Dec 07 2014

Alaska

 

Alaska – space, tranquillity, bears….

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In Alaska, we were riding next to glaciers, camping with bears that were lurking around the tent, rode to the most northern part of Alaska where we froze like hell and gazed upon some of the most beautiful landscapes. Additionally, whilst riding through Alaska, we encountered much wildlife such as Humpback whales jumping well above the sea level, sea otters resting on ice floes, eagles flying above our heads, etc.. May I also add that Alaska served us with the best hamburger we have ever had, and like always, we met some exceptionally welcoming people.

Arriving in Anchorage, Alaska, and taking our first deep breaths from the outstandingly fresh air, was an incredible feeling. Anchorage was untouched by litter and filth and this certainly put a big smile on my face. We realised quickly that Alaska must be one of the cleanest countries in the world. The traffic was remarkably organised, every driver seemed to follow the traffic rules flawlessly. India and Alaska must be the two countries with most differences on this Earth; both are extraordinary countries but in their own ways.

The oversized roads and the ridiculously massive cars in Anchorage amazed us ‘big time’. Also the sparse traffic was something ‘new’ to us and after a long time in Asia we had to get used to following traffic rules again… last time we did that was probably before we left Europe, a long time ago. It was actually quite hard to get into this habit again, but the worst was that we became extremely bored by following the traffic rules. We even found ourselves begin to miss riding in India…. never thought we would miss the traffic in India, but so we did.

Most of the time in Alaska we spent camping in the wild, with bears close by. It was not only exciting but also sometimes very terrifying. We also experienced many cold and rainy nights, especially when riding up to the north of Alaska, Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay).

 

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The shipping from New Delhi to Anchorage in Alaska wasn’t as easy as we expected. The shipping company in India had told us that it would only take five days, but it took nearly four weeks, which was very frustrating and also very costly.

When we researched shipping companies we thought we picked the best one, this was obviously not true. The shipping company kept telling us that they were very experienced with shipping motorbikes, which we naively believed. The weight of the crates they built for the bikes were probably heavier than the bikes themselves, which certainly increased the cost.

The bikes had to be tied down twice as the first time they used straps that were too fragile and snapped. Honestly when we left the bikes at the airport, we thought it would be the last time we saw our lovely BMWs, so we felt quite devastated and a bit lost for a while.

 

A long flight from New Delhi, India to Anchorage, Alaska

The flight to Alaska took a very long time. We had booked the cheapest flight we could possibly find between New Delhi to Anchorage, which of course comes with a few stops. The stop after London was Houston, where we of course missed the connection flight to Denver, and therefore ended up sleeping on the airport’s floor, which was a pain in the backside as it was freezing cold. Anyway, the next day we were on the way again, we had one stop in Denver before we arrived to Anchorage. ‘Brrr’ we were freezing, probably ‘only’ 20 degrees Celsius, which might not sound that cold, but being used to around 40 degrease Celsius made it feel ‘icy’ to us.

We had quite a few wow moments the first couple of days in Alaska while walking around in grocery shops. My god all that food that we had missed and RED WINE… we felt that we were in heaven. Though I love Indian food it sometimes felt that you had the same spices for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We were also very surprised about the laid-back people in Alaska. They were not at all the stereotype of loud bragging Americans that we had heard of. Neither did we expect people to be so interested in us, instead we thought we would be anonymous, kind of melt in. But again very nice people approached us, when we were on the bikes.

We had to wait quite a few days in Anchorage for the bikes to arrive. One of the owners of the BMW shop let us stay in his house for free, which was incredibly kind. There were three very nice young guys who lived there and we had a great time with them ☺

At last when the bikes arrived we were ecstatic, like children on Christmas. I can’t describe how much I had missed my bike. When having the crater in front of me I didn’t know how fast I could open it. I even hugged the bike when it was out of the box and I couldn’t stop smiling for the whole day.

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The Motorcycle shop had received all the spare parts sent from BMW for Anders bike and also a windscreen and two yellow Ortlieb Saddle bags from Touratech Nordic. These bags were such a luxury after our old scrappy roller bags that had been leaking like sieves when raining, especially Anders’ bag.

