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Australia 2008

Perth - Yulara via Connie Sue Highway, Old Gunbarrel Highway and Great Central Road

Leg details

April 24 - May 7, 2008
Perth - Boyagin Rock - Hyden - Norseman - Cocklebiddy - Rawlinna - Neale Junction Nature Reserve - Connie Sue Heather - Warburton - Heather Highway - Old Gunbarrel Highway (abandoned section) - Giles Meteorological Station - Great Central Road - Yulara

Leg map (click to enlarge in separate window)

On Thursday, April 24, 2008, we leave Perth for our long trip around Australia.
If all goes well we will only be back here in 18 month or so.

Due to the usual delays with last minute shopping, filling up all tanks and jerry cans (of course one of the four new jerry cans was leaking and had to be exchanged!) we only manage to leave in the late afternoon.
In addition Susi has to see a doctor to ensure the sore throat she has is just a cold and not some nasty bug.
Perfect time to be sick!

So Heidi and Peter drive ahead to Boyagin Rock near Brookton where we will join them later on.
They will prepare dinner so when we arrive we can just eat and Susi can go straight to bed.

All goes well at the doctors and soon after we are on the Brookton Highway leaving Perth behind us.
Strange feeling not to come back for such a long time.

We reach Boyagin Rock shortly after nightfall.
As we get organised Peter calls out that there are animals close to the camper.
We identify them as possums.
They are very friendly and check if we have some scraps for them.
But they are fussy customers too, they won't eat the salad leaves, barely put up with the tomato cut-off but love the mandarin slices.

After a cold night with temperatures just below 7°C we continue our trip on Friday morning.
Today is ANZAC day and we will have to be careful with the traffic, lots of people will leave Perth for the long weekend.
Shortly after leaving Boyagin Rock we receive an SMS that we can visit Garry & Wendy in Hyden and stay for the night.
We had already been on their farm in 2007 with Roger and Katarina and had been very impressed about their machinery.
Click here for that journal.
We announce our arrival for late afternoon and this way have some time on our hands to show Peter & Heidi some attraction of Hyden.

On the way we pass some large farm machines.
They sure use up lots of space on these narrow country roads ...

Near Hyden we deviate to "The Humps".
The weather is perfect for a hike, not a single cloud on the blue sky.
Then we stop at the best known feature of Hyden: The "Wave Rock".
The concave wall of granite reflects very prettily in the afternoon sun in its colourful strips.

The streaks of black algal plastered on the rock surface emphasise its shape.

Despite its name Wave Rock has nothing to do with the sea.
Wave Rock is a result of water weathering the rock at the base of the slopes bordering Hyden Rock.
Because the soil near the surface dries out in the dry season (summer) the alteration of the rock is slower there than deeper down, where there is water all year round.
Hence when the rotted rock is worn away a shoulder is shaped.

Then we head out to Garry & Wendy's place where we stay for a fun-filled evening with lots of singing.

On Saturday morning Wendy takes Heidi, Peter and Susi shopping into Hyden while Ruedi and Garry spend some time playing guitar.
After lunch its time to says good bye.
Thanks for having us again!
And don't forget to practice the "Burebüebli"-song we taught you!

We head out on the Hyden - Norseman Road and manage to reach Norseman just shortly after nightfall.
We stay at the local Caravan Park for the night so we can fill up all water-tanks in the morning.
The cloudless sky provides a great view of the stars, but it also means that the temperature drops to 7°C again ...

On Sunday morning, April 27, the weather does not look too promising.
Looks like the announced rain might finally arrive in Norseman too.
At the tourist information centre we receive the phone numbers for the Rawlinna Station (on the Connie Sue Highway) and also the Warburton Police Station (at the end of the same Highway).
When Ruedi calls them to find out what the road conditions are like he is told by Rawlinna Station that it is very dry and the stock is weak of thirst.
This is hard to believe after the unusual bad weather we have had in Perth over the last two weeks.
Rawlinna Station informs us that the track should be ok but we must be careful because of the animals on it.
They also ask Ruedi to inform Arubiddy Station when we leave Cocklebiddy so they know we are on the track.

We hit the Eyre Highway.
As usual there are lots of trucks on the Nullarbor ... a few campers ... and that's it.
We find that they have finished the long stretch under construction that we had to pass through the last two times we have come through here.
We travel on the now very comfortable stretch of bitumen until we reach to the Nalonya Repeater Station (near Cocklebiddy) where we stay for the night.

