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Australia 2009

Lake Eyre and Flinders Ranges

Leg details

March 28 - April 22, 2009
Pooncarie - Menindee - Broken Hill - Peterborough - Hawker - Beltana - Warraweena Stn. - Marree - Muloorina Stn. - Goyder Channel (Lake Eyre) - Oodnadatta Track - William Creek - Halligan Bay (Lake Eyre) - Oodnadatta Track - Flinders Ranges - Leigh Creek - Flinders Ranges - Port Augusta - Adelaide

Leg map (click to enlarge in separate window)

On Saturday, March 28, we leave the Mungo National Park in northerly direction.

It is amazing to see how the little rain that had fallen transforms the country from dry and burned to a green and thriving of life.
The red and green colours are very vivid against the cloudless blue sky.

We turn into Top Hut Road and head west until we reach the bitumen, then north on Pooncarie Road.

In Pooncarie we stop at the Darling River.
What a sad site ... not too much water left in this once mighty river ....

We head up north to Menindee and turn west into Kinchega National Park.
Hmmm ..... same sad story ....
No water, just a sad little bit of water flowing where the large lake should be.

We decide to move on and head over to Lake Pamamaroo to have a look.
There is not much water left in it but all is green so there must have been water in is recently.

And we find a great camping area, just along the river, with water, toilets, BBQ, etc. etc.
Curious we continue along the road and find ourselves at the main weir of another lake, Lake Wetherell.

The sight is great, pelicans and other birds having a swim in the overflow of the lake. We decide to stay there and set up camp for a few days.

In the evening we go for a walk and find out more about the lake.

It is the Darling River that has been dammed here and has become a part of the Menindee Lakes.
The lakes, at maximum capacity hold three and a half times more water than Sydney Harbour and cover an area some seven and a half times greater.
For more details on the Menindee Water Storage Scheme click here.

On Wednesday, April 1, it is time to move on.
After some shopping in Broken Hill (no fruits and vegetables because of the quarantine station at the border!) we drive west to Peterborough where we meet with Peter and Margaret Wright from OKA 196.

We are all invited to stay at the backyard of Willem and Judith Kempes and have a lovely time.

Willem is a very experienced and cautious off-roader. He gives us a lot of tips regarding our planned Simpson Desert crossing. Even with our heavy OKA it seems to be possible to cross the Simpson Desert from east to west via Warburton Crossing and Rig Road.

Judith is very busy preparing the art exposition and we are allowed to have a sneak-preview.

Susi even finds a picture she likes and buys it.

On Friday, April 3, we leave the hospitality of Willem and Judith and head north.
Thanks for having us and being such great hosts!

Peter & Margaret are our tour guides.
We head north to Orroroo, then to Hawker.
There Peter realises that he has a leek in one of his fuel tanks.
This means work for him and Ruedi tonight .....

We deviate east and take the Moralana Scenic Drive through the valley of the 1000 hills.
It is very pretty.

We even get an introduction into the local geology on the gravel surface of the track.

We get a good view of the mountains surrounding Wilpena Pound.

Once we reach the bitumen again we head further north and only leave it at Beltana Roadhouse where we turn east onto the dirt.

We reach Warraweena Station and meet Stony (Marcel Steiner), the Swiss manager who runs the place. He tells us to go to the Lambing Camp where we settle down for the night.

Peter and Ruedi get the overalls out and have a look at Peter's fuel leak.
But with the right glue the tank is soon fixed and Peter can fill in some fuel to see if the tank is fine now.

On Saturday morning we wake up to a windy and rather fresh day (only 12°C over night).

Peter checks the tank and the fix seem to have stopped the leak.

Stony comes past for a coffee and brings us detailed maps for the walks.
We decide to walk around Sliding Rock and head off shortly after lunch.
Even though there is no cloud on the sky and the sun is shining brightly it is rather fresh and we take the jackets along.

But as we walk up the creek bed it gets warmer. We can enjoy the pretty large trees and the many colours of their bark.

Some have an impressive size and girth.

Peter and Ruedi have a bit of a rest on a root.
Click here to see the real size of it ....

One tree in particular is just amazing.
It has grown around a large rock, its roots using the boulder as an anchor.

There are also some interesting rocks in the creek bed.

Some grass trees also attract the general attention.

