A Travellerspoint blog

November 2013

Hello again... Launceston!

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View Tasmania with 2 toddlers! (Winter 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

Launceston

  • Accommodation

After previously staying at a hotel/motel in Launcesten when we first arrived in Tasmania, it was now time for us to find a campground instead. Looking through the travel brochures we had for options on where to camp in or near Launceston, we noticed there was a Discovery Holiday Park in Hadspen, just west of Launceston. After experiencing this chain of caravan parks in Devonport and liking what they had had on offer there, we decided Hadspen would be the spot to be if they also had ensuite sites available. They did, as well as a good playground, cool bear birdhouse, herb garden for patrons to use, and indoor kitchen (screen door though, so still cool!) and laundry. We arrived early enough for Sonia and Kaden to be able to take advantage of the playground while tea preparation and clothes washing got finalised. Plus a quick trip into the IGA next door for some groceries.

A two second tour of the Hadspen Discovery Holiday Park, brought to you by Miss Sonia Hehir.

'Me!'

'Me!'

'Mine Dad'

'Mine Dad'

'White plug'

'White plug'

'Birds'... 'Bear'

'Birds'... 'Bear'

'Mine Mum, Dista'

'Mine Mum, Dista'

'Mine boots!'

'Mine boots!'

This then turned out to be one of those nights where I was very glad that I'd brought my big warm sleeping bag. Rather cold, and in the morning we woke to a rather heavy frost.

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The first stop for the day was the Launceston Cataract Gorge. In summer, this would be a great place to spend a decent length of time to enjoy the playground and go for a swim (pool or river!). As we were there in winter, and it'd been raining on and off for a few days, the water level was up and over the lower walking tracks. Resulting in quite a few track closures. The Alexandra suspension bridge and Cataract Walk along the cliff face between the Cataract Gorge Cliff Grounds and Kings Bridge were still open though, so that's where we headed.

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Unfortunately, Clancy's inguinal hernia was acting up fairly badly, so by the time we got over the suspension bridge and around to the Cliff Grounds Reserve, he decided it was time he needed to lay down for a bit. So Sonia, Kaden and I continued along the cataract walk while he slowly worked his way back to the van for another sleep. The cliff grounds were really nice, with quite a few peacocks meandering around the restaurant there, catching both Sonia's and Kaden's attention.

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The cataract walk allowed great views of the cliffs and the South Esk River. It also seemed to get a lot of local traffic utilising it as part of their exercise route. Mums with prams, and others walking or running. One group of mums and prams we passed were very helpful, informing us they'd seen a sea lion or seal (unsure which!) in the river from a viewing point along the track. It was still there by the time we got there, and Sonia and I enjoyed watching it move up and down the river for quite some time. It appeared to be playing in the river's current, swimming up in the calmer water beside the opposite cliffs, then crossing directly into the current to float downstream a ways beside the lookout point, before repeating the whole process over and over again.

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The return trip back along the cataract walk to the Cliff Grounds confirmed the reasoning behind why the signs had said this walk was suitable for wheelchairs with assistance. There was a reasonable uphill gradient to push against. Sonia and Kaden's weight in the pram and buggy board was ok, but I reckon I would've had fun if I was trying to wheel myself along in a wheelchair without help! Could have done it, but it would've given my arms and back a work out!

Returning to the other side of the basin, we wandered into the little information centre below an entrance to the chairlift (the other end/entrance is below the restaurant at the Cliff Grounds). The chairlift was built in 1972, and claims to have the longest single chairlift span in the world of 308m. We'd considered going on the chairlift when we first walked past it on the way into the basin area, but decided we didn't need to spend the money on it if we were going to walk around to the other end anyway. It would've given a totally different perspective of the gorge and basin though.

The information centre had a large number of really interesting photo's and stories on the history of the gorge and Duck Reach including the numerous floods over the years. There was also a letter from a lady who'd lived there as a child in the very early years. Sonia and I spent quite a while looking at the photo's and other memorabilia there (Kaden had fallen asleep in the pram), before Clancy woke up and came and found us. Wanting to keep moving onto the next activity for the day.

The only real downside we found to visiting this area, was having to pay for parking

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I found the Duck Reach Power Station museum or interpretation centre very interesting. We parked on the West Launceston side of the gorge near the old workers cottages and manager's residence. Then Sonia and I walked (jumped in Sonia's case!) down the steps and over the bridge to the old power station buildings.

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As we went over the bridge, we saw two people kayaking down the gorge. It made me rather envious, as I would have loved to have been able to join them. However, I don't think my skill level would've been up to what was required for that level of water!

