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Old 01-24-2011, 01:41 PM   #76
bikeboer
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Great to here that Laurent is still riding!can't wait for more,who needs a tv
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Old 02-03-2011, 01:48 AM   #77
mugundawa
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Great adventure and beautifull pics. For any info or help in Namibia feel free to pm , i`m in Windhoek
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Old 02-04-2011, 04:18 AM   #78
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great choice of bike and amazing route...



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Old 02-05-2011, 11:45 PM   #79
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Uganda = great time

Ok, so I've been quiet for a while. The thing is, internet connections in Ethiopia suck big time! also, I'm having some good time here in Uganda so I just can't be bothered..



For now, let's say I made it without too much trouble to Kenya on the infamous Moyale-Isiolo road, and went straight west into Uganda, which is much nicer than Kenya. But then I'll have to get back to Nairobi and Jungle Junction to get some tyres and do some maintenance.



Keep you posted when I get there, I heard Chris got a good Internet connection.

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Old 02-14-2011, 01:35 AM   #80
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South

I've come here at Jungle Junction, in Nairobi, to do some maintenance on the bike, and get a new tyre. The place is famous to the overlanders as the only place in East Africa to get competent mechanical help and some spare parts. It is also conveniently half-way between Cairo and Cape Town. It's a very laid-back place, and great to meet other overlanders (on 4x4 as well as bike) and swap stories. And it's got fast and free Wifi! The first place in Africa where I can get a decent Internet connection, Ethiopia in particular was catastrophic.



Back to Ethiopia, shortly before New Year's eve: Cécile, my girl-friend with whom I've travelled in Turkey and Oman, is back for some more fun (yeah, she does have LOTS of holidays as a teacher). No this is Africa, and even more than in Oman, running two up will restrict the kind of roads that we can use. Unfortunately, there's a stretch of very, very bad road in the north of Kenya that is unavoidable, 370km that would break my bike (and possibly our limbs) if I did with a pillion. The only solution is for her to ride the bus while I try to get through without breaking anything. Not a very pleasant experience for sure, but much safer - and a good memory.

Leaving Addis - a pretty painful experience by itself - we take a good tar road down straight south toward Kenya. But on the way we make a detour to Bale Mountains, to do a 5-days trek. We walked mainly on a high plateau at 4000m, very cold and dry (at this time of the year). We haven't met much wildlife, and I spent some miserable nights freezing in my light sleeping bag. But it was good to get some exercise and acclimatize to the high altitude, because we were planning on trekking the Rwenzori mountains in Uganda, which culminate at 5000m.



Back on the main road, we keep going south and the landscape changes, from the lush mountains to a dry savannah. We camp a little of the main road near a village, and in the middle of a forest of termite mounds. Nice! The Lonely Planet mentions "singing wells" and dug in cattle water holes that are special to this area and should be visited. But the thing is, the locals have started a business of asking money to foreigners for the privilege of being able to see it. I have a GPS coordinate of such a well, so we go straight to it without local assistance. But as soon as we get there, a couple dudes on a bike showed up and ask for money to be here. No way, I agree to pay for a place that needs people to run or maintain, such as ruins, but this is just part of the local life. So we get back not the bike and just leave.



We skipped the other wells to void the touts, but there's this crater lake that seemed interesting: local dive in the lake to get salt. The place is very impressive, a deep crater perfectly round, with a lake at the bottom. It comes a s a surprise, as the roads gently climbs one side of the volcano and without knowing it you end up on the rim of the crater. Again, the locals have learned how to exploit it, and we park the bike next to a souvenir shop and the welcome comes with the price of the descent to the lake. No way around, we even have to be escorted by a cop. This time we agree to pay and get down with a guide and policeman. It's a very steep descent, which is fine on the way down but quire demanding climbing back up, especially in midday heat. So much so that we cross a couple of overweight and totally exhausted tourists that agreed to pay for a donkey to carry them back the rest of the way. Poor beast!



It's a nice walk but not that interesting, and some of the workers/divers get a little aggressive about us taking picture of the them. Back on the main road, we easily get to the border town of Moyale, which is also the end of the tar road. Apparently the Chinese in Ethiopia work faster than the Chinese in Kenya, because there's 370km missing to be able to do Cairo - Cape Town entirely on tar. Worse yet, it is not only unsurfaced, it is also probably never maintained. This road is pretty famous in the overloading community, so we had time to talk about it. Cécile agreed to take the bus with some of the bagages, so that I can get the bike through without too much damage. I've met at least one biker in Addis who broke his shock on this road, and Chris in JJ keeps a crate full of broken shocks from bikers arriving in Nairobi.



