A Travellerspoint blog

Argentina

Buenos Aires and Uruguay


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AUGUST 17 – BUENOS AIRES

Today was my full day to see what Buenos Aires has to offer, and it was amazing! I was already impressed with city and the overall atmosphere – it felt like any other large city (ie. NYC), which I love. I planned to take the two free walking tours of the city today.

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The first walking tour began at 10:30 and focused on the Recoleta area of the city, which is the posher neighborhood. The guide we had was very friendly and explained everything in great detail. We started out near the opera house and the state supreme court, which was a massive and ornate building.

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We worked our way through the city, visiting several squares and seeing many old mansions that used to belong to the aristocracy (they are not either state-owned, used as embassies or hotels, etc). We even stopped by the memorial for the Falklands War!

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The Plaza San Martin, which is next to the Foreign Ministry, the Danish flag was on display everywhere with the Argentinian flag.

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We stopped for a quick coffee break before continuing further north into the city. The tour ended outside of the Recoleta Cemetery, but did not go inside. After the tour ended, I ventured into the Cemetery to find Evita Peron’s grave. She was buried in her family crypt (under her maiden name). There was a map at the entrance and it was very helpful in finding her grave. It was very simple: plaques on the sides of the crypt and flowers adoring the doors.

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I walked around the cemetery for a few minutes, admiring all of the amazing crypts and graves. One of the strange things that I noticed was that many of them had the coffins exposed inside the crypt/mausoleum! It was rather strange to see the coffin just sitting there.

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I next had to make my way south to the National Congress for the afternoon walking tour. I originally planned to take the subway there, but decided to walk and see more of the city. It was about a 30-minute walk and it was fun getting to see so much more of the city. This area wasn’t touristy whatsoever either. At one point I was waiting to cross the street and an elderly lady came up and ask for assistance crossing the street (well, she indicated that since she spoke no English and my Spanish is crap).

The afternoon tour was far more political than the morning tour and I learned quite a bit about the history of Argentina. Before we got started a protest made its way towards the National Congress, banging drums and setting off a lot of fireworks. The National Congress is another massive and ornate building, which was just amazing.

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We walked along the streets, learning about the country and what all of the various monuments meant. One stop along the 9 of July Avenue introduced us to Evita and Juan Peron. On the side of a building was a massive sign of Evita speaking into a microphone (there was a second one on the other side of the building).

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The tour ended in the Plaza de Mayo at the Casa Rosada (the Argentine equivalent of the White House). The square was packed with tourists. While we were finishing the tour, the guards came out to lower the gigantic flag for the night.

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Once the tour was over, I went back to my hotel. On the way I snapped a few pictures of the main Catholic Church in Buenos Aires (and the one that Pope Francis worked at prior to becoming Pope).

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After resting for a few minutes it was time for the final event for the day: dinner and a tango show! The shuttle picked me up around 20:00 and we drove less than 5 minutes to the restaurant – it was so close to my hotel that I could have walked there! Dinner was not quite ready as they were still doing a tango lesson for those who signed up for it.

We finally got to sit down in the dining room; it was a very pretty room and had an intimate feeling to it.

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I had a table all to myself and there was another solo traveler sitting next to me. The woman sitting next to me was named Jennifer; she is from Bermuda and lives in New York; she is deaf, but was excellent at reading lips (she also had a notepad for writing things down when she couldn’t read lips). It was a lot of fun getting to talk with her; she came down to Argentina to get some dental work done because it is much cheaper here than in the US.

Dinner was three courses: (1) three empanadas; (2) steak with potatoes; (3) chocolate mousse cake. Each table had its own bottle of red wine, along with water. And yes, I did drink the entire bottle… I paid for it, I was going to drink it! All of the food was quite good!

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Right before the show started another solo traveler asked if she could join us and I invitied her to sit at my table. Her name was Nienke and she was here from the Netherlands. She’s traveled the past several weeks with her boyfriend, but he went off to Rio for the Olympics and she decided to come to Buenos Aires.

The tango show was outstanding! There were three pairs of dancers, along with two signers. Even the live band was amazing. Each time the performers would dance I was in awe of their talent: they moved with such grace and fluidity – and quickness! They even played the tango that was used in the movie “True Lies” – though the tango they did last night was far better!

