March 26, 2012


David Ellis


IF marvelling at brawny blokes tossing around what appear to be scaled-down power poles with nary a wince is your thing, or equally so watching them lift great round stones that weigh as much (or more) than they do, then come April 21 little Bundanoon – half-way between Sydney and Canberra in the NSW Southern Highlands – is the place to be.


Or if such shenanigans may be a bit too hernia-worrying, ponder others playfully hurling water-filled balloons impossible distances for partners to catch without getting a drenching by bursting them (the record is 40.4 metres,) and even others tossing fresh-laid eggs great distances for another to deftly catch without suffering the consequences of gooey breakages (the record for this bizarre activity being an amazing 59.6 metres.)


Then again, as we do, go there simply to graze through 30 food stalls offering treats Scottish, salivating and more-ish: Highland shortbreads and Scots pies, drop scones, gingerbreads and Abernethy biscuits, butterscotches and other home-made confections, and if the stomach is up to it, blood pudding and haggis.


All because like Brigadoon in the stage show and movie, for just one day of the year Bundanoon raises itself out of its early morning Highlands mist, and for that day becomes Brigadoon and all things Scottish.


So popular has it become in it's 35 years that it now attracts over 11,000 visitors, which is more than five times the local population. And every one of them will attest that Bundanoon is Brigadoon is one of the great family outings on the country calendar (and has become one of the largest gatherings of all things Scottish outside Scotland.)


Even City Rail gets in on the act: so those visiting by train know they are getting off at the right place, the BUNDANOON signs on the local railway station are replaced for the day with BRIGADOON.


But Bundanoon is Brigadoon is not just all about grown-up's games, competitions and filling the tummy, there's something for all ages – right down to a Bonnie Bairns Highland Dress Competition for little ones five and under, and more than 100 arts, crafts, Scottish and Tartan variety and specialty stalls.


The 92nd Gordon Highlanders, named after a regiment first formed in 1794 and who later fought in the Battle of Waterloo, will also re-create a "company street" from the time of Waterloo, including mess tent/kitchens, headquarters, a surgeon's tent and military supply hut.


They'll also have men, women and children dressed as Georgian era "camp followers" (those who followed armies and sold them goods and services,) as well as a display of historic firearms, swords and bayonets, demonstrations of muzzle-loading, and will talk about military life during the time of the famous Battle.


There'll also be Scottish Country and Highland Dancing demonstrations – with  visitors invited to join in reels and jigs – and a demonstration by the Swordplay School of Theatrical Fencing and Stage Combat.


Other highlights will include individual pipe band displays, and at 9.30am a Street Parade with 25 Pipe Bands, marching Scottish Clans and Societies, and decorated floats.


At 2.30pm there'll be the main Caber Toss with those scaled-down 6-metre power poles, and at 3.10pm the Tartan Warriors will see who amongst them goes home Champion by lifting The Bundanoon Stones of Manhood from the ground onto the tops of wine barrels in the fastest time…  the five massive round stones weighing progressively from 115 to 165kgs.


There'll also be a hay toss, shott putt, those egg and water tosses, kilted races, and on stage several times during the day Newcastle's famous Highlander Celtic Rock Band with their unusual combination of bagpipes, fiddles, electric and acoustic guitars, percussions and vocals…


Then finally as the sun sets, the mists descend and the crowds drift off into the gloaming, or stay on for Ceilidh (dancing) in the local hall, Auld Lang Syne rings out as mythical Brigadoon falls again under a magical spell to sleep once more for another year… and Brigadoon Station reverts again to simply Bundanoon.


Entry: $18 adults, $15 Age Pensioners with card, $5 children (5-17 years,) $40 Family (2 adults/2 children.) For pre-purchase of tickets and assistance with accommodation phone 1300 657 559 or visit; for general information about Bundanoon is Brigadoon phone the Publicity Officer (02) 4883 7471.






[] HERNIA-making stuff, tossing the caber – photo Corinne Dany.

[] NOW that's a stone: lifting the Bundanoon Stones of Manhood – photo Corinne


[] STIRRING sounds in Bundanoon's Highlands air, the pipes and drums – photo

   Corinne Dany.