I had a bit of fever, so we spend another night in Moyale, and asked when the bus is leaving from the Kenyan side. We get up early, only to find out that this being Sunday, the customs officials are still sleeping. We wait there, talking with one of the many money changers there, until they finally show up and we can get our passport stamped. It's probably no big deal to get out without a stamp, if you don't plan to get back in Ethiopia, but you never know. The carnet I didn't get stamped in at the border with Djibouti, so no problem on this side. On the Kenyan side it was quick and efficient, but still, when we get to the bus stop the bus had already left. I was anxious to get going as I night have issues on the way and this could take me a few days if I had to fix stuff on the bike. So I leave reluctantly Cécile in a ramshackle hotel in this dodgy town, for her to catch the next bus on the next morning.



After all this waiting it's getting late, but I don't need to get to a specific town this day, I can sleep anywhere in the bush, so I just go. The first 125 km to the next town is more or less okay, some corrugation, but not too bad, I manages 43 km/h average. There's even a grader working on improving some parts of it. In Turba I get a quick lunch in a "hotel" (which means a restaurant over there), talking about the next games of Arsenal and Manchester (what else ?), and the condition of the next 125 km to Marsabit, the next major town. This stretch crosses a very rocky desert, and one has to ride within the big ruts formed by the trucks plying the road. The ruts are also full of big stones, and badly corrugated, so it needs constant total concentration, which means I managed less than 30 km/h average there.



The main danger actually comes from the 4x4 going full speed (80-90 km/h) to "fly" above the corrugations. The 4x4 are much more robust than bikes, and are much less likely to break a rim or a shock hitting a stone. And when you're driving a U.N. Landcruiser, you obviously don't care about having to fix it every other week.. I try to get out of the road to let them pass, but it's not always possible on a bike when you're inside one of those big ruts. One of those 4x4 passed me very closely without even slowing down, and threw out a big stone which I saw almost hitting my front wheel. A few centimeters closer and it would have certainly broken a spoke or two. And 1 meter more and my knee was gone!

A good surprise comes when I cross another biker coming the other way, a nice German dude riding an old BMW R100GS, badly patched up and leaking oil. We chatted a bit, talked about the road conditions ahead of each other, and offered some water to a passing local. The locals here wear very colorful dresses and often seem to be needing water. Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I was more concerned about my driving during these couple days!



After all these hours of fighting, I'm getting pretty knackered, and as the sun is getting lower the road head right toward it which makes it even more tiring. I lose concentration for a split second and my front wheel goes over the side of the rut while the rear stayed inside, so I go down. Fortunately without much harm as I'm going pretty slow, but that means I need a rest, even at only 50 km of the Marsabit. I find a place that's not too rocky and where I can pull over and lay my mattress. I cook a quick instant noodle and slip into my sleeping bag as the sun sets. Fortunately, nobody wants to drive on such a bad road at night, so there was no traffic until sunrise.

The next day, I come to Marsabit, get breakfast and keep going for the last leg of 120km of pretty badly corrugated road. Not much to do here, other than going slow. But how slow can you reasonably go ? there's still a lot of stress on the shock so I stop from time to time to cool off the oil (and the rider). Finally, the only issue I got is a flat, just 400m before the start of the new tar road. A nail went right through the read tyre. No big deal, I have time and the BMW rapid assistance team!



The help comes in handy twice: first to break the bead. I put the wheel under the side stand and need 2 people leaning on the bike to do it. And of course when it comes to inflate the tyre for it to set in properly, with my small mountain bike pump. The last 120 km is brand new blacktop. But the Chinese seem to have stopped there, and there's no sign that they're resuming work to close the gap.



After so many hours of hard riding, it's pretty nice to relax a bit on the smooth tarmac, with almost no traffic. After an 1h or so, I lose a bit of concentration. I see a donkey standing still on the road ahead, which a common sight in Ethiopia. After crossing hundreds of those guys, I learned that they are no problem: they're used to vehicles and if you pass them behind they don't budge, so I merely slow down a bit. But as I come closer, I noticed that this donkey is actually pretty big and fat. And it has strange black and whites trips on the back.. a zebra! the beast panics and turns around just as I arrive. Shit, I brake hard, and miss its rear hoofs by 1 or 2 meters.. pfeww, that was a close call. In fact the road is adjacent to a game park, so it's not so surprising to see wild animals on the road. I have to be more careful, Kenya is very different from Ethiopia.

