Greek Ruins – Up High and Down Low

Next morning we left our anchorage and headed for Epidhavros on the mainland. We found a spot on the town jetty and after lunch, set off for the famous Epidhavros amphitheatre, about 30 minutes away by taxi.

The theatre is generally accepted as the best preserved in Greece and it didn’t disappoint. It seats 14,000 and the acoustics are amazing. Anthony proved it by delighting the crowd and reciting the start of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

I was sitting up the top and could hear every word clearly. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to hit the record button, and the moment was lost.

As well as the amphitheatre, there was a whole Greek town being excavated, along with a museum so we managed to take up the whole hour, whilst the taxi driver patiently waited for us, part of the package deal the taxis all run to the ruins.

Back at the boat, we had a quiet night before heading around the corner in the morning to find the underwater ruins that was on the tourist brochure. We had no GPS coordinates so we sent Anthony in the dingy to ask around. He found some paragliders who had seen it from the air and he soon found it in the dingy. We motored La Mischief over and dropped the anchor and then had a wonderful snorkel on the ruins. Weird.

Our next stop was Poros, one of those Greek islands that looked like a Rorschach ink blob. That’s probably not quite fair as Poros looks quite spectacular as is the approach to the island as you pass through the narrow gap that separates it from the mainland, busy with all the ferries criss-crossing the narrow channel.

We thought about anchoring but the anchorages close to town weren’t the best and we decided the town looked interesting enough to enjoy an evening at.

And it proved to be the case. The chanderly was good and we picked up a few things there. We ate at one of the restaurants near the town wall and were entertained by about 50 Russians who were having some sort of fun regatta for the week. We watched them all try and dock after their races, and then as we ate dinner, we could see their slide show and presentations. Couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying but they seemed to be having a good time.

Next morning it was u early to try and beat the weather before it came in the next day. But thats another story.

For photos of Epidhavros see https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200510212550733&type=1&l=14d0be1771

For photos of Poros see https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200510215790814&type=1&l=270b87f7c4

One Side of Greece to the Other

Having popped out the other side of the canal, it was like being in a different Greece.

We immediately pulled the genneker up and sailed down the Eastern Peloponnisos towards our anchorage for the night at the SW tip of Angistri, looking across a narrow channel towards Nisis Dhoroussa. The weather had improved and we had one of those delightful afternoon sails under a bright sunny sky. We got there about 5pm and found a spot amongst a group of other yachts and power boats. We dropped our anchor in a lovely small bay and Anthony swam a line ashore so we could go stern to.

The water was soooo clear and a swim was the first order of the day.

It turned out to be a very entertaining bay as the next morning we were treated to a screaming match aboard a yacht sans mast, two boats down. The dog on board was not impressed, it retreated right to the very back of the boat. It eventually ended with the lady of the boat disappearing down below, with her parter soon pulling up anchor and leaving, no doubt to drop her off somewhere close by.

Of Canals and Bridges

Having successfully found our way to Greece, it was time to go off and explore.

Our first destination was Levkas Canal, which cuts through the salt marsh between the mainland and the island(?) of Levkas. It also provides a useful and interesting shortcut, rather than going around the outside.

It was a bit of a hairy approach as we passed close to a sand spit next to an old fort, keeping inside a row of port markers. We were rushing to get to the swing bridge that opens on the hour and we made it with five minutes to spare. This bridge swings sideways, rather than up, creating a somewhat narrow passage into the canal behind. We were the only boat going south, but we had to pass 5 or so heading north, through the narrow opening.

We passed Levkas Marina, which is situated on the canal, where Happy Cat (another 421 we had seen in Sydney) had wintered a few years before.

The canal is marked by red and green triangles on tops of poles, with some regular bouys at the southern end. Quite a weird place.

We burst out into a wonderful cruising ground with heaps of yachts having a great sail in the brisk conditions. We sailed through the strait between Meganisi and Levkas, said to be one of the loveliest channels in the Ionian. Couldn’t argue with that.

Then it was onto Ithaca Island, the home of Odysseus. We gave the main port a miss and headed for a lovely bay around the corner at Ormos Skhoinos. It was wonderfully protected from the southerlies that were blowing. We dropped anchor in about 7m of water and had a refreshing swim, our first in Greece.