Unfortunately the fork seals on my bike had started to leak and needed to be sorted out, plus Anders had to replace all the stuff that was broken after his head-on collision up in the Himalayas. The Motorcycle Shop in Anchorage kindly let us use their tools and garage to do that, which we were tremendously thankful for.

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Here we are with Brendon the owner of The Motorcycle Shop in Anchorage.

 

Anchorage to Seward

After we had sorted out the bikes we left Anchorage for Seward, which is situated at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula. The drive from Anchorage to Seward was incredibly scenic, and the road condition was just perfect. Seward is one of Alaska’s oldest and most scenic communities so we really enjoyed staying there for a few days.

After Seward, we decided to ride to Whittier, which was not a long ride. Riding to Whittier we went through Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel – the longest highway tunnel in North America (2.5 miles). The one-lane tunnel is shared by cars and trains travelling in both directions.

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Anderson Memorial Tunnel – the longest highway tunnel in North America (2.5 miles)

After a very nice ride we arrived to Whittier, which is a tiny town. We pitched the tent outside the town and honestly, we were a bit worried that bears would come and eat us during the night. Luckily, we were still there the morning after. ☺

The second day we woke up to a clear blue sky and decided to take a glacier cruise. Not only did we see massive glaciers, but also Humpback whales jumping well above the water and landing with a huge splash. These huge mammals playing around in the water was an incredible scene to watch. There were also sea otters that were either floating on their back in the water or resting on ice floes.

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Denali Highway

After Whittier it was time travel North. We stopped one night in Anchorage before we started our journey to the very North of Alaska. We decided to ride the Denali Highway as people had informed us it was a great ride.

Travelling the Denali Highway is truly a path through awesome wilderness, which we love. We had some stunning views of mountains, and vast stretches of endless wilderness. Unfortunately, the weather was as bad as it could be a summer’s day, very cold and with lots of rain. Anyway, it was a good gravel road with perfect amounts of potholes, which allowed us to enjoy the day despite the rain.

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On the Denali Highway, Anders thought he saw a wolf and turned around to try to get a photo of it but he wasn’t quick enough.

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Me trying to get a nice photo of the stunning scenery.

In the middle of nowhere we came to a restaurant, Tangle River Inn, where we had the nicest burger ever. My boots were leaking pretty badly, so we decided to stop in order for me to change socks and put plastic bags on. The feeling of getting warm and dry feet was just awesome.

The very wet and cold day on the bikes was followed by a very wet and cold night in the tent. In the morning we realised that Anders’ panniers had leaked and were full of water, so we had to take everything out and dry it. Some of our spare parts had started to corrode such as wheel bearings, sprockets, nuts and bolts…. so fucking annoying. When at last we were ready to leave, I noticed that I had a flat tyre… A bad night sleep, leaking panniers, no breakfast, puncture, rain, cold…. we both started to feel that we’d had enough, but on a trip like ours you have to push on through, unlike when you’re at home and you can just pour yourself a glass of wine and put your feet up. However, we sorted out the puncture without speaking to each other… thought it was best not to…. Some days you just want to forget about, but for some strange reason these are the days you can’t get out of your mind, but when time passes you can have a good laugh about it.

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Drying nuts and bults

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Flat tyre

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, after a very long day we arrived, 8pm, to Fairbanks and Svens’s Basecamp, which is a brilliant place to camp and meet likeminded people. At the camp we met an American guy who had just come back from Deadhorse. Before heading there he had previously changed his tyres and chain for the trip ahead. Both Anders and I had pretty bad tyres but thought that we could do the 990 miles (1594 km) before changing them… ok stupid I know, but on a trip like this you really try to get the most out of everything. However, the guy still had his old front tyre that was far better than mine so I was super happy when he offered his old tyre to me.

 

990 miles (1594 km) on Dalton Highway, Fairbanks – Deadhorse – Fairbanks

Dalton Highway begins just North of Fairbanks in Alaska and ends at Deadhorse. It is Alaska’s most remote and challenging road, with little in the way of highway services. The road is mostly gravel, and you need to watch out for rocks, dust, potholes, trucks and road maintenance.

