Sibirsky Extreme

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Colebatch, May 12, 2009.

  1. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    London across Siberia, the most interesting way I can find ... avoiding the usual routes, where possible.
    7 months, one cylinder, (end of March to end of October), 50,000 planned km, huge volumes of beer and shashlik, and over 100 million revolutions.

    Note: Sibir is the Russian word for Siberia ... and Sibirsky therefore means Siberian. :nod

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    It had been a few years since my last decent trip, and the stars had slowly been aligning to make this year the year for a big trip.

    Finally in March 2009 it all came together, and in a hurried month, prep work was finalised, a touring bike materialised from nowhere (and without testing) visas for loads of countries were rushed thru and the route that had been in my head for years was now being sketched into the GPS.

    The core of this project would be Russia and specifically Siberia. Russia has always been my favorite place in the world and over the past 15 years I have racked up a number of bike trips there and about 100 business trips. I had learned a lot about the country and the myriad of peoples that make up Russia, and the really fascinating stuff to me was the stuff that is off the tourist trail, and off the beaten track.

    I was determined to explore a lot of Russia that is not on the standard routes - places like Dagestan, Kalmykia, Tuva. Apart from having done the standard routes before, it struck me that for the world's largest country, the number of routes chosen to cross Russia by western motorcyclists was rather small. Everyone tends to stick to the safe route across - the Trans-Siberian highway. It was time someone went out there and found and documented some other roads across the country, and it might as well be me.

    To cope with the heavy off road requirements (there will be about 20,000 km offroad in Siberia, Mongolia and Central Asia, I would sell my big old unit, the 1200 GSA, and get a bike about 40% lighter, an X-Challenge. Mods were rushed thru in March as well and the final parts went on the bike less than 24 hours before departure from Touratech's open day in Wales, on 29th March 2009.

    The farewell speech at the meet was from one of the great figures of Adventure Motorcycling, Austin Vince (for the ladies, Austin appears as 'Mr November' in the "Men of Touratech - 2009" calendar, in the heavily cut down fireman's outfit).

    I have always been a big fan of the brothers Vince. Their magnum opuses stand like beacons of worthiness to the masses - simply because they didn't follow anyone else's tyre tracks. This was a philosophy I shared with them - a real motorcycle adventure for me is not just a great trip with great photos or great video - to make it a real adventure to me it meant doing what hadn't been done before. A real adventure had to feel like I wasn't even sure that what I was trying to do is possible. It was an honour to depart with Austin's irreverent humour (and pornographic slideshow) reverberating in my head.

    I departed from Wales with co-rider for the first two weeks and webmaster extraordinary, Mr Jonathan Fox.

    And so ... part one of The Sibirsky Extreme Project ... Getting to Siberia

    Here are some maps to kick things off. (different colours on the map tracks depict separate days on the bike)

    For detailed and up to date commentary, see my blog.

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    This thread is followed by the Central Asia thread: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=545121
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  2. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    Final advice from AEV, just before departure from Touratech's UK HQ in downtown Ystradgynlais, Wales (no I didnt just make that name up)

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    And we're off:

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  3. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    There were two possible plans for Europe. I could have just stuck on motorways and gone direct from the UK to Russia but ferry stages are boring and motorways are boring.

    So instead I decided to spice up the European leg of the trip with an attempt to go through as many countries as possible. My route had me ticking the boxes on 22 countries before hitting Russia. Of particular interest to me was the Balkans ... I had ridden down to Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina before, but not beyond that ... so there were still a few places in the south east corner of Europe I hadnt seen on a bike and this was as good a chance as any to check them out.

    Europe started off well... our first night was in a Belgian castle !

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    Heading off in the morning after saying farewell to my son, who had come down from Holland to see me for the last time in 7-8 months

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  4. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    Someone was trying to get us into trouble. All the border posts we passed were plastered with SibirskyExtreme stickers!! Honestly, It wasnt us!!

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    Even the Austrian customs post !

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  5. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    To cross the Alps, we had to cross the Arlberg Pass at about 6000 feet.
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    At St Anton in the Austrian Alps, skiers were skiing down the mountain with jaws dropped as we rode up ... sometimes past rather large snowbanks .
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  6. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    The Brenner Pass between Austria and Sud Tirol (formerly Austria, and now Italy). Plenty of graffiti around hinting at the locals desire to reunite with Austria, (including a nice big "Sud Tirol ist NICHT Italien") but just one Sibirsky Extreme sticker.

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    Its not very well known in the English speaking world, but there is a very strong and often passionate feeling among the South Tyroleans about being annexed by Italy at the end of WWI. I have never been a fan of arbitrary border line redrawing against the will of the local populations and contrary to ethnic and cultural divides.