[] EVEN Bundanoon railway station becomes Brigadoon for the day – photo

   Corinne Dany.

[] PLENTY of stalls to entice you away from the games – photo Jeff McGill.


March 24, 2012

Lina’la’ Cultural Park recreates life on Guam 500 years ago

Chief Ben 'Lam Lam' Sam Nicolas greets visitors at the Lina’la’
Cultural Park, Guam. The park recreates life on
pre-contact Guam 500 years ago. (R Eime)
Guam’s first and original Chamorro cultural theme park recreates Chamorro life 500 years ago. Chamorros are Guam’s first inhabitants. Lina’la’ Park rests on an actual Chamorro village, dating over 1,000 years ago. Latte stones, pottery, and other artifacts reveal that villagers lived there until the beginning of the Spanish era in the 17th century.

The park features a visitor center displaying cultural artifacts and a brief film about the Chamorro creation belief. A nature walk filled with tropical flowers, medicinal plants, and fruit trees leads visitors to the recreation of an ancient Chamorro village.

Visitors are greeted by men and women wearing what looks like traditional garb — a loincloth and small bandeau top for women. When Magellan landed on Guam in 1521, islanders were mostly naked, however, women sometimes wore a small triangular apron called a tifi, or a skirt of grass or leaves suspended from a belt.

The pre-Magellan stage at Lina’la’ is filled with a handful of pitched roof houses that would have made up any village. The largest A-frame domain housed the chief and was founded on impressive latte stones. Visitors can climb into the house via a wooden staircase.

Some latte structures served as guma’ uritao, or a men’s house. This was a meeting place for men and living quarters for bachelors. Latte structures also sheltered ocean going outrigger sailing canoes called proas and may have served as a place to build the proas.

A central cooking house at the park contains a chahan, or pit, where root vegetables and fish were cooked atop fiery rocks and covered with leaves. Coconuts (niyok) were abundant on the island then as they are now. Ancient Chamorros fashioned a coconut grader with a sharp clamshell, which visitors can see in action.

Other houses were used to treat illness and contained a mortar and pestle (lommok) used for mincing herbs. Massage was also employed as treatment. Ancient Chamorros called upon the shamen (makåhna) and sorcerers (kakåhna) who were believed to possess the powers to cause or cure illness by calling upon the spirits of their ancestors.

There were no indigenous, four-legged animals in the Marianas. Domestic animals such as pigs, chickens, cats, dogs, pygmy quails, spotted deer, painted quails, goats, cattle, and carabao were introduced to Guam during the Spanish period (1665-1898). The park’s animal zone houses pens containing deer, carabao, pigs, goats, ducks, and chickens. Coconut crabs, monitor lizards, and a brown tree snake are also on display.

“Seeing is believing and a walk through Lina’la’ is like stepping back in time,” said GVB General Manager Joann Camacho, “The park not only preserves our Chamorro history, but makes it come alive.”

March 21, 2012


David Ellis

CHANCES are you know nothing of a remarkable 19th century African-American woman named Biddy Mason.

But crammed away in the concrete canyons of Downtown Los Angles is a tiny park that pays homage to Biddy… a slave forced to walk over 3000kms in the wagon-train tracks of her master from Mississippi to Utah Territory, and who extraordinarily went on to become the wealthiest black woman in her time in LA.

A slave who won her freedom in bizarre circumstances from a sympathetic white judge, and after becoming the first black woman to own land in Los Angeles, gave away everything she earned to help black poor and needy.

Biddy Mason was born to a slave in Mississippi in 1818, named Bridget with no surname, and as a young child was given as a wedding present to wealthy plantation owner Robert Smith and his bride.

She learned midwifery and the use of herbal medicines from fellow slaves of Smith, and after Smith converted to the Mormon faith in the 1840s she set off in a wagon-train with his family and fourteen slaves from Mississippi to Great Lake City, Utah.

Biddy had to walk the whole 3,200kms, driving Smith's herd of cattle by day, cooking the family's meals when they pitched camp for the night, washing their clothes and tending the sick amongst family and slaves.

And still young she bore three daughters, with the father widely believed to be her master, Robert Smith – whom the Mormon Church's leader, Brigham Young constantly counselled, unsuccessfully, to free Biddy and his other slaves.

