Photos

Algebuckina Bridge, on the Oodnadatta track

This rusting monument to the Victorian era spans the Neales River, an area prone to flooding, and the impressive engineering still dominates its surroundings 125 years after its official opening. Long disused three graves lie nearby, and a rusty 1948 FJ Holden that was hit by a train as it tried to cross the bridge in a flood

With a total length of 580m long, built in the remote heat of an area west of Lake Eyre and near the southern reaches of the Simpson desert, its worth a stop, if only to cool off in the river.

 

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Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Road trip, South Australia, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The most junior Ten of the Fifty Toes gives his 5 minute trip summary (#4)

What were your three favourite places and why?”

  1. “Twelve Mile Lagoon in Lakefield National Park, Queensland because this was where I caught my first barramundi on my own. Dad helped me pull it up the bank but I caught it myself. It was 60cm long and tasted delicious”
  2. “Lake Wabby in Fraser Island, Queensland. We could run down steep dunes into the deep water and the water was lovely and warm. It was raining but I didn’t want to leave”
  3. “Swimming with Whale Sharks in Exmouth. I was a little bit scared of swimming in deep water at first, but when I finally jumped in I couldn’t believe how big and beautiful the whale shark was. They are the biggest fish in the oceans. People think they are whales because of their size but they are harmless giants that only eat plankton”
“What was the best thing you took on the trip?”
“Probably my fishing rod. If you don’t have any food you can use it to catch fish for dinner all you need is a lure or some bait. Unfortunately though I did break a couple of rods on the trip, one because a big bream snapped it, but I still landed the fish and ate it”
“What did you miss most, or just couldn’t take with you?”
“I missed Grandma while I was away. I really missed not having a bike, so we had to borrow other kid’s bikes off them whenever we could. There were lots of nice kids on the road who shared their bikes with us”
“Would you do it again?”
“Yes I would, because I would love to keep fishing and snorkelling on the reefs. I never get bored swimming or fishing.”
“How did schooling on the road go?”
“Great. I loved the work, especially the Maths books and I even got a Maths award from my teacher whilst on the road?” (Editors note – he had no problems finishing the work whenever he got it and was the model student. The other two were more of a challenge!)
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Werrikimbe National Park, NSW

Shortly after leaving Armidale we chanced upon a sign to the grave of Nat Buchanan who died at the age of 72 in 1901. Like we did, you are probably wondering who Nat Buchanan is, but we discovered that after arriving in Australia from Ireland in 1837, he went on to create an unrivalled reputation droving cattle. The plaque next to the grave explained all his feats and having visited some of the areas he was droving we could well appreciate the achievement.

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Apsley Falls, Oxley Wild Rivers NP

Apsley Falls, Oxley Wild Rivers NP

Driving further along the road in the Northern Tablelands another sign triggered me to turn off to the Apsley Falls. I had read about these and also was keen to see what the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park had to offer. Two sets of falls plunge some 60m into the precipitous Apsley gorge and a series of lookouts offer some amazing vantage points to watch. The water levels were low and the river disappears beneath rubble at one point re-emerging around the next bend in the gorge.

Mooraback camp is a quiet oasis that lies in Werrikimbe National Park, and adjacent to the Oxley River National Park. Classified as a Gondwanaland forest, it is the remnant of forest from the supercontinent of the same name that split into the continents that we know today. The homestead was handed over to the National Parks in 1975 and is now critical habitat to a number of endangered plants and animals, including the River Hastings mouse. This rodent was believed extinct for over 100 years until rediscovered here in the 1980s.

Reaching an altitude of up to 1200m on the drive up it was quiet a refreshing change, from the mid 30 degrees of the previous day, as temperatures dropped to a brisk 16 degrees.

