Away with the Opies

Our travel adventures......

Everest Base Camp-Day 8

Day 8 – Dingboche (4,410m) to Lobuche (4,910m) 

Having said our farewells to Fleur and Dirk who had left sometime earlier, we set off on our way. We started out on the route we’d taken the day before but instead of heading on upwards we followed the contours of the mountain to the adjacent valley. Here we came across Fleur and Dirk looking like they’d already done a day’s walking! Rather than taking the higher path they’d descended into the valley, only to retrace their steps when realising they’d taken a wrong turn. With Rabin’s guidance we were smugly on the right track and so with safety in numbers we decided to stick together.

Before long we’d caught up with Charles, the affable Singaporean we’d met at Hotel Everest View and who, as it happened Dirk and Fleur had also spent time with. With guides and a porter we became a group of eight and spent a fun and tiring day all walking together.

Fleur, Me, Kate, Charles and Dirk

Dughla tea house

After a welcome cup of tea at Dughla (4,620m) we followed a steep track to find ourselves at a plateau surrounded by memorials to lost climbers and Sherpas. It was an emotional and sobering experience and a reminder of just how remote we now were. There were memorials for Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, who lost their lives in the previously mentioned 1996 Everest disaster but the largest memorial was saved for Chiri Sherpa who climbed Everest an incredible ten times, sadly losing his life on his eleventh attempt.

As we pressed on the landscape became evermore stark and impressive. Under foot the terrain became increasingly tricky as we began walking on rocks left behind by ancient glaciers .

After reaching Lobuche and eating dahl bhat, Kate, Charles and I took a half hour trip to the Italian Pyramid. Since 1990 the Pyramid has been giving the international scientific community an opportunity to study environment, climate, human physiology and geology in a remote, mountain protected area. The pyramid is a modern, abstract structure that strangely suits its surroundings well. Unfortunately the main pyramid was closed but we were treated to one of the best cups of masala chai we’d had in the mountains made for us by the warden. Whilst there we had our pulse and blood oxygen levels taken. Kate came out a single point better than me on both counts, but we both fared better than Charles, who by now was looking a little peaky.

Tired returning to the tea house Charles began to complain of a headache. Once back he hadn’t improved so we persuaded him to take one of his anti-AMS Diamox pills. Fleur had also been suffering with a headache so we gave her some of our pills (by then we had enough to spare even if we needed to take them) and Charles’ guide was feeling ill so he too took a pill. I started to get a little headache, so as a precaution and because of my bad experience at Annapurna I took a pill. Dirk had already been on the drug for a couple of days so I t was pretty much a full house of Diamox takers – all apart from Kate that is, who by now was feeling somewhat smug not only because of her lack of drug dependence so far, but also because of her outstanding performance at the pyramid!

Kate’s readings…

That evening we heard the terrible news that a locally well known Nepali sherpa man had died. He’d been working with a Spanish Everest Expedition who are trying to be the first team to climb the mountain in winter, without oxygen. He had fallen ill at Camp 2, been helped down by his colleagues and was airlifted by helicopter once a distress call had been sent out, sadly dying on route. It was unclear why an SOS hadn’t gone out sooner and whether or not the Spanish Expedition have a satellite phone that would have enabled a call to be sent at a much higher altitude. We’ll probably never know the full chain of events that led to his death, but it was a somber day in the mountains and a reminder for us all to take the conditions we were living in seriously. 

Whatever had happened the situation couldn’t have been helped by Everest Link – the area’s mobile phone and wifi service provider being out of action. This meant that all tea houses from Pengboche upwards were completely without any form of communication and with no phone reception our mobiles were also redundant. We were walking one of the highest trekking routes in the world with no technological means of contacting the ‘outside’ world. We couldn’t help but feel somewhat isolated and a little vulnerable – especially with people becoming ill around us.

With our goal tantalisingly close we went to bed with mixed emotions. A local man had died and friends were ill, especially Charles whose deteriorating health was by now a major concern. For those of us still well enough to attempt it base camp beckoned, we’d so nearly reached our goal. Dressed in all our clothes, tucked under two blankets and snuggled in our sleeping bags, we drifted off to a fitful nights sleep. We were just about warm enough…  And so nearly there.


Everything was frozen, inside and out!