    This is taken from one of many websites pleading the Sud Tirol case:

    Illegitimate Border

    On November 11th 1918, Italian troops arrived at the town of Brenner. South Tyrol has never been a part of Italy and the population's language and culture was not Italian, but it was occupied by force by the Italian state and separated from its home country of Austria.

    Arbitrarily, an illegitimate border was drawn through the middle by Tirol, which tore apart families and divided villages, like Brenner, into two parts.

    Since that day, Italy has attempted to suppress the Austrian population, to eliminate the German language and culture and to 'Italianize' the country by force.

    Although Italy does not have any right on South Tyrol, it has occupied this part of Austria up to today and has refused to grant the people their right to self-determination and thus their liberty.

    But no injustice lasts for ever!

    We, the South Tyroleans, are anxious to free ourselves, through peaceful means, from the Italian state. Our aim is for the reunification of Tirol, because South Tyrol is not Italy, has never been Italy and shall never become Italy!​


    So there you go! ... Things are a lot better than they were tho. The campaign for Sud Tirol used to a lot more violent ... See link

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    From Northern Italy, Siberia still seemed a long way away

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  7. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    Having crossed the Alps, we now crossed the Rubicon ... literally! Behind my bike is the Fiume Rubicone ... the legendary stream that once marked the border of Italy.

    (about 2050 odd years after Caesar ... but we crossed in peace, without legions)

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  8. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    And made it to the ferry to Croatia

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    Coming up next, we are joined by a Polish motosyberia veteran for a blast around the Balkans
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  9. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    Dubrovnik: The sun breaks thru
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    Montenegro: Country number 14 of the trip
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    In Montenegro we were joined by Safran and his KTM, both veterans of the Motosyberia.com ride to Magadan 2 years earlier:
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    The back road to Albania ... Montenegro
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    Montenegrin border cops ask us over for some coffee
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  10. srace7

    srace7 Aspiring Adventurer

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    Walter

    I thought you'd taken a break from the riding in Tashkent to relax and recharge the batteries !!

    Now I know it is a break to catch up with your ADV Trip Report...

    Good to hear from you. I miss my daily fix of www.sibirskyextreme.com/blog...

    Simon
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  11. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    In Eastern Europe part 1 we made it thru Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, down the Dalmatian coast. Now we hit Albania, turn north-east and do Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo, fail at the Serb border, Bulgaria and Romania

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    3 bikes in Albania
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    Albanian motorcycle modifications
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    Lake Ohrid ... Albanian side ... fishermen by the highway
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    The Lake:
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    The paranoid Albanians have concrete bunkers everywhere ...every 50 - 100 metres in many places ... facing both NATO Greece and former communist "allies" Yugoslavia. I couldnt work out how they would have enough people to man the bunkers ... there were more bunkers than people.
    Safran takes a load off his mind while he ponders this conundrum:
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    Jon Fox near the Albania - Greece border:
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    Riding through Northern Greece:
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    Dinner in Macedonia ... like dinner for us in most of Eastern Europe, was a huge schnitzel and local beer. Cant complain with that right?
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    Lake Ohrid - The Macedonian side:
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    Safran captures the view
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    Macedonian mountain roads - all the roads we took in the balkans were twisty stuff, up mountains down valleys, passes every 2 hours. It was great riding fun.
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    Sveti Naum Monastery, Lake Ohrid
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    The view from Sveti Naum
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    #11
  12. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    We tried to leave Kosovo for Serbia ... but the Serbs werent having it. I try to like the Serbs ... most Serbs I have met are good guys, but they make it hard when they are the only country in Europe not to welcome the Sibirsky Extreme Project. We try to include everyone - but the Serbs didnt want to include us
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    Navigating Kosovo:
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    Kosovo Hotel Staff gave us a free breakfast in exchange for a Sibirsky Extreme sticker.
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    Romanian country roads
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    Romanian gypsies
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    Shepherd:
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    The start of the legendary Transfagarasan road
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    Transfagarasan - Romania (yes its also the road up in the top of the picture too)
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    Thick snow across the TF road
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  13. Two

    Two Been here awhile

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    :lurk
    #13
  14. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    By the end of Romania (country number 20 in 13 days) I had lost my two temporary riding buddies. Jon who had to go back to England and Safran who had to go back to Poland.

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    From here it was solo into the former Soviet Union and there were two more borders to cross (and two more countries to notch up) before I called and end to the 13th day. At dusk I crossed the Romania-Moldova border, before a 1 mile ride thru Moldova (at the expense of 25 USD for my Moldovan vehicle 3rd party insurance) before I reached the Moldova-Ukraine border in the darkness. Here are the lovely Moldovan ladies who made me a cup of tea and sold me my insurance policy.
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    Daylight dawned after a night in a crappy border hotel and revealed the Danube delta ... here fishermen work it in the Ukraine.
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    Potyomkin Steps, Odessa
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    Bikers from the Moto-Life club in Odessa, who helped me out when my wallets were nicked there:
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    My staple diet in the FSU - Shashlik (meat - usually lamb in Central Asia and pork in Russia and Ukraine - spiced and barbequed on a skewer)
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    Saving money on the Tram ... KIDS.. do NOT try this at home. This kid is a professional ... he is from Odessa
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    I was pulled over on the side of the road by a young girl who wanted to join the Sibirsky Extreme fan club. She wanted the job of chief cheerleader in the Ukraine. Any suggestions for the audition? I am open to ideas.