On the way up we are kept busy with some nice views of the hills ....

... a quarry and lots of colourful stones .....

.... a large web of a Golden Orb spider ...

After crossing the highest point we are rewarded with some nice views into the valley.

The flies are a real pest and we are glad we got our cream from Alice Springs to keeps the flies away from the face and ears.

Once back in the camp we get some drift wood from the creek bed and prepare the fire for tonight's visit of Stony.
The wind picks up again and as the sun sets it gets rather cold.

So we start the fire, have dinner around the camp fire and have a good time.
Late at night Stony heads home, we do the dishes and crawl to bed shortly before midnight.
During the night the temperature drops to 11°C ....

On Sunday morning we have to change the clocks back by one hour.
This means we can have a sleep in after the late night ... we are not used to staying up that late ..... we usually go to bed with the chicken .....

Then it is time to leave but not without stopping at some of the trees Stony has pointed out to us as being some of the largest ones on Warraweena.

Some of the dead trees have amazing markings from the insects that lived on them.

We even get a chance to spot some of the "locals" .....

We head up to the station for a long warm shower .... amazing how one learns to appreciate little things in life that other take for granted ....

Then it is time to say good-bye to Stony and leave Warraweena.

Our way north leads us through the Puttapa Gap.

One can still see the old railroad track, some old sleepers still lying there ...

Then we are back on the bitumen and head north for a while.

In Leigh Creek we head out to the lookout ....

.... and have some fun with the displayed equipment.

The rocks in the enclosure, mined from a depth of between 30 - 40 metres, are thought to be around 230 million years old.
The fossilised wood is the fire sticks used to start the signal fire, and the round rocks are the dampers cooked in the fire by Yulu.
For more details on the story of Yulu, the mine or the equipment please click here.

As we continue north we pass the mine and remember all the things we just read.

At Lyndhurst we get some fuel.
When asking if they had water the lady said that they charge 5 $ per 10 lt!
She must have seen my face because she quickly added that the money will be donated to RFDS, but we all agree that it is a rip off that we won't support.
We head over to the public toilet and get some water from there.
Then it is time to lower the tyre pressure again ...

The dirt road finds its way through the flat and deserted arid landscape.
The old Ghan track is visible and some ruins mark abandoned stations and towns like Farina.
On and off the road is sealed ... one wonders why ..... it almost looks like they are working on getting the whole stretch up to Marree covered with bitumen!

There is a fair bit of traffic in both directions.
It could well be that it is the beginning of the Easter traffic.

Even though the temperature is not really hot with 25°C every so often we can see areas where hot air is mimicking an area of water ... sometimes it looks as if the trees are floating .....

We reach Marree, a sleepy little town in the Outback .... not much is happening in Marree on a Sunday afternoon ....

We head west and shortly after Marree turn north-west following the signs to Muloorina.

The landscape get's really dry and arid ... just gibber and the sun ....

The campground at Muloorina is at a permanent water hole is fed with warm water from an artesian bore.
Besides looking pretty it also attracts a lot of birds. It would be a perfect place .... if it wasn't for the bl**** flies!!

We settle down for the night and then go for a walk along the water hole.

We see some birds but the majority is very shy and doesn't like their picture taken.

On the way back we bump into a group of cars that we have been seeing a few times today.
As we chat along they tell us that they will be flying out to Lake Eyre from Muloorina Station airstrip next day.
And it happened to be that they are a group of 6 people; the airplane is made for 6 so one of them had no space.
So they have chartered the plane for 2 x 1 hour and have 4 seats available.
We decide to join them as the price is 330 $ for the two of us compared with 275 $ as a single person would have to pay ....

As the sun sets and the birds head to their favourite tree for the night some horses come for a drink ..... what a shame it was too dark to take movies or take pictures without using flash ...

On Monday, April 6, we head over to the station and are welcomed by the pilots.

We are seated in the first plane, Susi in the back with 2 seats on her own, having both windows plus the back ones at her disposal.

The pilot starts the engine, rolls forward and ..... gets bogged in the sand!
The men get out and the second group plus their pilot come over to give a hand.
The plane is pushed to a more solid ground, everybody gets in and the second start works out perfectly.

We fly over the dry landscape up to Lake Eyre where we reach the water.