Next morning, we started our trek towards the Corinth Canal. It turned out to be quite a miserable day, with the wind howling out of the Gulf of Patras, along with a 1.5kt current. We battled to make much headway and called it a day, heading into Mesolongion, along a canal that cuts through a series of salt marshes. The entrance to the canal had some interesting fisherman’s houses on stilts.

Mesolongion is nothing to write home about – its claim to fame being the place where Byron died. We also had our first nice feed of Greek food, in the centre of town, amongst all the Uni students. We stayed there a couple of nights, waiting for the wind to die down, so we could continue our journey east.

We were med moored, with the anchor out the front and our back tied to the town wall. This was something we hadn’t done a lot of – in Croatia we would pick up lines for the front rather than use the anchor. This inexperience caused us to get up in the middle of the night in the middle of a thunder and lightening show and tighten up the anchor to stop us crashing onto the town wall. Lesson learnt, but we all got soaked to the bone, no doubt leading to my bout of “man flu”.

With the wind finally dying down, and the weather clearing a little, we left Mesolongion and headed back out into the Gulf of Patras. The wind was still on our nose, but manageable as we motor sailed the 12nm towards the Rion-Andirrion suspension bridge, the largest cable stayed bridge in the world. It was completed in 2004 and you can see it from miles away, and when you get 5nm from it you need to call bridge control to get instructions on transiting under it. Its quite a sight with four big pillars in the water. The middle section is for large ships, we went through on the south side, with tons of clearance. The funny thing is that there are still car ferries going back and forward, despite there being a bridge just there.

Once under the bridge and through the Straits of Rion, we were in the Gulf of Corinth, but still 70nm away from the Canal. So we picked out Ormos Anemokambi on the north side and dropped anchor there for the night.

Next morning, we were up early and heading for the canal, with a favourable wind for a change. We had thought about using an agent, but they wanted an extra 50 euro for their trouble and it was already 200 euro to transit the 3.2nm of canal so we gave the agent a miss.

We arrived about 1pm and called up the canal on VHF channel 11. We didn’t have to wait long as the hydraulic bridge that blocks the entrance dropped to the floor of the canal and we were off. There was a nice current running our way at 1-2kts.

What an amazing experience going through this narrow canal which is only 25m wide. The side tower 80m up at its highest point and there is 6m of water under us. The ancient Greeks and Romans tried to build a canal here but failed. Instead they used to drag ships across the isthmus on paved roads. Octavius dragged his ships across here when he was in pursuit of Marc Anthony. It wasn’t until 1893 that the Greeks finished off what a French company started.

At the eastern end of the canal, there is another hydraulic bridge, which dropped down to let us through. We then tied up to the wall next to the canal authority on the south side and paid our dues. Too easy.

And then we were off to explore the Aegean Sea.

For photos, see https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200510221590959&type=1&l=0bd2bd843c

Off to Greece – Attempt Number 2

Having successfully extradited ourselves from Albania, we once again turned south into pretty much the same conditions as before. But at least they weren’t getting worse and we’d had a break and a good nights sleep.

It soon became obvious that we weren’t going to make landfall in Corfu in daylight so we decided to press on and head for Preveza down the mainland coast a bit. We worked out we could get there about lunchtime the next day, which was pretty good.

So after dodging a few ships in the tight channel between Corfu and the Albanian coast, we sailed up the marked channel that took us into Preveza at about 11am. We were happy to get to Greece.

We passed Cleopatra Marina on the other side of the estuary (as this is the site where Marc Anthony got his arse whipped by Octavia and had to flee with Cleopatra back to Egypt).

We found a spot on the wall at Preveza and then proceeded to check into Greece. We found the Port Authority, which was a good start and when we had filled in some paperwork, they showed us on a map where to find first Customs and then the Police.

Customs was about a kilometre away and they grumpily filled in our paperwork so we could get our 30 euro transit log. Then it was off to the police station 3kms away to get our passports stamped. Once we found the police station it took us a few attempts to find the right department. They were quite happy to let us wander around the building, past cells and offices with people in casual clothes, not many people in uniform. Once we had located passport control, they seems a little interested in our visit to Albania – wanting to make sure we had just 3 people on board and not another 30 Albanian refugees.

