Botswana - February 2018


About seven years ago Stephen (aka Syd) and Sophie visited us after having been to Marwell Zoo.  Graham asked if they would like to go to Botswana with us.  Jane did all the booking of the trip through Trail Finders (more...) who came up trumps with an excellent holiday.  We stayed twp nights at each of the Kalahari Plains Camp (more...), the Pom Pom Camp (more...), the Chobe Safari Lodge (more...), the Chobe Princess 1 (more...) and the iLala Lodge (more...). We were amazed at how well the hand-overs from one stage of our holiday to the next stage went.  Thank you Trail Finders! About three thousand photos were taken but these have been whittled down by three-quarters.
A slideshow of all photos is here and where the photos were taken is here.
Instructions are here.


Wednesday, 14 February -  The journey to the Kalahari Desert
Friday, 16 February - The pride of lions
Saturday, 17 February - From the desert to the Okovango Delta
Sunday, 18 February - Canoeing in Mokoros
Monday, 19 February - From the delta to the Chobe River
Tuesday, 20 February - Six hour game ride in the Chobe National Park
  Wednesday, 21 February - Into Namibia and the Chobe Princess 1
Thursday, 22 February - A Trip to a Village and an Evening quiz
Friday, 23 February - From Namibia to Zimbabwe via Botswana
Saturday, 24 February - Victoria Falls
Sunday, 25 February - The Journey Home

Previous DayContentsNext dayWednesday, 14 February -  The journey to the Kalahari Desert

It's Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine's day. We are picked up by Joanne from Millers Taxis who takes us to Winchester where Syd and Sophie are picked up. Joanne would like to come to Botswana with us. On the way Joanne tells us that her eldest daughter has just got a job in Selfridges. Joanne is surprised as her daughter knows nothing about fridges and even less about selling but she is very pleased for her. The CEO of the Bot Platform invites us to join him in the Aspire lounge in Terminal 5. Sophie and Graham stop giving up alcohol for Lent after having fasted for 15 hours. On the plane Syd introduces us to a multiplayer trivia game. Sophie wins the second game. The A380 takes 11 hours to fly us to Jo’burg. We spend about an hour in South Africa and have stamps in our passports to prove it. Once more we are invited to rest in the Mashonzha lounge where we consume sandwiches bought at Heathrow. We take off from Jo’burg at 1:45pm and land at Maun 90 minutes later. We are all getting weary of flying. At Maun we enter Botswana so go through passport control and customs. Our plane to the Kalahari Desert is an hour later. We walk out onto the tarmac and are taken in a full minibus to our plane. There are only the four of us plus the pilot on the plane. We elect Syd to be the co-pilot as he is experienced with Microsoft’s flight simulator. The pilot is Kabo who is shorter than Sophie though he claims he can see through the windscreen. We fly for fifty minutes south over scrub land which does not vary a lot. The co-pilot is also the designated photographer. We are going to a camp in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. We land on the airstrip for the Kalahari Plains Camp where we are greeted by Cowboy Kabo. We arrive at the camp site forty minutes later and are greeted by a welcome party of staff and San dancers. We have a soft drink and canapés. Priscillah reads the rules of the camp which we are asked to sign. We are shown to our accommodation which is building 4, quite close to the camp centre. We rejoin Kabo who takes us for a ride. We see jackal, bat eared foxes, Kori bustards and a pair of giraffes. Sophie is delighted as that is the one animal she wanted to see. We can go home tomorrow. We return to the camp to have sundowners around a braii. We have a three course meal with wine and retire to our rooms where we are safely tucked up by 9pm.