Some pretty pink clouds reflect in the water ... too soon we have to turn around and head back ..... and the rest of the day is spent with looking at the Giga-Bytes of films and pictures taken during the flight .....

On Tuesday morning, after a rather cold night with only 8.5°C, we head out to Level Post Bay on Lake Eyre.
We know that we won't find any water there but we still want to go and have a look.

The track is great, it looks as if the people of Muloorina have just recently graded all the tracks on their property.

The track takes us west to Lake Eyre South, then up north past Annabel Island into the Goyder Channel.

More and more we "sink" below sea level.
We reach the lake and as expected there is no water to be seen.
Only a few Galahs sit in the shade of the information shelter and have a curious look at us.

A strong wind is blowing and quickly Margaret unpacks her kites.
Soon her and Ruedi are have some fun flying kites ... but it is not as easy as it looks like ... more than not the kites crash and have to be restarted.

Susi gets busy having a look at the sand dunes, where the wind has created some interesting patterns and structures.
It is amazing to find blooming flowers in such an arid area.

Then it is time to head back towards Marree.

There are old artefacts along the track, inhabited by a lizard ...

Once we reach the Oodnadatta Track we head north; we haven't seen this part of the track yet.

Of course we have to stop at the tanks like Callanna and the bridges like Callanna, Kenneberry Waterhole ...

The station at Wangianna is in a very sad state.
Some people find it cool to leave their names and dates of their visit on historical buildings ...

Next stop is at Alberrie Creek or "Mutonia Sculpture Park".

It is famous for its sculptures made from recycled or "mutated" material from the surrounding area.

The figures all have their own personality ...

We reach Lake Eyre South lookout but the lake is not pretty at all.
It is covered with a sand and dirt layer .... and as expected: no sign of water at all.

We continue on and reach Beresford, where we settle down for the night.
The flies are unreal!

On Wednesday, April 8, we continue north to William Creek.
We heard that the water is actually visible from Halligan Bay and we would be pretty frustrated if this would not be the case after all this driving.

We also want to visit Anna Creek Station and ask for access permission over their land to be able to visit confluence point S 29° E 137°.
We reach William Creek and find an Anna Creek Station vehicle parked in front of the work shop.
All excited we enter the pub to find its driver, but it is the vehicle of the manager of the pub.
He wants to know what we want from Anna Creek Station.
When Susi explains to him that we are looking for an access permit to reach the confluence point he tells us that nobody is allow to drive on Anna Creek Station property, not even out to the homestead.
He is not cooperative at all, one could almost call it aggressive.
Then Peter starts talking to him asking about some locals he knows and soon they have common friends and the manager gets friendlier.
At he end he even gives us the phone number of Anna Creek Station and the names of the people currently present at the station, Gordon the head stockman and Margie the cook, so we can call and ask.
Peter is appointed for that task.
The phone is picked up by Margie and Peter asks for Gordon, but he is not about and Margie tells us to call the head office in Adelaide.
Peter recons that we don't have a chance to get the ok over the phone and that it will have to be organised once he is back in Adelaide.
So we drop that idea and decide to head down to the small forest at William Creek, set up camp and exchange travelling information before we go south again. Peter and Margaret wait in William Creek for their friends that will arrive with an ultra-light plain in a few days.

As we fuel up the manager of the pub asks if we have had success with our phone call.
We tell him the story and also explain to him what a confluence point is and he gets really interested in it and recons that if we call the manager of Anna Creek Station and explain it to him too we won't have any problems getting the approval for it.
He also confirms that there is water at Halligan Bay but only if the wind blows it into the bay.
As there is a steady wind blowing we deice to head out there tomorrow.

Soon the kettle is on in Peter and Margaret's OKA and we all settle down (out of the very friendly flies) to exchange GPS points of tracks and good camping spots.

The sunset is just something special tonight, as if the sky was burning.
After sunset the wind dies down .....

After a comfortable night with 15°C on Thursday we wake up to an overcast sky.
There is still no wind and we are a bit worried that the water at Halligan Bay will not be visible.

The approx. 60 km of track out to Lake Eyre have just been graded We even pass the grader almost at ABC Bay.

Compared with our first trip to Lake Eyre we can already tell that there are more green shrubs.
Somebody had said that the water table has risen because of the water in Lake Eyre and it really looks like it.
The landscape around ABC Bay looks even more stunning with the green in it than it looked last time.

