Monthly Archives: October 2013

In search of sunshine

Now that the clocks have gone back and the dark evenings are upon us, sunshine seems a long and distant memory! However, now is the perfect time of year to jet off and top up your vitamin D levels in a sunnier climate! Here are some inspiring trips to allow you to take refuge against the weather this season…

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If you don’t fancy a long haul flight and just want to get away for a short break, Los Alamos in Spain normally delivers pleasant weather during the winter months. The climate is perfect for those wanting to avoid the scorching summer sun, but still get their fix of vitamin D, and the backdrop provides a welcome retreat from the daily grind. Situated on the Atlantic coast of Southern Spain, Los Alamos offers some of the best beach riding in the world with well-trained horses and a relaxed atmosphere giving visitors the chance to escape areas of mass tourism and experience the relatively un-touched rural Spanish lifestyle. Your hosts will ensure you can unwind and de-stress with delicious home made meals using local produce and beautiful surroundings, so you can definitely leave winter behind at the airport!

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For guaranteed warmth and winter sun, South Africa is the perfect haven all year round, but particularly during the months of October to March. With a huge selection of holidays to choose from there is something to suit all riders and even their non-equestrian partners. For nature lovers and those wanting to experience the South African bush, you won’t find many places as breathtaking. For the budget conscious, Horizon offers a host of riding opportunities, including the chance to try your hand at Polocrosse, within a small working cattle and game farm in the Waterberg. Alternatively Ants Lodges offer a personal and luxurious safari experience based from two beautiful lodges, Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill, set in their own private game reserve within the Waterberg. Or for a more indulgent experience, on the Cape Winelands holiday you ride amongst the most picturesque winelands in the world.

The beautiful views at Horizon in South Africa

The beautiful views at Horizon in South Africa

However, if you are looking for a real winter experience, there are some fabulous destinations that offer a chillier alternative! For the perfect mix of exhilaration and something completely different consider Sweden with guaranteed snow, sturdy Icelandic horses known for their great stamina and a night at the Ice Hotel for an unforgettable experience. Here you are likely to see reindeer and moose and even the Northern Lights if you are lucky, as well as experience the Sami way of life, complete with fishing and reindeer herding. Sweden offers a snow-filled adventure and when you are not flying around the country on sleds or snow mobiles, you can experience the wonderful peace and tranquility of being in the wilderness covered in a blanket of snow!

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If you are still looking for winter travel inspiration then get in touch with the team at In The Saddle!

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding Holidays, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In The Saddle are in contention to break equestrian travel history!

We are very excited that In The Saddle has been announced as a top three finalist in their category of the prestigious 2013 British Travel Awards!

The winners will be announced on 31 October at a glamorous Halloween Night Gala Awards Dinner, held at Battersea Evolution in London and attended by close to a thousand travel industry people. If successful, In The Saddle will become the first equestrian travel company to be awarded one of the prestigious accolades since the scheme began in 2001.

Along with the whole team at In The Saddle, Managing Director Olwen Law is very proud to be in contention, “It is a great honour to be in the final three of our category,” she says. “In relative terms we are still a very small company in comparison to some travel businesses and it means such a lot to us that so many of our customers have taken the time to vote for us.”

British Travel Awards’ chief executive Lorraine Barnes Burton said: “This year more than one million votes were cast by consumers to determine the winners of the coveted British Travel Awards – making it the largest awards programme in the UK; to win is truly an accolade. The travelling public regard the British Travel Awards winners logo as the benchmark for excellence when it comes to finding out who really are the best travel companies and In The Saddle is to be congratulated on their achievement in an awards programme which garners the opinions of the nation – these finalists really are the best in travel.”

Keep your fingers crossed for us!

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Embark on an Argentinian adventure in 2014

Horse riding in Argentina provides the perfect means to explore the varied landscape of this legendary South American country. With equestrianism being such an important part of the local culture, riding in this part of the world on responsive and sure-footed native horses – such as the Criollo and Paso Peruanos – provides the perfect means of exploring the rugged hills, grassy lowland meadows and woodland areas of Argentina.