Passports stamped, we headed back to the Port Authority to pay another 15 euro for our Crew List to be stamped. Then it was back to the boat to explain to Denise why we were gone so long.

By this stage La Mischief was being blown onto the wall and it was time to find a safer spot to spend the night. Preveza has a small marina so thats where we headed for 14 euro a night for a good night’s sleep.

With La Mischief sorted it was time to go explore the town and get some SIM cards and groceries. We walked into town to find everything shut. No worries – its probably their siesta. So we hunted around to find some opening hours and found that all shops shut at 2pm on Mondays (and Wednesdays and Saturdays).

 

Don’t they know there is a financial crisis on. So we had no choice but to buy our SIM cards the next morning, before leaving to explore the Ionian Islands of Greece.

On to Corfu (Or Maybe Not)

After picking up our discount tax-free diesel, we continued our journey south towards Corfu. Our late start meant we would be out 2 nights, arriving in Corfu the morning of the third day. 

Leaving the Gulf, the winds were initially good and we looked set for a nice first night of sailing. There was no moon but otherwise we made steady progress through the night. The morning started okay as well,albeit the wind a little on the nose.

Then it started to build and we started to have to tack our way south along the Albanian coast. By 3pm it was getting to resemble a washing machine as we reefed down and started to struggle to make head way.

We were passing Vlore at the time and the weather looked a bit ominous so we made the call to go and have a look at Albania. The bay looked really protected and a lot more attractive than spending a night battling into a strong headwind, current and swell.

So in we turned, straight over a disused minefield that the guide book said was okay provided you didn’t try and anchor. We didn’t try and anchor. Instead we headed for Vlore, where we could check into the country before we coud head to Albania’s one and only marina 7nm away. Now I’ve got to say that Vlore Harbour has seen better days. In fact, Albania has seen better days. Anthony informs us that 70% of Albanians recently lost their entire life savings through some pyramid selling scheme that scammed them.

We finally got someone on the radio who told us to pull onto the crumbling jetty between the ferry from Bari and a tug. We made sure we had lots of fenders out to keep us off all the jagged bits.

Eventually a guy jumps on board and we start filling out forms. It turns out he is a shipping agent who disappears with our passports and forms. He comes back after a while nd asks for 75 euros for his services. We eventually get him down to 70. Bit hard to negotiate when he has your passports. He takes the money – no receipt, no paperwork exchanged. Welcome to Albania!

Then we head for the Orikum Marina, the only real marina in Albania. Its now getting dark so we charge over there, both engines running. We get there just on dark and tie up stern to. 14 euro a night is pretty good. /and the internet is not bad either. Other than that, its pretty quiet.

Next morning, we are up early and on our way. We have to head back to Vlore to check out. We get close and call up the port captain who refuses us entry. Umm. We sy we will stand off waiting for authority and he eventually calls us onto the jetty, where upon our agent reappears and clears us out. This time we get some paper work. And we are off once more to Greece.

Montenegro the Magnificent

Don’t you love the way “Montenegro” sounds – so exotic, so James Bond. Everybody we talked to said we must go to Montenegro. So who was I to argue.

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So after a practice run with Anthony and Denise (and Brad and Bec) up to Otuk Sunj and back, we had a farewell dinner with Brad and Bec (who were heading off home), we said our goodbyes (including the formal ones to the Port Master and Police) and cast off bound for Porto Montenegro, some 28nm away.

At first we had a lovely sail down the coast until we were about 5nm off turning into the Gulf of Kotor – the “Fjord of the Adriatic”. This magnificent series of three large basins is surrounded by mountains indescribably picturesque rising up from the sea to 1700m.

From here the wind whistled through the mountains, hitting 40kts at times and always on the nose. After turning the corner into the Gulf, it took a couple of hours to get across to Porto Montenegro.

Porto Montenegro gets the prize for the flashiest and best marina we have ever visited. We arrived at the change over to low season so it was 60 euro a night instead of double that. The marina sent a girl down to organise the check in to Montenegro – so easy. Then she organised a hire car for 45 euro a day so we could have a good look round as the wind was still up the next day.

