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Just back yesterday from our sixth safari.

Definitely the best ever - most wildlife - first lion hunts,  youngest lion cubs at play, caracal close-up in the Crater, the migration arrives, and much much more.....

 

Coming soon - the trip report...................

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@Julian  Welcome back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   :)

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Glad to hear you had a successful safari @Julian - looking forward to your trip report.

 

 

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Welcome back! Can't wait for your TR! So glad you had a fantastic time!

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Posted (edited)

Just posting a few photos to test I am doing it correctly:

 

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Edited by Julian
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Fantastic to know that you made it there...

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@Julian... I'm not above begging.  :)  More more more!!

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Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, AmyT said:

@Julian... I'm not above begging.  :)  More more more!!

@AmyT

Another photo or two then, before I start the trip report:

 

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Edited by Julian
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Still busy sorting through and editing photos and videos, but I will start the report on here very soon..... Hopefully...

(Just posted  some detailed reviews of the three camps we stayed at on tripadvisor).

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You saw a caracal, my wife would be very jealous, that’s what she really wanted to see on our last trip.  Looking forward to your report.

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Still busy sorting out and editing photos and video clips.

In the meantime here's a couple more photos and a video:

 

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Love the ground hornbills in the mud!

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Finally getting round to starting to write the trip report - Christmas preparations and other things have been getting in the way of starting this - but I hope to start posting the report by the end of today.

As with my previous report ( our southern Tanzania 2015 trip) its likely to fairly detailed with many photos, so the report will take quite a while, but I'll continue to post more of it regularly over the next few weeks.

 

 

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Northern Tanzania Safari 2017: 20th October – 4th November

 

Itinerary:

 

Fri 20 Oct 21.00: London Heathrow to Addis Ababa (06.35) – Ethiopian Airlines: Airbus A350

Sat 21 Oct 10.20: Addis Ababa to Kilimanjaro (12.55) – Ethiopian Airlines: Airbus A350

Sat 21 Oct Transfer by car (45 minutes): Kilimanjaro to Arusha, Rivertrees lodge (1 night)

 

Sun 22 Oct Transfer by car (1 hour): Rivertrees to Arusha Airport

Sun 22 Oct 07.45: Coastal Aviation to Lake Manyara Airstrip (08.10)

Sun 22 Oct Transfer by safari vehicle with &Beyond guide to Lake Manyara Tree Lodge

 

Sun 22 Oct   Lake Manyara Tree Lodge

Mon 23 Oct  Lake Manyara Tree Lodge   

Tues 24 Oct  Lake Manyara Tree Lodge  

 

Wed 25 Oct Transfer by safari vehicle to Manyara Airstrip (11.00), handover by &Beyond    

                     guide to Asilia guide, transfer by safari vehicle to Ngorongoro Highlands Camp

 

Wed 25 Oct Ngorongoro Highlands Camp  

Thu 26 Oct  Ngorongoro Highlands Camp

Fri 27 Oct    Ngorongoro Highlands Camp

Sat 28 Oct   Ngorongoro Highlands Camp

 

Sun 29 Oct Transfer by safari vehicle to Lake Manyara Airstrip

Sun 29 Oct 09.45: Coastal Aviation to Serengeti, Seronera Airstrip (11.10)

Sun 29 Oct Transfer by safari vehicle with Asilia guide to Namiri Plains Camp

 

Sun 29 Oct   Namiri Plains Camp

Mon 30 Oct  Namiri Plains Camp

Tues 31 Oct  Namiri Plains Camp

Wed 01 Nov Namiri Plains Camp

Thu 02 Nov  Namiri Plains Camp

 

Fri 03 Nov Transfer by safari vehicle to Seronera Airstrip

Fri 03 Nov 10.45: Coastal Aviation to Kilimanjaro (12.30)

Fri 03 Nov 17.35: Kilimanjaro to Addis Adaba (20.05) – Ethiopian Airlines: Boeing 777-200

Sat 04Nov 01.50: Addis Ababa to London Heathrow (06.35) – Ethiopian Airlines: Airbus A350

 

This tailor-made safari was booked with Africa Travel Resource, excluding the international flights which were arranged through Uniglobe. The total cost (excluding the international flights) was just under £9000 per person.

 

The Ethiopian Airlines economy international return flight from Heathrow to Kilimanjaro was £719 per person, making a total holiday cost of £9700 per person.

 

The ATR cost of the safari included the camps accommodation, all meals and snacks, game drives, laundry, all drinks, park/conservation/special campsite fees, all transfer costs including additional luggage fee on Coastal, the Ngorongoro Crater descent fees, and one night accommodation, dinner and breakfast at Rivertrees.  