We reach ABC Bay ... and there is no water to be seen ..... sigh!
Well, they had said that the water can be seen at Halligan Bay, which is another 10 km further up the road.
So we had there.

The closer we get to Halligan Bay the greener all becomes.
Our hopes rise ....

On the way we pass a camper and at the camp ground we find another camper.
Last time we were here we were the only ones all the way in AND out!

As we walk to the shore at Halligan Bay it looks like there is water out there somewhere.
Two ladies that camped here over night tell us that the wind blows the water into the bay and that they even were able to paddle their hands in it!

Susi gets all excited, she wants to feel that too.
So off she goes ...
Ruedi decides to stay ashore and watch just in case Susi should fall through the crust of salt and get stuck in the lake.

As long as Susi stays on the white spots where lots of salt has collected there is no problem getting close to the shoreline but the brown areas are very soft and one sinks in quite quickly.

Then she reaches the water.
Quickly the shoes are off and there she is, at Lake Eyre wading around in the water. This is actually a "once in a life time" chance!

The pinkish clouds reflect in the water.
It looks very pretty.

Then it is time to head back as we are expected down at the Flinders Ranges over Easter.

But first we stop at the bore we know from last time to check if the water is still running.
As this is the case Susi enjoys a prolonged soaking session under the tube of the bore.
The water must be between 36 – 38°C - just beautiful.
Then we have a long how shower a bit further away form the water to keep the soap away from the dam and the water.

As we shower we can hear some people on the UHF radio ...
".... How much fuel have you got left?"
"I don't know, it is on E"
"Well I cannot tell you how much this is but judging from my car I can guess that would be about 1/8 of a tank left .... don't know how far it will take you ....."
We get a good laugh out of that and wonder how much outback experience this driver has and how well he knows his car .....

We stop at Peter and Margaret's OKA for lunch and to say goodbye and then head south.

We have to stop at Beresford because we have to pick up our toilet-paper bag that somehow got forgotten out in the bush by someone a few days ago ....

As we head towards Marree we see an OKA coming towards us.
Of course we stop and meet Rita & Vidas Ridikas in OKA 296.
There is lots to chat about but we both have to continue on so we promise to visit them next time we are in Sydney.

We stop at the old Ghan bridge at the Callanna Creek and stay for the night.

On Good-Friday morning we continue on to Marree and then south to Leigh Creek.
Note to the traveller:
The diesel in Leigh Creek was cheaper (AU$ 1.429) than in Lyndhurst (AU$ 1.559) or in Marree (AU$ 1.779).

As we get ready to leave Leigh Creek another OKA pulls up besides us.
It is Jim Dean and Kareen on OKA 008 on their way up to Lake Eyre.
Every day a new OKA we haven't met yet!
After a long chat we continue on south.

The traffic is just unbelievable, vehicle after vehicle after vehicle .... well, it's Easter after all ....

We head down to Parachilna Gorge and up the creek looking for David & Genine Hallandal in their OKA, but cannot find them.
After some asking around with other campers we decide to wait at a group of "abandoned" trailers and tents and wait.

A Triton with a trailer pulls into the campsite and Susi gets out of the OKA to check with him ... yes, we have found the right site.
Soon after two OKAs and a few more cars arrive.

It does not take long and the camp is hustling and bustling with kids running around, chairs being set up and beer being taken out of the fridges .... and a few OKA and 4WD stories also get told during the evening .....

The sun wakes us on Saturday morning.
Soon the other campers wakes up too and the kids start running around again.

We leave the camp and turn onto the track that leads to Moolooloo Homestead.

With the three OKAs in the group we raise the interest of many people.

We head up to the lookout .... up is not a problem but the short stretch at the top tilts like there is no tomorrow!
David's OKA lifts his back tyre and we wonder how we are going to get through that .... but we manage.
This is about the worst that we ever have had the OKA tilting (at least it feels like this - being on top of the hill).

We continue through some very pretty county.
Then the track gets rocky and some rough sections have to be navigated.
Especially the last bit up to the Nuccaleena mine is a challenge for some of the vehicles.

The ruins of the mine are pretty well preserved.
We are surprised about some of the masons work; the mine must have been rich .... or maybe not?
For more details on the history of the mine please click here.