It was getting even colder and we heard that further up the mountain at Kala Patthar it was reaching -48 deg C before dawn.

Day 8 – Gallery


Everest Base Camp-Day 7

Day 7 – Acclimatisation Day in Dingboche

Wow – What an incredible day!

The morning started with a late breakfast at 8:30 followed by an acclimatisation trek as far as we could manage up Nangkar Tshang. Rabin said it was doubtful that we’d make the top but fuelled by days of dahl bhat, ginger tea and adrenaline, we slowly gained height until we actually reached the summit at 5,616m. Here we were rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of some of the worlds highest mountains joined by eagles flying above and below us. It was a magical moment. 

At around 1,200m higher than our tea house it’s not an altitude gain recommended in one day but Rabin was keeping a close eye on us – we felt strong and were showing no signs of altitude sickness.

There’s life in us old dogs yet!

Not Vultures or Eagles!

The above birds are Choughs which were flocking in Dingboche.

Factoid – Choughs are the National bird of Cornwall, but are also found in Nepal, where they’ve been known to nest at over 6500m, a world record for any nesting bird! For us it was an unexpected reminder of home…

We shared a picnic with Colin who had also made the climb before saying our goodbyes – heading in opposite directions from here we would not to see him again on this trip.

Descending we realised just how high we’d climbed – the track just kept on going down! Knees are a problem when you reach a certain age and by the end of this mini adventure my knees, especially were feeling the strain!

We returned to our tea house to find Dirk and Fleur playing cards – because of illness they’d rested for the day. We joined them later for a lovely evening of chat and getting to know each other around the little yak poo burner. Little did we know then that it would be the first of many such evenings together… 



Loving Life!


Everest Base Camp-Day 6

Day 6 – Pangboche (3,950m) to Dingboche (4,410m)

Sat around a welcome morning fire we all ate breakfast before saying goodbye to Colin and the Australian girls before setting off on our way.

AMS warning notice

One of the Australian girls was complaining of a headache and with no rest/acclimatisation day planned for them in Dingboche we were a little concerned for their well being – our worries were justified a few days later.

It had been the usual freezing cold night followed by a crisp, bright morning – we were keeping everything crossed that the fine weather would hold for just a few more days. True to our “Nepali time” schedule we left later than planned, but setting off we felt strong and free of any sign of AMS.  

Anyone can get altitude sickness, it doesn’t discriminate through age, fitness or mental strength. Physically fit people often become ill because they walk fast, gaining height too quickly. With this in mind we kept to a steady pace, reprimanded by Rabin if we went too quickly. The regularity of the rescue helicopters flying above us was a frequent reminder of how easy it is to become sick at these altitudes – complacency here is dangerous.


Shortly after the day’s trek began we reached the spot where a Frenchman had recently fallen, presumed, to his death. He’d taken a short-cut along a narrow path above a steep drop to the river and sadly, as far as we know his body’s not yet been found.

Notices are displayed at intervals along the trek offering a reward for information on his whereabouts. It’s a sobering reminder of how dangerous this trek can be. We would be taking no short cuts on our trip to Base Camp.

We arrived at Dingboche in time for lunch, where Kate started her garlic soup regime as it had been regularly recommended as a way to keep AMS at bay. On advice from Rabin I continued with my dahl bhat diet. Not only does it contain garlic, but it’s the only meal in the mountains where you get seconds!



Shortly after our arrival at the tea house we met Fleur and Dirk for the the first time. This young Dutch couple were to be our companions for the remainder of the trip.

After lunch we took a short acclimatisation stroll above the village to some stupas (Buddhist shrines). The views were lovely, but the wind was cold and the night was to be bitter.

With frozen toilets everywhere and no running water anywhere this was certainly not a trip for the feint hearted…

But we were LOVING it!



Everest Base Camp-Day 5

Day 5 – Khyangjuma (3,550m) to Pangboche (3,950m)

Everest Base Camp-Day 4

Day 4 – Namche Bazaar (3,440m) to Khyangjuma (3,550m)

We left Namche Bazaar on the clearest of clear days. The sun was shining and the sky was as blue as we’ve ever seen – our luck continued.

Our first climb of the morning led us to the world famous Hotel Everest View which does exactly what it says on the tin. At one time it offered pressurised rooms, in an attempt to prevent altitude sickness for the rich and famous flying directly from Kathmandu – a practise that has now thankfully stopped.