In 1851 Smith decided to move again, to Southern California where the Church was establishing a branch in San Bernardino… but it proved his undoing as far as Biddy and her fellow slaves were concerned: just a year earlier, California had abolished slavery and any slave brought into the State had to be set free.

Smith refused to comply, declaring Biddy, her daughters and others "his property," and instead decided to move yet again, to Texas where slavery was still legal.

However before he could do so Biddy, through an educated friend, filed a court application seeking her freedom – but extraordinarily was blocked from pleading her case before Judge Benjamin Hayes, because then-laws prevented blacks from testifying in court.

To everyone's surprise, Judge Hayes noted that the law said nothing of them speaking to him in his chambers, and after inviting Biddy there and hearing her plea, he returned to the courtroom and declared she and her fellow Smith slaves "free forever and without fear."

Biddy then adopted a surname for the first time – Mason after a Mormon anti-slavery crusader. A doctor friend of Judge Hayes in Los Angeles impressed with Biddy's nursing and midwifery skills gave her work, and after living frugally and saving virtually everything she earned, bought a house on Spring Street, Los Angeles in 1866 – the first black woman landowner in LA.

She bought other land, sold one block just a few years after buying it for six times what she had paid, invested this money in a warehouse, and with the rental income from this helped build the First African Methodist Episcopal Church – LA's first black church.

She had already thrown open the doors of her home, dubbed "The House of the Open Hand" to homeless black women, welcoming them with her favourite quote: "If you hold your hand closed, no good can come in." She provided food to hungry families, visited black prisoners in jails, and built an orphanage and elementary school for black children.

When she died in 1891 aged 73, "Grandma Mason" as she was known left an amazing US$300,000 in cash and property (equivalent to US$7.3 million today) with the instructions that it was to go towards the continuation of her work for the poor and the needy.

If you are visiting LA, take the trip Downtown to 333 Spring Street where Biddy Mason Park has been established on what was the site of her original home, later became a parking lot, and was finally given over for a small and leafy park dedicated to Biddy and her work.

Plaques and murals on the walls tell the story of her life, and thousands gather there every November 16 to celebrate Biddy Mason Day.

Photo captions:

[] BIDDY Mason – America's most extraordinary philanthropist?

[] PARK dedicated to Biddy Mason on the site of her House of the Open Hand.

[] HISTORIC photo of Biddy Mason sitting on the verandah of her home with young women she provided shelter to.

(Photos: Los Angeles Visitor & Convention Bureau.)



The Queen of the Harbour does not Float

"None shall pass!" The largest liners must now stay in Sydney Harbour's eastern region.

Happy birthday, Sydney Harbour bridge

By Roderick Eime

She’s 80 years old and all of Sydney is celebrating. Honestly, I don’t know if bridges have a gender at all, much less female, but the Germans think bridges are girls, so I’ll go with that.

Yesterday, March 19, was the 80th anniversary of the much talked-about 1932 ribbon cutting that officially opened the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Poor Premier Jack Lang was upstaged by a mounted right-wing zealot with a sword and the rest, as is so often said, is history.

In those 80 years, the bridge has become as much a part of the harbour itself as the Opera House and Luna Park facia. At least once every year she bursts into glorious splendour with fireworks to rapturous adulation. For the last decade it has been possible to (legally) scale her girders and stand triumphantly on her pinnacle. She has embraced Sydney as much as Sydney, and her millions of visitors, has embraced her.

It’s hard to imagine that the many magazines and websites that voted Sydney the world’s favourite cruise destination would have done so without the omnipresent bridge as our crowning glory. There she is, like a 40,000 tonne tiara, welcoming every ship as they make their way into Circular Quay or, more recently, beyond to Darling Harbour. Coincidentally, her total weight of 53,800 tonnes was almost the same as many of the largest ships afloat at the time such as the massive 286m, 51,656 GT SS Bremen of Norddeutscher Lloyd. But ships quickly became larger to the point where today’s largest (such as the 53m high Carnival Spirit and QM2) will no longer fit under her span. ‘Enough’ she declares, ‘I am queen of this city!’