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Reading all the information signs, both in the parking lot and down in the power station, provided a great sense of all the different things that'd happened there over the years. Development, floods, using the flying fox, rebuilding etc. Being in a picturesque location as well seemed like an added extra bonus. Making the whole area well worth the visit.

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When we first told our neighbours that we were planning to head to Tasmania for a few weeks, one of the first things they said we shouldn't miss if we were going through Launceston, was Cataract Gorge, and the monkeys at City Park. I was a bit dubious about finding monkeys in a regular cold/hot climate city park, but after completing some research... I had to agree with them, and added it to our wishlist.

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Once again, we found parking to be a bit of an issue, as it was lunch time, and it seemed like quite a few others had the same idea as us. A picnic lunch in the park. We were lucky this time though, and managed to get a free spot (2hrs only), fairly close to the park.

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It was an excellent park. With a great playground (especially for toddlers), picnic facilities, ducks, fountains, monkeys, conservatory, and plenty of other gardens/plants and lawn space to run around in. But yes, I definitely have to say that the monkeys were the main highlight, followed very closely by the playground. Especially from Sonia's viewpoint!

Posted by Goannaray 19:51 Archived in Australia Tagged bridges monkeys parks winter wildlife history tasmania river launceston campground toddlers cataract_gorge 2_toddlers_in_winter_tasmania! northern_central_tasmania interstate_overseas Comments (0)

Tamar Valley Experiences

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View Tasmania with 2 toddlers! (Winter 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

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Unfortunately for us it was a little too late, and the kids were fast asleep when we quickly stopped at the Tamar River Conservation Area on our way up through the Tamar Valley towards Beauty Point. From 1 April to 30 September, they shut at 4pm. I had about 5 minutes to quickly run along the boardwalk to the information centre, grab some photo's and information brochures, then run back to the van. From the little bit that I did get to see, I think it would've been really nice to have been able to have the time to go for a leisurely walk through the wetlands. It would've worked really well with the pram too. Being a wetland however, this area did look and feel rather different to what we'd previously seen in our travels around Tasmania.

This tourist park is nicely situated right beside the Tamar River, and for those who're camping, has hedges around each site to help improve privacy. We were lucky and got given a site beside both the amenities and rivers edge! As we'd arrived before it got too dark, there was no way we could avoid a walk down to the waters edge. Or in our case, where the water's edge had been! The tide was out, leaving quite a long stretch of muddy beach to traverse before you could actually get to the water.

Sonia had fun running along the dry sandy strip between a sandbank and 'beach' finding all sorts of interesting things that caught her eye. While Kaden enjoyed crawling or walking with help, as far as we would let him go. Plus getting as much sand, rocks, sticks or whatever else he could grab into his mouth before we finally managed to stop him! Just about the time we decided it was time to head back and start the evening routine, Sonia decided it would be more beneficial to start walking out towards the water. Wasn't too bad until one of her thongs got stuck and she fell face first into the thick sandy mud! It was then rather funny hearing her squarking and carrying on about her stuck thong, rather than all the mud that she was now covered in! So yes, after the thong's timely rescue and some calming reassurances, everything went back to normal and the evening routine was allowed to continue!

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Platypus House and Seahorse World are situated right beside each other between the Tamar River and a bend in the West Tamar Highway (A7) near Beauty Point. By purchasing a triple ticket covering Seahorse World, Platypus House, and Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre, you're able to save a fair bit on the entrance fees. As I think I've mentioned before, both Clancy and I have already seen and experienced a fair bit of mining stuff before, so we only got a double pass to see the platypus's and seahorse's. If the kids were a bit older, we might have done all three for their benefit.

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At the Platypus House, there were four platypus and three echidna's that we were able to see. Considering Sonia and I'd already been able to see a platypus in the wild at the Warrawee Reserve near Latrobe, this visit was more for Clancy and Kaden's benefit. Sonia and I still thoroughly enjoyed it though, and we all managed to pick up a lot more information about the animals.

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A short documentary style video was shown before we went through to see the platypus. Then after spending some time attempting to get photo's and video's (not very succesful unfortunately), we were taken through to see three echidna's being fed. As soon as we walked in, the echidna's walked right up to us to smell our feet. Sonia was a bit nervous of them at first, but it wasn't long before both she and Kaden were trying to touch them and follow them around!