It was here, whilst drinking tea, that we first met an affiable Singaporean called Charles. Charles was to become a friend and was sadly evacuated from Gorak Shep, the last point of civilisation before reaching Base Camp. 

Charles, Dirk and Fleur

The route from Namche Bazaar to Khyangjuma was a short and relatively easy one so Rabin took us on a detour to see the Yeti skull we’d heard so much about at a monastery in the village of Khumjung. Khumjung is also home to the Hillary School established by Sir Edmund in 1961. Unfortunately the monastery was closed so we set off to explore the neighbouring village of Khunde instead.       


A short while later we passed Kunde Hospital . Built in 1966 the hospital continues to play a major role in the area’s all too frequent disasters. 10 minutes and a small climb further along the path we arrived at Khunde monastery. Home to around 10 resident monks and beautifully decorated with brightly coloured murals and pictures of the Dali Lama it was well worth the detour.


We made a small donation before setting off on our way back through Khumjung – the Yeti Skull monastery was still closed!

The third tea house of our trek was the best so far. A draught proof room with stunning panoramic mountain views and en-suite toilet made us very happy – it didn’t take much at this point! We ate our evening meal in the company of the friendly family running the lodge who then treated us to popcorn and “Into Thin Air’‘ (unbelievably they had a TV), a film adaptation of the David Krakauer book about the tragic 1996 Everest disaster . The book is good – the film is not! 


Interestingly one of the family guests eating with us was at Everest Base camp working as a chef when the disaster struck. Unfortunately his English wasn’t good enough for an in depth chat about his experiences.



Sunset brought the most spectacular view of the day and joined by the tea house couple we watched a picture perfect display of pinks, oranges and reds grazing the snow capped peaks of Lhotse, Ama Dablam and other Himalayan mountains.

It was a magical end to a brilliant day.

Red sky at night…

Fingers crossed for more of the same tomorrow




Everest Base Camp-Day 3

Day 3 – Namche Bazaar Acclimatisation Day

Having heard rumours the previous day that our trek was in doubt due to the adverse weather conditions, we were relieved to wake to clear skies and unbroken sunshine. Unbelievably, this fine weather was to last for the rest of our time in the mountains.


Accompanied by Rabin, we took a morning tour of the surrounding area, which included the Tenzing Norgay memorial and small mountain museum – gaining a little more altitude helped with our acclimatisation.

After our usual dahl bhat lunch the two of us explored Namche’s labyrinth of pretty, narrow streets. With it’s shops selling local and branded products, cafes, bars and local market there was plenty to keep us busy for a couple of hours. We bought and wrote postcards, stocked up on toilet roll and invested in some down mittens for Steve’s unusually chilly hands, before settling into a cafe to contemplate the trek ahead.

Here we met 2 Australian girls who were later to be airlifted off the mountain.

Flying the British Flag!

During our meanderings we encountered the first Yaks of our trip. Adapted to high altitudes these impressive beasts are kept for their milk, meat and wool as well as being used to carry loads in the mountains.



After a great day out and about we returned to Comfort Inn – still sadly not living up to its name – where we played cards, attempted, in vain to keep warm, drank masala chai, and chatted to fellow trekkers. We braved the still frozen toilets before scrounging extra blankets and tucking up in our sleeping bags for the night. This was our third day without a shower, but by now keeping warm was far more important than being clean – how quickly our standards dropped. Unwashed, still wearing most of our clothes and buried in our bedding we blew each other a kiss from opposite sides of the room – it wasn’t going to be the most romantic couple of weeks we’d ever spent together…


First and last beer of the trek!


Everest Base Camp-Day 2

 Day 2 Phakding (2,610m) to Namche Bazar (3,440m)

Which way to Everest?!


We excitedly woke up a little before 7 and were ready for our first breakfast of chapati and eggs by 7:30. We soon discovered that Rabin our guide works on “Nepali time” – we were the last of the three parties to leave!


The first full days trekking was incredible, stopping only for a mid morning cup of tea, a Dahl Bhat lunch and a (very expensive) apple at a view point where we caught our first spectacular glimpse of Everest.

Our first view of Everest!