Queen she may be, presiding over numerous historic events including the terrifying Japanese submarine attack of 1942 and the drawn-out, slow motion construction of her architectural counterpart, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Sydney Opera House. Jørn Utzon’s masterpiece in fact took five years longer to build than the bridge.

14,000 workers toiled for eight years hammering in 6 million rivets with 16 falling to their deaths The only one to survive was Irishman, Vincent Kelly, who landed feet first with his hands protecting his head although the urban legend has him dropping his tool belt/spanner/hammer to "break" his fall. He was back at work after six weeks of recovery.

For 60 years she bore the entire cross-harbour traffic, including trains, until relieved by the tunnel in 1992, at which time she carried 182,000 vehicles every day. Initial toll was sixpence for a car and it is now as much as $4, depending on the time of day, despite the AU£6.25 million cost recouped in 1988.

It is also no surprise that the world’s most prestigious cruise lines feature images of their illustrious vessels posing in front of the monumental structure, arrogantly presuming to add something to this already impressive vista.

While she effectively bars access to the western reaches of the harbour by the largest liners, she will continue to reign supreme over all she surveys to the east, imperiously denying passage to those vessels impertinent enough to challenge her grandeur. Long may she span!

March 19, 2012

Struth! Underground comic relief

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says the following announcements were actually made by drivers on London's Underground rail:

1) 'Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologize for the delay to your service. I know you're all dying to get home, unless, of course, you happen to be married to my ex-wife, in which case you'll want to cross over now to the Westbound and go in the opposite direction.'

2) 'Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering from E & B syndrome: not knowing his elbow from his backside. I'll let you know any further information if I'm ever given any.'

3) 'Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is that last Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great time. The bad news is that there is a points failure somewhere between Stratford and East Ham, which means we probably won't reach our destination.'

4) 'Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the delay, but there is a security alert at Victoria station and we are therefore stuck here for the foreseeable future, so let's take our minds off it and pass some time together. All together now.... 'Ten green bottles, sitting on a wall.....'.'

5) 'We are now travelling through Baker Street ... As you can see, Baker Street is closed. It would have been nice if they had actually told me, so I could tell you earlier, but no, they don't think about things like that'.

6) 'Beggars are operating on this train. Please do NOT encourage these professional beggars. If you have any spare change, please give it to a registered charity. Failing that, give it to me.'

7) During an extremely hot rush hour on the Central Line, the driver announced in a West Indian drawl: 'Step right this way for the sauna, ladies and gentleman... Unfortunately, towels are not provided.'

March 13, 2012


David Ellis

BIZARRE as it sounds, when a Royal Mail Ship, the Rhone smashed onto rocks in the Caribbean's British Virgin Islands in 1867, over 200 passengers perished – because they'd been tied into their bunks by the crew.

And equally strange, the little island on which the Rhone foundered is today owned by the descendants of those who lived there at the time: Queen Victoria was so impressed with the way their forebears had gone to the aid of the stricken vessel, even though their own homes were being trashed by a hurricane, that she signed ownership of the island from the Crown to the islanders in exchange for a simple bag of sea salt per year.

That bag of salt is still sent to England annually to this day.

The Rhone was a 94m steam packet that was much-favoured by the more-wealthy to travel between the UK and the West Indies: she was just two years old, was considered unsinkable as one of the world's first iron-hulled ships, she could travel under combined sail and steam at a then-unthinkable fourteen knots, and even for her Third Class passengers her cabins were luxurious.

On October 19 1867 the Rhone pulled into Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands to top-up her coal bunkers, and her Master, Captain Robert F. Wooley mentioned to the master of another vessel already there, the Conway that he was concerned about gathering storm clouds and a fast-dropping barometer.

Although the hurricane season was officially long over, within hours both ships were dragging their anchors, so the captains decided to put the Conway's passengers on the "unsinkable" Rhone that would head to sea to ride-out the  storm, while the smaller Conway would somehow seek safety elsewhere.

When Captain Wooley tried to raise his huge 1350kg anchor it snared, and he quickly ordered that it, and nearly 100m of massive chain, be jettisoned; it still lays on the harbour floor today.

And then as he rounded Black Rock Point on Peter Island's neighbouring Salt Island – and with open water only 230m away – Captain Wooley found himself heading straight into 10m waves and hurricane winds. His ship was hurled onto rocks with such force that a falling spar killed the First Officer, while Captain Wooley himself was swept overboard and his body never found.