Finally I arrive in Isiolo a few hours before Cécile, who left Moyale the same morning around 9 and arrived at 11PM, totally knackered by the very rough ride (and the loud music). The next morning we leave and head straight south. The road gains altitude as we get around the slopes of Mt Kenya and it gets quite a bit cooler. No picture of Mt Kenya as it was all in clouds, but we do stop for the obligatory shot in front of the sign marking the crossing of the equator. Finally, after 6 months, I'm in the southern hemisphere.



The road gets a lot more busy as it nears Nairobi. As I mentioned before, I have to get there to do some maintenance but for now I want to spare Cécile the geeky atmosphere of an overlander camp, so we turn west and cross tea plantations to avoid the big city and its mad traffic.

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Old 02-14-2011, 01:59 AM   #81
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Ah so glad your south now! Great to read your story again! Hope all goes well! Again your pictures are really good
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Old 02-14-2011, 05:04 AM   #82
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I am enjoying your ride report ... thank you
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Old 02-14-2011, 02:47 PM   #83
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Lovin the adventure

Thanks for taking us for an adventure of a lifetime. Excellent photos here and on your blog. Looking forward to future posts. Stay safe. Cheers
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Old 02-15-2011, 09:50 AM   #84
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Game viewing

On the way to Uganda, we stop at Lake Naiwasha. There are many campsites to chose from on the side of the lake so we do some shopping as there aren't many tourists around. The lawn is occupied by marabou, an ugly but funny bird that likes to feed in the garbage bins. It has a very large wingspan, so they come in flying very slowly, much like a glider. Next to the lake is Hell's Gate National Park, where I was told bikers are allowed inside. Not so, we're told at the gate, but one can get in with a car or.. on a bicycle. Does it make sense ?



Anyway, it's useless to argue so we rent bikes and get in. Only a few minutes inside and we meet our first herd of zebras and warthogs. The warthogs are very curious and come pretty close if you don't move.



On the other side of the road, buffaloes are grazing. That's cool, we're alone, on foot and we can get pretty close to these animals. Not too close to the buffaloes, mind you, as they can charge you. More people are killed every year by buffaloes than by lions.



A little later we meet some giraffes close to the road. But the rest of the park isn't so nice, as they've built several very noisy geothermic power plants and quite a few big lorries as well.

The following day, we take the main Nairobi - Kampala road, which is in a pretty bad shape because of all the lorries plying the road to Uganda. And probably also because of bad constuction, that's the first time I see such deep ruts in tar.



The border crossing is very easy, following a common pattern: guys come to "help" you with the paperwork (requesting a tip afterwards), and scores of money changers come to you with big wads of bills. Soon after we reach Jinja, next to the Victoria lake and the source of the Nile. The Nile source is supposed to be here as the Nile exits Victoria lake to flow into lake Albert - which we'll see later. Jinja is a big spot for rafting on the rapids, but it's also quite nice to sit back and have a beer watching the sun set over the Nile.

Our next goal is Murchinson Falls in the north west. To drive there, we have to cross Kampala to find a pharmacy for Cécile, so reluctantly give a miss to the northern bypass. Boy, do I hate the big cities, it takes us 2h to cross the center of the city, which is not that big. All traffic is totally frozen.

Arriving at Murchinson Falls they let us into the park (after paying 30$ for the bike itself), which was a good surprise as in most game parks in Kenya and other countries you can only drive in with a car. We camp there and take a cruise up the Nile (again), which is a very good way of watching hippos and crocs, as the boat gets pretty close.



We also drive to the top of the falls, 1h 1/2 drive in a small trail infested by tse-tse flies. We leave wearing just t-shirts, and as soon as I slow down below 30 km/h or so, we're literally eaten alive. But it was worth it as we could get within 2-3 meters of the falls itself.



Back on the road we head south to Fort Portal on a pretty good gravel road. The area is very fertile, they grow mostly plantain bananas, called matoke, a staple of the country. The banana cluster are transported on bicycles, with one "driver" (on foot) and one "pusher" behind, necessary because the country is very hilly. They must put around 100 kg of bananas on a push bike!



From Fort Portal we start to organize our trek to the Rwenzori mountains, a chain of mountains between 4000m and 5100m (so it is the 3rd highest mountain in Africa). It turned out the be very easy (but very expensive). We show up in the afternoon, and they prepare everything for leaving the next morning. We decide on a 6-days trek, which means we won't be climbing Margherita Peak (5109m), but it will also be much cheaper. The walk up the mountain is incredibly steep, unlike what we do in the Alps, they make absolutely no effort to build switch backs. It's straight up the slope! The vegetation is stunning, definitely a highlight of my trip so far - even though it was on foot. Sometimes you need to get off the bike to experience something else.