The route snaked through wooded tracks that reminded us of our treks in the Highlands of Scotland. It traced the beautiful turquoise glacial meltwaters of the Dudh Kosi river, crossed dizzyingly high simple suspension bridges and ended with a two and a half hour climb to Namche Bazaar (3,440m).



We checked into our second tea house of the trek, which frustratingly didn’t live up to its name of “Comfort Inn”. There was no running water, all inside toilets were frozen and the only source of heating was an electric fire that worked intermittently! It was COLD…

As we settled into our base for the next two nights it began to snow, the temperature plummeted and things started to feel very bleak.


Huddling around the ineffectual electric fire in a vain hope to keep warm we got to know Stephanie and Paulo, a young Columbian couple now living in Brisbane. Unfortunately, we were later to hear that, having reached Base Camp and on their way back down Stephanie was taken ill and had been flown to safety. 


We soon mastered the art of layering to survive the arctic conditions!

Everest Base Camp-Day 1


Day 1 Kathmandu to Phakding via

Lukla Airport!

On Thursday the 19th January 2017 we arrived at Everest Base Camp – this is the story of how we got there…

Lukla Airport Runway

Let’s trek to Everest Base Camp he said – OK I said, let’s fly to Lukla he said – absolutely, most definitely not I said!

2 days later we were sat in the Kathmandu Airport domestic departure lounge with our guide Rabin bound for what’s considered to be one of the worlds most dangerous airports – this was NOT what I’d signed up for!

Inspired by mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and built in the 1960’s Lukla airport has acquired its hairy reputation for several reasons. The postage stamp sized runway is only 527m long. With a 600m drop at one end and a mountain at the other it leaves little room for pilot error allowing one chance only at getting it right. Getting it wrong means hitting a wall or dropping off a precipice! To make things even more tricky the runway was built with a 12% gradient to aid breaking on landing and acceleration on take off – the 60m difference from top to bottom makes for quite a ride in both directions. Operating without navigational aids, flights to Lukla are extremely weather dependant. Set high in the Himalayas at an elevation of 2,845m the conditions here are unpredictable and delays are a regular occurrence, sometimes for days, not just hours. Many accidents and near misses have occurred here over the years…

Now I have no idea how I got talked from point A to point B, but as we sat out a 4 hour delay because of snow on the Lukla runway I was bitterly regretting my apparent moment of weakness in agreeing to this madness…

As the sun rose in Lukla so the snow melted on the minuscule runway and the go ahead was given for our plane to set off on its way. We boarded a bus, which took us to our tiny Goma Air plane (with gaffer taped door), we chose our seats and were given boiled sweets and cotton wool (for our ears!).  

We were preparing for take off when I noticed the pilots wiping condensation from the cockpit window with their sleeves!!! Knowing that landing and takeoff at Lukla are carried out using pilot skill and intuition only, fogged up windows were most definitely not OK…

The take off and majority of the flight were actually pretty smooth, marred only by a short bout of turbulence around the mid way point which seemed expected as the hostess (yes there is one) had just scooted through the tiny craft to check that all seat belts were fastened.

25 minutes of spectacular mountain scenery later and the inevitable and dreaded landing was upon us. From a distance the runway looked like a challange, as we flew closer it looked like an impossibility…

Steve squeezed my hand and I squeezed his back as banking right we seemed to be heading straight for the mountain.

The crash landing warning alarms sounded throughout the cabin (luckily I’d done my research and knew this was normal) just before touching down and coming, thankfully, to an ubrupt, but controlled halt. Our safe landing was rewarded with a round of applause by all on board…

The weather closed in behind us and our flight was to be the first and last of the day!

Don’t ever make me do that again!

Joined by Rabin our guide and Padam our porter we set off for Everest Base Camp – we couldn’t have been more excited.

Padam, Rabin and Steve

Our afternoon trek was a beautiful and easy introduction to what lay ahead. We walked through the snow that had prevented us from flying earlier in the day, past numerous prayer wheels and rocks carved with Tibetan Buddhist mantras.

We arrived at our first tea house in Phakding (2610m) and settled in for the first of many chilly nights in the mountains.

It was here that we met Elle, an American, who was to become the first of our newly made trekking buddies to be flown off the mountain with Acute Mountains Sickness (AMS) only a few of days later.



Looking forward to day 2!







