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Old 01-30-2012, 02:38 AM   #1
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South East Australian Odyssey on Postie Bike’s

The idea.

Tom, our son, was finishing year 11 in 2011. One more year of high school to go. In April 2011 we offered him an adventure at the end of year 11. I figured we could do a fun camping trip in our much used and trusted Land Rover. Perhaps to the beaches of northern New South Wales? A surfie holiday. Perhaps elsewhere? Nope – he was not interested in that. What about a motorcycle trip. I already had a Kawasaki KLX250. We could buy another 250 and use those. Nope. Then came the bombshell – what about a trip on postie bikes.

Postie bikes are used in Australia to deliver the mail.

The proper name of a postie bike is the Honda CT110. That name is a bit of trick. They are not a 110. They are a 105 – in that they have a whopping 105 cubic centimetre engine that puts out around 8 hp. I weigh around 95 kg and with extra fuel and camping gear, a trip on postie bikes had the potential to be the slowest circumnavigation of southeast Australia in living memory.

The first postie.

Despite my protests he persisted with the idea.

I relented and decided to buy a postie bike to prove to him that this was a bad idea.

Australia Post sell their used postie bikes through public auctions. They are usually around 3 years old with around 25,000-30,000 km on the clock. The auctioneer was up front and told the bidders that the first bid at $1000 would get a bike. They had 12 bikes at the auction I attended. I got one for $1000 just like he said. Got it home and went over it. It needed nothing done as far as I could work out so we got it inspected. Instant success – it passed the inspection and we got it registered and insured. Step one – I could now prove why this was a very bad idea and move towards my vision of doing a trip on 250 cc motorcycles.

Here it is:

We did a few rides in the local forests around Canberra (in Ozstrayla) with Tom on the postie while I rode my 2001 KLX250. ‘Lot 297’ turned out to be surprisingly comfortable to ride. That makes sense when you think about it - the postie has to sit on the thing all day!

Here they are in their natural habitat.

More soon.

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Old 01-30-2012, 02:55 AM   #2
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A re-evaluation of the postie idea

As it turned out, the postie was also surprisingly good on forest tracks.

They sort of grow on you as well. They start first kick – EVERY time. Low revving and durable but they still cruise at around 60 km/h. They have a large strong rack. The weak spot was the 5 litre tank under the seat that gives a range of around 160 km.
We were sure that the range problem could be fixed. OK – let’s do it.

The deal was done.

Plans were made and dates were set. We would try and ride, via the back roads from Canberra to Wilsons Promontory – or the ‘Prom’ as the locals call it in January 2012. The ‘Prom’ is the bottom bit of mainland Australia, and if we ignore Tasmania for the moment, as most mainlanders do anyway, then the ‘Prom’ is also the most southerly part of Australia.

Canberra is the ‘A’ and the ‘Prom’ is a little thing stuck out from the bottom of Victoria.

Does not look too far but remember that Australia is a big place. The distance was around 700-900 km when following the main highways according to Google maps. We planned on following the small back roads and by-ways so it would be longer. Say around 1000 km or so.

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Old 01-30-2012, 03:03 AM   #3
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Getting Another Postie

In November (2011) I attended the auctions again and came home with a second bike. Same price - $1000. Nothing much changes with postie bikes. Did not look like much with a flat back tyre but it seemed in perfect mechanical condition. I figured that new tyres and some TLC would sort it out.

We bought new tyres and tubes, brake shoes, front brake cables, spark plugs, chains and sprockets for both bikes. We got them from a company called One-Ten motorcycles in Queensland. I am always a bit nervous giving credit card details online but my nerves turned out to be unjustified. The parts all turned up within a few days and were duly installed. New oil. Clean the air filter. New plug. Engines tuned and valves adjusted. They ran like sewing machines.

Took the second one for the inspection – it also passed with flying colours. Got the registration sorted out so everything was a goer.

We needed names for the metal horses. When Australia Post send the bikes to auction they are inspected and ranked into three classes. ‘A’ (meaning everything good), ‘B’ (meaning everything good but one thing wrong) and ‘X’ (several things wrong). Out first bike was a ‘B’ although we have never worked out what was wrong? Perhaps the sprockets which were a bit worn but we replaced the drive train anyway.

Here is the ‘B’ bike.

The most recent purchase was an ‘A’.

In a fit of literary inspiration that Charles Dickens would recognise, and be proud of, we called the metal horses, ‘A’ and ‘B’.

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Old 01-30-2012, 03:12 AM   #4
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Summernats Intervenes

While we were preparing the bikes the Summernats festival was going on in Canberra. This is a four day car festival focussing on classic Aussie muscle cars of the 1970s but any classic car is a good bet.

