Saturday, April 21, 2012

Silver Bullet Sighting #2 - Bright, Victoria

The Silver Bullet above Bright, Victoria

It's a fine April evening in the Victorian Alps, so high up the spectacular autumn colours in Bright, 9.2 km below on a series of narrow and winding logging trails are only just visible in the fading light.

Nonetheless, putting the Silver Bullet through its paces was almost a pleasure – dulled only by the hairpin bends, steep gradient, rocky surface and sheer drops just inches from the Silver Bullet's tyres …

Go ahead.  Call me crazy!


The view from the Victorian Alps above Bright, Victoria


The staggering view made the scare factor SO worth it – but I was happy to enjoy this scenic vista from the comfort and solidity of SB's bonnet.

Jump off from here?  I don't think so ...



Autumn colours, Bright, Victoria
Because even THINKING about leaping off the edge of this tandem paragliding launch platform and floating down to the valley floor so fills me with the shrieking horrors I can't even walk onto the fake lawn that marks the jumping off point …


Even if you call me a coward.



Down below, the alpine town of Bright lights up with the kind of autumn colours that almost make me see the point of cold and snowy winters. The yellows, the oranges and the reds.

OH, those REDS!!

And if I can't find a scenic public toilet here, my name's not Red Nomad OZ!!

Call me content.


The Silver Bullet rests in the Bright Big 4 Caravan Park, Victoria

Sunday, April 15, 2012

7 Super Shots!


While my lack of photographic expertise makes me feel unworthy, I'm ecstatic to be taking part in the HostelBookers 7 Super Shots challenge courtesy of Courtney of Haunt Jaunts fame who was kind enough to tag me in her 7 Super Shots post! Thanx Courtney!!

The 7 Super Shots challenge really IS challenging!  To help me choose just seven photos – one for each of the seven categories below – from my vast archive, I narrowed it down by going the more off-beat All-Australian travel shots!  As you will see ...

A photo that … takes my breath away:

Amethystine Python, Lake Eacham, Atherton Tablelands
I'm so brave with 3+ tonnes of steel (ie 'car') between me and this harmless (read 'non-venomous') 3 metre amethystine python heading AWAY from me … but that didn't stop the involuntary gasp that took my breath away when we swerved to avoid it!

Although living with snakes is normal downunder – walk through long grass at your peril – I'll NEVER get used to them.  Nine of the world's ten deadliest snakes are found in Australia so whether dangerous or not, an unexpected snake sighting ALWAYS takes my breath away …

A photo that … makes me laugh or smile:

Elvis Campsite, Wycliffe Well, Northern Territory


The Northern Territory's Wycliffe Well claims to be Australia's UFO capital, and has newpaper clippings of dozens of 'confirmed' sightings, along with an eclectic array of random statues – think the Hulk and the Phantom – to prove it. Eating in the Galaxy Auditorium will top off your otherworldly experience! 

But what have UFOs got to do with Elvis?  You tell me!  Not that it mattered - we immediately nabbed the Elvis campsite on our first visit because we could!  Just as well, because it's been taken on all subsequent visits …

A photo that … makes me dream

Log-chopping at the 2011 Bedourie Camel Races


Imagine, if you can, a row of the Aussie Outback's finest competing against each other in a log chopping competition specifically designed, I'm sure, to showcase what life on the world's largest cattle stations can do to a man. And also to show that surfing isn't the only sport worth a look downunder!!

Luckily for me, I don't have to imagine – I've seen it for myself at the 2011 Bedourie Camel races. Will I ever see that sight again? Sure I will! In my dreams …

A photo that … makes me think:

Mezze platter, Cafe Y Barossa Valley South Australia


I can't look at this photo of the FAAAABULOUSmezze platter from Café Y in South Australia's Barossa Valley without thinking several thoughts:
  1. how good it's going to taste;
  2. how long since our last visit; and
  3. how soon I can get there again!
Many other photos will trigger more earth-shattering, challenging, life changing and even worthy thoughts – but sometimes a little sensory indulgence can sharpen awareness and prepare us for the more serious side of life.

Right?

A photo that … makes my mouth water:

Salt Inception Scheme outlet, Stockyard Plains via Waikerie, South Australia

The largest salt inception scheme in the world means flooding an arid landscape with the saline water from Australia's largest river system then letting nature take its course as the water filters back through the water table leaving the salt behind.