Susi finds a lot of interesting things to look at ......

Then we head back and stop in a nice creek bed for lunch.

Some of the trees are just phenomenal.

Pretty strips seem to be have been in fashion with rocks when they were created ...

A few km before reaching Blinman David from OKA 131 stops. A strange vibration has been noticed .... looks like a problem with the transfer case ...
And as they crawl around OKA 131 Dave from OKA 029 spots something dripping from our OKA ... it is oil .... and it is dripping from the front diff .....
Susi already starts checking out a route back to Melbourne to have the diff repaired by Paul again .....

We decide to run the two "sick" OKAs in 2WD and head back to the camp; but not before stopping at Blinman for some ice creams!
Ruedi also has a closer look at David's air filter.
It is one of the new ones for the Euro 4 Engine NT-OKAs.
It is very impressive and apparently the performance of the engine increases a fair bit .... should we ask OKA for a retro-fit?

We continue on and some of the group stops at Angorichina Village for some fuel.
When they arrive at the camp we find out that Dave's OKA 029 just had lost its gears at the village .... a bolt had come loose and he lost some parts of the set-up.
Luckily this had just happened at the village and they found all parts and were able to assemble all back in working order again.

At the camp they find out that the dual-battery system of the Pajero failed and did not charge the second battery .....
What a day ..... 3 OKAs and 1 Pajero failing .... 4 out of 6 vehicles!

After a bit of fiddling they find the faulty part, fix it and soon the Pajero is taken for a drive to get the batteries charged again.

Then it is time for Dave, David and Ruedi to change into their overalls and have a look at the damages.
Ruedi finds that the seal of the yoke has had it. We decide to park the OKA for the rest of the weekend and only use it in 2WD until we can fit a new seal.

Dave and David sit under OKA 131 and figure out what has to be done there.
Some bolts have worn off and need replacing.
As they are imperial even Ruedi's fairly big stock of bolts does not contain the correct one. So they drive up to Angorichina Village to get some at the fuel station.
They cannot find the correct ones but longer ones.
So Ruedi gets his vice and angle grinder our and in no time a prototype of the bolt can be tested.
It works, so two more are prepared and just before dark the OKA is fixed.

Then it is time to sit down for a quiet beer and have a good time.

On Easter Sunday after breakfast the kids go for a walk.
And guess what .... the Easter Bunny brings some eggs!
There was just one small error in the in the Easter Bunny's planning ... it took the kids a bit longer to get back than planned and some of the egg were placed in plain sunshine ... soft chocolate still tastes good though ... even if it has to be sucked out of the aluminium foil!

David's OKA 131 is taken for a test drive up a steep hill and it works just beautifully.
Once back he invites us to travel with him today what we accept of course .

We leave the camp and drive through Blinman and then up to Artimore Well where we stop for lunch.

Susi and Scott go exploring and it doesn't take long until they find artefacts.
Especially one building which must have had a wooden floor has lots of nails used to fix horse shoes in the sand.
It must have been a smithy.

Another ruin, probably a house, has an interesting fireplace.
It looks like they have used rails to support the stones.

Everybody seems to be busy ... Susi with some rocks in the nearby creek bed, the kids with an old well and mothers keeping a watchful eye on the kids ....

Then we head towards Hannigan Gap and the road gets rough.

At one section some drivers test their vehicles and their skills on a tricky washout. Interesting to see the difference in wheel articulation between an OKA and a "normal" 4WD.
Since the OKA axle can move 35 cm on each side, the difference between left and right side may be up to 70 cm and the OKA still has all 4 wheels on the ground.

Then we head past Moolooloo Homestead back to Parachilna Creek and the camp.

The Patrol is playing up again.
They decide to fix it for good this time and replace some cables.
Dave's OKA 029 is used as "donor"-vehicle and his winch-cable "shortened" by the required cable-length ....

Some exploring of the area displays good examples on how trees adapt to their living area.

Then we settle down for a peaceful evening.
Some storm clouds gather and generate an impressive sunset.
After dinner we get together and watch the lightning around us.
After the rather warm day with over 30°C the evening is balmy and we stay up for a long time, counting passing satellites and looking at the stars.

We wake up to a beautiful blue sky and soon we are on or way via Blinman down to Wilpena Pound.