The hire car guy dropped it off right at the boat and did all the paperwork right there and then. We were starting to like this place.

Having the car for a day was a real boon. There’s no need for a GPS – the country is so small and you can get lost for a little while but not for long. It was fantastic to get up into the mountains, the views are spectacular – just not so good getting down again. On our way down from the mountains, we took a road with 28 hair pin bends – one after the other. I’d done driving by the time I got to the bottom.

We’d booked in to get some duty free fuel (half price, thereby paying for our visit easily), but the fuel dock was having some maintenance done so we couldn’t get it until 2pm.

So we took the opportunity to do some more sightseeing – this time by boat. We checked out of the marina early and headed into the inner bays, where we went and saw the twin islands off Perast where there are two churches, one on each island. These islands are man made, evidently from the good people of Perast either dropping stones or filling captured pirate ships with stones and sinking them on the reef. Don’t you love a good pirate story. The churches’ construction was started in 1630 and the twin islands are well worth a visit. We also dropped by Kotor again, this time to see it from the sea.

Back at Porto Montenegro, we stopped off at the chanderly to buy some Nespresso coffee capsules, something we couldn’t get anywhere in Croatia, before filling our tanks to brimming and heading off south, towards Corfu and the Greek Islands.

For pictures of Montenegro, see https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200410823066058&type=1&l=e048eda94e

Dubrovnik – Take 3 (subtitled Brian plays Lets Stick Together)

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We made it back to Dubrovnik as darkness fell and kept going to Cavtat, as some weather was coming in and it was close to the airport for drop offs, as everyone was heading off (bar me). In their place, Anthony and Denise were arriving to help deliver La Mischief all the way to Turkey. 

Cas left early the next morning to spend a day in Rome with her good friend, Steffi. Mark, Leanne, Bec, Brad and I decided to head off to Dubrovnik and do the chair lift to the top of the mountain that backdrops the town. Quite spectacular. We met Anthony and Denise coming down as we were going up – they were spending another night in the old town before joining us the next day n board La Mischief.

We had just enough time to go up the mountain, have a quick bite to eat and a beer, before hopping on the ferry back to Cavtat so that Mark and Leanne could catch their flight to Athens (and then Santorini).

Next day, Anthony and Denise made their way down to Cavtat and onto La Mischief. There wasn’t a great deal of time to get settled before we all hopped on a bus and heading into Dubrovnik once again – for dinner and a free Brian Ferry concert.   The Excelsior Hotel was celebrating a milestone in Dubrovnik and they had organised a free Brian Ferry concert in the main square. Unfortunately, they hadn’t quite organised the weather and about half an hour before it was due to start, the heaven’s opened with a ripper of a thunderstorm.

All hell broke loose, but eventually the rain stopped and Brian started about an hour late. It was well worth waiting for. Mr Ferry can be a bit hit and miss but tonight he had a great band and he was on song. The rain started again about half way in and umbrellas went up everywhere. A nice couple standing next to us lent Brad and Bec their second umbrella so we were good. Lets Stick Together rocked the square away and he had the place jumping by the time he had to stop at midnight. And what a great place for a concert.

For pictures see https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200377235586392.1073741879.1620379103&type=1&l=46419b614a

Freo – Way to Go

6am in the morning, the alarm went and Steve, Mark and Leanne were all action. The rest not quite so keen to get up in the dark, get dressed (in purple) and wander up the hill to where Rade had set up his TV and was cooking breakfast.

We made it to Rade’s in time to see the bounce down at 6.30am – the Australian Rules Football Grand Final – Freo vs the Hawks.

Unfortunately things didn’t quite stay on track from this point on as Freo succumbed to grand final nerves and inexperience and lost out to a very determined Hawks. Still it was a great morning, Rade served a great breakfast and we all had a great time. Next year!

With our grand final breakfast over, it was time to say goodbye to Marinka, Rade and Adam and head back once again to Dubrovnik, some 55nm away. The things we do for football.