Previous DayContentsNext dayFriday, 16 February - The pride of lions

We are woken up at 5am after a good sleep. We are collected at 5:30am by Kabo and taken to breakfast. We are forbidden to walk in the dark between the centre and our rooms. We have a continental buffet breakfast and Kabo whisks us off to go to the waterhole in front of the lodge. We arrive as a pride of eleven lions are drinking. Sophie is not alone in being ecstatic at the sight of them all slurping up the water. We watch and snap photos and videos of two large males, three mothers and six cubs.
We move off to another area and see a bunch of jackals and four honey badgers. A slender mongoose is spotted. Some ALTs are spotted - animal like things. Kabu picks some sandpaper raisins for us. They are small, red and sweet and rough skinned. We are advised not to eat the little pips in them. We stop for a tyre pressure check and a coffee near where we had seen three ostriches. After the break we see a herd of springbok and a lonely male oryx. Later we see a herd of oryx. We return to the camp for brunch. Several vultures are drinking from the waterhole. It’s about 10:30am. After brunch it’s time to do a ten toes safari. We doze and read till 4pm and then walk along the sandy path to the camp centre, treading carefully to avoid the ground squirrels homes.
We have some canapés and listen to the San ensemble play their tribal music. Kabo takes us off for our afternoon ride. We see more antelopes and birds and a place is selected where we will have our G & Ts. The intercom blares out that the pride of lions is nearby. By a narrow vote we elect to see the lions. We have never been so close to a pride of lions.
Ten feet at the most separated us from the pride who were all resting. The dominant male was lying on his back. The less dominant male was nowhere to be seen. Sophie sat statuesque not daring to be afraid. We returned to the camp and had our belated sundowners around the braii. Wax, the camp manager, joined us for a chat. We had a good three course meal of chicken and hake and this evening we are in bed at 9:55pm. We hope to get in seven hours of sleep but the lions are nearby. We heard them during dinner.

Previous DayContentsNext daySaturday, 17 February - From the desert to the Okovango Delta

We rise at 5am. Jane has not had a good night. We are packed up and ready to go. Our bags are taken to the truck while we have breakfast. We say goodbye to the staff. Kabo tracks down the pride of lions who are gradually strolling to find a shady spot. Kabo surmises it’s the same spot as it was when the two lions last visited the area. The pride gathers and we move off in search of other animals. We see jackals, mongooses, a lonely oryx and several steenbok. After travelling along mambo road we reach the airstrip owned by Wilderness Safaris. Kabo points out some bull elephant’s prints recently made. We make our way into a shaded covered area. We have coffee and our packed lunches. Kabo finds an antlion for us. It's one of the small five. The plane arrives with a member of staff. We board the 14 seater plane and fly back to Maun. It takes just over half an hour. We wait in the terminal. After 15 minutes we are taken to our plane. It’s the same make as the one we flew to the Kalahari in. It takes about twenty minutes. Sophie gets excited on seeing her first herd of elephants. We land on the Pom Pom airstrip and say goodbye to the pilot we have named Major Blue. Lo and behold there is a Major waiting for us in a safari truck to take us to Pom Pom Camp. We are greeted by some ladies singing and taken to the bar to sign an agreement. We are shown our tents. We are in Tent 1 and the others are in Tent 7. Our siesta is broken by the others bringing us drinks. We have a bite to eat and are introduced to Ocean, our guide for the stay. We are shown to our truck and discover that Major is our spotter. We drive off and stop to observe red lechwe and impalas. Our next stop is by some water where we see a mass of water birds, some of which Ocean calls TLC - tastes like chicken. We see some giraffes, elephants and a warthog. A pregnant leopard is spotted. Ocean radios the location to the other trucks. Many photos and videos are taken as the leopard strolls on her way.
Eventually she loses us in some tall couch grass looking reeds. The other trucks arrive too late. We make our way to a waterhole where we have sundowners (G and Ts). We hear the boom of a lion and stop drinking. We find two male lions marking their territory. It is now nearly dark so a searchlight is switched on. We see a nightjar and a civet. We return to the camp and sit around a braii drinking G and Ts. A three course meal is served. Asparagus is the starter and kudu is in the main course. Some French people would like our videos and stills of the leopards. We oblige and then Ocean guides us to our tent. The lights go out at 10:30pm.