Everest Base Camp-Day 9

Day 9 – Everest Base Camp (5,356m)

Steve and I – Everest Base Camp – 19th Jan 2017

Our day started with great news – Charles was feeling better! Unfortunately though he still wasn’t quite fit enough to come with us to Base Camp. With the altitude playing havoc on his body he would rest a while longer before heading out later in the day. And so it was that on the 19th Jan 2017 Steve, Fleur, Dirk, Rabin and I set off to achieve our dream of reaching at EBC via Gorak Shep (5,140m) the highest village on the trail.

The weather could not have been more perfect and with the sun on our faces and the wind on our backs we enjoyed an otherwordly trek over rough and barren terrain all the way to our goal of Everest Base Camp.


On route we passed the two Australian girls we’d met previously. They’d made it to Base Camp the previous day.

Dirk-Fleur-Me-Australian girls-Steve!

Base Camp is a large area, situated on and alongside the Khumbu Glacier where expedition teams make camp for their summit bids. If the weather is poor the end of the line for us mere trekkers is on a track above the glacier, but for us the weather couldn’t have been better.In these
perfect conditions we picked our way over the tricky moraine and across deep crevasses to arrive at a couple of prayer-flag covered mounds. Surrounded by the most incredible landscape and in sight of a Spanish expedition’s orange tents we paused to soak up our surroundings.

We’d done it, we’d achieved a dream, we’d made it to Everest Base Camp!

In bright sunshine and with hardly anyone else in sight – the joy of trekking at this time of year – we posed for our Base Camp photos. Excited and emotional we celebrated with friends made along the way and remembered those who hadn’t quite made it. It was a special moment for us all.

Rum Rabin!

In the midst of all the excitement Dirk produced a small bottle of rum to toast our achievements and Steve and I were told we looked like film stars by an English guy who was clearly suffering from the altitude!

Having put up prayer flags we scrambled back to the track, found a sheltered spot and munched on a picnic of chocolate and biscuits. Dirk then produced a 7-year old Cuban cigar he’d been saving for a special occasion – this he decided was the special occasion he’d been waiting for.

We will none of us forget this day.

Steve, Rabin, Fleur, Dirk and I

Steve, Rabin and I

With the bitter wind now in our faces we headed back to Gorak Shep arriving both tired and elated – so far we’d survived our Everest Base Camp trek.

Now to make it back down…

Sunset on Everest – 19th Jan 2017


A Nepali Christmas

Melamchi-Ghyang Village Christmas 2016

A family affair!

At last we’ve found some internet and so here’s our ‘better late than never’ festive blog…

Christmas in Melamchi-Ghyang village was absolutely incredible and one that will stay in our hearts forever. On the 21st of December we were joined by Jack, Amy and James (our son, daughter-in-law ‘licensed’ and son-in-law ‘unlicensed’ – as described during their time in Nepal!). Three days later on Christmas Eve Meg, our daughter joined us – our nest was full and we were happy.

It was a white Christmas!

Christmas Day sunrise

Christmas Day here was like no other. We were all woken by an earthquake a little after 5am and we fell asleep that night to gales howling and snow falling. Throw in the sunshine, hail, thunder and lightening and it was pretty much a full house.  We kicked the day off with pancakes – a Christmas breakfast we intend to make an Opie tradition, before heading to school for a few hours of teaching . Our morning there started with the six of us being invited onto the outside school assembly stage by Purna, the headmaster. The dreaded microphone was passed to us in turn to address the perplexed (how many Opies?!) crowd in front of us… Having been adorned with orange Khatas and garlands of marigolds we all said a few words.

What an emotional (and surreal) few minutes it was. Our family all together in the Himalaya mountains, on Christmas Day, on a stage, in the village that is, for now at least our home. Known as the ‘village of dreams’ Melamchi-Ghyang more than lived up to it’s name for us on this special day. Unfortunately we have no photos of this momentous occasion to post on this blog…

Jack spoke first, he was great, Amy next, she too was great, followed by Meg, yep great and then James, superb!  Then my turn… Everyone who knows me well will not be the least bit surprised to hear that my effort was not much more than a tearful blab of words – not so great. Steve trumped us all with the J.F Kennedy quote –

‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’  

A round of applause ensued!