We excused ourselves from postie bike repairs and preparations to check out the parade down the main drag.

Since we were bikers we could now do illegal things. We illegally parked our posties on the roadside next to an illegally parked, beautifully restored, Ford Mustang.

Here is the evidence.

The parade began.

Ford’s finest – a 2 door (~ 1977 I reckon) hardtop Falcon 351 V8 – better known as the Mad Max interceptor car. Next to that was an older (XY or perhaps XW for the Ozzies) 351 V8 Ford Falcon as well. Ford heaven.

A Valiant charger with an old Datsun in the background.

Better get back to work fixing the posties.

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Old 01-30-2012, 03:20 AM   #5
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Finalising preparations

But there was still important work to be done.

To solve the fuel range problem, we had decided to purchase a rotopax fuel tank from a company called AdventureMoto located in Sydney. They had an online ordering system but again I was a little dubious about giving card details over the net. I rang their contact phone number. A lady answered and we immediately conducted the transaction over the phone. Something about giving your credit card details to a person is more comforting than to a machine. All too easy. That was around 4 pm. To my absolute surprise the rotopax was delivered by 10 am the next day. Way to go. I got the 3 gallon version (around 12 litres or so for those who only know proper units) and we used the supplied fittings to install it on the rack of bike ‘B’.

Here is the installed rotopax. It is strong enough to put additional gear on top and makes an excellent platform.

To cut a long story short – the rotopax turned out to be a really good buy.

It did not leak. It fits a postie rack near perfectly. With around 12 litres of additional fuel, the range of a single bike is extended to around 600 km. We would share this one between the two bikes and I figured we could count on 300 km range for each bike.

Packing systems were refined over the next day and suitable camping gear retrieved from the shed.

We were as ready as we would ever be.

The excited Father and Son duo on the day before.

Last night I was up until 2 am watching Djokovic beat Nadal in the Australian Open tennis final in their 6 hour epic. On that basis I need to retire for the night.

More soon.

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Old 01-30-2012, 04:11 AM   #6
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Looks a lot of fun and something you'll treasure for life
Have fun and be safe

Stuff this i'm off for a ride!
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Old 01-30-2012, 12:01 PM   #7
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In the beginning

10-1-2012, In the beginning ......

On the morning of the 10th January we pulled out of the driveway and headed for the ‘Prom’.

Yippee!! A dream for nearly a year was becoming reality.

About 60 km from home we were finally on the dirt road to Adamidaby. We had already stopped to make some adjustments to the chain on my bike. Needed a little loosening. Following Tom I noticed his gear shift lever seemed a little loose. Turns out he did not install it correctly when he changed the angle of the selector the day before and the holding bolt had fallen out. Here he is ready to kick the gear selector! Not sure that would help.

Maybe we could get a replacement in Adamidaby? The approach into town goes through some of the finest pastoral land you would ever see – all in the valley of the mighty Murrumbidgee River. Here it is.

The man at the Adamidaby service station also rode bikes and said he would find something to fix the gear selector. He took the gear selector into the sort of cave that exists in all serious country garages and returned in a few minutes with a perfectly fitting bolt already coated with Loctite. Good man. Here we are fixing the errant selector outside the service station that doubles as ski hire place in winter.

Passed some more pastoral land. To put the following photo in perspective, most of SE Australia was in the grip of a drought from 1997-2010. In June 2010 it started raining and has not really stopped since. The land alongside the road to Dalgety was picture perfect grazing country but it is not always like that. A privilege to see the land so green and vibrant after such a long drought!

We stopped in Dalgety. The mighty Snowy River runs through the town and there is a beautiful old bridge over the river.

The river was flowing! That is a big deal. Let me explain. SE Australia is drained by three major river systems, the Murray, the Murrumbidgee (that eventually flows into the Murray) and the Snowy. All three rivers begin in the Snowy Mountains, the roof of Australia. The Snowy was a once mighty river. In the 1950s construction began on the Snowy Mountains Scheme. See for details. One part of the scheme involved capturing the water flowing down the Snowy river and redirecting it back to the other (inland) rivers – the Murray and Murrumbidgee. When the Snowy scheme was completed in the 1970s, the flow in the Snowy River was reduced to around 1% of the original flow. That of course means that 99% of the Snowy River water was flowing inland. A big change by any measure.

Not everybody was happy with that. After a decade or more of discussion, significant quantities of water were being planned for release into the Snowy River – the first so-called flushing flow’s occurred late in 2011. We were watching the tail of that. This was a significant event in the history of the river.