Previous DayContentsNext daySunday, 18 February - Canoeing in Mokoros

We are awoken at 5:20am. Someone has brought us coffee. We switch the lights on. Jane discovers a large beetle she could have trodden on during the night. We have breakfast at 6pm. Major drives us and three guides to the river. On the way there are several diversions. We see the two elephants and loads of Red Letswe and Tsessebe, an antelope like a gnu but with a thinner neck. We see a Cape buffalo and wart hogs. We arrive at the waterside. We are helped into the fibre glass mokoros (dugout canoes). There are two tourists per boat. Our poler is Major. We go up stream for a short while and then turn round and go downstream. The river is very shallow with lots of water lilies. We see a lonely crocodile basking on the bank and a pod of hippos. We beach on the bank of a neighbouring concession and have drinks and buns whilst watching a pod of hippos. We are poled back upstream. On the way back to the camp we find the leopard at the bottom of a tree. Three inquisitive wart hogs approach but the leopard is not interested. Her meal is a young Red Lechwe suspended in a higher branch. The leopard climbs the tree. We arrive back at the camp, have brunch and retire for Egyptian PT. At 3pm we get up have a luke warm shower and go to the centre of the camp where it is much cooler than in our tent. We wait for high tea at 4pm. At 4:30pm we clamber into the safari truck with Major and Ocean. We are joined by Henrik from Norway. Graham learns a new word - passerine.  Ocean educates us on perching birds or passerine birds if you want to appear more knowledgeable. We are driven to the tree where the leopard was last seen this morning. The rotting kill is still there but she had gone. Ocean believes she has gone back to the high reed bed where we lost her last night. We drive to the reed bed and do not find her. We have nearly given up when she strides into site. We have brief glimpses of her as she makes her way to where she has left her cubs as she no longer appears to be pregnant. We leave her and make our way to a baobab tree where the other truck are having their sundowners. All eleven guests are gathered together. We have our G and Ts and make our way back to the camp. We have more G and Ts which we drink around the camp fire. We have our meal and sit watching the lightening. It is an amazing show. Ocean walks us back to our tent. We will have a lie-in as the plane leaves at 10:15am. We will have breakfast at 8:30am. It is now 10pm.

Previous DayContentsNext dayMonday, 19 February - From the delta to the Chobe River

There was a lot of thunder, lightning and rain during the night but now at 6:30am it has stopped. The birds are singing. The black collared.barbet is practising to be a cuckoo. We pack and walk to the centre. Syd videos a Red Lechwe near their room.
We have breakfast and wait for our lift to the airstrip. We leave at 9:35pm and drive to the airstrip. The plane taking the four from Hong Kong takes off on its way to Lagoon in the delta. Our plane arrives from Maun. There is a guide aboard who is on his way to Kwara Camp. Stephen is voted the co-pilot. The rest of us have less leg room. Graham faces the opposite seat to give his legs room. The plane takes off and lands 30 minutes later at the Kwara Camp airstrip. We swap the guide for a Bavarian widow on her way to Victoria Falls. On taking off we see a pair of lions at the base of a tree. An hour later we land at Kasane International Airport which will officially open in three day’s time. We join four Germans in a minibus and are whisked off along paved roads to the Chobe Safari Lodge. We check in and book our four three-hour game drives. We go to rooms 75 and 78. It is like a normal hotel room, ensuite, television and telephone but no Wi-Fi. We go and have a buffet lunch and return to our rooms. At 2:45pm we go to reception and are shown to a safari truck driven by Haskins. Two Brazilians, Jiago and Venessa, join us. We set off for the Chobe National Park entrance, ten minutes away. Our first stop on the main road to the park is to watch some Ground Hornbills who can fly. We enter the park and it starts to rain, heavily. Ponchos are passed around. We see elephants, lions, hippos and a Cape Buffalo. Once Haskins learns about a sighting he drives like Ayrton Senna through the rain, ruts and puddles. There is a soggy lioness. We reach a Stretch Point and do so. We learn that there is a six hour game drive. When we return we swap our two game drives tomorrow for a six hour one. We order a pre-packed breakfast. We sit outside the bar and drink gin and tonics. It’s not quite the same experience as in the past couple of days at the two camps. We return to our rooms and on the way learn that a baby monkey has been killed by a worker with a catapult. We go to our rooms to prepare for the evening meal. The evening meal is a buffet which we wash down with a bottle of house red wine. After the meal we return to our rooms and retire. Graham samples the complimentary half bottle of Amarula.