Driving into the clouds we were regularly sprinkled with fine drizzle. On arrival we had choice of the 5 sites, all recently mowed luscious green patches dispersed amongst the trees. A fire-pit and supply of wood offered us probably the last opportunity to have a campfire on this adventure. As daylight vanished and everyone else disappeared into bed the forest suddenly lit up with tiny flashing lights, and for 30 minutes a display of fire flies flitted gracefully between the trees in the forest in pursuit of one another. Hannah was still awake and came to watch this magical finale to our trip with me.

From the camp there are two easy walks, one takes you through a number of habitats in the forest behind. This 15 minute walk showcased many local birds, crimson and eastern rosellas, white-eared honeyeaters, golden whistlers, rufous fantails, red-browed finches, fairy-wrens, silver-eyes, and treecreepers.

The second walk is a 5km walk that takes you around the headwaters of the Hastings river that runs towards Port Macquarie, where it finally meets the Pacific Ocean. The streams and pools abound with platypus and Xavier and I were fortunate to see a number of them in the late afternoon.

The hillsides up in this NSW alpine region abound with colour at the moment and we had fun spotting many different spring flowers, including a few different orchids. When the clouds finally cleared and the sun emerged this place was a truly tranquil gem and worth driving the additional kilometres from the main road to visit.

One last night, and time for a final episode of the “bushman’s TV”. Each episode lasts as long as your wood supply, and though often similar, are equally riveting for young and old with every viewing. The last of the kid’s houses built from firewood were sacrificed, another display from the fire flies and it was time to farewell this remote spot.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, New South Wales, NSW, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Armidale

Our visit to Armidale was to stay with a close family friend, but also to do a little family research. There was the added possible bonus that Hannah was hoping to ride a horse too on the property, or at least get up and personal with one or two of them.

Booloominbah, the "House on the Hill"

Booloominbah, the “House on the Hill”

Booloominbah is a huge house that is now nestled in the centre of the grounds of Armidale University. Amanda’s great great grandmother had grown up in this house and she was keen to have a close look. The grandeur imposed by the building itself indicates that pastoralist farming was a lucrative business back in the 1880s when the house was built. We trooped in and looked around the entrance, then climbed up the main staircase admiring the stained glass window, at which point a lady appeared asking us if we required assistance. When Amanda revealed her credentials we were whisked off on a tour of the entire building, pretty special as this is now the administration centre for the university.

Among the highlights were the hand-painted glass windows in the nursery depicting scenes from nursery rhymes, but also the extravagance of the dining room was astounding.

Clutching new acquired brochures we thanked our guide profusely and headed for the Saumarez homestead, where we were welcomed by an equally accommodating caretaker, despite the fact it wasn’t open. Again the family link worked, and we explored the homestead but not inside the main house which was left pretty much as it stood when Elsie White died there at the age of 90. It has since been adopted reluctantly by the National Trust (due to maintenance costs) as it is such an important piece of heritage in the region.

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With hours of exploring Amanda’s heritage behind us it was time to relax in the peaceful gardens of our host and Hannah managed to get her long-awaited ride.

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Grafton and the Waterfall Highway

With the passing of the previous night’s storm the air smelt clean and fresh the next morning. The humidity crept up on us though, something we have had trouble acclimatising to in recent weeks.

With local knowledge imparted as we farewelled our hosts, we headed down to the beach, then up the road to get a good look back at Lennox Heads before heading towards Killen Falls. The water wasn’t very inviting following the previous night’s rainfall but the falls were putting on an impressive performance. Not quite as much a local spot as expected, there were plenty of people there though few dared the chilly waters. A collection of small cairns have started sprouting up opposite the falls, adding to the magic of the location. Hannah and I also snuck a quick look at Emigrant Dam while grabbing a geocache on the way out.

Birds on the deck in Grafton

Birds on the deck in Grafton

Well on the homeward leg now, our trip was becoming more of a social event than one of exploration and we headed towards Grafton where our friends “Roving Reeves”, from Perth, were staying. The kids always enjoyed catching up with their boys so it seemed an obvious stopping point for us to catch up with Tash and Stephen. An enjoyable dinner was spent on the deck, chatting and watching flocks of lorikeets, king parrots, cockatoos and galahs queueing up to eat sunflower seeds.