The show ended around midnight; Nienke and I decided to grab a drink before heading back to our respective hotels (luckily she was staying nearby as well). We walked up Florida Avenue (the shopping center) and found a nice little place. I ordered a local beer and she had a cocktail. We stayed there, drinking and chatting until the place closed around 1:30. After that I walked her back to her hotel and then, somehow, stumbled back to mine. Needless to say, I was quite drunk…

AUGUST 18 – URUGUAY

Despite going to bed so late last night, I was up around 6:30 this morning so I could catch the ferry over to Colonia in Uruguay (the 5th and final country in South America that I’m visiting on this trip!). It was a rough morning, but I made it to the ferry on time and managed to sleep during the hour-long ride.

Colonia is a small, quaint town and the first thing I noticed was how quiet it was in comparison to Buenos Aires! No traffic noises, just the peaceful sound of the waterfront. Argentina and Uruguay are separate by a river, the widest river in the world: looking out across the river you can’t see the other country, it looks like an ocean! On the Uruguay side all I could see of Argentina was the massive cloud of smog and pollution that hung in the air.

I spent some time walking around Colonia, seeing the few sights that the city has and just enjoying the riverfront area. I stopped to get an ice cream at one point since I’d not had breakfast this morning.

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The ferry back to Buenos Aires was at 16:00 and I finished my walking around the city by 13:00! I spent the next few hours sitting by the river, reading and relaxing. The ferry ride back to Buenos Aires was delayed by 30 minutes, though I couldn’t figure out why. During the wait I bought a sandwich to eat.

Nienke and I met up for dinner tonight; we went to a charming restaurant near our hotels. We split a small bottle of red wine; for dinner I had a local chicken dish, which was quite good. It was filled with cheese, peppers, and ham. We each had an after dinner coffee. It was a lot of fun getting to hang out and chat with Nienke again (it is always nice to make new friends!).

Now it is getting late and I need to get some sleep - I've got a long flight tomorrow... to RUSSIA!!

Posted by Glichez 14:52 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

What's new, Buenos Aires?


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What a long day it has been today!

I was up at 2:30 so I could catch my taxi to the airport at 3:00 for my flight at 5:00. The streets were deserted so early in the morning, which was nice, but it still took about 25 minutes to drive to the airport. I was surprised to see that it was quite busy and the line for check-in was long. I began to worry that I hadn't arrived early enough to get checked in. There were several early morning flights heading out of Asuncion and the line was moving at a glacial pace. The airport had several self check-in stations, but they were all out of order (of course!). After around 35 minutes or so the line began to move faster. The check-in process, as well as going through security and exit customs flew by after that.

I slept most of the way on the flight, though thankfully I woke up in time to get the breakfast muffin and some water. The muffin was lemon poppy-seed and was a good snack. After landing in Buenos Aires (to stay this time!), I made my way through customs and met with the driver I had arranged to transport me to my hotel. The drive into the city took us over an hour, mostly because of the intense rush hour traffic. On the way into the city center I was becoming more and more impressed with the city: I had expected something similar to Rio, but instead it resembled Santiago.

The hotel is... decent. I booked it because of the location as well as due to the review ratings it received (4.5 stars). It's a bit shabby, but it will do for three nights. Thankfully I was able to check in right away, despite arriving so early in the morning. I took some time to shower and freshen up before venturing out into the city for a little bit. I scouted out the meeting points for the two guided tours I've booked (they're less than 5min walk away) and then strolled around the Galerias Pacifico shopping center, which is half a block from my hotel.

I grabbed a quick lunch at the mall: three empanadas (chicken, beef, and caprese) which were delicious! While eating I watched some of the men's track and field events at the Olympics (I've been trying to watch as much of the Olympics as possible while I've been traveling). After eating I went to a few stores to check out the backpacks that they have. The backpack that I brought with me is not designed for traveling and so I thought I might get a new one. Sadly the majority of the ones I found were not large enough; the salespeople were very helpful and showed me numerous different items. The only one I found that would work is very nice and has wheels on it, but it is around $170 USD! The African tour company said not to bring bags with wheels, but since this one doubles as a backpack, I think it would be ok. I am still debating whether or not to buy the new bag...

At 14:00 I met up with the guide for my afternoon tour to the Tigre Delta. There was only one other person on the tour with us, a woman from Brazil. On the way we made a quick stop in a town to walk around for about 30 minutes. There was a nice cathedral, along with some old colonial buildings.

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We then continued to the Tigre Delta, which is where the Paraná River empties into the Río de la Plata River. We boarded a boat with several other tourists and set out for a ride around the Delta. The Delta is quite huge and consists of thousands of small islands, most of which have houses on them. We spent the time going around and seeing several of the islands. The weather was cool, but not cold enough to prevent us from having the windows opened. During the trip we were treated to a sweet snack and some coffee.