On Monday, April 28, we reach Cocklebiddy.
From here a station track leads north to Rawlina where the Connie Sue Highway to Warburton starts.
The whole stretch is actually an 850 km long, a small track without any supplies what so ever.
One has to be completely self sufficient for at least one week.
The track is travelled by about 50 cars each year.
It is quit remote ... and exciting!

After a last refuelling Ruedi calls the stations on the Satellite Phone to let them know that we will pass through their land today.

The track is rather rough with lots of rocky sections.
Ruedi has to drive very carefully to avoid tyre damage.

The weather is not good, rain is looming.
We are not keen on receiving rain as we have to pass clay-pans that will turn into mud in no time.

We pass Arubiddy Station and soon there are no more trees to be seen, we have really reached "The Nullarbor Plain".
But there are still sheep and also the old cattle to be seen.
We wonder what they live off ....

A few gates have to be passed ... some work for the co-driver ...

The first rain drops appear on our windscreen.
The clouds look thick and full of water but only a few of the drops actually reach the ground, the rest gets absorbed in the dry air before.

In the late afternoon we reach Rawlinna Train Station and find a cargo train there.

They have an issue with the radiator and have lost water.
While they fill up one of the four drivers shows us their living quarters.
Each of them has his own room, the kitchen is equipped with a microwave, the general area with a DVD player ... and all is spotless clean!

The men inform us that the "Indian Pacific" train will come through in half an hour.

We get the vehicles into position and get on the roof of the OKA to have a better view.
In Switzerland no-one would make a fuzz about a train, but out here it is something very special to actually see one.
Soon after the train arrives.
It drives really slowly and we have lots of time to have a closer look at it.

The Connie Sue Highway starts here at Rawlinna. The track was built by Len Beadell and its Gunbarrel Road Construction Party 1962.

Outside Rawlinna we reach Skylab Well where we stay for the night. Near this position the space station Skylab fell of the sky and killed one cow.
The local government as a joke instantly sued the American Government with 20 $ for littering.
The American president called and apoligised for the incident and the fine has actually been paid.
The sunset does not promise good weather and during the night we hear rain drops on the roof a few times.

On Tuesday morning the sky is grey and the clouds are hanging down deep.
We hope that further north the weather will be better.

The track is still very rocky but we can travel a bit faster than yesterday with an average speed of approx. 30 km/h.
Later on we leave the Nullarbor Plain and some trees appear.

Then the Connie Sue reaches a wide section which is now the Trans Access Road that connects to the Cable Haul Road.

This track is very soft and often we hit Bull Dust holes.
Still we can drive a bit faster now and can keep some 55 - 60 km/h.

At Giles Crossing we stop for lunch then continue on until Shed Tank.

There the Connie Sue separates again and the track stays good, no more Bull Dust.
But amazingly enough there is corrugation in some parts.

More and more the track is overgrown, not too much traffic has come through here recently ....

Susi and Heidi are happy with the flowers they find on the way.

We continue on until we reach BM XP54 where we decide to stop for the night.

After a warm night (20.6°C) with scattered sprinkles of rain we wake up to an overcast day.
It is already Wednesday, April 30, and we head off early to catch up with the planned travel distances.
But today the track is much better and we can keep a speed of close to 70 km/h.

We reach Neale Junction Nature Reserve and shortly after we reach the Len Beadell Marker.

This is the junction of the Connie Sue Highway and the Anne Beadell Highway. Also the Ann Beadell Highway has been built by Len Beadell. It leads roughly from Coober Pedy in the east to Kalgoorlie in the west.

We leave our comments in the guest book that was provided by Connie Sue Beadell in 2005.
Fancy using the guest book that was provided by Len's daughter!
After all the reading of Len Beadell's books we have done (our favourite is still "Too long in the bush") we find it interesting to travel one of the roads that were built by him and his Gunbarrel Construction Party.

We also hide a geocache for David and Genine Handall from OKA 131 that will be coming crossing over to Western Australia on the Anne Beadell towards the end of June.
Good luck in finding it!

Then we continue on the Connie Sue.
The track now is narrow, not much changed since it was built in 1962 ..... except of the bad corrugation that is now present in certain parts!

