hour and twenty seven minutes of driving. There I went into a long trance like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Baba on the Salt Road!!

My daughters practised cartwheels in the middle of that road.

 

 

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Treepol

@@Chakra, what a fantastic and refreshing report from the Northern Cape - don't hear much about this area. Now you really have me thinking, maybe my next trip will be overland from Cape Town to Luderitz, stopping off to see the floral bonanza along the way.

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TonyQ

@@Chakra

A superb report with stunning photos. The colours, variety and sheer number of flowers is amazing. Thank you for posting!

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Chakra

@@Treepol: thanks very much friend. You must travel along this route in the Flower season. Honestly I read TR after TR after TR on other places of SA but hardly anything on the Northern Cape. Even SANParks site doesn't have much info. The best source of info was from RSA 4*4 community.

Why stop at Luderitz ? Carry on through the impossibly beautiful Namib Naukluft, the birds of Walvisbai and Sandwich harbour ( will disappear in next ten years) and then carry on all the way to Terrace Bay, where you leave the car and hop onto a plane to take you to the heart of Skeleton Coast ?

Sounds appealing ?

@@TonyQ: thank you very much for the appreciation. I've probbaly gone a bit over the top.

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Chakra

"Why do you want to go to Richtersveld ? There is nothing to see !"
"Are you crazy ? The temperature can go up to 45 Degrees Celsius even in winter !"
"You need balls to drive inside Richtersveld all alone. I lost four tyres in one day!"

These are the advices which I received from my friends, when planning a trip to the North West tip of South Africa, at the end of the Cape -Namib highway.

But I have a unique connection with Richtersveld. I come from the great city of Calcutta, in the state of Bengal in India. Bengal does not have much economic might but it has the richest literary and intellectual heritage in India. Boasting of Three Nobel Laureates. Some Bengali authors will never be known outside, as their writings do not get translated into English, but believe me some of them deserve Nobel prize in literature.

One of them wrote a book called The Mountain of Moon which was a must read in my childhood and the hero was lost in the desolate land of Richtersveld but survived and was the hero of all of us growing up in 1970s. From that time my goal was to visit Richtersveld : The edge of the world.

But I did take heed of the advice about self-driving inside and started looking for guides, which was extremely difficult to find. There was company operating out of Port Nolloth but they were inflexible and I didn't like the idea of Overland tour with other people.

I found another guide but his Facebook page had a number of half-naked ladies as his "friend" and that put me off. I was still ready to go with him and booked all the SANparks chalets at Tattersberg and Seldelingsdriff. But he kept on changing the price and then all of a sudden said, that another couple would join us but he did not mention anything about reducing the price.

So I dropped him.

Who can show me around then ? After scouring web for many hours eventually I found a company called Umukulu safari.

 

Umkulu means "The Wise Man" in Zulu and the young men of Umkulu safari compamny were really full of wisdom, way beyond their youth. All of them are well educated. Under the guidance of their leader Hennie they have decided to live a out a life under the stars by the side of Oranje, next to Richtersveld.

They have started to develop a camp , farming land from scratch and teaching the local farmers the art of conservation, while promoting eco-tourism.
And they call it "Growcery" as they Grow everything what they consume.
Simple living, high thinking.
Each of them is a superb guide, who knows the area intimately and from time to time they go on canoeing on the Oranje river for days.

In my unfit state of health canoeing for 5 days was out of question so I decided on a 5 hour trip.

Beautiful day, sun shining, cool breeze, warm gentle water. I found that one of the guides, Gumbi and I shared the same taste in music and I even sang couple of lines from Freddie Mercury.

What can go wrong ? Well, a lot actually.

Firstly, I was paired with my younger daughter, who was totally out of sync with me and on several occasions we ended up in the reed bush. The only place where you can find a snake in the river !!

The other pair were doing fine till we approached a rapid.
It was a Baby rapid, I'll score it 1.5 at the most. For a person like me who has been hit on the face with the full force of Niagara it was a child's play.
But shortly after clearing that I heard a big commotion and realised mother and daughter have managed to topple their Kayak and Oranje river was running away with their t-shirts, shoes and many other belongings. They had taken their clothes and shoes off in anticipation of a swim.
Thankfully Jamie came to the rescue and manhandled my wife to drag her back into the Kayak. I wished I had videoed that.
Not only that, daughter's shoes were actually caught in an eddy going round and round, and he even dived and recovered them.
I saw one T-shirt floating away but I was not going to risk my life for a cheap T-shirt !