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There were lots of different seahorses to see (tropical, Tasmanian, other), as well as a fair variety of other fish and sea life. Clancy and I really enjoyed learning about their breeding process, and how the Seahorse World staff slowly got them ready for the live trade industry to become pets all around the world. If you're ever interested in having one as a pet, this would be the place to contact!! Sonia could've spent hours going between the different tanks, watching them all.

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  • Not enough time!!

Unfortunately for us, having spent an extra day travelling through Latrobe again, we now had to miss a few of the extra things we'd wanted to see in the Tamar Valley (ie, Low Head penguin tours, pilots station and museum, Narawntapu National Park, numerous vineyards), to start heading for the Ben Lomond National Park. If you haven't already figured out, to really experience Tasmania properly (as with anywhere really!), you need a lot of time! Especially with young children in tow!!

Posted by Goannaray 03:29 Archived in Australia Tagged children wildlife tasmania seahorse mine platypus launceston toddlers tamar_valley echidna 2_toddlers_in_winter_tasmania! northern_central_tasmania interstate_overseas Comments (0)

Fun with snow, wind and rain at Ben Lomond National Park

all seasons in one day
View Tasmania with 2 toddlers! (Winter 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

Clancy, Sonia and I had been looking forward to this day. Being able to once again head up into the mountains to enjoy some fun in the snow. Clancy and I weren't exactly sure how Sonia and Kaden would like it however, as we expected it to be rather windy, cold and wet. When we'd previously been up to see the snow on Mt Wellington near Hobart, Sonia hadn't minded it too much, while Kaden grizzled a bit more than normal in the fairly accommodating weather. Only way to find out was to remain positive about it and go find out!

The day prior to heading into the Ben Lomond National Park, I'd rung the company that operate the village and all snow sport associated activities on the mountain - Ben Lomond Snow Sports, to gather some information. They were extremely helpful and recommended we make use of the landcruiser troopy shuttle they provided (call the given number once at the departure/drop off point near the ranger's hut) and layer the kids as much as we could, plus bring an extra set of clothes each.

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  • Camping

The drive across from where we'd once again camped at the Hadspen Discovery Holiday Park was rather picturesque. We missed seeing the sign for the road into the National Park, but figured it out quickly enough and were soon on our way up. Not far in from the National Park boundary, we came across the entrance into the small camping area and decided we'd have a look. It was pretty good, with decent toilets and shelter shed available. We could've quite easily camped there the night before if we'd known more about it and wanted to. Had to admit to myself though that I had enjoyed my nice hot shower and warm dry bathroom the previous night! The view from the lookout at the campsite area was pretty good to.

It then didn't take us long to reach the departure/drop off point for the shuttle. The road was a bit wider, with (from memory, so don't quote me on this!) a small shed on the right hand side, and small wooden stand/shelter on the left. Parking was on the side of the road, and we were glad to find that we had enough phone reception to call the given number and wait for the shuttle to arrive. Our 'waiting' however, was more like a mad rush to find all the extra layers that we wanted to put on the kids and us, and get them appropriately dressed, as we'd forgotten to do it earlier in the rush to leave early. Before we were even halfway ready, the troopy had arrived to pick us up. Thankfully, some other people had turned up by this stage as well, so they headed up while we continued to get ready. Note for next time - plan ahead and be a lot more organised!

This road is known as Jacobs Ladder. It's a zig-zag gravel road, which was rather wet and slippery for the time we were there. So it was a very good thing that we didn't try and take our campervan up. It definately would not have made it! Talking to the shuttle driver, there'd been about 200 cars parked wherever they could to utilise the shuttle service a weekend or 2 previous, and two light four wheel drives without chains had slipped off the road and into the gutter (road is sloped in towards the mountain).

It was fairly foggy on the way up, but we were able to just catch glimpses of the surrounding dolorite cliffs. Coming down later though, visibility had dramatically reduced even further which was rather dissapointing for me, as I'd been hoping to enjoy the view of the cliffs that my parents had mentioned, and that I'd seen in photo's whilst researching this area.

  • Snow, Wind and Rain

All the staff that we dealt with in the ski hire building were extremely helpful and friendly. They were very accommodating and understanding towards families with young children, ensuring we could access the heaters, and had everything we needed. There were quite a few other families with kids slightly older than Sonia there as well. We hired a jumpsuit for Sonia (tried to encourage her to get gloves as well, but she wasn't going to have anything to do with that. Her own gloves and gumboots were 'good'!), pants for me and Clancy, a toboggan, and boots for Clancy. All of that plus the cost for utilising the shuttle, and it only came to $90 or thereabouts, which we thought was rather good!

