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 Post subject: mel123 Where the river flows - Olifants October 2012
Unread postPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 5:29 pm 
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The story so far
A year ago, I was experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms for my favourite place in the world. I told SO that if I didn't get my fix urgently and soon, things could get unpleasant. :D
We managed to book a trip during January at Pretoriuskop where we wanted to go specifically to find the elusive wild dogs that I had last seen as a little girl. That trip is now done and dusted, the trip report filed, the memories shared.

However, while on the website to book our Pretoriuskop accomodation I did manage to see that some rivierview bungalows at Olifants were still available around October 2012. Since my birthday is on the 19th of October I told SO that he now had more trouble than he bargained for, because I've just decided what I want for my birthday the next year - a stay in Olifants at one of the rooms with a view to die for.
Poor SO, he just shrugged helplessly. He knows when its a losing battle. :lol:
So, more than a year after this conversation, the big day finally arrived.

Day 1 – Trouble with wasps and arrival
When you leave home at 4 o’clock in the morning, it always feels as if you are going somewhere exciting. It’s still dark out, you are barely awake and taxing your brain to remember everything you have to pack and it all just combines to underline that this is not a normal morning in the household.

My two cats are not impressed at all and view all activities with suspicion. They have learned that packing and suitcases and such almost always mean them having to stay at home without us. I tell them that they are spoiled rotten and even have their own catsitter coming to feed and pet them twice a day, while other less-fortunate kitties go to kennels, but they won’t listen to my argument. :|

After a last check that all is loaded (we fold down the back seat of the Terios and everything fits but there is a lot of stuff! :shock: ) we are on the road.
Driving through Johannesburg is not much trouble at such an early hour and all goes well until we miss our turning at Polokwane (Pietersburg) and as we are turning around to get on the right road, bypassing the town and the traffic in it, there is a funny noise and a deluge of brown water splash onto my feet and the carpet. :evil:

We stop and look to see what is wrong, but we can’t spot any obvious signs of trouble. Except for my ruined shoes, of course... :whistle:

As far as we’re driving however the water drips down, now a bit and now a lot. I google for a Daihatsu dealership and we head into town after all. At the workshop the friendly personnel agree to have someone look at it and in the end the two mechanics figure out the problem.

Now, we have some small, nasty wasps at home, who once tried to make a nest in the washing line and stung SO on the hand when he was hanging up washing one day.
He was allergic to the sting and his hand and arm got so swollen that we had to get perscription pills from the doctor to treat it.
Now his little friends :tongue: have struck again, making a nest in the aircon’s outlet pipe and blocking it so that the aircon’s water was now slushing around inside somewhere (the funny noise) and draining inside the car.

Luckily the mechanics can evict the unwanted tenants and re-attach the pipe and we are on our way again, thankful for their assistance. As it is a super hot day we didn’t even want to contemplate driving around without the aircon. :doh:

After almost no wait at all at the stop-go’s between Polokwane and Tzaneen we get to Phalaborwa around lunchtime and stop at Steers for a quick bite to eat.
The check-in at the gate is quick and efficient. I always forget to take down the car’s registration number and take it with me, and so always have to walk back to get it. :wall:

The first animals we see are impala and we take the Sable dam loop where a bevy of Yellowbilled kites are hunting the hot afternoon air together with a couple of Bateleurs.

On our way to the camp we see buffalo far off and elephant as well.

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Some family members are joining us at Olifants for a few days, but they now let us know that their airplane was delayed. We figure out the distances and discover that they won’t be able to get to camp before gate closing, so they will look for accomodation outside and join us the next morning. :(

The drive further reveals some zebra and I am very excited to see this: my first white-headed vulture. It is sitting next to what looks like an elephant carcass near a dam.

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At camp we get our bungalow (nr 13) and I must say the view is as spectacular as I had hoped. This is what eagles must see as they soar above the earth. :wink:

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On the downside, the heat is like an oven. It hits you in the face like a heavy fist as you get out of the vehicle. :slap:

We offload everything, get settled and I spend some time getting to know some of my immediate neighbours.

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That night I have trouble getting to sleep, there are some gnats and insects that are gathered around my bed because my light was the last one on.