 

Why we chose to book with Africa Travel Resource:

 

 We had used them for our previous safari and were very impressed with all the arrangements. For this safari we decided all the camps and length of stay at each before speaking with ATR.

They were, as usual, extremely helpful, efficient, prompt and were completely at ease with all our choices and some minor alterations we made.

As ATR provide a completely price itemised itinerary, we knew exactly how much we were charged for everything, which included the ‘rack rates’ at each of the camps, and a discount of a free day at Namiri Plains as Asilia offered 6th night free at any combination of their camps. ATR also gave us a further very small discount as a repeat customer.

 

Insurance

 

Insurance was going to be difficult to get, to include Rachel’s (my wife) pre-existing medical conditions, but we eventually found one that would cover all Rachel’s cancer circumstances: 'Allclear Insurance Services Ltd'.

 

International Flights

 

As we arranged this safari at short notice the availability of reasonably priced flights for the dates we wanted were obviously limited. Ethiopian Airlines was reasonable at £719, the next cheapest suitable flight by a different airline was around £1200.

 

 Why we chose Northern Tanzania, and these specific locations and camps:

(I have already included more detailed information on this section in my post in the Trip Planning section of the forum, but have also posted it here as it is relevant to this post)

 

We had planned to go to Zambia in July but Rachel needed chemo treatment during the summer. Then, unexpectedly in late August we were informed that the chemo had worked better than expected and no further treatment would be necessary, pending a further scan in three months time. It was also confirmed that Rachel would be fine to on an African safari holiday.

 

 Therefore we had three months in which to decide, book and go on a safari. The Zambia safari we had hoped to have back in July ( Rachel's 50th birthday), was not an option as we did not want to go to Zambia in mid to late October - far too hot, dusty, etc.

 

Our last safari in 2015 was to Southern and Western Tanzania and at that time we also researched all the Northern locations as that was a consideration. Also we went to Northern Tanzania on our first safari together in January 2001, but that was a package holiday staying at Serena camps/lodges. We had always wanted to go back to Manyara and Ngorongoro, so it was an obvious easy choice for us to get the safari sorted very quickly.

 

Lake Manyara Tree Lodge:

 

 Lake Manyara NP does not seem to be rated highly by hardly anyone, but we loved it when we went there in 2001. Now at the northern end where the entrance is, it can be very busy, and we understand there is now a sizeable town and lots of traffic just outside - but that is why we chose Manyara tree lodge - right down in the south of Manyara - the only camp located in the park and almost exclusive game driving area. The rooms are also rather nicely designed.

 

Ngorongoro Highlands Asilia Camp:

 

 We thought about the Nomad camp on the Crater rim but were really taken by the Highlands camp - not only because of the Geodysic 'tents', but more importantly, the precise location meaning they enter Ngorongoro crater via the far less busy Northern descent road. There are also walks to Olmoti and Empakaai crater available.

 

There is always a lot of comment about how busy the crater is, but it is packed with wildlife, and for me it is just such a stunning awesome place. It is the only place I have ever been where upon seeing it for the first time (from the famous viewing point) I can truly say it was jaw-dropping.

 

Serengeti - Namiri Plains Camp:

 

 I do not need to say much about why we chose to end our safari with five nights here - the Trip Report section on this forum already has the many fantastic photos and reports from several on here who have already had the wonderful experience of going there. We like all the wildlife, but we do really like the big cats and, judging by others opinions, we would be unlucky if we did not get good big cat viewings over five days.

 

The Trip Report

 

A few things to say in summary about the trip before I get down to the more interesting stuff of the day to day events with the many photos.

 

Addis Ababa Airport

 

Our first time here and we found it reasonable, even having to spend nearly 6 hours in the evening on our return flight. The main terminal building appears to have been expanded considerably this year, and there were no shortage of seats, plenty of shops and enough places to eat and drink. There were even quiet areas with sun-loungers so you could lie down/sleep (admittedly they were all in use).

Coastal Aviation – Luggage restrictions

 

We had three light aircraft transfers, all with Coastal. It appears they have tightened up on luggage restrictions. They weighed our luggage at Arusha – not only the two holdalls but also included my camera bag (not huge but it weighed about 7.5kg) – so our total weight of luggage they weighed   was about 38kg – well over the 2 x 15kg standard allowance.