Then we reach the sand dunes.

Some bad washouts have to be navigated.

Also near Pt. Lilian we can see that on the map the track splits .... looks like a large sand dune.

When we reach that spot Peter and Heidi take one track, we take the other one.
We get over the sand dune without much trouble.
Peter and Heidi encounter a bad washout that cannot be driven and have to find a way over the side of the track.
But luckily all goes well.

The temperature has reached its highest reading so far with 26.5°C.
This is more to our liking than running around in pullovers.

In a sandy section we find a Thorny Devil sitting on the road.
It shows a strange behaviour when walking, as if it is simulating being a leave.
But once we get bit too close for its comfort it walks away quickly.
Click here to view the movie.

The track after that sand dune is very badly corrugated and all shakes and rattles.
Then we reach the beginning of the Sheriff Ranges where we decide to stay for the night.

Ruedi checks out some traces of grease on the front axel of the OKA but all is well.

For Susi and Heidi there is a lot to be checked out too ...

When we wake up on Thursday, May 1, we are greeted by sunshine.
This is the first day without a cloud on the sky on this trip.
It is still a bit fresh with 12.5°C but the day promises to be a beautiful one.

We continue on through the sand dunes and gibber plains.
The corrugation at certain section is really bad.

Near Cooper Hill, where we see a group of dromedaries.
We had seen their footprints for a while and assumed that there must be water somewhere close by.
There are also lots of birds, which indicates water too.

Shortly after we reach Cooper Hill Bore, a bore marked on the Hema map as freshwater bore, approx. 45 m down.
We want to find out how good the water is and get organised.

We need a container that fits down the narrow pipe which we find in a 1.5 litre lemonade bottle.
But the bottle now also it has to weigh more than 1.5 kg as otherwise it will not fill with water.
This is solved by attaching some massive tent pegs on it.
Next is to mark our rope so we know how far down we have reached in the pipe.

Then we let it down.
After only 35 m we hear it hitting liquid and the bottle filling up. Easy to be heard through the pipe.
Carefully the bottle is pulled up and the water in it really is freshwater.
Besides a couple of swimming obstacles it is only slightly coloured and has a reasonable quality.
In an emergency we would even drink it like that.

By now the temperature has reached 27.5°C, the first day where one can consider wearing shorts ... things are getting better.
We close the bore again and continue on to Hanns Tabletop Hill.

The track is very badly corrugated and we can only move forward with approx. 20 km/h.
Then we reach the pretty little hill and get on top of it.

It is the only larger elevation for miles and miles.
The views are great.

Also the rocks are very interesting and colourful.

In one section some swallow have built their nest.
And of course flowers for the ladies ....
We are surprised to find so many flowers in this rather harsh environment.

There is also a large Wild Fig (Ficus platypoda var. minor) that has squeezed its roots into the crevices.
The fruit is ripe when it turns to yellow or red-brown.
Ruedi tries a bit but is not impressed about its taste.
But it was an important source of food to the Aboriginal People and it is always good to know the edible plants ... one never knows ....

Hanns Tabletop Hill is a nice place and would make a perfect place for a sunset and camp.
But for us it is too early and we hit the track again.

The track gets even a bit worse.
It now has some nasty washouts, some of them only visible when one is virtually on top of them.
We also pass some Aboriginal Land with pretty clear signs.

We reach Harkness Gorge, where we stay for the night.
A beautiful sunset over the gorge and petty stars is the last thing we see before we fall asleep.

The sun is up early and so are we.
It is Friday and we want to reach Warburton today.

We continue on the track that is again very corrugated.
Mackenzie Gorge and the drive over the ridge at Manton Knob give us great views over the wide and open country.

As we cruise along the sand dunes Heidi tells us that they just passed a Thorny Devil.
Shortly after we find it sitting in the middle of the road.
It is coloured yellow to match the Spinifex surrounding it.

Some more flowers for the ladies ... some just pretty, some really interesting.

Soon after the Connie Sue hits the Great Central Road.
It looks really funny to see the "highway" (one-lane track) and the "road" (a four-lane dirt road).

In Warburton we fill up and informing the local police that we have arrived safe and sound.