Previous DayContentsNext dayTuesday, 20 February - Six hour game ride in the Chobe National Park

The alarm goes off at 5am. We gradually get up and make our way to reception where we meet the Brazilian couple. We clamber into a truck. The driver puts our pre-packed breakfast on board. We are driven to the gate of the park where Baksha registers the vehicle. Shortly after entering we come across a leopard and her cub. The other trucks are told. Traffic commotion ensues. We leave the chaos and are driven to the river bank. Across the river is Namibia. Ten years ago there was a deadly argument about the ownership of Sedudu island. The argument went to the World Court in The Hague. If a river separates two countries the border is considered to be the deepest part of the river. A Botswana flag stands at the far side of the island. We see lots of new birds, a monitor lizard, a tortoise and a puku. We have our breakfast at a picnic area. We are given a hot drink. Some have their apples stolen by the Vervet monkeys. After the break we see herds of Cape buffalo, towers of giraffes
, and many elephants
. We arrive back at the Lodge at 12:10pm. We have the buffet lunch and retire to our rooms for a ten toe safari. At 5pm the four of us walk to the decking between the pool and the river. We are here to teach Sophie to play bridge. Graham is the designated teacher. We play eight hands and it is hoped that Sophie will play again. Her experience was enhanced by the double gin and tonics. We have the buffet and retire to our rooms. Unfortunately Graham washes the head of an electric toothbrush down the sink. Had he been strong enough he could have unscrewed the reservoir. A man from maintenance sorted it out very quickly.

Previous DayContentsNext dayWednesday, 21 February - Into Namibia and the Chobe Princess 1

The alarm goes off at 5:00am. We get up and pack. We make our way to reception and learn that there was a heavy storm last night which we slept through. A mouse has been excercising in the bath of room 78.
We get into a truck with seven others. It’s the most crowded truck we have been in. The game have decided to be camera shy today except the impala. The female impala can take up to three months to decide when to deliver her baby. We see a couple of giraffes, the odd bird and then we stop for coffee close by to where we stopped yesterday. We watch a millipede march across the car park. On the way back a partially hidden lion is spotted. Two zebras are spotted some distance away. We get back to the lodge and finish packing. We have a large breakfast and check out. All that has to be paid for is the bar bill. We find a place to play bridge which we do so until it is time to report to reception. We are taken in a minibus to a Kasane police station where we have passports stamped as we are about to leave Botswana. A man with a tender takes us to the Namibian immigration post on the other side of the Chobe River. Our temperatures are taken and we are cleared to enter Namibia. The man with the tender, Obert, takes us to the house boat, Chobe Princess 1. We have been allocated Room 5 which is on the top deck next to the wheel house. Syd and Sophie are in the stern of the boat in Room 1 with a balcony. We go downstairs and have lunch. Some of us have wine. A couple from Radlet join us. There is also a family of four from Australia. After lunch we retire to our rooms for a short while. At 4:30pm there is a river cruise on the tender. All board except Jane who stays on the Princess. Those in the tender wander up stream and stop to take photos of the wild life. Eventually we catch up with the moored Princess and board her. Syd shows off the Christmas present he got from his brother-in-law to Erin and Liam, the Australian children - a sticker book. We have sundowners. Tonight Syd has a G and T and two of us have wine. We have to pay for spirits! We gather around the table for the three course evening meal announced by Jane the cook. Onion tart followed by pork fillet and vegetables followed by a brownie with cream. We agree that it is the best meal we have had on the holiday. We retire.

Previous DayContentsNext dayThursday, 22 February - A Trip to a Village and an Evening quiz