Fortunately we had planned for this, as during the booking process ATR indicated the option Coastal have of booking what they call and’ XL’ seat instead of ‘standard ‘, which gives you 30kg allowance instead of 15kg. Therefore we chose to book one standard and one XL giving us a total of 45Kg allowance. It cost about 30% more per flight – for the three flights that worked out at £115 extra – not much considering we would have found it very difficult to stick to 30kg.

 

Visas

 

We obtained ours in advance so we got through security reasonably quickly, many at Kilimanjaro were obtaining theirs on arrival.

 

Security at camps

 

All the camps we stayed at had a safe in our room – appears to be becoming increasingly common.

 

Charging Devices

 

All the camps had charging points in the rooms – Manyara and Namiri Plains had UK electric sockets combined with USB sockets. Highlands only had USB sockets but had UK electric sockets in the lounge and dining room. Most of the vehicles are now fitted with either combined electric and USB sockets, or just USB sockets.

 

Tsetse Flies

 

There were Tsetse flies in Manyara (but nowhere near as bad as they apparently are in nearby Tarangire). None at Highlands camp or down in the Crater, and hardly any at Namiri.

 

As on our previous trip, Rachel had a quite bad reaction to them, persistent lumps/ reddening of skin appearing and eventually swelling of feet/ankles. We met other guests on this trip who also have exactly the same reaction to tsetse flies. Rachel had taken antihistamines for a week before travelling and throughout the trip, but it appeared to have no effect.

 

Camera Problems

 

On our last trip we had problems with getting marks on the sensors, so this time we took three DSLR’s , so there would never be a need to change lenses while on a drive. Unfortunately I managed to damage one of them on the international flight out which rendered it pretty much useless ( it fell out of the overhead locker – I’ll explain later).

 

Camera equipment we used:

 

We ended up having to manage with two Canon EOS 1200d’s, and hardly being able to use the Canon EOS 60d. We did however still avoid changing any lenses on the drives, and being very careful avoided getting any marks on the sensors that showed on the images.

 

Lenses:

 

Canon EF 100-400 f4.5-5.6 IS USM (mk1)  [160-640]

Tamron  16-300 f3.5-6.3  [26-480]

Canon EFS 10-18 [16-28]

Canon EFS 17-55 [27-90]

Due to these Canon cameras having a small sensor, the actual zoom range is 1.6 x the range indicated on the lens. The figures in square brackets are therefore the true approximate range.

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Thanks for all the practical information, always very useful. Sorry to hear about your camera - Ouch!

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I followed your post from trip planning and was very happy when I read your good news regarding Rachel's health. Even better, it sounds to me you and Rachel had a fantastic time on the safari. I can't think of a better way to celebrate Rachel's good news than a safari. Also thank you for all the practical information, very helpful.

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I really appreciate all the details, they are quite useful even if ouvre already been to the area.  Glad to hear the positive medical news for your wife.  You certainly did a more unconventional itinerary, but it certainly seems it worked out for you.  Looking forward to more!

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Posted (edited)

Apologies for the delay in getting this trip report moving. Christmas preparations and then the festivities followed by other jobs have slowed me down with making progress. I hope to post details from the first couple of days of the trip next week.

Meanwhile here's a taster from Lake Manyara National Park:

 

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Edited by Julian
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Day 1: Fri 20th Oct – London to Addis Ababa

 

It is 4.00pm and we are eating a late lunch/early dinner in Terminal 2 of Heathrow airport. The flight departs at 9.00pm but we arrived around 3.00pm, promptly checked-in our luggage and passed through security. Its never too early to start the journey to travel to London airport for your flight, as one accident on the M1/M25/M4 (our route) can lead to delays of several hours – especially on a Friday when its the busiest time of all.

 

The waiter who serves us enquires where we were going. It turns out his father is Tanzanian but he has never been to Tanzania. It didn’t feel quite real that we were about to embark on our next safari trip. Just over seven weeks ago we had no idea we would be able to go on any holiday in the next few months at least, as Rachel was having chemo and that was due to be followed by some surgery. Then everything changed and ten days later we had booked this trip. The last six weeks have raced by and by tomorrow morning we will be in Africa.

 

Our first time on Ethiopian Airlines and there were no problems with this flight, although the service was rather slow. We departed about 9.30pm but it was around midnight by the time the meal was served, which allowed very little time to get any sleep, as the three hour time difference meant the lights were put on to wake up for breakfast at 2.00am – now 5.00am Addis Ababa time.