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After a few days in Fairbanks, changing my tyre and purchasing food for the trip ahead we started the journey towards Deadhorse. We had been warned about the road that was supposed to be in very poor condition and very, very dangerous. We also had been told to watch out for the crazy truck drivers… Honestly, the road wasn’t that bad, and we didn’t have any problems with ‘crazy’ truck drivers. I guess after spending time on the roads in India, especially up in Ladakh, these roads felt like a piece a cake. Ok, when it was rainy it was very slippery but it was such a wide road, with hardly any traffic so we couldn’t really complain about the road.

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The crazy truck drivers that weren’t crazy at all.

We made a short stop at the Polar circle, where we took the traditional photo. Next stop was at Marion Camp at Coldfoot, where we camped for the night. Just before we arrived at the campsite we saw our first black bear. It just sat next to the road and looked at us. Later in the evening, I must admit that I felt a little bit worried about bears when I crawled into the tent but as usual, when camping, I slept like a baby. We only stayed one night as our appetite for remoteness had been fed, so we couldn’t wait to get out there. That day we only did 193 miles (166 km) before we stopped for the night. We had figured out that we could go from Galbrite Lake to Deadhourse and then back to Marion Camp at Coldfoot in one day 385 Miles (620 km)… if we were lucky with the roads and weather.

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In the morning we woke up 5.30 am freezing like hell. We hurriedly packed the tent and set off towards Deadhorse. When the recurring pain in our fingers and toes from the cold got too bad, we had to stop. To get warm again, we put music on and danced, yes we actually danced in the middle of the road to a Bruno Mars song. This might sound completely mad, but at the time it just felt like the most normal thing we could do to get warm…. and we had a laugh which helps tremendously when you struggle.

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Click to view us ‘dancing’ on Dalton Highway, Alaska

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHF94vVJzcg

Deadhorse

Deadhorse has a polar climate. During the winter the coldest recorded wind chill here was -102°F (-74°C)! Luckily, we were there during summertime. The official population only consists of 25 people. However, it has a non-permanent population of 2,000-3,000 employees who works for the oil industry.

When we finally arrived in Deadhorse, numb from the cold, we found a shop, probably the only one in town. We both decided to treat ourselves to some warm socks, which felt heavenly when we put them on. We also found a restaurant, which probably also was the only in town, where we had a nice meal together with all the workers. We were advised to not camp anywhere around Deadhorse as there were Polar bears around, which are extremely dangerous.

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Hungry, dirty, frozen and very happy we at last arrived to Deadhorse 🙂

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The only signpost of Deadhorse we found on the way back south again. This 20 miles from Deadhorse.

After a couple of hours warming up in the restaurant, we finally decided to travel the 388 km (241 miles) back to Coldfoot. On the way back I hit a pothole at high speed so my rim became even more uneven than previously. The first bit of damage on the rim came from Mongolia, when I hit a big rock, ouch, I remembered the pain in my leg when I hit the ground, and managed to get my leg under the foot peg. This gave me a 300 mm long bruise.. ouch, ouch…. Anyway, this time, when hitting the pothole I managed to not fall, which I am incredibly happy about. So from that moment I had an extra bumpy ride back. That day, we were on the roads for a total of 14 hours, when we finally arrived to Coldfoot we were very exhausted. We pitched the tent, went to sleep without anything to eat, as we were just too exhausted.

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We had a very cold night here

In the morning we slept until 9am, which is very unusual, but well needed. We packed up and headed back to Fairbanks. The only thing that can be a little bit boring in Alaska is the lack of roads. This results in having to travel back and forth on the same road repeatedly. However, looking on the bright side is that you actually see a different view when coming from the other direction.

We stayed in a very rainy Fairbanks for a few days, waiting for better weather. But by day three we gave up and headed towards Tok in the pouring rain. Tok is a tiny little town with minimal architectural influence and identity. However, it serves the best pizzas and burgers, so who really cares about the architecture… We stayed in a wonderful campsite, which was situated in the most beautiful forest. Anyway we stayed an extra day just because I was so fascinated by this forest.