The alarm goes off at 5:30am. It’s Graham sister’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Jenet. It’s been a hot and sticky night. The air conditioner went on and off during the night. We go down to the living area and find that the English couple, Jenny and Martin, have had a really bad night. The generator didn’t go off till eleven o’clock and cockroaches were walking over Jenny’s face. They are not happy. Graham just sweated like a pig all night. We get on the tender to go for an hour and a half’s game cruise. We return for breakfast. At 10am we get on the tender again and are taken to the village of Kasenu where Albert shows us around. The village has been selected by the boat company because the people behave properly. At the end of the year the boat company gives them money. In the meantime Jane sleeps. The chief of the village is Albert’s ninety-seven year old grandmother who comes into view for the tourists. There are 120 inhabitants belonging to three families. Everybody locks their single room wattle and daub dwelling when they go out. The children walk 5km to school when elephants and buffalo do not straddle the path. Near the end of the village tour we enter a fenced area around a baobab tree where the females and very young children of the village dance for us. The Australian children, Erin and Liam, join in.
There is an opportunity to buy souvenirs. Stephen buys a multi purpose small dish. We give Albert a tip and rejoin the tender. Obert takes us to where giraffe are licking the soil for minerals. Nearby a large herd of elephants is doing the same. We return to the boat for lunch. Jane has slept for most of our absence. The boat is now on the move downstream. After lunch some of the party go fishing whilst the others rest and admire the scenery. We moor at Elephant Bay. The sister ship is moored a couple of hundred yards away. At 4:30pm Robyn, Liam, Erin, Jane and Graham go for a game cruise in the tender. We see five elephants and a croc. We move down to Chobe Park Lodge and just beyond. We see elephants. The clouds are looking ominous and it starts to rain. Obert switches to overdrive and we speed back to the boat. The Princess is being refuelled. The fishermen have not returned. It’s pouring with rain. Lightning and thunder are everywhere. Rain downers in the form of glasses of wine are poured out. Eventually the fishermen return. The first one to appear is Morgan, their guide, who explains that only one tiger fish was caught in the Zambezi River and that was by Jenny. Martin and Paul insist that they helped Jenny land the 1.5kg fish. The teeth on it are awesome. We have the evening meal. A bottle of sparkling wine is poured and we all eat an excellent meal. The oxtail is very meaty and tasty. After the meal we do a quiz organised by Liam and Erin. They have spent the afternoon researching the questions and answers. We are split into two teams so that spouses are separated and there are two from each couple, six on a side. The questions are all about African animals with true or false and A B C or D answers. It is extremely well organised for a 9 and 11 year old. There is an air of competitiveness. When the answers are read out there is often an air of disbelief or Robyn wants her children to hurry up as she is tired. We get to bed just after 10pm.

Previous DayContentsNext dayFriday, 23 February - From Namibia to Zimbabwe via Botswana

We have a lie in and get up at 7:30am. The bell for breakfast goes at 8am. The boat is already on the move down stream. We complete immigration forms and then pack our bags. The boat moors at its starting point and a tender takes us to where we can walk to the Namibian border control. Our passports are stamped and the tender takes us to the river bank close to the Botswana border control. Our passports are stamped. We say goodbye to the other six who are flying to Jo’burg. Our luggage is put into a trailer attached to a coach. We are the only customers for the coach. The driver takes us the 13km to the border with Zimbabwe. There are masses of trucks waiting to use the ferry to Zambia and the ferry only takes one truck at a time. We have our passports stamped as we are about to leave Botswana. We get to the Zimbabwe border and have to pay  $55 for each visa. The credit card machine is not working but the one at the next counter is. The officious man insists on cash. Stephen determines that the best exchange rate is for Euros so we buy 3 visas for 45 Euros and 1 for 600 Rand. Our baggage is transferred to the Wild Horizons coach. The driver’s name is Sim. He drives us along a good straight road to Victoria Falls and drops us off at the Ilala Lodge. We have rooms 33 and 34 on the first floor. We have a snack lunch which sets us back $60. It is not cheap here. We retire to our rooms for a ten toed safari. At 4pm we meet in reception and wait for a bus from Wild Horizons which will take us to a sunset cruise. We get to the boat which is moored up stream of the falls. There are two floors and we opt for the upper deck. We sit around a table. The rules of the cruise are announced. A plate of mixed cooked meats is placed on the table and an order for sundowners is taken. We gently wander along the Zambian coast spotting numerous birds, a crocodile, hippos, and some waterbok. Our glasses get refilled several times. The smoke that thunders ('Mosi-oa-Tunya') of the falls rise up to form clouds. We return to the dock and are taken back to our lodge. We walk a short distance to The Three Monkeys, recommended by the other guests on the Chobe Princess. It is very busy so we sit outside, order food and drinks. The winds increase in strength. It starts to rain so we rush under cover. Stephen plonks a reserved sign on a table. We all gather around it while the heavens open wide. We eat and pay up. The credit card machine works here. In the drizzle we walk back to our hotel and retire to our rooms.