It also leaves behind a landscape with magnificent photographic opportunities at every turn – but the excess salt visible in the ground and round the rocks leaves one with an overriding desire to quench ones thirst!
A photo that … tells a story:

Isisford, Outback Queensland


It's my contention that EVERY photo tells a story – it's just that some stories are WAAAY more interesting than others. So while I could have chosen many shots for this category, the story behind this sign at the western entrance to tiny Queensland town of Isisford is one of the more intriguing!

No, the sign is NOT a joke!! If I'm right and the story DOES intrigue you - read about it HERE!

The photo that ... I am most proud of (ie my 'worthy of National Geographic' shot):

Photographers like me are unaccustomed to thinking of their 'work' in conjunction with National Geographic.  There's no way I'd describe myself as a photographer – as some of you will now agree – so being an each-way-bet kind of girl, I'm going to cheat and show you my three finalists and you can tell ME which one (if any!) is most worthy.

And if they look pretty ordinary to your more trained photographer's eye, bear in mind that I'm proud of them because I'm NOT a photographer – but for a brief and wonderful moment or two, I can look at these shots and make believe that I am …

Menindee Lakes Sunset


This Menindee Lakes sunset was one of the last photos taken with my non-digital camera before it gave up the ghost in late 2011.  Technique?  What technique??  I just pointed it at the sky and clicked!

Mounts Gower and Lidgbird, Lord Howe Island, New South Wales


I've written many times about the staggeringly perfect Lord Howe Island - the good thing about this shot is it really DOES look like this!

Cawnpore Lookout, Outback Queensland


And finally, the amazing formations of Cawnpore Lookout epitomises travel in the Australian Outback.  Against the red rocks and stark blue sky, our rig shrank into the landscape - and we didn't want to leave!

And now that my work is done, I get to choose five victims new participants for the 7 Super Shots challenge! Here they are (in no particular order):

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #24 - Ned's Beach, Lord Howe Island, NSW


Public Amenities, Ned's Beach, Lord Howe Island
These conveniences could be ANYWHERE, right? Anywhere with tropical vegetation and killer blue skies, that is. But that doesn't narrow it down much. Nor does its proximity to a beach and picnic and barbecue areas!

Unlike many of its tropical counterparts, however, this public loo has no predators such as snakes; the barbecues are free and already stacked with wood; and it's surrounded by many features worthy of much closer inspection.

Like the resident population of endemic and uncommon bird species – White Tern and Flesh-footed Shearwater (aka 'Mutton' bird) en route; Sooty Tern, Common Noddy and Black-winged Petrel at the other end of the beach below.

And its outlook under towering Malabar hill with a sheer 209 metre drop to the ocean – named for the Malabar native who fell from it to his death from it many years ago while collecting Red-tailed Tropicbird feathers. Now these amazing birds soar above – and acrophobics* like me don't look down …


White Tern, Lord Howe Island (pic by Pilchard)
Also en route are two tempting local bakeries, as if I needed another reason to slow down given I'd already claimed the hotly contested 'world's slowest cyclist' title. What a shame the topographic map we studied before our arrival gave us the mistaken impression that all the roads were flat! And what a shame – for the locals – I hadn't ridden a bike in well over 20 years …

Ned's Beach, Lord Howe Island
Mounts Gower & Lidgbird, Lord Howe Island
Swim amongst mullet chasing food scraps at fish feeding time; and the kingfish chasing the mullet! Oh … and what's that chasing the kingfish? Yep, a (small) shark! Those barbecues are starting to look mighty attractive – and stick around after dusk to see the Mutton birds return from a day of hunting at sea … what a shame Pilchard was too wary of their great hooked beaks to pick one up for a photo!
And if that doesn't narrow it down enough, the fabulously picturesque Ned's Beach is often overshadowed by the staggering – but instantly recognisable – view on the other side of magnificent Lord Howe Island.


View to Malabar Hill from Ned's Beach loo
AND Public Toilet #15, previously claimed (by me!) as Australia's MOST scenic!

The best thing? It REALLY DOES look like this! Sigh … maybe this IS the best amenities block after all!