 

The next morning, once a thick fog had lifted from the hills around Grafton, they joined us on a drive towards Dorrigo National Park, stopping first at Dangar Falls, just off the obviously named Waterfall Highway.

A quick lunch and walk to the base of the falls at Dangar then off to the Dorrigo National Park where we wandered into the rainforest, onto the skywalk and listened to the birdsong throughout the hillside. with time once again getting away from us we bade “Roving Reeves” farewell and parted ways heading towards Armidale, via the Ebor Falls. The surrounding woodland and fields there were smothered with a thick dusting of white michaelmas daisy snow, the wonder of springtime flowers was greeting us once more in our last few days on the road.

Spring flowers around Ebor

Spring flowers around Ebor

 

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Fraser Island (Part 2)

The following day saw us heading north to Sandy Cape, up past Indian Head, Waddy Point, through the cute settlement of Orchid Beach, before heading up the beach again. With the tide being quite high on the way up we had to briefly leave the beach at Ngkala Rocks taking a bypass track that squeezed us through the rocks. We spotted two more dingos on this trip and at Sandy Cape the road to the lighthouse was impassable due to the tide, so we took to foot to walk over the dunes to the Carree campsite. The tall sand dunes plummet to the seashore and the kids ran up and down in the hot sunshine whilst we watched. The lighthouse poked out from the trees several kilometers to the west of us but too far to walk in the heat.

On the return trip we visited the Champagne Pools, somewhat disappointing due to the fact that each pool had fifty backpackers wallowing in it, some of them stripping off and crushing snails to feed the fish, despite the “no collecting” signs.

When challenged one said he was with an Aboriginal who said it was ok to do so. Whilst indigenous people do have privileges to collect within National Parks, tourists don’t and when others started copying the marine life will soon be stripped and spoilt for the future. I found it surprising that the indigenous guide had allowed this, as most aboriginal people we have met consider themselves to be guardians of the land they occupy. In this case perhaps the lure of the dollar was more important than preservation of the environment.

We walked to the tips of Waddy Point and Indian head to look for sharks, turtles and more but returned disappointed.

On the return trip we headed east at Orchid Beach to visit Wathumba, a large estuarine area, with a wooded coastline and mangroves growing in the sand. This beautiful spot is notorious for sandflies but we didn’t witness many at all.

Another day, another excursion and we headed south to take in the Central Lakes drive. Out timing of the tide wasn’t good and when we arrived at Eli creek some thirty cars on both sides of the creek were awaiting the tide to abate. Some of the Tag-Along tours had fixed itineraries though and were not prepared to wait. The 4WD vehicles driven primarily by inexperienced backpackers nervously entered the water, sometimes to their leaders horror even taking a precarious passage over rocks. Whilst the water wasn’t too deep I was prepared to wait a bit longer rather than taking a brine rinse under the bonnet.

One vehicle stalled on the exit and couldn’t be restarted by the driver. Without a snorkel it looked like this could be the end of their day but the leader emerged from the back of his vehicle with a can of CYC spray and with a prolonged spray under the bonnet life was restored in the engine and off they drove.

As we crossed shortly after four guys were digging sand out from the wheels of a very bogged car near the front of the queue.

Once across the creek and past Yidney and Poyungan rocks along the beach the track heads inland and a short drive through the forest brings you to the Lake Wabby Lookout. The lake is easily accessible from here and despite the threats of a dark storm approaching we couldn’t resist. The water was surprising warm for the deepest lake on the island and with steep dunes plunging into the deep water it was a favourite with the kids.

Beyond that is another major attraction, Lake Mackenzie, whose brilliant white sandy shores and pale blue acidic water grace all the tourist brochures. To avoid crowds, a short walk along the beach, and over a few steps, brings you to a second beach. Still no sun but plenty of crystal clear warm water to swim in – irresistible. The drive continued past Lakes Birrabeen, Benaroon and Boomanjin, all picturesque and much less frequented by the crowds of tourists but time was flying and we had to drive back up the beach.