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The boat trip lasted just over an hour and then it was time to head back to Buenos Aires. I made it back to the hotel around 18:30 and soon headed out to Starbucks to relax and read. I felt the need to do something familiar and routine from back home; it helped relax me after the long two weeks that I've had (and I've still got 13 weeks left on the trip!). I started reading a new book, Ready Player One, which a bartender at the Flying Saucer, Carter, had recommended some time ago (I finished reading the history of the Iranian Revolution a couple days ago at one of the airports). On the way over to Starbucks I saw some street performers doing the tango; there was a crowd watching them and I stopped to watch them for a few minutes. It was rather fun to see them dancing around; I'll be seeing more of the tango tomorrow night!

Posted by Glichez 16:55 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Iguassu Falls


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I managed to get a very good night's sleep and woke ready for a long day of sightseeing. The breakfast at my hotel, the Yvera Cataratas, was simple but delicious: bread, meat and cheese, along with a variety of pastries. I hurriedly ate my breakfast before the shuttle picked me up at 7:30. We made the rounds picking up additional people and then we had to switch to a larger bus before we were off to Iguassu Falls!

Iguassu Falls are a series of massive waterfalls that straddle the Argentina-Brazil border. They are some of the most famous waterfalls in the world. The James Bond film "Moonraker" features a scene filmed at Iguassu Falls (yes, the same movie that filmed at Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio!). Again, I failed to find Bond, Jaws or Hugo Drax. Hrm...

On the way to the Argentina side of the falls, our "guide" Carlos gave an overview of the day - but it was just a full day tour of the Argentine side, nothing about visiting the Brazilian side. The tour I booked was supposed to visit both sides in one day; I began to panic and thought that I had boarded the wrong bus! Finally another gentleman on the tour asked about the Brazilian portion and the "guide" said that those of us going to Brazil would split off from the group later on. (I'm using the word "guide" as such because he was truly awful).

Upon arrival at the entrance to the park, Carlos said that the entrance fee had to be paid in cash - no credit cards. Nothing mentioned this prior to reaching the falls nor during the trip booking process. Thankfully there was an ATM that several people were using. I told Carlos that I needed to use the ATM and then buy my ticket. When I finally did have my ticket, I found that Carlos had take then rest of the group and already ventured into the park! Despite knowing that he had people still getting tickets, he left us. I literally had to run to catch up to them, mere minute before the train to the Devil's Throat left.

The train to the Devil's Throat was pleasant and quick; I met a very nice woman from Ireland named Sarah; she and I basically partnered up for the tour, which was really nice. It was fun getting to chat with someone throughout the day!

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The first stop was the Devil's Throat, which is spectacular.

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We then took the train back and walked along a path that revealed many more amazing waterfalls for us to see. Each turn in the path revealed more breathtaking sights. It was tranquil and relaxing. The weather was perfect as well: sunny, clear and cool.

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Carlos did not truly lead the group during this; he would walk on and not even attempt to round up the group to make sure that we were all together (this despite the fact that the area was full of tourists). After we finished with the second path it was time for the other guy and me to leave the group; we headed over to the Sheraton hotel, which is inside the park, to wait for our ride to Brazil.

Our guide for Brazil, Miguel, was the total opposite of Carlos. He was attentive, friendly, outgoing and made sure that we all knew the plan and stuck together. He explained things throughout the park as well. Crossing back into Brazil was simple and soon we were at the park. Miguel handled the buying of our tickets and then we took the bus into the park itself.

The Brazilian side is smaller, but provides equally stunning views. At one point there was a walkway out to the Devil's Throat right near the base of one of the falls; I got soaked walking out there, but the views were worth it.

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After a long and very busy day I made my way back to the hotel around 7pm. Time to relax, watch some of the Olympics and get some sleep!

Posted by Glichez 16:22 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Farewell Rio, Hello Argentina


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Once again, an early morning for me today. I arranged to have a driver pick me up at the hostel at 6am so I could reach the airport in time for my flight. Today's trek took me from Rio de Janiero to Puerto Iguazu, though the path there was rather long. I flew from Rio to Sao Paolo, where I had a somewhat lengthy layover (though thankfully not as long as the one on my flights to Rio last week).

I spent time on the flights and during my layover reflecting on my time in Rio and at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

I went to Rio expecting the worst: I thought that I would get mugged, get lost trying to reach the Olympic venues, etc. I had spoken to several people over previous trips who had come to Rio for the 2014 World Cup event and they were all mugged (big event = more tourists = more targets). I came prepared for that should it happen and I came with my guard up against anything. As I got to know the way of the city (ok, the area that I was staying) I began to relax a little bit and really enjoyed myself. Rio isn't a city that I would like to visit again though; there's not much of a draw for me to that area. I'm not a fan of the beach, so the attraction of either Copacabana or Ipanema is lost on me (speaking of which, I never got the chance to visit the beaches, but others at the hostel did and they said they were packed beyond reason - possibly because some events, like beach volleyball, were held at the Copacabana beach).