At virtually a year to the day since we last visited magical Lord Howe Island, it's clearly been WAY too long …
Gotta go back.

If only to decide which is the better scenic public toilet.

Who's coming with me?!

Want more information?


Pilchard looks ovethe Admiralty Islands from Malabar Hill.  Ned's Beach to the right! Lord Howe Island, NSW


*Acrophobia = extreme or irrational fear of heights (although mine's NOT irrational ... and Pilchard doesn't share it ...)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

RED Alert #5: 'I Must Be Off! in the RED zone!



Red Man, Vancouver, Canada
My RED Alert #5 guest Christopher Allen comes from the US, lives in Germany, has a strange connection with New Zealand and his wonderful blog I Must Be Off! has RED photos from – well – almost everywhere! Weirdly though, we DO have common ground! See if you can spot it!

RED: Hi Christopher! I'm honoured that you've agreed to be my RED Alert #5 guest.

Christopher: Hi, Red Nomad OZ! Thank you for inviting me to do this interview. These questions are great.

RED: HHHMMMmmm... will you still be saying that at the end of the interview, I wonder?! How important is RED to your blog?

Christopher: About a year ago, I Googled I Must Be Off! through the image color filter. There was a lot of deep blue and green because I hike—and a lot of RED.

RED: If I could work out how to do that, I suspect I'd find more BLUE than RED on my blog! LOVE your blog name I Must Be Off! - is there a story behind it?

Christopher: I’ve lived in Germany for almost 20 years, so the language has seeped into my thoughts. A famous German comedian wrote a book called “Ich bin dann mal weg. Meine Reise auf dem Jakobsweg“ (I’m off now for a while. My journey on the Jacobs Trail.) It’s a travelogue that’s supposed to be funny, poignant and entertaining, but it turned out to be merely a vehicle for the author to show off how many languages he speaks. I like the comedian but felt the book was weak.

Turkish Bazaar Ceiling

The title, though, was sitting there relaxing in my subconscious for a while until I needed a name for my blog. I was thinking of the German travelogue, but “I must be off” refers to both my need to escape and my obsession with travel—which is more than just a bit crazy.

RED: Cleverly ambiguous! Which country has the best RED stuff?

Christopher: I love these questions! I give Turkey twelve points. On the Turkish Riviera, there’s a little old man sitting on every corner squeezing and selling his pomegranates. It’s the reddest fruit ever, and it’s full of Vitamin C. There’s also a US-American of medium build wearing sunglasses and probably a red shirt drinking the juice. Me.

RED: Haha! And why not?! As an aside to readers, see this Turkish RED for yourself with cheap holidays to Turkey!  

Other than the flag, where else can RED be found in Turkey?

Christopher: One of my favorite pictures is of a bazaar ceiling in Istanbul. It’s an incredible design of RED bricks. My eyes are drawn to patterns like this. The ceiling in the bazaar is enormous and of course a work of art. I tried to get as much as possible in the photo without including anything else.

Christopher's RED flower pic - Rio de Janeiro
RED: And you've succeeded! This is a very exotic looking flower. Where is it found?

Christopher: I take way too many pictures of flowers, so I’ve been told. They’re more like flower portraits than pictures. This particular flower lived in the Botanical Garden in Rio de Janeiro. I liked the way the light hit it. It was so hot that day.

RED: Snap! But my shot (see below) was taken in the Cairns Botanical Gardens, in northern Australia! I won't ask readers to compare photos – I know who'll come 2nd - but it's interesting that these nearly identical flowers are so far apart!

What else is Brazil known for?
Christopher: Once, I drove all the way from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador da Bahia on the most dangerous road in the world!

RED: I hope the RED flower made it all worthwhile! Which destinations draw you back?

Christopher: Alsace, France is one of my favorite places. It’s only a three-hour drive from my home in Munich, so I do a wine-run at least twice a year. People think it’s quaint rather than exciting, but they haven’t been to Alsace during the wine festivals or during Advent when the town of Ribeauvill√© transforms itself into a medieval village.

RED: Give me 'quaint' over 'exciting' any day! Especially when there's wine involved ... What about outside of Europe?