Sonia's turn

Sonia's turn

Uh oh!

Uh oh!

Snowball fight!

Snowball fight!

This way...

This way...

Sonia loved playing with Clancy in the snow. Snowball fights, tobogganing, building a snowman. Staying positive and encouraging her to do all these sorts of fun things helped keep her mind off the wind and her cold hands. Her gloves were woollen knitted ones without the fingertips. So yes, it didn't take long for them to become totally soaked. What surprised me however, was that it didn't seem to bother her as much as I thought it would! I thought we would've very quickly been going back to the hire building to buy some proper gloves or mittens. But no, every time I asked, the response was 'no' 'not sore' gloves good'.

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Kaden on the other hand, absolutely hated the wind. I had him in the Ergo baby carrier underneath my jacket, with another jacket/microfleece over him as well to try and reduce the amount of wind blowing across his face. I found that if no wind got into him, he was fine, but as soon as he felt some wind... that was it, constant grizzling. It didn't take long though before he fell asleep.

Mum's turn too!

Mum's turn too!

I managed to go for a slide on the toboggan with Kaden and Sonia a few times before it was time to head in for lunch at the hotel adjoining the building where we'd stored all our extra gear. We could've brought our own lunch, but figured it was easier to buy something hot there. There was a good fireplace in there too, that we were able to dry Sonia's gloves out on. I, along with some other mum's also put our kids' socks out to dry while waiting for our meals, before realising a while later the sign requesting patrons to please refrain from drying socks on the fireplace. Oops! Oh well, no one complained to us, and they'd pretty well dried by then thankfully!

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The weather had deterioted a fair bit by the time we got back outside again. Raining and snowing at the same time. We completed a few more toboggan runs, hastily built a small snowman, threw a few more snowballs, then decided to call it quits for the day. After returning our hired equipment and saying some heartfelt thankyou's to the staff, we found we only had to change one layer of wet clothing on Sonia (moisture had seeped up her sleeves and pant legs), before it was time to get back in the shuttle and head down Jacob's Ladder to retrieve our van and continue on our way.

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Posted by Goannaray 16:28 Archived in Australia Tagged snow winter cliffs ben_lomond view tasmania road campground toddlers 2_toddlers_in_winter_tasmania! eastern_tasmania interstate_overseas Comments (0)

Scottsdale to Bicheno

Wow!! Did we really do all that in 1 day?!?

all seasons in one day
View Tasmania with 2 toddlers! (Winter 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

After leaving Ben Lomond National Park and looking at some of our maps, we decided we'd head up the Camden Hill Road (C405) to cut through to the Tasman Highway (A3) to get to Scottsdale. This was another winding dirt road through forests and farmland with its fair shair of road kill. A nice drive, however the signage was a bit to be desired. We initially missed the correct turnoff for the A3, but finally figured it out when the next turnoff we came to had a sign at the junction explaining various road closures!

Phoning ahead to the number listed for the Scottsdale North East Park camping area in one of the brochures we had, we got the ok to camp there and found out it was a free campsite!! It was located at a really nice Lions park beside the A3 highway heading out of town towards Branxholm and St Helens. There were toilet and shower facilities (pay showers) available, power and water, a playground, picnic tables, shelters, and some short walking tracks. Considering our late arrival, we opted for a hot flannel face/hands/feet wash, and went straight to bed after a quick dinner. There was also a small lake beside the camping area, with quite a few large resident ducks. Clancy got a bit annoyed at them waking him up, but the kids enjoyed being able to chase them around in the morning!

Come morning, we decided to backtrack a bit to check out the Scottsdale Forest EcoCentre that we'd passed on the way into town the previous evening, only to find it didn't open on weekends. So onto the information centre, to find out that didn't open till 10:30am (was then 09:30am). After all that... we figured we may as welll continue on our way to Ralph's Falls via Legerwood.

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Legerwood is a small town not far off the Tasman Highway (A3) between Scottsdale and Branxholm. Even if you're just travelling past on the highway, it's well worth the short detour in to Legerwood to see these amazing memorials to some WWI ANZACS, and read their stories.

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Ralph's Falls are located approximately half - 2/3 the way along the Ringarooma/Pyengana Link Road or Mt Victoria Road (travelling from Ringarooma). It's a winding gravel road that'd only been opened relatively recently in 1998, joining Ringarooma and Pyengana, travelling through the Mt Victoria Forest Reserve. Considering the rather overcast day it was turning out to be, we weren't too sure if it was going to be worth it or not, but decided we may as well enjoy the drive and see how things developed. As it turned out, we ended up not being able to see a thing when we got there due to thick heavy fog.