And so to lesson time…

James (along with Jack and Amy) had, without knowing it, agreed to a busman’s holiday. Accompanied by Rudra, a teacher at the school, he took on the challenge of assisting with the older year groups and impressed with his talks on student motivation and best study practises. 

Jack with craft goodies from Huish Primary School

Jack worked with years 5 and 6 where pupils replied to Christmas cards sent from Huish Primary School in Yeovil (England) where he works. They loved using the crafting materials chosen and bought by his pupils just before the end of term.
Jack was so excited about the goodies that it was the first thing he showed us when arriving in the village!

Thank you Huish 

Meg, having only just arrived the afternoon before was thrown in at the deep end and brilliantly stepped in to help with some art and craft activities.

Amy worked her magic with the youngest classes, her forte, as she too is a primary school teacher.

On behalf of Melamchi-Ghyang school we would like to thank Huish Primary school for all their hard work and overwhelming generosity. The pupils there have raised money through such things as cake and bookmark sales and copper coin collections. In the space of just one term they have raised an incredible £690.33. Along with the huge bag of goodies, Jack bought with him Christmas cards made by his pupils. We had the pleasure of reading them before handing them out and were blown away with the effort, thought and talents that had gone into creating them. They were just brilliant and the children here absolutely loved receiving them.

Thank you to everyone at Huish – staff, pupils and parents – we’re so touched by your continued support for our work here and we can’t wait to come back and tell you all about life in ‘our’ Nepali village and school.


We would also like to say a huge thank you to the pupils, staff and parents of Rode Primary School who very generously sent out goodies with Amy when they found out where she was going and what she was doing this Christmas. Much fun has been had with everything the children here have received – it’s been a creative and exciting Christmas for us all!

Lessons over and we could all relax a little…

For Jack that meant an eagerly awaited game of chess with the school chess champion. Mrs Carrie Newman a TA at Huish school had very kindly donated 3 chess sets. Jack, who runs a chess club at school was looking forward to a game or two whilst in the village. Steve and James were also challenged to matches and so all 3 boards were being used simultaneously – with varying outcomes. Jacks match ended in a one all tie -with lunch beckoning they decided to shake on the draw. Steve and James were less successful…

Steve’s pasty shaped momo!

Chess packed away and Opie clan buzzing we all headed back for dinner. Now we weren’t expecting a roast dinner, or anything the least bit special – the usual Dahl Baht would have sufficed, but when we got ‘home’ Jhangmu had cooked us momos which are just the most delicious thing ever. Time consuming to make they’ve been a rare treat for us in the village and Jhangmu, knowing that we’re more than partial to the occasional vege momo, had surprised us with a Christmas feast of them!

Thank you Jhangmu, it really was the best Christmas dinner we could have wished for.

What more can we say!   

After dinner we handed out gifts to our hosts – small tokens of our appreciation to a family who’ve made us feel so at home.

Christmas Mug


The sun was shining and so we went outside to give and receive our family gifts. We were very grateful for wooly hats and gloves (thank you Mum and Dad) and learnt new card tricks, or at least tried to (thank you Rob and Rosie) It turns out that some of us have better slight of hand than others!


Christmas Hat

Christmas Beer







Gifts exchanged and decked out in our new wooly gear we excitedly set off to Phurpar’s house where we’d been invited for afternoon snacks. I say excitedly because I’d sampled her milk tea and her cooking before and I knew we were in for a treat. Phurpar is on maternity cover for the Kindergarton and Nursery class teacher and the lovely lady I’ve been working with for the last few weeks. She’s welcomed me with open arms, let me use my mad creativity in the classroom and accepted me unconditionally as part of her class. At only 19 she has a very bright future ahead and I’m sure we’ll remain friends and keep in touch when we finally say goodbye to the village.

We drank the most delicious milk tea, ate fried potatoes, drank raksi, cornflour and butter tea, all acquired tastes and sang Christmas songs, very badly… It was a great couple of hours spent with a lovely person and a moment in time we’ll cherish.






Fun with Phurpa

We returned ‘home’ for the evening, filled our bellies some more, played games, drank the first wine in weeks and savoured our time together. We tucked into our sleeping bags in freezing cold rooms with the storm howling around us. What an amazing day it had been!

Cheers ?

We wish everyone a wonderful 2017

















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