The iron hull of the Rhone split open and sea water rushed in, trapping all 200-plus passengers in their bunks where crew had tied them down to prevent injury in the potentially violent seas.

And the moment the cold sea water collided with the ship's boilers that were cinder-hot from the engines being run at full speed, these boilers exploded in one catastrophic blast, breaking the ship in two and sending her to the bottom of the sea.

The Rhone had 146 of her own passengers on board but it was not known how many had been transferred from the Conway, although contemporary newspaper estimates suggested around 100.

Twenty-two crew survived the sinking, but just one passenger.

Today the remains of the Rhone are considered the Caribbean's finest recreational wreck dive. With her stern section laying in just 7m of water and her bow at a deeper 23m, she is easily accessible, has many safe swim-throughs  where timber decking and interior walls have rotted away, and her iron frame and parts of her hull now rainbows of coral encrustations and home to myriad marine life.

Bizarrely a silver teaspoon – reputedly that of the ill-fated Captain Wooley – can still be seen embedded in the coral, together with massive 45kg wrenches used in the engine room, porcelain items, bottles, and other treasures still uncovered by shifting currents, together with occasional human bones, and a brass "lucky porthole" that remains shiny from divers constantly rubbing it for luck.

The wreck of the Rhone was also used in filming the 1977 thriller, The Deep.

SeaDream Yacht Club has 7-day and a 6-day sailings to dive sites in the Caribbean in December this year, including to the wreck of the Rhone. Prices start from US$2,635pp twin-share (excluding optional scuba fees) and include 5-star dining, open bars, wines with lunch and dinner, 95 crew for a maximum 112-guests, onboard gratuities and government fees and taxes.

For details see travel agents or visit



[] A DIVER gets up-close with the wreck of the Royal Mail Ship, Rhone. (Photo: British Virgin Islands Tourism)


[] DIAGRAM showing how the Rhone now lays on her side, blown apart when her boilers exploded. (British Virgin Islands Tourism)


[] MODERN day cruiser, SeaDream II sails into the British Virgin Islands: she'll take guests on a specialist dive holiday that will include the Rhone in December this year. (Photo SeaDream Yacht Club)


STRUTH! Cruise the only cure for this disease

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says a 71 year old British woman is the latest to be diagnosed with an exceptionally rare condition that gives her the effects of seasickness while on land – and only disappears when she gets on a ship and goes back to sea again.

Barbara Farrand says she's taken 47 cruises over 17 years, but after her more-recent cruise holidays she's come home to all the symptoms of seasickness,  "staggering around my home as if I'm drunk, falling over daily, having to cling to furniture to stay upright, and simply watching TV making me feel ill," she says.

Yet the moment she goes back on board a ship, she feels fine. "It was funny at first, but it's now getting depressing," Ms Farrand laments.

Doctors say Ms Farrand is suffering an exceptionally rare disorder known as Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (Disembarkment Sickness) which gives sufferers the feeling "they're walking on a trampoline all the time."

And researchers who've been studying MdDS in the USA and UK say the number of people it affects is quite small, and that it's nine times more likely in females than males. "At this stage," one researcher said, "we have no cure – other than suggesting to sufferers they turn around and go back to sea again."

Pic: Barbara Farrand, 71, has a permanent case of sea legs that only constant cruising can cure. Nice one Barb! (Pic: The Sun)

March 12, 2012


WON in a card game, the Peel Inn
at Nundle in northern NSW.
HOLDING their own in pride of place,
Daly Waters Historic Pub's bra bar.
DID Ned Kelly take a drink or three here
 – today's owners like to think so.
AUTHOR Lee Mylne: was paid
to do a six month's pub crawl.

David Ellis

LIKE all good journos, Lee Mylne isn't averse to a quiet drink on a warm day. Or a cold day for that matter. Maybe even a wet one.

And despite many other scribe's accreditations, she's just out-manoeuvred them all in the art of drinking man's one-upmanship – she got herself paid to go on a six months pub crawl.