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The drive itself was interesting enough with some rather nice views before the fog closed in, and despite the extremely cold dampness and occaisional misty rain, I think we all generally enjoyed the short walk to Norm's Lookout. I wouldn't recommend it in foggy conditions, but if it's not foggy, I reckon there would be some amazing views. Once again we had to keep an eagle eye on Sonia, as all she wanted to do was jump off rocks or logs, and run along the wet slippery track. This behaviour was quickly stopped by a firm hold from Clancy as we got closer to the lookout however, as the last 50m or so was a bit too risky for that sort of thing from a 2.5yr old! The track became rather narrow and was very close to the cliff edge.

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Near the carpark area, there was a decent sized BBQ/picnic shelter available, with utensils chained to the walls. Satisfying a toddlers curiosity looking through everything, we came across a Geocache by total accident! Clancy and I had previously enjoyed finding a few of these when we'd been based in Sydney, and hadn't even thought about possibly looking for some on our travels around Tasmania! So after signing the log and replacing the cache, on we continued to St Columba Falls.

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We were glad to find that these falls were below the cloud level that we'd previously experienced up at Ralph's Falls. There were good toilet and picnic facilities availalbe, and the top half of the falls were visible from the start of the track at the parking area. Some rather interesting historical information was available in the small shelter at the start of the track, including the background of the 'Pub in the Paddock', and a story about a lady who went missing for 9 days chasing a lost cow.

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We were expecting quite a few steps so carried Kaden in the Ergo baby carrier, but the walking track down to the falls and viewing platform ended up being quite suitable for a pram. The falls themselves were awesome, and well worth the trip. We were also lucky in seeing an echidna crossing the road. Rather fat and fluffy compared to the ones I'm used to seeing in WA.

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After stopping for some lunch, lollies and information at St Helens, we headed on up the coast to Binalong Bay and The Gardens. The coastal red rocks were great! It would've been even more amazing on a sunny day, contrasting white sand, red rocks, ocean, blue sky, and green trees/bushes. This area is well deserving of the positive reviews it receives.

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Kaden slept through most of the time we spent there, while Sonia thoroughly enjoyed being able to run and jump all over the large rocks and sand. I would've loved to have utilised one of the many free campsites available near the beaches to see the rocks at sunrise, but once again, we had to keep moving. This time it was so we could hopefully get down to Bicheno in time to join a penguin tour.

As we were leaving Binalong Bay, we rang Bicheno Penguin Tours to see if there was any space available for us on the tour that night if we managed to make it down in time. There was, and thankfully, we got there with just enough time to pay for the tour and get on the tour bus, carrying the extra jackets we'd need to combat the cold wind. We weren't allowed to take any video's or photo's on the tour ourselves, but could later email the tour company to receive a copy of photo's that they had.

The kids were understandably hungry and tired, but did amazingly well to stay as quiet and as still as they did for the whole tour. We found it best to carry Kaden, and let Sonia walk (occaisonally carrying her as well). It was really good seeing all the penguins coming up through the rocks and steep banks to camp in all sorts of random hiding places. They were rather noisy, with interesting songs or calls, and apparantly smelt pretty bad when they opened their bowels. Thankfully, we didn't get to fully experience that side of them! The guides were also very excellent. Really knowledgeable, and interactive with all ages on the tour.

We'd organised to stay at the Bicheno East Coast Holiday Park, and had informed them that we could be late (ie, after reception shut, but before 10pm). No problem, just press the buzzer. Following the penguin tour, we ordered pizza from the nearby restaurant (very yum!), and finally got to the campground by about 7:15pm. Reception was obviously shut, so I pressed the buzzer and received a somewhat surprising response. A not very happy lady answered, stating we'd interupted her dinner!! I remained polite and didn't say much, but really felt like saying 'Sorry, but we did warn you, and the person I spoke to (I'd previously spoken to a man on the phone) said that would be fine, and to just push the buzzer when we got here!'

I'm glad I didn't say it, as the rest of our stay there was quite positive. We'd been given a very handy spot close to the bathrooms, laundry and enclosed kitchen, and Sonia and Kaden loved the playground that was available before leaving in the morning.

Posted by Goannaray 20:24 Archived in Australia Tagged waterfalls birds winter view ocean wildlife memorial tasmania river rocks walk sculpture creek lookout campground bay_of_fires toddlers wood_carving 2_toddlers_in_winter_tasmania! eastern_tasmania interstate_overseas Comments (0)

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