The dust on the dirt track is awful but shortly after passing "The Great Wall of China", a quiet impressive chain of hills, the road has been sealed.
It looks like they are sealing the whole stretch from Blinman down to Wilpena Pound.

At Wilpena Pound we pack our back packs and due to the many "convalescent" in the group take the shuttle to the end of the track.

Then we walk along the creek and past the spring to the old homestead.
There is a nice memorial to the local Aboriginal People and also some interesting information tables regarding the homestead and its history.
Click here for more details on them.

A few rain drops fall .... we decide that it will not going to rain and continue on.
Of course we have to get up to the two lookouts.

We see many lizards and dragons, one in particular is very pretty with its orange colour.

The view into the pound is quite impressive.
Imagine how it must have looked when it was still used for grain or cattle.
It is also obvious why the settlers called it the Pound ... it really is an enclosure with its narrow exit through the gully.

Looking out into the valley we can see that the rain is falling out of the clouds but the drops are mostly evaporating before they reach the ground.
It is rather muggy and the temperature has reached 32°C.
Luckily the clouds block out most of the sunshine so it is still nice to walk.

After lunch we walk back to the visitor centre pay for some showers.

As we are filling the tanks with water we hear that one of the OKAs has had a "bit of a prang" with a Prado .... the Prado did not like the contact with the OKA too much, its front door and the mirror looks a bit chewed up, no scratch on the OKA .....

As we want to take advantage of the NextG Internet reception at the resort and check our emails the group heads back without us.

We choose to return to the camp via the Bunyeroo Valley.
The lookout offers some stunning views and the track is great too.

We then turn west into the Brachina Gorge Track and some more great creek-bed-driving is ahead of us. All still in 2WD of course.

Then a quick trip north on the bitumen takes us back to the turn off into Parachilna Gorge and back to the camp.
What a great drive this has been!

On Tuesday morning it is time for OKA 131, OKA 029 and the others to head back to Adelaide.
We decide to stay and re-park onto the spot where OKA 131 was standing to get better use of the sun light.
A few clouds hang around but the sun manages to burn most if it away so we have enough power to charge the batteries, run all the PCs, cut our hair and do a bit of work.
But the clouds start closing in again around lunch time.
Well, they had announced possible showers for today ... we will see.

But no showers eventuate .... also not the next day ...... just some clouds pass over us every so often ....
We stay at the creek for a few days more.

Ruedi checks the front diff and finds the oil to be clear and only normal metal particles on the magnetic screw.
There really seems to be a problem with the seal so he orders two at OKA to be sent to Adelaide to David and Genine from OKA 131, where we will pass by to replace it.

On Friday, April 17, we leave the Parachilna Creek camp and head south to Port Augusta.
After a few days in a larger town we feel fit to tackle the hassle and traffic of Adelaide.
So we head down south and after a stop at Port Parham we reach the home of David and Genine and park our OKA on their front lawn.

Ruedi's birthday is due on Friday.

Genine and Susi organise a small party.
Naomi and Scot are all excited but don't say a word and Ruedi doesn't notice anything until the party starts.

The yoke is taken apart and when the seal is taken out Ruedi sees some nasty marks in the metal.
Hmmmm .... that means ordering a new yoke from OKA and staying another week on David and Genine's front lawn!

In the meantime David and Dave have a closer look at the winch that has been playing up a bit last time we had to use it.
Dave works at ARB and knows what to do. They decide it has to be an electrical fault which sometimes disables the engagement of the oil pump.
Thanks David and Dave for your help. The error was later found to be a pin pushed back in one of the electrical plugs.

Then it is time for us to head north again.
It is just too cold and wet in Adelaide so we escape to Port Augusta again where we will wait for Heidi and Peter to return from Switzerland.

During that time we can watch some very large moths hatch.
They all hatch within the same 2 days.

Ruedi is very busy composing and recording several songs.
Have a listen to one of the instrumentals he recorded in Port Augusta ... he says it is not finished yet ..... Susi recons it is good enough and will be used in our annual movie that will be shown in Switzerland during our Christmas brake.
Click here for the instrumental (file type: .mp3, size: 2'443 KB).



No liability for timeliness, integrity and correctness of this document is accepted.
Last updated: Thursday, 10.01.2019 4:31 PM

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