 

Then came the exciting part of jumping from a rock into the river, which I quickly opted out. Shreya did it with some coaxing. Shruti followed Shreya up but then felt shaky at the top.
The climb down was actually more difficult than the jump so she had no choice but to jump in pretending to enjoy. But I'm still very proud of them !
In winter small islands emerge because of low water level and these are good places to look for crystals which have been washed by the river from the mountain. As usual I searched with no result while Sujata found a wonderful uncut "Tiger's Eye" crystal. Even Jamie was envious.
Oranje river also forms the boundary between two countries and very soon we crossed to the other bank and entered Namibia illegally to spend a few minutes there.

 

OK time to have a break and watch England in Euro 2016 !

 

 

Getting ready for the dip in the Gariep

 

 

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Father and Daughter in perfect harmony

 

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Father and Daughter in not so harmony. Heading towards reeds !!

 

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Mother and daughter : very happy. Don't know what awaits !!

 

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Kayaking on the Gariep

 

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The Jumping Rock

 

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Illegal Immigrants in Namibia

 

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Looking for the Tiger's Eye

 

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I really enjoy your pics and your stories...such wonderful descriptions, keep them coming. Yes, a video of the entire kayak adventure would've been so much fun! Although I'm sure, it was not funny at all at the time :)

I hope the water was warm...

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Chakra

@@xyz99 : She Who Must Be Obeyed would have killed me if I had recorded her predicament and shared that with you guys. :angry: :angry: :angry:

Yes, thankfully the water was warm and the sun beating down on us , I think the unintended dip actually helped her to cool down ! :P :P

 

England managed a draw only sadly :mellow:

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Chakra,

 

Fantastic report own a part of S. Africa we have not seen before . Thanks for sharing this.

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@@xyz99 : She Who Must Be Obeyed would have killed me if I had recorded her predicament and shared that with you guys. :angry: :angry: :angry:

 

He-he, I believe that :)

What an amazing trip you had!

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penolva

England draw :) surprise. Looks great fun on the river. Might try that!

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xelas

What, you thought they would win?! Attack is the best defense and as many others, also Robson forgot about this. Next game, maybe.

 

The canoeing looks like a lot of fun. You all look so handsome in those swimming vests. So, Sujata has overturned and she did not lost her sunglasses? Chak, learn from your wife!

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michael-ibk

Great fun adventure, and nicely told - had to chuckle several times when reading this. Continue to enjoy your report very much, it´s always great to see these rarely featured places on Safaritalk. Thanks for taking us along!

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Chakra

thanks @@xelas, @@michael-ibk @@penolva : @@AKR1

 

Colours of Africa : that's what I was looking for in this trip and found plenty.

 

We camped for 2 nights at Growcery and I enjoyed every second. My "Tin shack" was cosy and comfortable. The food collected from their field fresh and cooked with passion. The peaceful morning with sun breaking over Richtersveld and reeds gently swaying in the marshy islands in the middle of the Gariep. .
The shower under the moon with no ceiling to cut off the stars ! The fascinating evening chat, ranging from wildlife to flowers to corruption. We talked while the bread baked on the coal fire. Jamie's tricks of Bushman's candles and fireworks.
And the dogs ! Lucy, Peaches and Max. They followed us everywhere, ate with us, slept with us and even rode the car with us. They were a hardy bunch, a breed of Dingo and Australian Sheep dog.

Hennie is a greta photographer as well and the bar was adorned with wonderful photos. One pic was fab : A vast expanse of desert like vista, scrubs and red sand of Kalhari --- a gate in the middle, probably a ranch -- with a sign saying, "Please close the gate, don't steal the gate". I wish I had taken a photo of that.

We had not got any towels with us so ended up buying a pair of Khikhois : I belive these are worn by Kenyan Fishermen. Hennie made a nice profit !

 

 

"Welcome" Black Board : Lovely guys got confused between our First names and Surnames

 

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A nice stock of knick-knacks. 200 Rands for a Khikhois ? Am I a fool ?

 

 

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Our Chic Shack

 

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Dawn over the Orange

 

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Graveyard of motors . Reminded me of Solitaire

 

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A pearl of wisdom

 

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The occupant of Chic Shack # 2

 

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Supper is getting baked on open fire

 

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Shower under the Stars

 

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Quartz crystal

 

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Our guide : Peaches

 

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The Friendliest : Lucy

 

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Max The Mighty : an extremely powerful dog

 

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No problem for the vegetarians

 

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xelas

@@Chakra

 

Lovely guys do get confused by your first name and your surname :lol: !

 

The Growcery must be one of those hidden gems we all are wishing to find when travelling around the globe. It looks and it sounds just perfect.

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Chakra

One of the very first demands was, " Can you show me a Halfmens ?" Hennie replied, " I'll not let you leave Richtersveld wthout seeing a Halfmens!" And I was sold !!

 

"Halfmens" means Half Humans in Afrikaans. Extremely rare and slow growing tree, grows a few millimeters a year.