 

After landing I opened the overhead locker to carefully remove my camera bag and also one camera that I had placed carefully behind the bag. (One of the cameras would not fit into the bag and its good to have a camera to hand to take a few shots while travelling). As the plane was not full there was plenty of space in the overhead locker and the camera bag was firmly stored at one end of the locker directly above my seat. However I had forgotten that these lockers rotated after closing and therefore also upon opening, and as I gently eased my camera bag forward the camera suddenly launched itself out of the locker, hit the arm of the seat and then hit the floor. The rotation of the locker had obviously caused the camera to end up on top of the camera bag instead of behind it.

 

I quickly checked it over, switched it on and took a photo. At least it seemed to be OK, but I would check more thoroughly when we were in the terminal building as we had 2 to 3 hours before boarding the next plane. I was expecting it to be very crowded in the terminal building, but the building had been completely revamped and extended considerably this year, so although it was very busy, finding a seat was easy.  It was now daylight with bright sunlight shining into the building so I took a few photos indifferent lighting conditions. Disaster – all of them were vastly overexposed. Obviously either the camera (the EOS 60D) or the lens (the f2.8 17-55), or both, were damaged in the fall.  I would need to wait until we were in our room at Rivertrees to check them further.

 

Day 2: Sat 21st Oct – Addis Ababa to Kilimanjaro, then transfer by car to Rivertrees lodge in Arusha

 

The next flight was only a couple of hours long and after the rather slow process of passing through the Visa /Passport checking, which includes all fingerprints and iris scans, we collected our luggage – safely arrived thankfully - and were met by the driver to take us to Rivertrees. As the very warm air hit us our senses finally register that we are now in another country, and as we travel along the road through the rural areas and into the suburbs of Arusha, even though we have been to East Africa a few times before, you are instantly aware of how poor this country is, and how fortunate we are to have the life we lead.

 

It is mid-afternoon as we drive into the very green, wooded and rural grounds - the location of Rivertrees lodge - it feels more like an English setting, but naturally far warmer. We are met by the manager who goes through the necessary points, and we are then lead to our room, having arranged for a 5.00am wake-up call, as we will be leaving at 6.00am. Our accommodation is a very nice rustic cottage, spacious with a large bed and ceiling fan.

 

 

 

 

 

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Over the next couple of hours, by changing cameras and lenses, I figure out it the camera that is damaged, the lens still operating fine. I also figure out that sometimes the photos are OK, it depends on the lighting (eg taking shots inside the lodge seemed fine, but outside in the sunlight they were always very overexposed). We had bought three cameras with us this time, having had problems on our last safari with sensor marks caused by frequently changing lenses on the two cameras we had at the time, so we had purchased another new EOS 1200D body (only £200).

 

However this checking caused a further problem. The room ceiling fan was on a low setting, and we had left the door open to let more light in but I had only just noticed the breeze increasing outside and as it was very dusty outside, some of it was blowing into the room. At that point I discovered there was a mark on the sensor of one of the 1200D’s, but fortunately after a manual ‘clean’ of the sensor by just using a blower, it cleared the mark. So for most of the photography we now only had the two EOS 1200D cameras, and the Tamron 16-300 and the Canon 100-400 would remain attached to those for almost all of the whole trip.

 

The grounds at the lodge are scenic and the pleasant sound of fast flowing water from the river nearby seemed at odds as it had clearly not rained much recently. Unfortunately we did not have time to explore the grounds as we needed to do a bit of repacking, and along with sorting out the cameras the afternoon had become evening as darkness fell. The evening meal was very good, with large portions, selected from a lengthy menu, and a choice of Tanzanian wines, we chose our dining seats out in the open as it was a very warm and calm evening.   

 

Day 3: Sun 22nd Oct – transfer by car to Arusha airport, Coastal aviation flight to Lake Manyara airport, then transfer to Lake Manyara Tree Lodge in the safari vehicle with an &Beyond guide.

 

We left Rivertrees promptly at 6.00am with a packed breakfast to eat at the airport. It only took about 45 minutes to get there, and our driver helped us with our bags. At security everything was X-rayed including walking through the body scanner, even though it was just a domestic flight. Our luggage was then weighed. We had one of the soft holdalls each plus the camera bag and a backpack. They weighed both the holdalls together with our camera bag, but not Rachel’s backpack,  (total weight 38kg) so we had made the right choice in booking the XL additional weight on one of the tickets (allowing us 45Kg total).

 

We had about 45 minutes to sit in the sunshine before the flight was due to depart – time to eat our breakfast – at which point we realised our packed breakfast had been left in the car on the front seat next to the driver. We felt a bit annoyed that the driver had not bothered to come back with it, as he knew our flight would not be leaving for some time, and he must have noticed it on the seat when he returned to the car.  Luckily there was a small ‘hut’ where you could buy a very limited range of snacks and drinks, and the person serving could make us bacon sandwiches , although it was a bit of a hefty total price at $35.