Nestled between the pampas and the Andes, Estancia Los Potreros gives people the chance to visit an iconic equestrian land – where the culture of the gaucho is strong and where children still go to school on horseback. With over 140 horses, Estancia Los Potreros is always a hive of activity, however for 2014 there is an assortment of local activities and attractions that will make a visit to this beautiful destination even more memorable.

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The 6,000 acre working cattle estancia and stud farm offers varied and exciting equestrian activities, from trail riding across different terrain and cantering across the ridges to playing an informal chukka of polo back at the estancia or even helping the gauchos round up the young horses in order to protect them from the elusive puma. This trip is ideal for true horse lovers giving the chance to embrace all aspects of equestrianism, whilst still providing relaxation and a break from normality – chill out with a wine tasting session, cool off after a hot day in the natural rock pools or simply swing your troubles away in a hammock overlooking the estancia!

Throughout the year guests can now combine spectacular horseback riding with cultural highlights to help embrace the Argentinian spirit! Starting in January with the National Rodeo and Folkloric Music Festival, travellers can combine two of the gaucho’s biggest loves – horses and music – for a fun and fabulous evening out in nearby Jesus Maria.

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As the year progresses there are opportunities to view a famous religious gaucho procession in February, take part in the annual ‘yerra’ or cattle branding, embark on long distance adventures, learn to play polo in a week, visit the largest agricultural show in Buenos Aires, enjoy the Tango Festival and finally watch the Argentine Palermo Open Polo Championships to see the game played to the highest level in the world!

If you fancy embarking on an Argentinian adventure and getting involved in local culture, get in touch with In The Saddle to find out when to book!

Argentina - Estancia Los Potreros

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ranch holidays, Riding Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

October 2013: Heard on the grapevine

The best way to find out exactly what a holiday is like is to hear directly from someone who has experienced it! We hope that reading the feedback from some of our recent In The Saddle clients will give you that ‘inside’ information and inspire you to book your next trip…

Spain
Week after week, month after month, we never tire of hearing the wonderful stories from Los Alamos in Spain. It is no wonder it is one of our most popular trips! Keren Brocklebank-Smith visited the beautiful destination for the first time this year and highly recommends it. “The most important thing for me was the people really cared for the horses, treating them with kindness, respect and love,” she says. This is always wonderful to hear as we take a lot or pride in ensuring all our rides meet our high welfare standards.

Los Alamos offers some of the best beach riding in the world!

Los Alamos offers some of the best beach riding in the world!

For Andrea Skaggs, who also travelled to Los Alamos for a short break, she has returned home addicted! “The land through which we rode was STUNNING. The variety of terrain, the great trail conditions and the climate far exceeded my expectations. The food and Tinto de Verano will be the stuff of my dreams for months to come; my poor horses are suffering the consequences of my overindulgence! In The Saddle will now be my resource for planning the best times of my life.”

Meanwhile, in Catalonia, Linda Heinrichs was embarking on the Mediterranean Trail and was bowled over by the trip. “We were a separate group of eight girls and when we galloped we smiled from ear to ear! Obviously Simon, our guide, saw that and we galloped as much as possible throughout the week! It was truly one of the best things I have experienced.”

Smiles come as part of the package in Catalonia!

Smiles come as part of the package in Catalonia!

Africa
In a different part of the world many of our clients were falling in love with Africa and all that the wonderful continent has to offer. Sometimes you don’t need many words to some up a trip and Elizabeth Squire came back from her trip to Horizon in South Africa and simply said “Booking this trip was one on the best decisions I’ve made in my 36 years on this planet so far!” We don’t think you can better that comment!

It is easy to fall in love with South Africa at Horizon!

It is easy to fall in love with South Africa at Horizon!

Penny Robinson enjoyed her ‘glamping’ experience at Motswiri Camp in the north east of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. “The horses were perfect for their job. Our guides were fantastic and very knowledgeable and the ‘glamping’ standards were maintained even when we spent the night at the flycamp. We always had hot water for showers, and starched napkins at dinner! We were riding in a pristine wilderness with sightings of all sorts of animals and birds and felt safe at all times.”