The Olympics amazed me and I am very, very happy that I decided to attend this year's Games. I decided last year to buy tickets and I remember the initial lottery offering began in late April 2015 - while I was touring Iran! I got the notice while in Iran and frantically emailed my sister to have her enter my name into the lottery as I wasn't sure if I would be able to do so myself from Iran. I have her to thank for getting me entered into the lottery and thus my tickets to fencing, archery, and gymnastics! Back then the Summer Olympics seems ages away: I had two more international trips to plan before then! The Games came and flew by far too quickly.

Archery was an amazingly enjoyable event, one that I hadn't expected to enjoy as much as I did. I've long yearned to take archery lessons (I'd gone so far as to find a local place in Raleigh that offered lessons, but by then I'd already settled on moving to Chicago and so I've decided to wait until then to take it up). The matches were fast, but energetic and intense, which is why I decided to buy the ticket to the afternoon session that day.

Fencing was enjoyable, though I think I would have enjoyed it more had I better understood the sport. Once representatives from countries that I cared for (Germany, France, Russia, USA) were up, it was far more enjoyable and I really got into it. If there was one event that I was disappointed in from the Games it was table tennis. There was little announcing done throughout the matches and it was near impossible to tell what was going on at the far end of the venue. By contrast, at the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010 I saw men's curling which also featured four simultaneous matches; they managed to get the crowd equally invested in them all. Again, I think this suffered for me because I didn't care for any of the match-ups, save for the North Korean, but she was at the far end where I couldn't see. I bought the ticket as a "filler" between fencing and gymnastics, and I'm quite happy that I went. It was fun to see different types of sports.

Gymnastics was weird and still feels weird to me. The lack of focus throughout the event was the truly surprising part; it felt disjointed and it was difficult knowing where to pay attention at each moment. Happily I just heard on CNN that the USA women's team (which I saw compete) won the gold medal tonight!

The aquatics day was truly the highlight of the Games for me. Water polo (another "filler" event) was the bug surprise for me (much like curling was in Vancouver). I loved the game! It was fast, action packed and I was invested in the matches. This is definitely a sport that I would love to watch more of in the future. The swimming event was spectacular, as expected. The time flew by and I wished that there was more. The added bonus of getting to see Michael Phelps swim was fantastic.

Diving. This event stole the show for me. If I could go to only one event at the Olympics, this would have been it. I found the ticket to this event (and swimming) during my lunch break at work one day. I vacillated over buying the tickets or not; I wasn't sure who would be diving, but I thought "What the hell!" and bought them. I quietly hoped to see Tom Daley, but I didn't get my hopes up.

I still can't adequately put into words how incredible those 90 minutes were last night. Seeing Tom's name come up on the board prior to the start got me very excited and that excitement only grew as each round of diving went by. I was giddy when I saw the teams walk out (ok, just Tom). Tom is one of the few LGBT athletes who is "out" and I've heard a lot about him over the past couple years. Seeing videos and reading articles online is nothing to getting to see him dive in person.

I can still feel the elation when the scores were announced and they won the bronze: the crowd erupting with cheers, the Team GB fans going crazy, and of course Tom and his diving partner's awesome reaction, which truly captured the Olympics in that moment. I still feel like I am riding on cloud 9 from last night's event. I wish that it could never end, that the diving would just continue on and on... but of course it did have to end... but there will be more events to go and see. I still wish that I was back there in the stands though... it was magical. That's the only way to describe it. It was unique and beyond words. I doubt that anything else on this trip can match the diving in terms of how excited or happy I got (save perhaps getting to finally visit Red Square!

I've so enjoyed these Olympics and the Winter Games in Vancouver; I'm giving serious thought to timing trips with the countries that host each Olympics - and even trying to volunteer at the Games! But, on to a new adventure... I'll always have the memories from the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. Tchau, Rio!

After grabbing a bite to eat at the airport, it was time to flight to Foz do Iguacu... Iguassu Falls!

The Iguassu Falls lie on the border of Brazil and Argentina; there are two cities and airports that service the Falls, one on either side of the border. Further up river is a point where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay all meet; technically one can reach the Falls by flying to Paraguay, but then would have to go through Brazil or Argentina to actually get to the Falls. Foz do Iguacu is on the Brazilian side, Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinian.