Pre Grand Final Party in Rade's Town
Pre Grand Final Party in Rade’s Town

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Croatian Hospitality A+

RadeWe arrived in Zavalatica to be greeted by Rade, a cousin of a good friend of ours, who helped tie us up to the wall, which we had all to ourselves. After some quick introductions and a beer or two, Rade whipped us home to meet his lovely wife, Marinka, and his Father in law, Marinko.

We were then treated to his wine (quite good) and his grappa (strong – not so nice!!!!), along with some of his olives (which were yummy evidently). Then it was off to see a big of Korcula by car. We headed over to Vela Luka, a largish harbour town, which looked well worth a visit. Along the way we drove through Rade’s vineyard and along a pleasant inland highway. After buying some fuel and stopping off for some cocktails at a nice bar we headed back to a wonderful feast that Marinka and Rade had prepared for us. What wonderful hospitality.

Over a few more glasses of Rade’s wine, we hatched up a plan to sail down to Dubrovnik to pick up Mark and Leanne, and then back to Rade’s to watch the AFL Grand Final at 6.30am in the morning. Then we would sail back to Dubrovnik to drop everyone off at the airport. Simple really. Rade fitted neatly into this plan as he could delay starting work and come along with us for the week.

So next morning at 6.30am, Marinka dropped Rade off along with enough wine to nearly sink the good ship La Mischief, and off we went. Rade was having a great time sitting up at the helm station taking in the wind and the sea as we bashed our way into 25kts.

It settled down as we entered the straight between Mjet and Peljesec and by the time we got to Dubrovnik, the seas were really calm and we anchored right in front of the main town – prime spot.

Safely anchored, we took the dingy into the old port and found Mark and Leanne waiting for us. With them safely aboard we had a full boat of 7 – but La Mischief has heaps of space so it worked really well.

Rade had a cousin who worked at the Excelsior , a rather posh hotel on the cliff face, so after grabbing pizzas in the old town we walked up there to sample his cocktails (which were rather excellent), whilst sitting on a balcony overlooking La Mischief in front of Dubrovnik all lit up at night. The hotel had a wall with pictures of all the rich and famous that had stayed there – no usual – Richard Burton and Liz Taylor etc. – funnily enough nobody asked us for our photos.

Next day, we spent a lovely morning, showing Brad, Bec and Cas around the old city, whilst Rade (who’d seen it all before) had a great time lazing about on La Mischief. We did the wall walk and Brad got a little infatuated with the waitress at the bar on top of the wall. Definitely a tick.

We finished the morning at a great restaurant overlooking the bay. Rade came and picked us up in the dingy after we got back and we spent the afternoon swimming and paddle-boarding.

Next day it was time to meander slowly back, visiting some of the highlights between Dubrovnik and Korkula. First stop was Otuk Lupid island, where we found a beautiful white sandy beach at Uvala Sunj. It was perfect, great beach, with a couple of bars behind, all a comfortable swimming distance from where we dropped the anchor. A perfect lunchtime stopover.

From here it was a short sail to Sipanska Sipan on Otuk Sipan, where we were planning to continue our Tour De Fork. We anchored off the restaurant where we were planning to eat and went off exploring the town. We were particularly interested in all these renovated buildings, quite big buildings. completely wrapped in plastic.

Then it was off to continue our Tour De Fork. Hopefully someone will help us out with the restaurant name as neither Google nor I can come up with its name. Anyway, whatever it was called it was damn good. We each ordered a main course, either fish or veal and then they proceeded to bring us out a hundred and one entrees, all brilliant. Couldn’t argue with any of them. When we finally got to the mains, we did have an argument about which was better – I think the veal won. Then it was onto desert and coffees. Somehow we didn’t sink the dingy on the way back to La Mischief.

Next morning it was up early and off to Mljet. Rade got a good laugh around our pronunciation of Mljet, but came round to our way of thinking in the end. Bit of an in joke with Howie.

The wind had started to pick up from the south so we had a lively sail up to the top of Mljet where it was lovely and protected. The top end of Mljet is a national park and is a wonderful wilderness. We found a beautiful anchorage in a bay near Pomena at the northern end of the island. It offered the perfect shelter with beautiful clear water around its edges. We anchored in the middle and backed into the shallow water tying up to a tree on the shore at the back.