The rest of the pictures are here.

Fantastic trek, unique, and very enjoyable, although it started to rain after 3 days of sunshine so it was nice to get back. It sees it's almost impossible to trek there without getting at least some rain. And in the wet season, it's raining all the time so you're walking with rubber boots.

On the way back, we pay a visit to a new luxury lodge that was built on the rim of a crater lake, in a stunning location. Very impressive - and of course very expensive. It's just not the kind of place for a dirty and smelly biker!



Unfortunately it's time for Cécile to fly back home. She had booked her flight from Entebbe a few weeks earlier, on Egypt Air, which was the cheaper and most convenient flight. That was just before the start of the revolt in Egypt.. now we're in the middle of it and we're not sure if the flight will leave. The website shows it as "scheduled". When Cécile shows up at the airport, at 3AM, she finds out that it's marked as "canceled". But no one from Egypt Air is at the airport office, so she just comes back at the hotel. The next morning I call the office in Kampala, and after some discussion I manage to make them book another flight to Paris, on Turkish Airlines. It should have been automatic, but they just couldn't be bothered to help their customers. I guess there were so many cancelation that they didn't want to fly an almost empty airplane, so they canceled it, but without telling anybody of course!

Alone, I get on the road again to return to Nairobi and settle down in Jungle Junction to do some maintenance on the bike - and change my front tyre that's now completely slick. It's a nice place owned by Chris, a very competent mechanic, who opened a workshop there. It is therefore a must for almost all overlanders going down or up the east coast.



He keeps many vehicles on storage, the blue lorry in the background is a "2DM", a Swiss military truck. It has been raining, look at the mess that the 4-wheelers have been doing. tss..

I get to meet a lot of people, unfortunately not many bikers, most of the space is taken by 4x4s, or even truck, a favourite of the Germans. But among the few bikers I meet Michnus, on his way to Europe. His brother-in-law is Metal Jockey, of ADVRider fame because he wrote the absolutely best RR, of their trip to Angola. You definitely need to read it if you haven't yet, it's here.



(Yes, it does look like he's milking his Dakar..)
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Old 02-15-2011, 10:29 AM   #85
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Stats

I'm probably about half-way through my trip, so here are some feedback on the bike.

Odometer, total: 36'458 km
Into the trip: 32'221 km

Oil usage: none.
Fuel usage: around 4.5 l/100 km

Sprockets / chain

I'm still running on the original ones. They're till good after 36'000 km, I'm very impressed.

Tyres

Tyres used: 3 front, 3 rear. The first set (original Pirelli street tyres) I dumped in Istanbul only half-worn, to put TKC 80s. The 2nd set I changed in Dubai with the front still OK and the rear almost finished, for Metzler Karoo. The 3rd rear I changed in Addis for a Karoo again, the previous was completely slick after 11'000 km. The 3rd front I changed here in Nairobi, again almost slick after 15'000 km. I should have been able to make it all the way here with only 2 sets if I've been to do the changes when I intended to do, but to be able to ride 2-up I've been forced to change them a bit early.

In summary, I'm disappointed by the Karoo, they wear off too quickly. The TKC 80 were OK. I need to test the Heidenau when I get to South Africa.

Break downs

No show-stopper so far, only minor issues.

I have an issue with the breather of the fuel tank which can bring it to a stop. Still not entirely solved, but in case it happens again I can just open the lid to let air in and that's it.

The valve cover gasket is leaking, but nothing significant, it's just dirty.

The coolant circuit developed a bubble, which means the pump wasn't circulating it and the bike was overheating. Once I've found out how to bleed it, it was back to normal.

Finally, the rear 2 indicator lights don't work anymore. They stopped working at the same time, so it's probably in the cable harness. I can't be bothered looking into it, so I just ignore it.

The engine is running like clockwork.

Broken bits

The pannier rack has taken a beating with a few lie-downs, so it needed some attention here, straigthening it up and welding a broken bit. I have ridden the last few days with a strap to secure it until here. The panniers are still strong, even though they aren't completely waterproof anymore.

The plastic chain guard was broken in 2 places, fixed with glue and cable ties.

The front rim has got a severe dent in one place. I just ignore it, it's fine like this.

The bolt holding the top part of the shock was bent, I had it replaced here (Chris's got some in stock because it's such a common problem with the F800GS).