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  15. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    I became a wedding photographer by accident when I stopped to photograph a wedding party in Nikolaevsk (Mikolaiv) ... the wedding party immediately recognised the size of my lens, ignored their own photographer and all started posing for me instead.
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    Apparently Ukrainian girls like a man with a big telescopic zoom ...
    ... including this bizarre bridesmaid ... who couldnt get enough ... posing
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    Sunset in Crimea:
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    Crimean Tatar faces ... Crimean Tatars are mostly of Turkish blood
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    Cool tracks through Tatar country, a shortcut leading to Bakhchisaray, the former Capital of the Crimean Tatars:
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    Tatar symbols:
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    The Crimean Tatar Khan's Palace, Bakhchisaray
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    More Tatar faces:
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    Balaclava ... the tunnel in the bottom right WAS a secret soviet nuclear submarine base in the good old days of 17+ years ago. The subs could enter the base completely underwater, surface inside the tunnel (under hundreds of metres of rock), resupply and head out again on the other side, underwater and undetected. How cool is that??
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    A close up:
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    Sparrows nest or swallows nest (my Russian isnt good enough to discern subtle differences) palace, near Yalta
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    An old cossack basks in the sun, Yalta. Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met a few km from here at the Livadia Palace back in 1945 to carve up the universe (apparently deGaulle was too busy to attend)
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    Crimea is another place that reminded me of Sud Tirol. Another group of people whose nationality was changed by politicians, against the will of the local population. Back in 1954, Khrushchev (a Ukrainian) decided to give Crimea which had been part of Russia, to Ukraine as a 'gift'. At the time, since it was all part of the Soviet Union, it was a pretty meaningless gesture, but since both countries became independent at the end of 1991, the Crimeans, who are predominantly Russian, (with the main minority being Tatar), have been stuck in a foreign country. The Crimeans keep pushing for a vote / referendum on it, but of course the Ukraine government would never allow that since the population would vote to return to Russia. Like the Italy / Sud Tirol case, its amazing how everyone who is so in favour of democracy suddenly abandons democracy when it doesn't suit their political purposes.

    Yalta ... the Crimean Riviera:
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    Typical Crimea ... mosques and vineyards;
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    Black Sea coast, Crimea:
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    Crimean shops:
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    Waiting waiting waiting for the ferry to Russia:
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    In the next update (when the laptop has more energy) ... I go into Russia and the volatile North Caucasus region ... visiting the Autonomous Republics of Adegeya, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan and Kalmykia
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  16. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

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    Very cool. :thumb
    These are parts of the world I have never been to.
    I'd like to see more. :lurk
    Q~
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  17. Steffo

    Steffo Been here awhile

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    I am so in for this one.

    What kind of bike is that? A BMW with aftermarket fairings?
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  18. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    Yes sir ... its a G650 X Challenge, with a touratech front fairing, Audi A6 headlights, a custom front map panel, and an X-Tank extra tank
    #18
  19. Steffo

    Steffo Been here awhile

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    As I suspected.

    Keep them pics coming! :clap
    #19
  20. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    Might as well get this done while I have a window of functional internet:

    Into glorious Russia. - Near Novorossiysk ... Russia's main oil port.
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    For my first night in Russia, I stopped at a communal farm (Kolkhoz) a few hundred yards off the road and asked if I could camp nearby. "hell no" they said ... its not like they saw foreign motorcyclists stopping at their Kolkhoz every day ... I was given tea, cooked dinner and had a bed prepared. It was simple stuff, but the hospitaily was typical of Russia. Outside of the cities, everyone will help at the drop of a hat. So here's dinner at the Kolkhoz.
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    Saying goodbye to the Kolkhozniks the next morning:
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    I crossed into the Adegey Republic, an autonomous area within Russia, of which there are many in the North Caucasus. Its a region where dozens of nationalities have been pushed over the centuries of Russian empire expansion. Here is an Adegey father and daughter, who stopped to join me for a shoarma.
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    An Adegey bus stop
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    Challenging Adegey roads:
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    A KrAZ truck ... normal transport on Adegey roads:
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    Then it was onto Karachaevo-Cherkessia .. home to the Karachay and Cherkess people. Karachaevo is quite dramatic scenery. Lots of grasslands, but hilly, even mountainous in places. but a lovely open feel to it.
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    Here's a Karachay shepherd in the middle of a open field:
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