Combine luxury accommodation and exciting riding at Motswiri

Combine luxury accommodation and exciting riding at Motswiri

In the remote eastern corner of Botswana lies an area known historically as the Tuli enclave and Sarah Shewring thoroughly enjoyed her trip here at the Limpopo Lodge Safari. “I think this was the best riding holiday I have ever done! The horses were fantastic and so were the guides. The holiday was exhilarating, challenging and fun but at the same time I felt safe and confident! I haven’t stopped smiling!”

The riding at Limpopo is exhilarating

The riding at Limpopo is exhilarating

United States
Described as ‘the last best place’ Montana certainly lived up to expectations for Lauren Crawley-Moore when she visited Sweet Grass. “Angels on horseback sums up this holiday,” she says. “Brilliant horses, hugely helpful and knowledgeable wranglers, excellent food and a bedroom cabin that was straight out of little house on the prairie! For someone who has owned and ridden horses all her life this is the ultimate experience in ‘big country’ riding. Bring your boots and your hat and Montana does the rest. It is an experience to treasure and to share – I am now a showjumper turned cowgirl!”

Spectacular vistas at Sweet Grass

Spectacular vistas at Sweet Grass

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado provide a superb backdrop for a horseback vacation and Claire Towler is in agreement after visiting the Colorado Cattle Company! “This is something special,” she says. “You have the chance to be a cowgirl/boy for a week and experience ranch life. I even managed to rope a cow by the end of the week – with help from an obliging cow mind you! If you want a real ranch experience with fantastic surroundings, great food and great people then you can’t go far wrong here.”

Embrace your inner cowboy/girl in Colorado

Embrace your inner cowboy/girl in Colorado

Mongolia
Our very own Olwen Law believes that Mongolia is a country everyone should see and it is said to be where nomads invented riding! Although not your typical equestrian break, a riding expedition in Mongolia is a life-changing experience and several of our clients have written to us in agreement. Annie Dumas set off on the Gobi Steppe Ride, which takes you south of the capital Ulaanbaatar, beyond the Bogdkhan mountains, through grassland steppes, sand dune areas and the giant rock formations of Zorgul Hairhan Uul. “There was a lot of galloping every day which meant very exciting rides,” she says. “The campsites were fantastic, the ger for meals was comfortable and the tourist camp at the end of the riding was a blessing. The Mongolian tourist guide was good and very kind. Everything was well organized and I miss the cook and my horse already!”

A trip to Mongolia is life-altering!

A trip to Mongolia is life-altering!

For Claudine Douville the Gobi Steppe Ride delivered everything and more. “After building an understanding with my horse in the first few hours it was like we had been together all the time,” she says. “They are very strong horses and can gallop for a long time, even on the eighth day of the ride. My horse was the best of all! The cook did a wonderful job with the food, I am coeliac, one person was vegetarian and another allergic to mushrooms and lactose – but she handled that very professionally and made very tasty meals. Haanda, our guide and interpreter, was very helpful and always ready to give us information about the country and the way of life. The horse guide, Bayaraa, was very professional and despite not speaking English we could understand him very well. We left Mongolia with a very good opinion of the people.”

The Big Skies Horse Trail in Mongolia takes place in the Khan Khentii Special Protected Area, north-east of Ulaanbaatar and for Ann Barnett it gave her the perfect antidote to the stresses of daily life in the west and she found the horses to be perfectly behaved. “Mongolian horses are very easy to ride. They are sometimes described as ‘half wild’, but this should not put anybody off – it means they are not ‘schooled’ like our horses, and in fact they have none of the nervousness of our horses. My horse was docile but very eager and willing and never seemed to tire!”

You can see why they call this trip Big Skies!

You can see why they call this trip Big Skies!

Our other Mongolian trip, the Mongol Horse Trail, gives you the chance to experience two strikingly different areas, from the treeless steppes to the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Our client Uzal De Montserrat found that expectations were exceeded when joining this equestrian adventure. “The blessings of this journey will last throughout my life time! The riding was superb and varied, the horse guide Tumaroo, along with Kenzo the main guide are an awesome team! We were always engaged and each day was more spectacular than the day before. The horses got along with each other better than any horse trail that I’ve been on – they are quite special and have enormous amounts of energy for such small frames. I am indebted to the horse I rode for his gentle strength and radiant
spirit.”