When checking on the road conditions we are informed that the road leaving directly from Warburton towards the Gunbarrel Highway is in such a bad state that even the locals do not recommend driving it. We have to make a 120 km detour via the Heather Highway.
So we leave Warburton on the Great Central Road in westerly direction.
It's almost a culture shock when the first traffic comes towards us after 3 days in thee bush .....

Then we reach the Heather Highway where we leave the Great Central Road heading north.
The track is in pretty good shape.

We reach a T-junction and turn towards Tjirrkarli.
And as printed in the "Lonely Planet".... "the road immediately deteriorates and is badly corrugated".
Let's hope they are wrong with the rest .... "all you can do is slow down and crawl and ride the bumps one by one."

We find a spot for the night and set up camp.
With the day-temperatures having reached 29°C it is time to have a cold shower and change into shorts again.

On Saturday, May 3, the sunrise is very colourful.
With some clouds on the sky we are not sure what the weather will be today.
Soon the sun breaks through and the temperature rise from the 14.6°C over night to 31°C by 11 AM and later on even reach 32.5°C.

We continue on Heather Highway.
It is a pretty stretch of road but the track has suffered.
Some of the washouts make driving a bit of a challenge.
One time Ruedi gets the OKA in a miserable situation has to reverse back and find a better approach.
Click here to view the movie.

Then we reach the Old Gunbarrel and turn east.
The Gunbarrel Highway was the first east-west connection through Central Australia.
It was the first of Len Beadell's Highways and was built in the late 50's.
The track gets even smaller and the corrugation increases.
Sometimes there are 2 - 3 extra tracks where people have tried to drive around the bad sections.

At Mt. Samuel we stop to enjoy the great view from the lookout.

The water at Mangi Rockhole, which is described by "Lonely Planet" as "....crystal-clear water ..." is green and a dead Dingo lays beside it.
Hmmmm ... only to be used in emergencies ....

The track changes a lot, from excellent on sand to extreme tilting washouts around Mt. Charles.

The corrugation last until we reach Jackie Junction.

At Jackie Junction we turn north-west onto the larger road.
It does not take long and we encounter oncoming traffic, strange feeling after these days of solitude on the tracks.

Today we have to bake bread so the cooks ask for driving to be stopped early.
We find ourselves a small group of trees where se set up camp for the night.

Due to the ant and termite mounts around Ruedi ensures that no grass touches the cabin.
We have had ants moving in before and don't want to repeat that experience.

The termite mounts around here are funny looking, they have like a "chimney" on top of the mount ... maybe some kind of ventilation pipe?

On Sunday, May 4, we have breakfast with fresh bread.

Then Ruedi discovers a flat tyre caused by a small wooden stick, just large enough to cause a problem ....
But it's fixed in no time and we are off on the road again.

The road is wide and well maintained and feels more like a highway ....
The quality of the track stays like this until we reach the turn-off to Giles.
Then the Gunbarrel Highway turns back to the small track through the country, sometimes corrugated, sometimes meandering through sand dunes .... very pretty. We are now on its abandoned section.

Large areas must have burned, some a while ago some only just recently.
But it is amazing to see how nature fights back.

The weather is a bit overcast but by 11 AM we have already reached 32°C (the max. is 33°C in the afternoon).
We are quite happy that the sun is not in full swing today ...

When we stop for lunch we find this interesting grass and wonder, what or who covered it with sand like this.

Every so often we pass some dromedaries.
They look healthy and well fed.
But they also show the same behaviour pattern as kangaroos show: they have a tendency waiting along the track and then running straight in front of the vehicles!

We reach the sand dunes again and travel through some pretty Desert Oaks.

Here too some fire has destroyed some areas.
The remaining tree stumps leave lots of space for the imagination ... here a squirrel ...

Then we reach the first tree blazed by Len Beadell when he came through here with his Gunbarrel Construction Party some 50 years ago.
There are a few of them and as good tourist do, we have to take pictures of all of them.
We stay at the tree close to Lake Christopher for the night.

Ruedi refuels the tanks using his "shaker-hose-pump" to transfer the diesel from the jerry cans.
The hose has a metal peace in it that if shaken generates a vacuum in the hose thus sucking up the fluid.

As there are almost no flies we decide to have dinner outside and enjoy the nice evening.
The temperatures are very comfortable and a light breeze makes it even more enjoyable.
The light attracts lots of insects and we can watch Praying Mantis' chasing their own shadow.