As the rusting wreckage of the Maheno emerged from the sea spray in the distance we knew were almost back at camp again where the kids needed to be woken up, having fallen asleep in the car, after another exhausting day on Fraser Island

Rusting hulk of the Maheno

Rusting hulk of the Maheno

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Fraser Island (Part 1)

After over a week’s unscheduled stay in Noosa it was time to revisit our last major 4WD challenge of our trip, Fraser Island.

Having visited twice previously the plan this time was to explore beyond the typical tourist attractions. Previous trips had been restricted to 3 days and had seen us staying on the south east side of the island exploring only half of one side of the island.

Personal ferry service to Hook Point

Personal ferry service to Hook Point

The ferry terminal at Inskip Point is a beach of soft sand 100m from the unsealed road. As we drove onto the beach the ferry had just departed, but as I accelerated across the beach the skipper must have seen us, reversed and returned to pick us up. The ferry was empty so we got our own personal ferry service which made it seem worthwhile considering the rather pricey cost for a 5 minute crossing. The deckhand joked that he would save us a place on our return trip in a week’s time.

We had timed the tides well and drove from Hook Point along the beach and up the eastern beach, some 65km to Yurru campsite, just north of Cathedral Beach camp. The beach is under normal road regulations with a speed limit of 80km but following recent rain the unwary can be caught out at this speed with washouts.

Despite being the largest sand island in the world, over 100km long and 20km wide, there is no shortage of static and flowing freshwater and the erosion of beach sand caused by creeks can cripple the suspension of even the most sturdy cars if hit too fast.

Driving up the beach we were treated to the sight of two inquisitive dingos, then as we approached the Eurong settlement six dingos including young pups were running around the vehicles of some fishermen. Nothing beats the traditional dingo welcome to Fraser island. A ban on dogs on the island has retained the pure-bred status for these dingos as inter-breeding often occurs back on the mainland.

Shortly before Yurru camp the majestic wreck of the Maheno emerged through the sea spray in the distance.

The Maheno sank in 1935, washed ashore in a cyclone, but sufficient remains make it an interesting stopping point for tourists. Original wooden decking still lines some of the wreck, even after exposure to daily tides and the occasional cyclone storms over the last eighty years.

On our first day a transmission warning light came on and when actions recommended by the car manual failed to rectify it we were in a bit of a quandary. It still drove so we chose to ignore it until we got off the island again!

With a very changeable and wet long range weather forecast we chose to explore as much as we could in the first two reasonable days.

The northern forests scenic drive took us initially to a lookout over Knifeblade sandblow where the tops of overrun treetops poked starkly out of the sand. Lake Allom, further inland offered a warm refreshing swim amongst the freshwater turtles. We then took a couple of tracks to explore the western coast, Awinya and Woralie creeks. With a prevailing easterly wind, it was nice to experience calm beaches with no surf on the western side of the island. The camp at Woralie was very attractive though the creek crossing was very deep and not one that we were prepared to attempt. We were half way across when I decided it needed to be waded and when the water reached my chest I was glad I hadn’t proceeded.

Woralie Creek beach

Woralie Creek beach

It was fun to watch a car coming the other way, without a snorkel, as the bow wave poured over the bonnet and up their windscreen.

We explored another track that headed towards Moon Point but not being the scheduled track resulted in many scratches and a nasty ding in the side of the car. To add insult to injury the last 7km to Moon Point were closed.

The track leads through magnificent forest, where mature trees dwarf the cars as they pass through. Giant Kauri trees give way to lower scrub and the outlook continually changes. The narrow roads are restricted to 30km and constantly keep the driver busy negotiating the way through natural obstacles and fallen trees can easily halt progress.