The legend goes that once upon a time the Saan people ( derogatorily called Bushmen by Europeans who lumped every tribe in that term) used to live peacefully in the plains of current day Namibia.
But then came the invaders, who slaughtered them and peace loving Saan had to flee south , crossing the Oranje river and settling in current south Africa. But like the Jews they longed for their "Promised Land" and always looked North.

When the soul left the body of a Saan, it turned into a Halfmens plant which always looked North, its forefather's land.

The Tree that bears the sorrow of a nation of refugee people !!!

I know that feeling very well from my mother, who being a Hindu by religion, had to leave East Pakistan after the partition of India and never went back.
There is of course modern scientific explanation from the Botanists for the tree looking North, but I liked the original one more.

And I checked it with my compass. Spot on : pointing exactly to Zero degree North !!

Lithops = Stone Plant. This I first saw at Kew gardens. A plant which looks exactly like a stone so that the grazing antelopes would not be able to differentiate between it and the surrounding stones and leave it alone. Hennie promised me to show that as well.

After having a dip at the Oranje river we entered the Richtersveld and I was immediately struck by its desolate beauty. I am sucker for desolation. Ranging from the wilderness of Wyoming to vast expanse of Skeleton Coast to the Australian Outback. Here the first glimpse showed strikingly coloured rocks rising straight from flat land. This was something like Grand Tetons which rise staright from no foothills
These are possibly the oldest rocks in the world. Some dating back to 2000 million years ( Himalaya are mere 400 million year old kids), almost half the age of the Earth. Driving was difficult to say the least and I was glad that Zak drove.

We had the best guide in Africa with us : Miss Peaches, a breed of Dingo and Australian Sheep dog, who sniffed out any danger of hiding Horned Adders!

One place really impressed me was the "valley of Stagger Rocks".
It is a custom for any traveller passing through this hostile land to put a few rocks on top of each other to make a "Stagger". This tells the next traveller that the previous traveller passed safely and gives hope to the next one.

I have seen exactly same tradition among Inuit People of Canadian Tundra, where they build a Stone Man called "Inukshak" and leave it as symbol of hope and survival for fellow travellers.
Some people had gone beyond simple "Stagger" and actually made an arch ! We also made a small one !

And the Saan also left their mark on rock faces with simple paintings ( Petroglyphs) telling their story.

And flowers !!
Yes, I have to find flower wherever I go, even in the most barren desert !
Zak told me I was at the right time to see one of the miracles, some Succulents had just flowered recently !
And after searching for some time I did find one of the "Rabbit Ear" succulent with a blossom.

Not only that, Zak and Jamie found a Halfmens for me, which was also in blossom. This really made my day.

This place is a geologist's dream. There were so many different types of crystals scattered everywhere. I could only identify the Quartz !

This is not an attractive place in the touristy sense, but if you want peace, solitude, silence, camping under the cloudless moonlit sky with billion stars and Andromeda galaxy smiling at you: then you have come to the right place.

I never go to temple to pray to God as I find His presence in a place like Richtersveld. This place really makes you realise how insignificant you are in the big game.

A big big box ticked off my bucket list !!

 

 

The Moon Rises for the 2000 Millionth time over the rocks of Richtersveld

 

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The beauty of desolation. Can you hear the sound of silence ?

 

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Hellskloof pass

 

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Our Guide guiding us through Hellskloof

 

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The pano

 

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The Valley of Stagger Rocks. A testament to Human Determination and Fraternity

 

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The Thumb Print

 

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Razor Sharp rocks waiting to shred tyres

 

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Each centimetre of ridge of Iron deposit probably represnts 10,000 years

 

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The Saan painting

 

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Lost !!

 

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The Halfmens at last !

 

 

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Halfmens in flowers

 

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Immersed in capturing the Soul of the Saan

 

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My wife stuck !!

 

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A little shade, a little moisture trapped and life flourishes in earnest

 

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Flowering "Rabbit Ear"

 

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Human "Rabbit Ear"

 

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Lithops : The Mimic plants mimicking the surrounding stones

 

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Bright coloured beauty

 

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Ostrich Salad : packed with sugar crystals

 

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Big Thorns

 

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The Bushman's candle. We tested it out by the campfire.

 

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penolva

You make the history and the silence come alive right there on the page! Can't wait :)

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Alexander33

@@Chakra

 

I am so grateful to you for posting this report. I've never been to the Western Cape and have always been curious about Namaqualand. I've always read that the timing of the windflowers is never precise, and when one has to plan long in advance from halfway across the world, that can be a bit bewildering, but your photos of the stunning fields of flowers and gorgeous landscapes are enticing. That orange "carpet" is simply amazing. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.

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