We will return to the Snowy River at several times through the report.

Heading south from Dalgety we followed the Barry Way. This is a relatively recent gravel road that more or less follows the valley of the Snowy River to the southern ocean. A lookout over the Snowy River valley:

We finally made a camp at the Jacob’s River camp grounds.

Yes, he was as tired as he looks. So was I. It was a big day.

Day 1 - 294 km. Does not sound far but believe me - it is on a postie bike

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Old 01-30-2012, 12:17 PM   #8
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Summer Snow

11-1-2012, Summer Snow

Yesterday was hot, or least warm with a maximum temperature of around 35 deg C. The night was warm as well. We skipped breakfast opting for a few museli bars and a hot cup of black tea. Our plan was to ride to Benambra and that was only a few hours away and we could get an early lrunch. That sounded like a good plan at the time.

There was another group at the same camping spot. Two older couples in well set up 4x4’s. We spoke to one of the guys and they were on a fly fishing trip in the Victorian high country. He was interested in our trip because as a geologist he had ridden postie bikes while doing field work in many parts of Australia. Anyway, after discussing some of my favourite topics - fishing and postie bikes - he also commented that he heard a forecast on the radio for snow in the high country later that day. We ignored that – it was summer in Australia – and everyone knows it is hot in Australia in summer! Plus, it had been hot the day before. What would the weather bureau know!

We headed off down the Barry Way. The view of the Snowy River along Barry Way.

The Snowy River valley is huge – there has been a lot of water at sometime in the past. We entered Victoria – we knew that from the road sign.

Shortly after we turned onto Limestone Road to head west through the Alpine National Park to Benambra and were immediately greeted by this sign.

Don't know why but I took a piccie of it. Quite prophetic as you will find out below..

Some twenty minutes later, we were stopping to find our thermal underwear and gore-tex jackets. It was lightly raining and bloody freezing!

Geared up we ventured ever-onwards. Unbelievably, another five minutes later we stopped again to try and get our hands warm on the exhaust pipes – the weak link was our summer mesh gloves. It was SNOWING! Maybe the weather bureau know more then we think!

We were officially freezing.

I figured we had around 50 km to get to Benambra. I had originally reckoned on 2 hours to get to Benambra. It ended up taking 6 hours – we could only ride at around 10 km/hr because the wind was too cold on our hands. Sorry no more photos after that – the hands simply could not use the camera. We eventually made it to Benambra and the welcome sight of the local hotel.

By then it was moderately sunny but still cold. We stumbled inside only to find the kitchen closed. It was 3 pm. The owner took pity and found one of those chicken rolls in a packet that you heat in a microwave. We think it was food and we ate it assuming it was food. The instant coffee was even better. Salvation.

They have some interesting habits in Benambra. Even the stuffed trophy fish in the hotel smoke:

The hotel owner was fantastic. He even started the pot belly stove to warm us up. Suitably warmed up we decided to continue to Omeo – 22 km down the road. It was no longer snowing but still cold so we decided to get a cabin at the Omeo Caravan Park. No camping tonight. We needed and got a big heater!

The sheer bliss of a warm room. Heaven.

Day 2 - 157 km for the day but we rode for around 9 hours.

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Old 01-30-2012, 12:39 PM   #9
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Getting Lost

12-1-2012, Getting Lost

First things first. We went to the down-town part of Omeo to try and find some warmer gloves. Tried the local hardware with no luck.

Eventually had some luck at the local ski shop – they were having a sale on last season’s winter stock. We bought ski gloves and they worked a treat. With suitably warm appendages we headed off on forest trails to ride to Dargo - another small Victorian alpine town. The road over the Livingstone River was closed so we were forced to detour. Tom has all the confidence of any 17 year old and reckoned he could find the way without a map. OK. Here he is leading the way.

We ended up riding through beautiful wet temperate Eucalypt forest. The tracks were getting smaller and smaller with no sign of recent travel.

Which way now?

We ended up travelling down a very old track. It was heading west and Dargo was to the west so what could go wrong. Oops. We arrived at a dead end at a small stream.

To make matters worse, the posties could not climb back up the hills that we coasted down. The combination of 8 horse-power and road tyres just could not cut it although I am sure 8 real horses could have climbed the hills. We walked alongside the bikes using the throttle. Here we are after having climbed 500 m from our dead end. It felt like 5 km at this stage. The bad track is in the background. I was exhausted.

We were officially lost.

But, we had lots of fuel. The rotopax was full.