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Wallaman Falls and the S.S. Yongala

Wallaman Falls

Wallaman Falls

The highest single drop waterfalls in Australia are Wallaman Falls. A relatively small deviation from Ingham took us up into the hills again and after a steep climb over 500m from sea-level, into Girringun National Park, we were confronted with a surprisingly spectacular sheer cliff face where the water plunges 268m into a pool below that is 20m deep. It was well worth the visit and we even got five minutes of sunlight between the drizzle.

We’d set ourselves a long drive for the day so after a brief lunch we set off back down the hill to the coast. We didn’t stop in Townsville and a last minute change of plan saw us head for the town of Ayr, 100km south from Townsville.

I had booked a dive the next day on the S.S. Yongala, reputed to be one of the best wreck dives in Australia. With winds forecast at 25 knots I was expecting a cancellation but it was confirmed and my excitement levels rose as I had only done one dive in the last 11 months. We also had the car booked for a service in Townsville the next day so poor Amanda drew the long straw to drive back the 100km with the kids. We were told it could be serviced in Ayr but when we phoned the garage at 5pm the response was that the service desk was closed – better to go where they understand customer service.

The morning was sunny again with less wind and I was dropped at the dive shop at 7.30am. The kids were actually excited because they had been promised a trip to the aquarium where a whole portfolio of talks awaited them.

The S.S. Yongala was a passenger ship that sank in 1911 in a cyclone as it headed north up the coast on its 99th voyage to get a refit. All 122 on board died but the wreck was not found until 1958. The Navy performing a mine sweep in the area had noted its probable position in 1947 but the charts with notation were only rediscovered later. The wreck is accessed via a 30 minute bumpy ride in rigid hull inflatable dive boat.

The wreck itself lies on sand and as such provides an artificial reef for a plethora of underwater life. The wreck is covered with corals and among these a profusion of small fish thrive. Schools of damselfish and glass fish shimmy and start in unison as larger predatory trivially and mackerel cruise past. Coral trout and enormous cod lurk in the shadows of the holds, and under the rusting infrastructure. Large Moray eels surveyed the scene from their hide holes and Batfish the size of dinner plates cruise around in small schools. The more you look the more you find. Turtles kept popping up all over the wreck, as did the highly venomous and ever-curious olive sea snakes. Dense schools of jacks and other medium sized fish aggregate at the bow and stern, barely moving as you swim through them. We  were blessed with great visibility making it an unforgettable day’s diving.

Unbeknownst to me my kids were revelling in a more controlled marine environment at the same time. On my return they were gushing over Myrtle the one-eyed Turtle that they saw in the turtle hospital (of course), and the talks they had been religiously attending all day in Townsville aquariuwm, Reef HQ. They had been watching Nemos at close quarters, had up close fun in the discovery lagoons and even tried on old school pearl diving helmets.

This was a day to remember!

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Mission Beach

Cassowary

A Cassowary preens itself in the afternoon sunlight

Back to the coast we headed, taking a less precipitous road, descending 900m again towards Innisfail, then south to Mission Beach, driving past Djiru National Park before entering the quaint tourist village. The council operated caravan park sits behind the beach and offers powered sites for next to nothing so we settled in for a few days. We needed to get some schoolwork done with the kids, and the nearby library beckoned.

IMG_0137The National Park appeared to offer much better walking tracks than in Cape Tribulation so we set off initially on a short walk at Lacey Creek. The narrow path snakes through the thick forest, criss-crossing the creek and a few tell-tale cassowary droppings littered the track but none were spotted. I got mesmerised for 20 minutes watching a tree snake exploring the forest, systematically checking branches for food.

We walked the 3.2km Dreaming Trail, witnessed more cassowary droppings, oversized mounds of semi digested seeds, littering the path, but still no sightings. Many of the seeds were already germinating proving how effective the bird is as a jungle gardener.