 

Five minutes later they told us to go to the plane (it was obviously starting its route from Arusha). I told the lady at the hut we needed to go through the gate now, but she said the sandwiches would be ready in a couple of minutes and she would bring it to us. Fortunately it was ready just in time for her to pass it to us, as we were being ushered to the plane to identify our luggage being put into the hold.   With three things going wrong so far – camera ‘broken, dust mark on the sensor and the Rivertrees packed breakfast left in the car, we were hoping  we had experienced our share of bad luck for the whole trip.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

As we boarded the Coastal plane with half a dozen other travellers it was finally beginning to feel a bit more like we were about to embark on a safari – but it still did not feel quite real yet. The plane departed early and with only about a 25 minutes flight we were soon beginning to descend - and then Lake Manyara National Park came into view – the 1000 feet high Great Rift Valley wall marking the boundary of the park on the western side, the heavily forested park, and the plains, swamp, and water of Lake Manyara on the eastern side, exactly as it looked 17 years ago when we first came here. As we approached closer, descending further, it suddenly hits me – that rush of elation and emotion with the realisation that we are imminently going to be back in the African bush.

 

As we get out of the plane at just after 8.00am it is already very warm, the airport being on top of the Rift Valley walls. The &Beyond guide, Chris, is waiting to greet us. We walk over to the safari vehicle – a long wheelbase Landcruiser, open all the way round with just a canopy roof. Chris informs us he has to go through the &Beyond blurb with us and then we can depart, with a game drive on the way, stopping as often as we want, on the drive to the camp which is in the south of the National Park ( and the only camp that is actually inside the park).

 

The drive from the airport to the entrance of the National park gives us time to talk with Chris and he informs us he will be our guide for our three days stay at the lodge and, although we were expecting to have to share the vehicle with other guests, it will just be us two in the vehicle for all of our stay in Manyara. We also talked with Chris about our expectations – ie that we are interested in all the animals, and the birds, the plants and trees, and the landscape, and that we don’t have any specific requirements but, as with most people on safari, we do really like the big cats and elephants.

 

 

 

As we go down the steep winding road at edge of the Rift we pause briefly a couple of times for photos of the park from this elevated position and for a photo of a large baobab tree that is believed to be around 1000 years old. A few minutes later we are driving through the entrance arch to the park and a few yards further on is the administration building where Chris has to go and complete the paperwork  required to go into the park. He informs us it will probably take about 20 minutes, and while he is doing that one of a small group of students comes over to talk to us, and tells us that he is there to tell the guests all about the park while they are waiting for their guide.  It turns out that these talks form a practical part of his studies that he does at weekends.

 

 

Its about 10.00am when Chris returns and we head off into the park on our first game drive of the safari.

    

 

 

 

 

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Edited by Julian
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Hoping things begin to go right from here on out! Great TR thus far.

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40 minutes ago, Amylovescritters said:

Hoping things begin to go right from here on out! Great TR thus far.

 

@Amylovescritters

Thanks. I can confirm that our spell of things going wrong had finished- it’s all great from now on.

( Intend to post all the narrative and lots of photos from the first game drive tomorrow.)

 

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The short rains had already begun in some of the higher ground and more mountainous areas of northern Tanzania but Chris informed us that it had not rained in Manyara for several months, although there had been cloudy days very recently. Given that it is now right at the end of the dry season the forested areas, which comprised most of the park, still looked surprisingly green and overall the park looked beautifully scenic. (When we came to Manyara back in 2001 it was at the end of January there had been a lot of rain recently and I remember how green, lush and spectacular it looked.) Driving off road is not allowed but even if it was, as much of the park is densely forested it would be almost impossible to actually drive off road other than the areas close to the lake.

 

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After just a couple of minutes of the drive we came upon our first wildlife – the blue monkey. More monkeys appeared as we drove steadily on including vervets and baboons. In the northern and central areas of the park, being heavily forested with many species of trees and plants, this provides excellent cover and food, which supports a relatively high concentration of fauna.

 

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Chris suggested we head east and the forest quickly thinned out, the landscape opening up to reveal Lake Manyara. Obviously at this time of year the water level was much lower and therefore large parts of the lake dry out, revealing areas of mud, swamp, marsh, wetlands and then the furthest area from the lake edge extends the size of the permanent plains. We stop to watch some zebra are out on the plains grazing on what is left of the grass, before moving on.

 

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