And something fell and made a noise inside the fridge, but after getting up I couldn’t figure out what it was etc. :big_eyes: Irritated with myself, I finally drift off to dreamland. I am home again. :thumbs_up:


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 Post subject: Re: Where the river flows - Olifants October 2012
Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 7:39 pm 
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Joined: Mon Aug 27, 2007 3:36 pm
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Day 2 – A very Special birthday sighting
Today is my birthday and as I wake up, I realise that I am in a very special place on a special day and I am filled with joy.
We get ready for the day’s drive and head out at 5:30 as the gates open, taking the S92 towards Balule. At this warthog sighting another visitor starts reversing without checking and nearly hits us. SO has to reverse fast to avoid her striking our car. :shock:

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After a few kilometres we are driving past her as they stop by some impala and she pulls out behind another car as we are driving past, again without looking, nearly hitting us again and gives SO his second near heart-attack. :)

We decide to give her a wide berth at any encounters further along the road. :D

I am excited to see several Sabota larks along the road and this hornbill also poses for a pic.

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Some impala are feeling frisky and entertain us with their jumps and chasing each other.

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I am very dissapointed that the lowlevel bridge is not finished yet. However, the river is beautiful!

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It is quite a spectacle of Little swifts at the highwater bridge and a Yellowbilled kite is swooping down, turning this way and that, trying to catch a little breakfast.

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Past the river we drive up to a traffic jam of cars and finally manage to spot what everyone is looking at, and it is an amazing sight. Having missed the prequel to this, I don’t know whether others saw the kill itself, but for a long time the leopard is motionless, just standing guarding its kill.

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Then it shifts position and leans against the tree for a long time, before resuming its guard / resting position. As it is getting to be quite a scrum of vehicles, we drive on.

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Two warthogs are snuffling around for their own type of breakfast.

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A bit later on we see a car watching something under a tree, and as I’m telling SO to stop, because it’s a honey badger, something I’ve long wanted to see, he spots three more badgers running across the road ahead. :clap:

They root around some and then head back toward the other side, giving me a good photo opportunity. What a special birthday gift!

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Last edited by mel123 on Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Where the river flows - Olifants October 2012
Unread postPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 10:15 am 
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Posts: 343
Location: North West
Laughter at Nwanetsi – Day 2 continued

Driving away after our awesome Honeybadger sighting, this Swainson’s spurfowl gives me a wary eye as I photograph him.

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An elephant is eating leaves close to the road. Further on we see some zebra, blue wildebeest and giraffes.

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No visit to Satara is complete without looking for the Scops Owl, currently sleeping in a small tree close to the restrooms. How much does this mean I owe the mobile webcam fund? :hmz:

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A hornbill, grey loerie and starling entertain us as we eat breakfast. No fruit had been delivered due to the transport strike, and SO’s muesli and jogurt breakfast was a bit light on muesli, and mosly joghurt. My toasted sandwich tasted great however.

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Then, ready for the next part of the drive we head towards the S100. I’ve had mixed success on this road in the past.

There are some beautiful waterbuck.

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A family of eight kudu wander accross the road.

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Helmeted guineafowl

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Bluewildebeest heading toward some water and drinking

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This heron was shy.

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These European bee-eaters entertained us for quite some time with their dust bath antics until another vehicle came along and they flew off.

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At Nwanetsi we take a can of colddrink to drink up at the viewpoint, but when SO opens his, it sprays all over the place, much to his chargrin. I for some reason find this very funny, and I try not to laugh, while keeping my own colddrink safely unopened until I can pop the tab down below over a basin. :D


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 Post subject: Re: Where the river flows - Olifants October 2012
Unread postPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:56 pm 
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Joined: Mon Aug 27, 2007 3:36 pm
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Sorry for the bit of an absence - work has been particularly hectic. However, to end our day in KNP, here we go:

A disappointment for dinner

We drive back on the H1-6 and on our way back to Satara see a secretary bird strutting along in the veld, some baboons (which we don’t stop for due to too many cars) and back at the highwater bridge this beautiful sight.

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Crocodile

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At the lookout point I see some African Openbills, which I am excited about, and a White-bellied sunbird.

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A Giant Kingfisher is drying itself in the treebranches

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Back at camp we grab some leftover hamburgers from last night and then wait for the long-awaited family members to arrive. They didn’t realise that their bungalow had no kitchen. Always read the smallprint! :P


After a nice visit and catching up, during which time I spotted some Black-backed puffbacks in the trees and they were having trouble moving their flights which were leaving on Sunday at 1 from Johannesburg (an impossibility), we head off back to our own wonderful view and a promise to meet up at the restaurant at 7 for a buffet dinner to celebrate my birthday.