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ranch holidays, Ride reviews, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five of the best… Horseback Safaris

At In The Saddle we are somewhat well known for our horseback safaris and there really is something for everyone in our selection. We have picked our top five here to help you make the tricky decision of choosing which one to embark on that little bit simpler…

Fun and magic in the Okavango Delta
Being the world’s largest inland delta, the vastness of the Okavango Delta cannot fail to take your breath away. With over 10,000 square miles of palm islands, grassy flood plains and mopane forests, there are a myriad of waterways as this river meets the Kalahari Desert. As one of the only sources of water during the dry period the Delta attracts wildlife in abundance making it one of the most spectacular places to see Africa at its most magical.

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Situated on the western side of the Okavango Delta, Macatoo is a luxury bush camp, recently renovated, which offers riders the experience of a lifetime. Riding beautiful, fit and well cared for horses you will enjoy a variety of riding; from an early morning gallop on the plains alongside giraffe or zebra to splashing your way through waterways and tracking elephant as you explore the palm studded islands. This area is known for the ‘big five’ and you can expect to see plenty of giraffe, elephant, buffalo, many species of antelope and even lion.

Go if… you are an experienced rider wishing to experience the exhilaration of fast riding and viewing wild game in their natural habitat, whilst staying in luxurious accommodation.

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Explore the Tuli Trail
The Tuli Block in the remote eastern corner of Botswana is bordered by the great Limpopo River. The diversity of scenery – from dramatic rock formations, magnificent vistas and baobab studded plains – is little known and relatively untouched by man, and the variety of wildlife is plentiful. Lion, cheetah, leopard, African wild dog, impala, over 350 bird species and plains games such as zebra, wildebeest and giraffe make the Tuli Block their habitat and the area is particularly famous for its great herds of elephant.

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Limpopo Lodge is found in the Mashatu Game Reserve and offers riders the chance to enjoy exceptionally well-schooled horses as you ride across a range of terrains. With six or seven hours in the saddle daily you could find yourself exploring the bush at a leisurely walk, cantering along the plains or jumping ditches, river banks or logs knocked over by elephants. Travelling from camp to camp on this mobile safari, you can expect to watch unforgettable sundowners, go on game walks and a game drive and socialise round the evening camp fire, as well as enjoy fast and fun riding with no two days ever being the same.

Go if… you are an experienced rider with a spirit of adventure and dream of getting up close and personal with some of Botswana’s most beautiful game and wildlife.

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See the Maasai Mara migration
The famous Maasai Mara Migration is one of the world’s greatest spectacles and the exhilaration of experiencing it from horseback will be unforgettable. Wildebeest, gazelle, zebra and eland are the main migrators and cross miles of treacherous terrain to search for food and water. Travelling across the open plains of Kenya on horseback gives you unique access to some of this country’s most spectacular sights – and offers a privileged way of seeing beautiful wildlife in its quest for survival.

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Safaris Unlimited provides a memorable mobile-tented safari enabling riders to journey through some of the most prolific wildlife areas in Africa. Led by experienced guide Gordie – whose father Tony Church pioneered long distance riding safaris in the 1970’s – you can expect to learn about the indigenous local people as you explore hills, valleys, savannas and Masai manyattas (villages). There is a vast range of wildlife and game to view, including lion, leopard, zebra, warthog, giraffe and of course the migrating wildebeest!

Go if… you have always dreamt of galloping head to head with a herd of wildebeest and experiencing, first hand, the way of life for the native tribesmen of Kenya.

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Fun for all the family
South Africa is a dream destination for the adventurous, and horseback riding across this wonderful country offers a rare and extraordinary experience. The Waterberg is a 100-mile arc of mountains in the Limpopo province and plays host to many private game reserves. The scenery in this area is spectacular and varied with an array of different vegetation to explore, from dense woodland to beautiful rolling open grassland.