My hotel is on Puerto Iguazu and I arranged to have a shuttle take me from the airport, across the border and to my hotel. Crossing the border was a painless and simple procedure: the driver simply took my passport into the office, they stamped it and we drove on; I didn't have to get out of the shuttle at all! Thankfully, earlier this year Argentina suspended the requirement that Americans obtain a visa to visit the country; this saved me the hassle of getting one, plus it saved me the $160 fee!

Driving into Puerto Iguazu I was saddened to see that the city was rather run down. I had hoped that the huge tourism draw of the Falls would bring in money and allow the city to improve itself. However, the shabby outer look is overshadowed by the incredibly friendly people living here! This was my first time visiting a Spanish speaking country and I was excited to see if I could remember any of the Spanish I learned (hell, I made into Spanish National Honor Society, you'd think I'd remember something!). I remembered many words and phrases, as well as verbs; I could get my point across (barely), but I could not carry on a conversation.

The woman who checked me in spoke fragmented English, just as I spoke fragmented Spanish, which we both found rather amusing; thankfully we could communicate enough in either language to get the main points. The hotel is rather nice: the room is huge with a comfortable bed, spacious bathroom. The focal point of the hotel is the gorgeous pool in the courtyard, complete with a waterfall. I plan to take advantage of the pool either tomorrow or the morning after.

I still had a couple hours of daylight left and I decided to go for a short walk down to the riverfront where the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet. As I was heading out of the hotel a different employee stopped me to explain about the city, the hotel, etc. His name is Miguel and he was very friendly and outgoing. He spoke far better English than I spoke Spanish too. He gave me directions to the riverfront and I headed out.

The walk was short and I found a rather large plaza with many smaller craft shops along it. There was an terrace overlook area with three levels and I was greeted with an amazing view. The river is massive and the jungle all around is stunning. Each country has a small monument on display with their national flag painted on it. I spent a few minutes relaxing and enjoying the view.

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Suddenly I heard someone calling out to me and I found Miguel on the terrace level above me! He came down and explained that he was supposed to meet a group of tourists there and take them back to the hotel. We spent some time talking and he explained about the different things on each side of the river. He is originally from Paraguay, but he now lives in Argentina and his father is from Brazil!

A boat drifted by that the tour group was supposed to be on, but it was empty and Miguel said they must not be coming. I wonder if that was a story he used so he could hang out and practice his English (he said earlier that he was studying English). It didn't matter because I enjoyed getting to hang out with him. He showed me an older monument that was somewhat hidden away that pointed to each of the three countries. Then we made our way down a rugged trail towards the riverfront (the terrace was quite high up and the path down was steep and rocky). We didn't go all the way down, but stopped at a little stream that ran nearby and ended in a waterfall that fed the river. We sat down at the top of the waterfall and enjoyed the view; I was surprised at how high the waterfall was given how far it seemed we had walked down already.

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Finally we made out way back up along an old set of stone stairs which brought us back up to the terrace. We walked back to the hotel together, chatting quite a bit. Miguel is a very friendly and helpful young man - and was very interested in the United States. When we got back to the hotel, I came back to my room to take a shower.... Confession time: this was the first shower I had since the night I arrived in Rio. Yes, yes... disgusting... I know! BUT, the communal showers at the hostel weren't that great and I just couldn't bring myself to use them after that first night. So, just keep that in mind when you look at all my selfies from the Olympics! :-) You can imagine how wonderful this shower felt.

I planned to head out to the courtyard area and read for a bit before bed, but I found that the sun was nearly set and the hotel didn't have lights in that area. Instead I've relaxed in my room. I don't mind hostels, but I do love having my own room. The peace and quiet is wonderful! We had a group of three girls from somewhere staying in my room the past three nights (they spoke Spanish and spoke to none of us in the room). They would get dressed up (read: whored up) and head out around 11pm each night, returning well after 3am. I do not exaggerate the "whoring it up" that they did - they literally looked like street walkers. They would make tons of noise before they left and when they returned, which drove us all crazy. Tonight... I'll sleep well!

Miguel just brought me confirmation for my guided tour of Iguassu Falls tomorrow - huzzah! I'll be picked up at 7:30, giving me time to each breakfast here at the hotel. (I'd not been able to eat the free breakfast at the hostel in Rio because it began at 8am each morning; I had to leave by 7am to make it to my events each day.)

And finally, here's the video of Tom Daley that I took as he prepared for dive # 5 last night (I finally got YouTube to upload it).... I make no apologies for this. :-) Please to enjoy...

Posted by Glichez 15:07 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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