The low point of the day is when we get to the restaurant and realise that the “buffet” is most definitely not what we are used to from previous years. There is one mixed salad (lettuce, tomato, olives), some curried chicken, rice, overcooked mixed vegetables, and a “carvery” which consists of a small piece of pork with more fat than meat and some dried-up potatoes.

If I think of the buffets we used to eat, which started with a soupstarter, where there were various salads, various meats (including venison), different vegetables and various dessert options, I can’t believe it.
In this case the only option for dessert is vanilla icecream without any accompaniments, as the malva pudding is finished. I can’t believe that they are calling this unappetising and meagre fare, a buffet. No wonder the waiter brought us some A la carte menus when we arrived!

I settle for a steak and chips which doesn’t turn out too bad, and SO’s schnitzel with chips is also OK, but it is a far cry from the nice buffet dinner we were planning to have. Our guests can’t understand why I wanted to shower and change into a denim for the occasion.

The management for the restaurants has just lost me as a customer for anything other than maybe a cup of coffee or a sandwich. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the food in Kruger over the years and never felt the same. I’ve always received good food, good service and I was willing to pay even though the prices have always been on the high side.
In January at Pretoriuskop I received the blandest cardboard pizza ever when we went there for dinner, and this, tonight was the final straw. I gave some feedback to Sanparks on this - maybe they'll listen? :|


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 Post subject: Re: Where the river flows - Olifants October 2012
Unread postPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 1:11 pm 
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Day 3 – When its raining its raining

We leave, as usual, as the gates open and head up to Letaba via the river road. It's raining and drizzly and wet and even a bit cold. The heat of the past two days seem to have broken.

On the way we are lucky to see this beautiful leopard.

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Onwards, an elephant roadblock as they cross the road and we keep a safe distance. We wait about 10 minutes before we can continue in safety.

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We also see some giraffes, a nyala and a buffalo, also far away. I am excited to see this Great spotted cuckoo. A first for me. :clap: :clap: :clap:

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At the Letaba highwater bridge I am also glad to identify this Wahlberg’s eagle.

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The Letaba day visitors area is beautiful (if wet) and we have a delightful breakfast there. I'd highly recommend it to anyone.

On our way to Mooiplaas we spot this Tsessebe, also quite special to me.

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Another traffic jam this time signals some lions far away near the treeline that are disturbing the zebras and wildebeest, but you can barely make out a small lion face among the grass, as they are crouching down. Not the best lion sighting we’ve ever had.

We turn back a bit sooner than planned because it starts raining again and not much is moving about. We’d rather spend some time in camp, admiring the view, looking at birds and SO can listen to the New Zealand//Australia rugby game. :hmz: Men and their rugby! :twisted:

I can then use the time for an afternoon nap. Getting up this early in the mornings is a bit of a shock to the system and being relaxed in the afternoons helps a lot. 8)


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 Post subject: Re: Where the river flows - Olifants October 2012
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:24 am 
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Joined: Mon Aug 27, 2007 3:36 pm
Posts: 343
Location: North West
Hi all! I'm back after a bit of an absence, trying to get everything sorted at work. The next installment is ready - for those who are still around and have not already departed for exotic locations having awesome adventures!

Day 3 continued – Vulture time

At 4 o’clock we take another game drive, past Balule and see some more waterbuck.

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A few baboons are wandering around.

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Due to the rainy weather the vultures are sitting around frustratedly on treebranches all over the place.

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This one is different from the rest

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A steenbok hides from the cold. It’s hard to believe yesterday was smelteringly hot.

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A beautiful bateleur

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Some hippos are gossiping at the highwater bridge

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Back at our bungalow this is what we see from our stoep. My, but life is good.

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That night the family join us for a braai, and the pap and sauce, juicy filletsteak and potatoes in the coals taste so good. We only get to bed about 11. Tomorrow is going to be a difficult getting up...