Christopher: After touring New Zealand in 2005 for twenty days, I knew I’d be back as often as my travel budget would allow. My connection with NZ is so strong that I’m now a part of An Aotearoa Affair. I’m hosting the carnival in May – the theme is “Bi” - so if anyone is interested in participating, contact me for details.
Red's Red Flower pic - Cairns Botanic Gardens
RED: I was born in New Zealand!! And I'm sure NZ wine plays a part in the NZ connection ... What inspired the recurring RED motif in your wonderful 1st prize-winning story 'Red Toy Soldier'? I loved it!!

Christopher: I woke up one morning with the title in my head: Red Toy Soldier. I’d wanted to write a story about a woman whose father had always wanted a boy, but I’d never had a starting place until the title arrived.

RED: RED seems strangely appropriate for the themes of abandonment and betrayal experienced by all the characters in the story – is RED a negative colour?

Christopher: It’s the connection between Joey’s red hair and the color of the toy soldiers her father gives her that sets the semiotics in the story. If the two characters were to have a beautiful, healthy relationship, the color would be positive—but of course Joey and her father are broken.

RED: Why does RED elicit such strong responses from the main characters?

Christopher: Joey changes the color of her hair as an adult to make a clean break from her father, whose hair is the same fiery red. She also transforms herself into the archetype of femininity. I think the color red is symbolic of heat and drama and feelings that consume, like hate and love.

RED: No, it's not for the fainthearted! What's your most memorable RED experience?

Christopher: When you think of “worst RED experiences” you have to think of blood. In 1984 I was driving home from a gig in St. Louis when I started feeling sick. I asked my girlfriend to pull over. On the side of the interstate in the dark, I threw up in a large way, got back in the car and felt better. Five minutes later, I threw up again. And then every five minutes thereafter, I threw up—always in the dark—until we reached the emergency room in Nashville . . . two hours later. When the lights of the hospital lit me up, I looked down to see that the front of my shirt was completely covered in blood. The doctor told me if I hadn’t come straight to the ER, I would have died that night. The next morning when I woke up in the hospital and looked at myself in the mirror, I saw that all the blood vessels in my eyes had burst and that the whites of my eyes were blood red.

RED: AAAARRRGGGH! I'm surprised that didn't put you off RED for life!!
Christopher: I’m still here! RED has become such a natural part of my life, I forget to notice it sometimes. There’s a ladybug on the lamp next to my computer to remind me to be thankful. There’s a piece of art to my left—a red piece of volcanic wood made to look like a painting—that I had made from the scraps left over from the volcanic wood panel in my kitchen. On the wall to my left is something I painted, and it’s red. I just walked into my sunroom and had to smile. All my furniture is red, and this is the place in the house where I feel energized. After a lot of reflection, I’d have to say that life itself is my best RED experience.
Indian Chandelier

RED: Words to live by! You've titled this photo 'Indian Chandelier' – and I love the colours and angles! Where was it taken?

Christopher: It's in an Indian restaurant in Derby, UK – the only reason I’ve named it “Indian Chandelier”. The restaurant owner probably bought it at IKEA! This is a great example of when my friends say to me, “Great God in heaven, Chris, why are you photographing that?” The angled shot has more movement, and I like the contrast between darkness and light.

RED: As do I! Your photos are amazing - what's your best tip for an amateur like me?

Christopher: I’m not a professional photographer, but I enjoy viewing the world from different perspectives. I like to compose a shot, and I think I have a feeling for what makes a good one.

RED: You think?? We KNOW!!

Christopher: I see people taking a hundred shots of mountain landscapes, and I think Really? A hundred? These are such boring shots. Mountain. Mountain. Mountain. Out of focus mountain. Mountain. If I take a picture of a mountain, there needs to be something in the foreground that complements the mountain. I (try to) take pictures of things that will appear dramatically and make an impression (and that have made an impression on me). The color RED almost always does this.

Red Bus, Banff National Park, Canada


RED: (*thinking* well, you'll LOATHE the endless tropical island shots in my last post...) And then they load all 582 mediocre shots onto Facebook! But I'm glad you didn't edit out this marvellous RED vehicle!

Christopher: Great bus, huh? This hotel on wheels was parked at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. It’s the first time I’d ever seen anything like it. Apparently there are bunks in the back of the bus for the passengers. This is perfect for people touring the national parks of British Columbia and Alberta—well, “perfect” if you want to spend your holiday in a bunk.