The shock itself is quite a bit weaker than when I started, which is not unexpected. I need to be careful and it'll make it to South Africa where I can fix/change it.

That's it folks. Nothing serious and I've never been stopped for more than 5 minutes. What more can you ask for ?

Cheers,
Laurent
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Old 02-15-2011, 04:02 PM   #86
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asianrider View Post
I'm probably about half-way through my trip, so here are some feedback on the bike.

Odometer, total: 36'458 km
Into the trip: 32'221 km

Oil usage: none.
Fuel usage: around 4.5 l/100 km

Sprockets / chain

I'm still running on the original ones. They're till good after 36'000 km, I'm very impressed.

Tyres

Tyres used: 3 front, 3 rear. The first set (original Pirelli street tyres) I dumped in Istanbul only half-worn, to put TKC 80s. The 2nd set I changed in Dubai with the front still OK and the rear almost finished, for Metzler Karoo. The 3rd rear I changed in Addis for a Karoo again, the previous was completely slick after 11'000 km. The 3rd front I changed here in Nairobi, again almost slick after 15'000 km. I should have been able to make it all the way here with only 2 sets if I've been to do the changes when I intended to do, but to be able to ride 2-up I've been forced to change them a bit early.

In summary, I'm disappointed by the Karoo, they wear off too quickly. The TKC 80 were OK. I need to test the Heidenau when I get to South Africa.

Break downs

No show-stopper so far, only minor issues.

I have an issue with the breather of the fuel tank which can bring it to a stop. Still not entirely solved, but in case it happens again I can just open the lid to let air in and that's it.

The valve cover gasket is leaking, but nothing significant, it's just dirty.

The coolant circuit developed a bubble, which means the pump wasn't circulating it and the bike was overheating. Once I've found out how to bleed it, it was back to normal.

Finally, the rear 2 indicator lights don't work anymore. They stopped working at the same time, so it's probably in the cable harness. I can't be bothered looking into it, so I just ignore it.

The engine is running like clockwork.

Broken bits

The pannier rack has taken a beating with a few lie-downs, so it needed some attention here, straigthening it up and welding a broken bit. I have ridden the last few days with a strap to secure it until here. The panniers are still strong, even though they aren't completely waterproof anymore.

The plastic chain guard was broken in 2 places, fixed with glue and cable ties.

The front rim has got a severe dent in one place. I just ignore it, it's fine like this.

The bolt holding the top part of the shock was bent, I had it replaced here (Chris's got some in stock because it's such a common problem with the F800GS).

The shock itself is quite a bit weaker than when I started, which is not unexpected. I need to be careful and it'll make it to South Africa where I can fix/change it.

That's it folks. Nothing serious and I've never been stopped for more than 5 minutes. What more can you ask for ?

Cheers,
Laurent

awesome! glad to hear someone talk about the reliability!
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Old 02-15-2011, 04:20 PM   #87
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Laurent: You R da Man! What an incredible journey. I loved your side trip to the Rwenzori mountains. Looks like you had a bunch of porters. What did that little trip cost you? Nice to hear the bike is holding up...I just bought an F800GS myself. I'm looking forward to hearing/seeing the rest of your trip.
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:35 AM   #88
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Let me know if you need any maintenance help in CT. We have some excellent BMW dealers down here
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Old 03-08-2011, 09:20 AM   #89
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@Johnnydarock: the trip was pretty expensive.. look here at the options they propose:

http://www.rwenzoritrekking.com/trekkingoptions.html

@The Crow: yes I will need to get to a BMW dealer, around CT or Port Elizabeth preferably. There's some work I like to be done under warranty. If you have a tip on which one to pick, I would appreciate.
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:22 AM   #90
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Cape Town Dealer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Asianrider View Post
@The Crow: yes I will need to get to a BMW dealer, around CT or Port Elizabeth preferably. There's some work I like to be done under warranty. If you have a tip on which one to pick, I would appreciate.
We are fortunate to have some really great ones down here. I would recommend you use Hamman Motarrad. Owned and managed by father and son who are directly involved and riders themselves.

They recently worked on a several other RTW / through Africa bikes so will know what to look for. Good QC, fast and reliable.

Hamman Motarrad
Chris Hamman
t: +27 86 000 0269
t: +27219145073
e: chris @ hammanracing.co.za

GPS Co-ordinates:
X: E01 37 87.5
Y: S33 53 43.9

Avanti South Block
3 Churchill Close
Tygerfalls Estate
Bellville
Cape Town

If you need more info or any help when you are down here PM me
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