On Monday morning the sun shines into the camper and wakes us up.
We enjoy another breakfast with fresh bread and marmalade; from tomorrow on it will be again back to muesli for breakfast.

A Praying Mantis is stuck between our mozzie-screen and the window and we have time to watch it.

The tyre that was fixed yesterday has lost its tyre plug and has lost its air again.
Quickly Ruedi "implants" another plug and soon we are on the track again.

We find a small track leading towards Lake Christopher and follow it.
The lake is dry but we are surprised to find that it would be a freshwater lake had there been any water.
It is not exactly what you expect out here in thee middle of the desert.

We reach Mt. Forest and then drive along the Rawlinson Ranges.
The next Len Beadell tree has to be photographed ....

Along the track we find pretty blooming wattles and Ruedi gets some for Susi's vase.
We also find some animal borrows ... and the inevitable remains of deceased animals too .. it is a rough terrain and these things happen ....

As we travel towards Yulara on the spur of the moment we decide to "conquer" the Confluence S 25° O 128°.
What is a confluence?
Check out this link:

We choose a spot on the map where the track is as close as possible to the confluence point.
Shortly after the turn-off to Lapaku we reach the point, leave the track and hide the trucks in the bushes.
From here we will have to walk some 4.5 km through the bush.

This is Aboriginal country and with the permit we have we are not really supposed to leave the track.
But we will be on foot and hope that they won't spot us in the few hours we will require to get to the confluence point and back to the vehicles again. Most likely no-one would care anyway.

Because of the warm day we only leave the vehicles at 3 PM (still 32°C).
We are well equipped with hats, compass, GPS, lots of water and wearing long trousers because of the Spinifex we will have to cross.

Five camels in the desert ...?

On the way to the confluence point we don't encounter any unexpected obstacles and reach it in the planned time.

As per instructions on the confluence web page we take the photos of the confluence point and the GPS ...

... all four directions ...

... the group picture is a bit of a challenge as we didn't bring a tripod, but we manage.

After the picture session for the report on the confluence web page we head straight back.
If all goes well we should reach the vehicles at nightfall.

To make the walk back a bit more interesting we decide to try to find our way back just by using the compass and orienting on trees and nature features.

But it gets dark about 10 minutes before we reach the vehicles and we are forced to get the GPS out to find the vehicles.
We would have missed the vehicles by approx. 350 meters which even in daylight would have been too much to spot them in the bush.
Lousy scouts!
Exhausted but happy we have a well deserved warm shower and soon after dinner all are in bed.

The night stays rather warm with 19.9°C.

On Tuesday, May 6, we reach the end of the old abandoned section of the Gunbarrel and reach the Great Central Road.

At the Warakura Roadhouse Ruedi tries to contact the police to let them know that we have finished our outback trip but as Warakura Police Station is unattended he has to call Warburton to let them know.

Then we drive down to the Giles Meteorological Station.
For more details on the station and its history please click here .

We would like to see the launch of a weather balloon.
We have missed the first one and decide to wait for the second one being dispatched at 2:45 PM.
Thanks to the time adjustment of 45 minutes the time is much shorter until then.

Here too Len Beadell is very present.
The original Gunbarrel Construction Party Grader and some original plaques are on display.

Len surveyed the area in 1956 as part of the Gunbarrel Highway.

Also some rockets that were launched from Woomera into the area that was opened up by Len Beadell's "Highways" are on display.

The visitor centre has a nice display of Len Beadell memorabilia drawings too.
As we enjoy the great display of old meteorological exhibits a meteorologist comes and invites us to have a look at the station.

More than an hour he explains the various programs they use on the PCs, the balloon and also the local weather patterns.
Then he invites us to attend the balloon launch at 2:45 PM.

On the way back we see some more funny things .... it shows the great humour of the people out bush.

Punctually we are back and are greeted by the manager of the station, who gives us a bit more info on the station itself.
Then another meteorologist, John, takes over and takes us though the launch.

Because the balloon is filled with highly flammable hydrogen John is covered in protective clothes.
The balloon and the surrounding area are sprayed with water to prevent an electronic discharge that could set the balloon alight.