With interest waning in the rain only Xavier and I continued from this track onto the 6km Musgravea track to Licuala. There was so much evidence of cassowaries that we were very optimistic about seeing one and sure enough 3km in a beautiful big specimen stood preening itself in the sunlight in the middle of the track. We carefully approached to about 20m, as these birds can be dangerous, particularly if protecting their chicks, but at this point it ducked into the undergrowth never to be seen again. A further 50m on and we encountered an echidna, an animal that we haven’t seen for ages.

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Back at camp the kids were very excited to find a few very large and carefully compiled humpys on the beach, spending plenty of time hanging out in them with other kids. It was good for them to find lots of kids around their age that they could let some steam off with.

The adjacent park was lined with rather attractive palms with clumps of fruit of different colours hanging below the leaves and Amanda got particularly excited when she found out there were markets on whilst we were there. She returned with bags of local produce, including monster bananas a bargain at 14 for a dollar! Oscar scored himself a huge second hand tackle box for 4 dollars, Hannah headed for the pineapple slushie stall, and Xavier spent time at the gemstone stall. He later returned with his collection to show the man.

The laid-back feeling around Mission Beach was very appealing but the dreary weather that had commenced once we hit the rainforest, continued. The wind and rain prevented us from visiting nearby Dunk Island but it was still very relaxing and the kids completed a big chunk of work for school. The time to leave came too soon

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to the Atherton Tablelands

 

Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos

Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos

After a quick trip into Cairns to pick up mail we headed for the hills again. Having not spent much time in the Atherton Highlands we chose to explore a little deeper this time and took the steepest, most windy road available. Well it wasn’t planned that way! The direct road from Cairns to the highlands rose over 900m snaking its way up from Gordonvale to Yungaburra. The glimpses back towards the sea were amazing however I needed to watch the road carefully to avoid mishap. We sneaked a peak at Lake Barrine but with sleeping kids in the back we pressed on to Millaa Millaa which was our planned base for a few days.

Hoping to spot a few new birds I got up early to explore the neighbourhood and spotted two Lumholtz tree kangaroos, about 500m down the road on the edge of the village. The long dangling tails were a giveaway and the beautiful animals resembling oversize teddy bears even put on their best poses for me.

We drove the waterfall circuit that incorporates Millaa Millaa falls, supposedly the most photographed falls in Australia, Zillie and Elinjaa falls too.

The forests surrounding nearby Lake Eacham were alive with new birdsong and I was lucky enough to find tooth-billed bowerbirds and spotted catbirds, the former having a very untidy bower made of overturned leaves in a scraped area. The Lake itself is a a crater lake formed from the explosive reaction of magma meeting the water table. Steep sides descend up to 65m into the deepest part of the lake and the old established rainforest make an interesting bush walk, past, even through, at times, large fig trees whose roots and buttresses clasp on to the sides of the crater.

We also saw the 500 year old Curtain Fig, whose root system appears to cascade from the skies. We revisited Mount Hypipamee National Park to see the Crater Lake that we’d missed previously. This crater was formed by a volcanic gas explosion, the granite walls today being sheer and some 70m across. The lake lies almost 60m below the rim and is 70m deep. This park often has cassowary sightings but not when we visit.

We visited a couple of dairies, the Gallo Dairyland one proving to be the favourite. The cheese and chocolate tastings proved irresistible and we came home clutching an array of mouth-watering produce. The tea farm was a bit of a disappointment as the factory was being cleaned and the tea-room didn’t offer any tastings. We did spot another tree kangaroo though there.

There was so much to do we extended our stay, and even as we left we had to explore the Millaa Millaa museum before leaving. Behind the museum is the trunk of an almost 900 year old Kauri pine that fell in a storm in 2003. The timber industry thrived here for many years and the museum is full of artefacts from those times.

The Atherton Tablelands provided a much more interesting experience than the coastal commercialised tourism, offering so much variety of things to do. Once again it felt like we had barely scratched the surface, but were busy from the moment we arrived. All downtime back at camp was spent catching up with schoolwork but the few days we were there felt like we had achieved a lot.

 

 

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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