After following our nose we came across recent logging activity. That should lead us out.

Past an old (and Tom reckoned spooky) forestry hut. Tom mentioned something about the The Blair Witch Project.

By a miracle, or perhaps by persistence, we eventually found Swifts Creek. It was now 5 pm and we had been riding for 8 hours. But Swifts Creek is only around 40 km down a bitumen road from Omeo where we had started. That meant a lot of zig-zagging had occurred over the day. Or maybe it was zag-zigging.

Got some supplies at the local grocery shop.

Made camp in the council caravan park in Swifts Creek. $9 a night and that included a hot shower. Could not beat that.

Day 3 route. 175 km of travel but not much overall progress. Not to worry - nobody said we would get to the 'Prom' fast.

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Old 01-30-2012, 05:06 PM   #10
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A great story so far!
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Old 01-30-2012, 11:41 PM   #11
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Getting Back on Track

13-1-2012, Back on Track

We packed up and headed to the local Swifts Creek bakery for breakfast. Serious planning was the order of the day. That required good coffee.

All the local forestry workers stopped by the bakery for coffee - that was a good start. We joined them. They were all impressed by the posties and knew their way around the forest roads. Suitable advice was given and gratefully taken. Just head up this road, then that road, and so on....., and then follow the signs to Dargo. OK. Let’s go.

Past a logging coupe.

And another coupe. Forestry is a big employer in Swifts Creek.

To some glorious views of the Swifts Creek-Dargo forest complex.

The dead tree tops in the last photo are from recent wildfires. It seems that most of the Victorian forests have been burnt at least once in the last decade. The long drought had a lasting impact in many different ways.

New road signs were evident because the old timber ones had been burnt. We were on the right track to Dargo.

The trip to Dargo included some steep hills but I am proud to say that we rode the posties the whole way. Meaning we did not have to push them up any of the hills. It was close on a few occasions but a run-up does wonders for the hill-climbing abilities of a postie!

Made it to Dargo for a late lunch. The posties were mixing it with bigger bikes at the Dargo store as we consumed excellent burgers and coffee.

We continued southwards and on leaving the mountains we entered the agricultural districts – meaning the flat lands of Gippsland. Finding camping sites proved impossible. We continued through town after town. Each town had signs advertising free facilities for RVs (like Winnebago’s) but no camping was available - anywhere. The RV facilities are actually dump sites for the RV effluent. Each town had a sign proudly proclaiming that if an RV was prepared to make a dump then that RV could also stay in the camp ground for free.

Seemed a little funny to me – in an effort to get RVs to stay in a town and perhaps spend some money the town has to provide a big shitter to take their waste. Bike riders cannot compete with that. Maybe someone needs to invent a septic tank for a bike! Not sure the free camping would be worth it!

We eventually settled for a motel on the outskirts of Heyfield – ordered some Pizza delivery and parked up for the night.

Day 4 - 228 km on a mixture of dirt forest roads, alpine bitumen and the flat agricultural lands of Gippsland.

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Old 01-31-2012, 12:15 AM   #12
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Going to the 'Prom'

14-1-2012, Going to the ‘Prom’

Left over Pizza for breakfast. Perhaps not a gourmet feast but it sure was convenient. We arrived in Gormandale where we consulted the local shop owner about (i) coffee, and (ii) interesting roads to the ‘Prom’.

The free tourist map was brought out and I noticed a curious road called the Grand Ridge Road. with a name like that it must be interesting! I asked about it. The shop-keeper laughed and said he would send a search party in three days since the posties would never make it -it was all dirt he said. Our first non-believer!

That settled it. We were riding the Grand Ridge Road to the ‘Prom’.

We found the road and started to follow it – it was simply fantastic. Perhaps the highlight of the trip so far. Reasonable gravel that was maintained for logging trucks.

The landscape was undulating hills with tall mountain ash (Eucalypt) forest. These are the tallest flowering plants in the world and have been recorded at 130 metres tall. I reckon that some of the specimens we rode under were at least 80 metres. Amazing to see living things that big. The views were simply spectacular.

No matter which way you looked.

Ran into another group of riders – 2 x KTM 990s, 1 x KTM 640 and a BMW Dakar 650. Even they were impressed by the posties!!

Had a short detour to the local landmark.I am sure that Captain Stokes has a good story about the name.

From which we got our first glimpse of ocean and the ‘Prom’. We had now seen it and we could also smell it. Funny how you smell the ocean.

The excitement was building as we had a close encounter with the ocean.

The road into the ‘Prom’ is interesting. Every so often we came across on of these signs – but they were on the right hand side of the road.