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 Post subject: Re: Where the river flows - Olifants October 2012
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 10:01 am 
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Day 4 – The first Woody of the summer
We are up early the next morning, heading to Satara. There is a troop of baboons on the highwater bridge, as well as some fish eagles. Past the bridge we spot two hyenas, one a youngster that seems very shy and the older one being very blase about vehicles and such. I love hyenas.

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A Red-crested korhaan is calling beside the road, a bit further on.

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We take the Timbavati road and stop with three ground hornbill pecking around. As we are watching them I hear a lion roar, to the back and deeper into the veld. We drive back and forth, but alas cannot spot them.
During the search I do manage to spot a African Hawk-eagle perched on a tree with a distorted crop, probably due to a good breakfast?

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At Ratelpan I try to ID a non-descript wader but there is not much else to be seen. As we round a bend further on I am startled by a Woodland Kingfisher sitting right beside the road in a tree. I am taking part in the Woody challenge, to spot the first one of the summer, but I really thought I was about two weeks to early. Last year’s first Woody appeared on 1 November if I remember correctly so this is seriously early. As we come to a stop (SO thought I saw I lion so excited was I) if flies off. After a search I manage to relocate it a lot farther away and am delighted to hear the familiar, nostalgic Trppp Trrrrrrr-sound. However, the photos I try to take are not a success due to the angle of the sun and the distance involved. I wish I had a bigger lens camera!? I am dissappointed in the outcome - without a photo I'm not sure if it counts?

At Timbavati we stop for breakfast. On the road again we meet this fellow.
Hello. What are you looking at?

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There is a huge flock of Wattled starlings on and off the road. They look like a bunch of Queleas – I’ve never seen anything like it.

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Another giraffe poses beautifully.

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To be continued...


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 Post subject: Re: Where the river flows - Olifants October 2012
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 10:15 am 
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And since its Christmas, and we're onto a new page already, let's continue the tale.

Day 4 – “Even today, if you look into the lion’s eyes, you will be afraid” – The Ghost and the Darkness

We stop at Satara where we meet our family members and say goodbye to them – they are leaving the park today and according to their original flights, would have had to be at the airport in one hour. Not a good plan, but luckily they managed to postpone the flight.

From Satara we drive southwards towards Nkayapan. During a previous trip we were staying at Skukuza and drove north from there. Nkayapan was our northernmost point. Nothing much was stirring and we sat and ate our "padkos". Suddenly a whole herd of elephants came running out of the bushes thirstily drinking water, playing, rolling, spraying. It was an amazing sighting and we still have fond memories of it, thus our decision to drive there again today.

And the decision pays off. We see elephants..

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and at the dam two beautiful Egyptian geese

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A Burchells coucal

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And then, her.

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As I take photos of her she gets up and starts walking right towards me. Just at the point where I think about closing my window she swerves left and goes to lie on the road behind the car.
Of course this now causes a major traffic jam, but its a great sighting for me.

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Driving back we spot something sticking out from the tar above a bridge.
This is one of my favourite photos of the trip.

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And that's a good place to stop for now I think - the rest of day 4 coming up later... :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Where the river flows - Olifants October 2012
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:43 pm 
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Location: North West
Day 4 concluded – Some beautiful scenery

At the Olifants highwater bridge there is always something different happening. This is one of my favourite places in the whole wide world.
Now, its these hippo.

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A nice tableu...

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And some entertainment is being provided by the baboon troop still hanging around at the far end of the bridge.

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Those eyes are so soulful!

I manage to snap a pic of the Yellowbilled kite I’ve been watching for the past few days...

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And on the way back to camp, a herd of buffalo.

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Even though we get back to camp latish, we do take a last drive to the Letaba river, because tomorrow we are leaving.

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The crocodile and water terrapins come to greet us

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So sad to leave this beautiful place

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Day 5 – Leaving

All packed we say a sad goodbye to our wonderful view, comfortable bungalow and my favourite camp in KNP.

The drive toward Letaba and Phalaborwa is quiet, with some far off buffalo, elephant and a hippo crossing the road.
As we near Masorini this bunch comes walking up to the car from the bushes, almost as if they were waiting for us to pass to say goodbye.

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Look at the middle dog hop. Amazing.

And a bonus, just to complete the story, somewhere along some unnamed road during our trip,we met a very special animal that might just soon become the more elusive of the big 5. Though the north is not renowed for sightings of them, I was very moved to find two of them and wished them many safe years in this place I love so much.

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The end.


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