Next stop was Chicken, such a fun name, isn’t? Chicken is a community founded on gold mining; it is one of few surviving gold rush towns in Alaska. Even today people (mostly tourists) come to Chicken and pan for gold. There are only about 17 citizens in Chicken, which makes it a super tiny place. We camped one night for free behind a small pub before we rode the ‘Top of the World Highway’. This is supposed to have incredibly beautiful scenery, but again we had really bad weather, with the rain pouring down the whole way to the Canadian border. So unfortunately, we did not really see any scenic views.

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Sum up

Alaska was freezing cold, it was raining on and off (most on) and bears were lurking behind every bush (at least that is what we thought). Honestly, we’d been freezing a lot, especially during the nights while camping, but it has definitely been worth it. We certainly enjoyed the tranquillity of Alaska, it was undoubtedly a needed rest for our souls after spending such a long time in hectic Asia. The scenery in Alaska is just outstanding. Additionally, we both absolutely loved the fact that it never went dark. You could ride without any problem until midnight, it’s like back in Sweden in summertime, loved it, loved it, loved it.

 

Random photographs from Alaska

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The 48-inch trans-Alaska oil pipeline is truly the man-made wonder of the Last Frontier, traversing 800 miles (1300 km)

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Beautiful scenery on the way to Whittier

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Glacier, Whittier

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Glacier, Whittier

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Denali Highway, nice dirt road when it for a minute didn’t rain.

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Tranquility, Denali Highway

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The 48-inch trans-Alaska oil pipeline is truly the man-made wonder of the Last Frontier, traversing 800 miles (or 1300 km) of frozen tundra, boreal forest, 800 rivers and streams, three major earthquake faults and three rugged mountain ranges.

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Anders washing up in water from the glacier and he complained about that it was too cold… Later I washed my hair in the water and my head is still trying to defrost after a few months…

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Don’t trust a navigator that tells you that there will be a petrol station at a certain point…

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Leaving Whittier

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Through whole Alaska I used plastic bags on my feet… works fine 🙂

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Jepp there we were riding on Dalton Highway 🙂

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We came across some funny names on Restaurants

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The only petrol station ….

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Fun dirt road, nice scenery, a BMW…. what else do you need 🙂

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In Deadhorse all the parking spaces had these heating things for the cars…

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Just wonder if they have spilt oil on this hill…

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This is how I remember Anchorage… clean and organised.

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Beer game in Anchorage was fun 🙂

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for once we are trying to plan a few days ahead.

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Found the little bugger that made my tyre flat.

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Tyre fixed ready to go.

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A very nice guy Sho from Japan that we met on Dalton Highway…. He had walked from Canada and was on his way to Deadhorse, very impressive.

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On this day we couldn’t find anywhere to camp so we knocked on the door to a house and asked if we could camp in their garden, and so we did 🙂

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Yes this is the perfect way of living.

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It might not look that cold in this picture but my god it really was brrrr

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Ok now I get why it is so clean in Alaska.

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Everything seems to be big in Alaska

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We really met some amazing people in Alaska 🙂

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This was one of the roads people warned us for ????

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Anders with Marc from France who we met in Tok (very blur photo but unfortunately it is the only we have)

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The first Black bear we saw in Alaska.

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Just outside Deadhorse we saw some muskox.

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There were lots of mosquitoes in Alaska and some where huge 😉

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14 comments

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    • Doug & Janet on 7th December 2014 at 19:33
    • Reply

    Hi nomadic friends.

    We’ve loved following your adventures and hugely enjoyed admiring your beautiful photos. We’re following in your footsteps and off for 3 weeks to Vietnan and Cambodia in a few weeks.

    I thought you were heading to Africa and then South America after India, so a surprise to get your blog from Alaska. It sounds like it was a few months ago now.

    Your middle of the road boogie was a gem. Nice moves biker dudes!