Not sure what was going on. We always know to drive on the left.

The reason for the signs later became apparent.

The large number of European backpackers in “bongo” vans. They were everywhere.

Some more.

As the sign says, we drive on the left. I reckon if you are cruising down an Aussie road on the right hand side, then you are cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Seriously, I hope the signs help.

In our excitement to make it to the ‘Prom’ we had not booked any accommodation. Turns out that the main and only camping area is controlled by the National Parks. There are some 500 sites and they were all booked out. Several months in advance. We used all tricks at our disposal (including - do you have any idea how far we rode on posties to come here). – and the ranger eventually located a site on the computer. Phew!

We had – BY FAR – the smallest amount of gear on a campsite. Everyone came to gawk at us – swags under a lightweight tarp for the forecast rain.

The ‘Prom’ turned out to be beautiful as everyone says. Nice beaches.

Although the water was a little cold we still managed a swim.

There are a lot of warnings and rules.

Not sure if anyone ever thinks about those signs.

Here is one interpretation. The strong currents will sweep you onto the slippery rocks and from there you slide into an eternal drop off. If they added a picture of a shark at the bottom, below the drop off picture, then I reckon nobody would EVER swim at this beach. Maybe that is the point?

Right in the middle of the camp ground is a memorial.

To my surprise it was dedicated to the famous Z-force commandos. No doubt these guys were not scared to swim.

These were the legendary Australian commandos of World War II.

I grew up in North Queensland where the Z-force did most of their training and have met several of those guys when I was younger. Funny - you could never pick them but everyone knew who they were. People would whisper - he was the one who ........... They were the local stockman, The Plumber. Farmer. Grocer. Engineer. Mechanic.......

See for more information.

I never realised that the Z-force started at the ‘Prom’. Go figure. This was hallowed ground for more than one reason.

Day 5 - 199 km. We made it! Mission accomplished. Now for some fun.

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Old 01-31-2012, 12:39 AM   #13
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Old 01-31-2012, 01:11 AM   #14
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Bloody awesome! keep it coming!
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Old 01-31-2012, 02:41 AM   #15
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Leaving early from the 'Prom'

15-1-2012, Leaving early from the ‘Prom’.

What do you do when you arrive at the ‘Prom’?

As they say, it’s all about the journey, not the destination, so we packed up and left the next day.

Sounds very Zen but in truth, there were no more camping sites available otherwise we would have stayed at least another day.

Here is our camp site – one advantage of travelling light is that it only takes 15 minutes to pack up!

Leaving no trace we hit the road. This time we had the vague notion that we would try and follow the coastline back before heading to the proper (by Australian standards) mountains. Back we went via Yarrum where we stopped for lunch.

Then came the crunch time. We rode the south Gippsland highway – no fun on a postie at 60 km/hr. We rode on the 'edge' and every time we spied a car in the mirrors we moved off the road. Not a lot of choice really. For some reason christmas holidays brings out the worst in the drivers down under. It is supposed to be holidays and EVERYONE is in a hurry.

Eventually we got off the highway and into our preferred habitat – the back roads.

Following those we arrived in a town called Seaspray.
They had this funny tunnel arrangement leading to the beach. Erosion control I suppose. Makes it interesting because you are wondering what the beach looks like as you walk the walk.

This was the famed 90-mile beach. Proper units would have it as the 150 kilometre beach and I prefer that since 150 sounds more impressive than 90.

Looking to the south-west we saw this:

Beach forever. Actually it would only be about 150 km since we were nearly at one end of the thing.

To the north east we saw:

When we looked straight ahead we were greeted by this:

Now that view immediately got me thinking. Imagine if we added a postie engine to that lifesaving device.
How fast would it go?

Seaspray was one of those small beach towns with a HUGE caravan park and a few holiday houses. The park fills over the christmas (our summer) holidays with wall to wall tents.

While eating an ice cream and perusing the free tourist map we noted the magic words – free camping on the beach. We figured that with no facilities (no water, no toilets, no showers) it would not be popular. we filled the camelbak's to oveflowing and headed north-east along the beach road..

Now maps often lie but this map was telling the truth! We found a great site in behind the sand dunes. Noting the old adage that possession is nine-tenths of the law, we promptly spread our swags on the sand and claimed our piece of paradise.

On climbing the dunes, this was our view.

In fact those are our footprints after our bath/swim. Looking to the south-west I could see Tom, my son, and that was it. This place was getting better all the time.

What could be better than a deserted beach and a warm night.

Day 6 route. 191 km. Some highway and some (bitumen) back roads.

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