RED: It's a cross between fantasy come true and my worst nightmare!! What kind of blogs do you like reading?

Christopher: I read fellow authors’ blogs (http://www.imustbeoff.com/p/blog-site-fb-roll.html) and fellow travellers’ blogs (http://www.travelblogexchange.com/) mainly. I know this seems a bit schizophrenic, but my life is about writing and travel—and I haven’t ruled out mental illness!

RED: If you were head of the blog police, what would you change about blogging?

Christopher: Hmmm. Well, a blog should be what the blogger wants it to be. If he/she isn’t interested in keeping readers, anything goes. That said . . . Sheesh, when someone goes on and on and on and on without a point (that I can see), I get irritated and leave.

RED: Aha! Only two people in the entire world know how much editing went into THIS interview!! What makes a good blog?

Christopher: Informative, entertaining, colorful, inspiring and well written—but not long. And if they are long, they’d better be incredibly informative, entertaining, colorful—you get the idea.
Tiled Roof, Croatia
RED: I'm on it … Have you added 'Croatian roof-climber' to your repertoire of blogger, photographer, writer, teacher and traveller?

Christopher: This is a rooftop in a village where some of the houses are actually below the path up the hill, which enabled me to get a close-up shot.

RED: The texture is marvellous!

Christopher: Texture and pattern (and the contrasts between) are so important in the pictures I take—and in the stories I write. In fact, I need pictures to tell a story. In this photo of a simple rooftop—it’s someone’s home—I see a family who replaces tiles only when they have to. New tiles among the old tell me the family clings to the past for one reason or another, whether it be love for the past or a distaste for modernity.

RED: I don't know a lot about Croatia. What's one thing that surprised you about it?

DSC01526
Christopher: Everyone still smokes! It’s mind-boggling, but our waiter in a fairly nice restaurant in Rijeka was smoking as he took our order. I found that odd.

RED: Really? Haha, only kidding! Yes, that IS odd!

Christopher: One (serious) thing about Croatia that most people don’t know: Croatia produces excellent wine.

RED: No way! I'm sensing another recurring theme … which brings me to this great RED photo you've imaginatively titled DSC01526! What is it?

Christopher: Ha! Another great example of when my friends stare at me and think Chris has lost his mind . . . again. Imagine the scene: We’re sitting at a cocktail bar on Phuket (Thailand), enjoying “a few” (RED: *snorts*) sugary drinks. The evening is beautiful, warm. We all feel so grateful for the adventure. The stirrers are twirly and colorful and the tablecloth is red. As stirrers accumulate, I start building things and snapping photos. The feeling of this series of photos is drunken and bathed in red.

RED: That'd make many Aussies feel right at home!! And now, your photo of the RED MAN is the ULTIMATE RED shot! Tell us in 15 words or less what it's all about!
CA not jumping in NZ!
Christopher: Wait. Are you referring to this shot of me?

RED: (*thinking quickly* no, I was referring to the RED MAN statue at start of post. But I'd better keep him sweet and agree!!) Of course I was! But why not give me 15 words or less about this photo AND the RED MAN photo?!

Christopher: RED MAN: Vancouver. Part of set of sculptures. Single subjects (flowers, faces, etc.) beg to be photographed.

About me: Standing atop a volcano in New Zealand. Not preparing to jump.

RED: Haha! SO glad you didn't jump!! Do you have any final RED words of wisdom for my readers??

Christopher: The color RED to me means life, which I’ve learned to appreciate. Life is not always pretty, but is always instructive.

Want more information?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Aussie ABC - I is for Islands!

Mounts Gower and Lidgbird, Lord Howe Island, New South Wales

Historic Supply Landing, Kangaroo Island
I've spent my entire life on islands. But only if you count Australia! Some say it's the world's biggest island, some the smallest continent, others don't actually care … But me? Of COURSE it's an island! Anything to add more bragging rights another world class experience to my loud, proud Aussie portfolio!

But while my devotion to the BIG island is well documented, Australia's 8222 other islands often lure us away from the mainland, and into a different world. Island magic weaves its spell from the moment that sea crossing – an actual rite of passage – physically separates the traveller from her/his troubles, and lands her/him in what is more often than not a wondrous amalgam of staggering scenery, wonderful wildlife and relentless relaxation.