Previous DayContentsNext daySaturday, 24 February - Victoria Falls

We meet up for breakfast at 7:30am. At 8:25am Mike takes us in a large coach to the car park by the Zambian border. He obtains ponchos for us all. Stephen dons his immediately. We walk to the entrance of the park and Mike explains the rules. We wander to near a statue of David Livingstone and receive a 15 minute potted history. We walk to various lookouts over the falls. After three we all don our ponchos as it rains heavily from the spray. At the viewpoint overlooking the bridge we watch someone bungee jumping. Not for us. We walk out of the park soaked. Mike returns us to our hotel. We decide to try and arrange an earlier helicopter flight. We will be picked up in fifteen minutes at 10:45am. Blessing drives us to the helipads. We register and sit around. We are called to be weighed. Graham weighs in at 130kg and Stephen at 127kg. There is much mirth. Jane weighs 77kg and Sophie weighs less. Dark thunder clouds appear so all flights are grounded for about thirty minutes. When we are given the orders we walk to the helicopter. Jane sits in front. The boys sit in the back to balance the helicopter and Sophie sits facing them. We are given head cans to keep out the noise. We have opted for the shortest flight of thirteen minutes. The view is fantastic.
After the flight we watch a video of ourselves but do not buy it. Blessing drives us back to the hotel and we cross the road. Street sellers purvey animal carvings and old trillion Zimbabwe dollar notes. Mike had told us earlier that the selling of the old notes has been going on for the last ten years and he was surprised there were any left. The younger couple treat the senior citizens to a KFC for which they are extremely grateful. Afterwards we retire for a siesta and to get into dry clothes. At 4pm we go down to the bar area and find a table for four. We play bridge for a couple of hours and consume beer and G and Ts. Sophie is enjoying it so we think, the bridge and her G and T. We leave at 6:15pm to search for a Thai restaurant. The roads are dimly lit. Our target is to be found above a souvenir emporium. It’s called Nam Took and only three customers occupy it. We now more than double the occupancy. The owner of the place introduces herself to us. We order a bottle of wine and various dishes. When they arrive they are large portions. We take our time wading through them. Three of us have ice cream and Amarula. The rain starts. We get wet again. We are in bed by 9pm.

Previous DayContentsNext daySunday, 25 February - The Journey Home

It’s our last day. We have a lie in till 8am. It’s not raining. We have breakfast. There is a debate about the difference between peach juice and mango juice. The younger taste buds can tell there is a difference. Overhead there is a perpetual buzz of sightseeing helicopters. Along the road to the bridge heavy trucks rumble. We return to our rooms and pack. A family of wart hogs walks past our rooms. We check out and wait for our lift to the airport. It comes at about 11:20am. When we get to Victoria Falls International Airport there is long queue so Stephen uses his skills and his phone and checks us all in. The bag drop queue is much shorter so we proceed to the departure gate but there are no seats so we retrace our steps to where there is a table and four chairs. A short session of bridge takes place. We depart and have a small lunch. We land at 3pm and collect our bags. We make our way to Terminal A to check in but it has yet to open. After a short while it opens. We have been allocated centre seats. Jane would like an aisle seat. The lady is unable to change them but says she will contact the office. We will wait and see. We go through security and passport control. We make our way to the Mashonzha lounge, the same one as the last time we were in Jo’burg Airport. At 8:50pm we go to the gate. Graham’s ticket is swapped for an aisle seat so Jane can sit in the aisle. When Jane is seated a man comes to take her seat. Her seat has been changed so that she can now sit by Graham. Thank you BA. The plane lands at 7am. There have been some snowflakes around but none on the runway. We collect our bags and say goodbye to Syd who is travelling to Barcelona at about 4pm. Joanne is waiting for us. The snow is turning into a heavy flurry on the M3 but clears up as we approach Winchester. Sophie is dropped off and we return home at 9:45am to a barking Roody. Graham weighs in at 103kg which is far too heavy. It has taken us 25 hours from door to door, one hour less than it took the Australians.

The animals we saw

We took with us the book entitled "Wildlife of the Okovango" by Duncan Butchart and Jane diligently marked off what we saw and where we saw it. Meanwhile Syd was completing his sticker book. We learnt from our guides that some authors like to change the names so that they can sell more books. In this book 'lapwing' is used as 'plover' and the Grey Lourie is called the Go-away Bird. The Cape Turtle Dove sings 'Work Harder' during the mornings and 'More Lager' during the afternoons. Unfortunately we did not see any rhinos, flamingos, or camels.
If you click on a link in the list of animals you will see the photos we have taken. Click on a link to hide the photos. Click on a photo to enlarge/shrink it. Some of the animals were camera-shy.
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