It didn’t take long before Brad was jumping off the roof into the water, enticing Bec, Mark and Leanne to follow suit. Leanne was careful make sure she cleared the lifelines on the side of La Mischief, which made for an interesting face plant on her first attempt. The bay was dead calm so out came the paddle board and canoe and everyone had a great time whiling away the afternoon.

Next morning, after a swim, we were off back to Rade’s so we repay Rade and Marinka for their hospitality with an Australian BBQ on the back on La Mischief on the wall in Zavalatica. We arrived just after lunch, delivering Rade safely home. The girls took off with Marinka to do the food shopping, whilst the boys remarked the anchor chain and then had a bonding session over a beer or two, waiting for the girls to return.

We had a great night on La Mischief, with Marinko, Marinka’s dad coming along together with some other friends of Marinka and Rade.

Then it was off to bed to get some sleep before getting up early to watch the AFL Grand Final at Rade’s the next morning at 6.30am. (Yes….that is how far I’m behind in my Blogging – need to put in a big effort to catch up).

For pictures of Dubrovnik (Take 2) see https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200362833666353&type=1&l=904eb9555e

For pictures of our trip back to Korcula see https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200377239026478.1073741880.1620379103&type=1&l=1a1c5c6cd0

Marco Polo waz Here

DSC_0059After a wonderful sunny day at the Blue Lagoon, we awoke to overcast and windy conditions for our sail across to Korcula, 55nm away. We cut across the western ends of Brac and then Hvar and sailed toward the strait that separated Korcula from the mainland.

Korcula is the most populated of the Dalmatian Islands and one of the largest. It’s also home to some pretty good white wine. We headed for Korcula town, which the lonely planet guide describes as a stunner.Its another walled city, a mini Dubrovnik overlooking the channel that runs between Korcula and the mainland, complete with narrow marble streets and a row of restaurants and bars high up on the wall overlooking the sea.

Our plan was to anchor in Uvala Luka, half a mile from Korcula Town but it looked a bit yukky, especially when a big power boat pulled up an old fishing net on its anchor, so we headed around the corner and anchored at a very pleasant spot just in front of the old monastery at Otok Badija, another Ooroo recommendation.

Safely anchored, we thought about dinner and discovered one of the restaurants mentioned in a Sailing in Croatia tourist book we had picked up was a 15 minute dingy ride around the corner at a small village called Lumbarda. We made a reservation and set off to find Zure, no 64 on the Tour de Fork 2013 hit parade. After a bit of a walk, we found it tucked away up a small road well away from the touristy spots on the waterfront.

The food was exception, all home grown. We discovered salted fish – didn’t sound particularly nice, but the waiter insisted and he put us on a winner. The octopus dish was great as was the fish, caught fresh that day. And the turkish coffee at the end of the night was awesome – and I don’t drink black coffee.

Next day, we headed off to explore Korcula town. We had a great day wandering the streets, looking in shops, and visiting the Marco Polo museum, where we brushed up on one of history’s great explorers, who was supposedly born in Korcula according to the myriad of Marco Polo shops that were scattered around. Interestingly Marco brought back spaghetti to Italy from China amongst other things. At the end of the day we headed for the Massimo Bar to open so we could climb the ladder to the top of the turret where it was located and enjoy a couple of cocktails, which were delivered from below via a pulley system. Cool.

Next day, we thought we should go for a walk around the Island where the monastery stood. It took an hour or so to do the walking track that went around the coast. Then we had a footy game to listen to on the internet, as Freo flogged the Swans (yes…I know I’m miles behind in the blog – too busy having fun to write about it!)

My good friend Zeljko’s cousin, Rade lives on Korcula in a small village called Zavalatica and we had arranged to call in and see him on the Sunday. We pulled up anchor and headed around the island to Zavalatica, which is on the south side of Korcula. But the wind gods conspired against us and with 40kts on the nose we decided to turn back and wait a few hours. It was a good strategy as this gave the wind time to drop off a bit and once we made it around to the south side we had a very pleasant sail to Rade’s village.

We got there about 5pm to find Rade on the town wall ready to help us tie up.

For pictures of Korcula see https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200362836306419&type=1&l=3c81e296a5

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