That's been our collective experience of 20+ Aussie islands in 20+ years, anyway!!
But even after eliminating islands that can't be reached the discerning traveller is left with several thousand from which to choose – each with its own history, natural attractions, activities, wildlife and character.

So narrow the field even further and follow me around OZ for my Idiosyncratic Individualised 5-Island Introduction!


Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island, Far North Queensland
1.  For … 'Idyllic', try Magnetic Island, Far North Queensland!

Magnetic Island walking track Nelly Bay to Arcadia
So much more than the twanging tourists and wandering wildlife I've previously described (see below), Magnetic Island perfectly combines natural attractions with niceties; charm with convenience; and laid back lifestyle with luxury.

Only 8 km offshore from Townsville, it's easy to get to Magnetic Island by ferry, and even easier to stay … National parks, beaches and bays, a variety of accommodation and dining options (yes! a bakery!) and its own public transport system make this island an archetypal idyllic tropical paradise!



2.  For 'Incomparable', try Lord Howe Island, New South Wales!

The high incidence of world class attractions ensures this small island 600 km off the New South Wales coast a steady stream of visitors and makes it one of my all time favourite Australian travel destinations. It's also the scene of my one and only triathlon attempt … but that's another story (see link below)!
Ned's Beach, Lord Howe Island, New South Wales

Lord Howe Island's well deserved world heritage status manifested in staggering scenery, numerous endemics and fascinating history is best experienced over as lengthy a period of time as you can afford. Add to that (arguably) the most scenic public toilet in Australia AND a bakery, and you'd be ill-advised to ignore this incomparable island!


3.  For 'Incredible', try Griffiths Island, Victoria!

Lighthouse, Griffiths Island, via Port Fairy, Victoria
Muttonbird Burrow, Griffiths Island
Migrating muttonbirds (Short-tailed Shearwater) manage the 15,000 km flight from their home in the Aleutian Islands and Kamchatka Peninsula so as to arrive at their nesting grounds on Griffiths Island within 3 days of 22nd September every year!! Incredible!

As is the engineering feat that combined two islands into one at the mouth of Port Fairy's Moyne River, and the island's interesting history and glorious scenery. Every day at sundown, the muttonbirds return from the sea to roost and feed their chicks in their nesting burrows – an incredible sight which one day we'll get to see!


4.  For 'Intriguing', try Kangaroo Island, South Australia!

Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Australia's 3rd largest island, this eclectic mixture of unspoiled beaches, Remarkable Rocks (their actual name!), seal colonies, lighthouses, sand dunes, national parks and the purest strain of Ligurian bees in the world is one of South Australia's premier attractions.

Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island
With a number of settlements, a strong eco-tourism presence and a plethora of natural attractions (a study once named Vivonne Bay the top beach in Australia) 'KI', as it is known downunder, is South Australia's answer to the northern tropics!





5.  For 'Infamous', try the Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia!


Albrohos Islands, Western Australia (photo courtesy Bill's Diving Blog )
If mutiny and shipwreck, with theft, murder, rape, a psychopathic anti-hero and the general breakdown of civilisation in the 106 days before rescue sounds a little too much like 'Extreme Survivor', then you probably don't want to read the sensational true story of the Batavia, wrecked off the Western Australian coast on the Albrohos islands in 1629!
Batavia's Anchor, Albrohos Islands WA  (photo courtesy Bill's Diving Blog )

This compelling tale of degeneration, dastardly deeds and despair on the islands has been the subject of many studies, novels, films and TV series, but it's probably too melodramatic to say I'm dying to visit one day!!

Happily, Perth Daily Photo supplied these pictures from her friend and mentor Bill, whose excellent Bill's Diving Blog has even more photos of these infamous islands, now home to much less sensational ecotourism pursuits!


Albrohos Islands, Western Australia (photo courtesy of Bill's Diving Blog )






Yes, I know.

It's all too beautiful, isn't it?

And you want to see it for yourself, right??

So what are you waiting for?

BUT ... if you still need convincing, or you haven't yet had enough of Australia's Islands, sit back, listen to Aussie singer Christine Anu's My Island Home, and lets go Island-hopping!!

Enjoy!
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