    Take care both of you on your epic globetrotting travels.

    Love, merry Xmas and a happy, safe 2015

    Doug and Janet x

    1. Hi Doug and Janet,

      Hope you both are well.

      We thought the timing with the season in Alaska was perfect so we changed our planes and decided to do the Americas from Alaska to Argentina before Africa… that’s one of the benefits of not have to much planned and be flexible.

      Hmm glad you enjoyed the moves on the road, cannot really call that a dance though 🙂

      Hope you’ll have a fab time in Vietnam and Cambodia, we loved Cambodia and the people had such a nice humour.

      Merry x-mas and Happy New Year
      Anders and Petra x

  1. Loved the dance moves. What a journey you have had.

    1. Haha totlepedal, yeah these dance moves… not sure they can be called dance moves but we enjoyed ourselves and we got warm 🙂

      1. That is two out of the three purposes of dancing anyway.

  2. Nice story and beautiful pictures, it remember us also on our amazing adventure in Alaska.Enjoy the rest of your trip and we hope to see you on the road again. Ride safe…
    Big hugs marc and carina

    1. Thanks Marc and Carina for your comment. I bet it reminded you about beautiful Alaska, I really liked that country. Ride safe and hope to see you soon. Big hugs Petra and Anders

  3. Thank you, seems that you had a wonderful travel. I loved your phorographs, with my love, nia

    1. Thank you Nia for your kind comment, love Petra

    • Len Jones on 9th December 2014 at 13:16
    • Reply

    As always a thoroughly entertaining blog post. And one which took my brain away from my daily grind at work during my short and normally dull lunch break.

    Congratulations as it’s a great achievement to have made it so far north in Alaska. Don’t think I’d have survived the cold and wet. And besides reminds me that the cold and wet day during the British winter’s generally not so bad after all … Once again, you’ve kept up a high standard of images to illustrate your polar peregrinations. Some really great shots, capturing the atmosphere. Loved the short and spontaneous video and inventing a new dance. Am sure ‘The Warm Up’s’ gonna be lighting up dance-floors all over the world

    And to finish, have got a friend who originates from Northern Spain, and who’s pretty much travelled the globe on his bicycle including Alaska (oh and Siberia too). In one email he told me he was warned about bears and the potential danger when camping in the wilderness of Alaska. If I know Salva’ he would have spent many weeks in total, well away from civilisation, during which time he say’s he encountered many bears. Interestingly, he also said that they sometimes appeared curious and would stand up to get a better look at him. However, irrespective of the fact he was alone and unarmed, he never once felt threatened or scared …

    Will look forward to your next Blog post … stay safe

    1. Thank you ever so much for your very nice comment. We are happy that you enjoyed our blog post. It was amazing to travel north in Alaska, so much wilderness and so much beauty. Honestly it’s not difficult to photograph in places like that.
      Hm about the ‘dance’ we are still blushing when we get reminded that the film is now on Youtube haha.

      We actually met a a few people who where cycling in Alaska and that is very impressive. We also met a guy from Japan who walked from Canada to Deadhorse, mad we thought haha.

      Looking forward to hear from you again. Petra and Anders

    • Brian Thiessen on 27th December 2014 at 19:17
    • Reply

    Glad you were able to update your blog! I missed it … especially after hearing your talk in Nakusp. Hope you had a great Christmas!!! Brian

    1. Thanks Brian, it will soon come a new blog post for Canada… We had a nice warm and sunny Christmas in Mexico, hope you had a great one too.
      Take care and drive safe
      Anders and Petra

    • Simte on 16th June 2017 at 18:32
    • Reply

    Hi Anders and Petra,
    This is Simte from Manipur, India, I have been following your blog from the beginning so far..I like reading your blog and I enjoy reading travelers blog. I would say you guys are having a good time, traveling around the world in a Bike. I am sorry to know that you guys do not have a good time in Manipur. Well, lets say you both were there in the bad times…hehe. If you would have explore all of the Northeastern state of India, then I am sure you will love the place. Anyway, love reading your blog. Keep riding and ride safe ..Cheers.

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