It sounds like our kind of a job and Lee threw herself into it with vigour, fronting up to the bars of 100 pubs across the length and breadth of the Australian mainland and Tasmania. And then beating any suggestions of a hang-over, she wrote a 256-page book that's a delightful romp through these colourful and historic watering holes in cities, towns, villages and remote communities (one with a population of just 9.)

Lee's tome is loaded with ripper tales: some tall, most true and some ghostly, there are plenty of colour pics – and a column dubbed The Facts gives each pub's address, phone number, website, trading hours, kinds of food on offer, top drops on tap, accommodations, nearby attractions, and a website for tourist information.

We were so impressed with such diligence we thought we'd pick the best and share some of Lee's findings about them. But how wrong could we be – all 100 turn out to be individually worth the space we're allowed for our weekly scribbles, meaning we'd be writing nothing but Aussie pubs for the next two years.

Like the Peel Inn at Nundle outside Tamworth in NSW that John Schofield actually won from its hapless owner in a card game 150 years ago. Although sold in 1922 after John's death it was bought back by third-generation grandsons in the 1950s and is still run by the Schofield family today.

Or Tanswell's Commercial Hotel in Beechworth in Victoria in which Ned Kelly is said to have taken a drink or three – at a time when Beechworth had sixty-something pubs on its main street during the 19th century Gold Rush.

Then there's Caves House Hotel at Yallingup about 300ks south of Perth where a ghost named Molly reputedly roams the place in the hope her lover will return from the sea and meet her in their favourite Room 6… or Goat Island Lodge on the Northern Territory's Adelaide River where the bar is named Casey's after the "resident crocodile" who comes up most nights for a feed of caramelised potatoes.

And while in the Northern Territory how about the Daly Waters Historic Pub that's 600ks south of Darwin, the only business in a "town" of 9 people – and whose interior decorations include scores of bras strung above the bar… although staff forlornly claim they've never seen a patron actually donate one.

And of course, Lee had to chance her luck for a drink at The Pub With No Beer (originally the Cosmopolitan Hotel) at Taylors Arm near Macksville in NSW, the Silverton Hotel outside Broken Hill that's been used for the filming of scores of feature films including Mad Max and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, plus hundreds of TV commercials promoting everything from booze to soft drinks, cars to communications – and Queensland's Birdsville Hotel that plays host when the annual Races are on to a local population of 12 – and nearly 6000 visitors.

Then there's the North Star Hotel at Melrose in South Australia whose accommodations include two trucks that have been converted into "guest suites" with queen beds, and conversely, Western Australia's New Norcia Hotel set in a village built by Spanish Benedictine missionaries north of Perth – complete with National Trust listing and black-robed monks wandering the streets…

And down in Tassie, the Customs House Hotel where Sydney-Hobart yachties gather at race-end, The Shipwright's Arms at Battery Point with its resident ghost Max, and the Richmond Arms in Australia's best-preserved Georgian Village.

The list goes on and on – 100 in all: Sydney's Pittwater Arms and the Australian Hotel at the Rocks, Young & Jackson in Melbourne with our most-famous nude Chloe, the Breakfast Creek in Brisbane, King O'Malleys Irish Pub and the Wig & Pen in Canberra, The Spotted Cow in Toowoomba, ...

We just wonder how Lee beat us to it.

Lee Mylne's Great Australian Pubs is published by Explore Australia and costs $34.95; details


Main photo: PUB that inspired a song on a bad day.

(All Images Lee Mylne)

Struth! British Empire rides on Queen's tummy

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says it's been revealed how Queen Elizabeth, who travels on average 80,000km a year and has done so for the past 60 years, manages to avoid that bane of travellers, the dreaded Delhi Belly.

And it's not as a member of the British House of Parliament once claimed when he said: "The bedrock of her success has been the constitution. Not our Constitution, but hers."

Neither can it be put down to Her Majesty continuing the ancient royal tradition of having some lackey actually taste all meals offered to her on her travels for fear of poisoning – either accidental or otherwise.

Rather it's all more logical, as the Father of the House of Commons, Sir Peter Tapsell told Members last week. "I once asked a Royal Courtier how the Queen coped with her hectic travel schedule without falling ill.

"His answer was simple: when away from home, Her Majesty never eats salads, shellfish or watermelon."

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