Once all is set John gets the various computers and their programs ready.
The balloon will be traced by radar once it is up in the air, but the initial trace will have to be done by John.
He sets the manual search instrument into the direction where he expects the wind to blow the balloon.

Then it is time to launch the balloon.
In the various locations around the world the balloons are released more or less at the same time so the gained data can be compared.
John has a window of a few minutes and is anxious not to miss it.
And off it goes .... quickly John searches the sky with the tool, finds the balloon, gets its position and transmits it to the radar.
From now on the radar will keep its lock on the balloon and send the data of the balloon's flight to the computer.
The balloon can be traced for approx. 15 - 20 minutes depending on how fast it goes how high up.
The radar can track it until the balloon explodes or until something interferes and the lock on the balloon is lost (a flock of birds, a willy willy, a plane ...)

While the radar tracks the route of the balloon we can join John outside where he gathers other data for the statistics.

First he reads the temperature of the ground, 5 and 10 cm below the surface being the ones that change during the day, 50 and 80 cm below surface being the ones that only change with the seasons (the one at 80 cm showed 28°C ....).

Also the rate of evaporation is measured.

The amount of hours the sun shines is an interesting one:
a glass bowl generates a focus point that burns a trace into cardboard with a scale on it thus leaving an exact amount of time when the sun was shining.

John also checks the rain gauge and the temperature of the air, which is measured electronically and also with a thermometer, just in case the electronics should fail.

Then it is time to return to the office and have a look at the trail of the balloon.

We very much enjoy this additional hour of information and interesting discussion.
Thanks to all of you for sparing so much of your work-time for us.

It is already close to 4 PM when we finally leave the meteorological station.
So we decide to head a bit further to a place that we had already used in 2006 for an over-night stay.

As we drive on the Great Central Road we get crossed by another camper and the co-driver of it gets all excited and waves.
We have also noticed that it is a left hand driven camper.
So we alert Heidi & Peter via radio and ask them to flag the camper down.
As we head back towards them we see that already they are talking.
They are French/Swiss and just on the way to the Connie Sue Highway.
After a bit of a news-exchange we continue on and settle down close to the Schwerin Mural Crescent for the night.

During dinner we hear noises outside, cracking of wood, foot-steps?
We get the flashlight, turn off the light and have a closer look at the vicinity.
A Dingo strolls past, not disturbed at all by the ray of the flashlight.
It is heading for Heidi & Peter's vehicle, probably smelling the stove where the meat for dinner was cooked on.
But it does not attempt to climb on the table, just strolls past.
Soon after we hear hauling, first one, then two, then a trio.

The hauling goes on later on and gives a nice background to the many stars on the sky.

We set the alarm to 4 AM of Wednesday, as we want to see some of the shooting stars generated when earth traverses the asteroid belt of Healy.
We are not disappointed; we see many shooting stars in a very short period, some of them with a tail.
Then we crawl back under the blanket and have a snooze until we are waken up by crows walking around on the roof of the OKA.
As it is time to get up anyway we don't mind.

We hit the Great Central Road again, drive past another Len Beadell tree and cross the border into the Northern Territory.

A bit puzzled we study the No Grog / No Drugs sign and are not sure if we now should empty our beer cans or what is expected from us.
In the permit is does not explain what to do, but it does also not prohibit to drive through with alcohol on board.
So we decide to drive past Docker River and just not stop at all in the vicinity of Aboriginal Communities.

But we still stop for an Aboriginal family that has a flat tyre and is stranded along the road.
But they are fine and we can continue.

The drive through that area is very pretty.
We also like the "road art" in the side of the road ...

As we drive along the road we start seeing a smoke cloud in the area of the Uluru - Katja Tjuta National Park and wonder, what is burning.

Then we reach the Katja Tjuta (The Olgas) and after pumping the tyres (the first time since we left the Nullarbor ....).
Katja Tjuta is pretty as always, no smoke here .....

Then, towards Uluru, we find out what is causing the smoke: the rangers are conducting controlled burnings.

We continue on, stop at the various tourist stops and then head to Yulara where we book in at the caravan park.

On Thursday we have a quiet day with washing, a bit of cleaning, emails before we continue on to the MacDonnell Ranges, but that will be the next trip ....



No liability for timeliness, integrity and correctness of this document is accepted.
Last updated: Friday, 08.02.2019 8:51 PM

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