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Ants Lodges are run by Ant and Tessa Baber and provide beautiful luxury accommodation in their own private game reserve situated in the malaria-free region of the Waterberg. Catering for all levels of rider, non riders and children – this family-friendly safari is personal and tailor made for each visitor to enable you to gain the perfect balance of relaxation and recuperation, along with adventure and of course getting close to some of the country’s most beautiful animals. With no elephant or lion in the reserve, a trip to Ants Lodges means that all levels of rider can safely enjoy a horseback safari, yet still get up close to rhino, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, mongoose, African wild cat and more than 250 species of birds.

Go if… you wish to stay in beautiful accommodation and have varied riding – you have children or are part of a mixed ability – yet still want to experience the thrill of riding with wild game and seeing South Africa in all its beauty.

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Horsey paradise
Moolmanshoek is surrounded by the beautiful Witteberg Mountains, which sit on the border of Lesotho in South Africa. The basin is home to a variety of game, including springbuck, black wildebeest, blesbuck, zebra, eland, and many other indigenous wildlife. The flora and fauna that can be found as you explore the mountain slopes and beautiful wooded ravines will fill you with peace and tranquility, giving you respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This unspoiled mountain environment was declared a Natural Heritage Site in 1994 due to the rare Mountain Bamboo which grows in the area, so you can be sure that this destination will be a feast for all your senses.

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At Moolmanshoek you can explore the reserve on horseback, go walking alongside streams and dams or enjoy fly-fishing in clear spring water, along with many other activities – making it ideal for non-riding guests. As the home of two award-winning studs – South African Boerperd and Arabian Endurance horses – Moolmanshoek has more than 300 equines, from foals and yearlings to established endurance horses, providing a real haven for horse lovers. Enjoy long canters along the open plains amongst wildlife and herds of young horses, or trek up the windy mountain paths to see spectacular vistas and scenery – the riding at Moolmanshoek is varied and challenging, yet caters for a range of riding abilities.

Go if… you are on a budget but still want to enjoy great accommodation, superb quality horses and the chance to get your adrenalin pumping with some exciting riding and remarkable sights.

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Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding safaris, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Catherine Smither blogs about her unforgettable trip to Ants Hill

It never fails to bring warmth to our hearts when we hear about the fabulous experiences our clients have on In The Saddle trips, however Ants Hill guest, Catherine Smither, has written the most beautiful blog about her recent adventure to South Africa and we simply had to share it with you!

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Cooling off in the dam!

From the very start of her trip Catherine was full of enthusiasm and wonderful anecdotes. “Tonight, in 4 hours time, Mum, cousin Ruth and I will be catching a big shiny plane to South Africa to embark on a horseback safari adventure holiday of a lifetime! I have been wanting to go on safari ever since I was about 5 or 6 and started paying interest to all the African landscape pictures in my Uncle and Auntie’s house. They looked so magical that I made a promise to myself, one day I would see it for real. It is finally happening, I am feeling like a child again on Christmas eve, just around the corner is something amazing and awesome and I can’t wait to see what it is.”

Quickly settling in and building up a bond with one particular equine, Shakira, the familiarity and personal hospitality at Ants Hill is quickly evident as Catherine explains on day 2 of her trip. “As I sit up in the cosy but sprawling loft room of the Family Lodge in Ants Hill, I feel like I have already been here for days. Never have I felt so at home in a place and made to feel more loved and welcome than I do here.”

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The beautiful Sable

Throughout her blog Catherine divulges exactly how she feels on safari, and shares the knowledge she has learned from being in such a wonderful destination. From details about the animals and sights she has viewed to the delicious culinary delights devoured! Read her daily account of her trip and get a genuine feeling of being there every step of the way! When reading it we almost felt her pain at having to leave Africa behind and it is fair to say that the country has definitely got under her skin!

“So for now, the adventures are over but will never be forgotten. This truly deserves the holiday of a lifetime tag as it had everything just right, just enough danger and risk to make it exciting but enough comfort and luxury to remind you that you’re on holiday in a five star resort. We all had to fill in a comments sheet at the lodge and there was not a thing that I would have changed. What is more, it has made me want to return, not as a guest, but as a guide and live, ride and work as they do. Africa is such an amazing place, all the people are so proud of their countryside and just simply happy to be there and work so hard to keep it as nature intended. Even thinking or saying the word “Africa” summons up a whole bunch of animal smells, the hot sun on the red earth, the sounds of the birds, animals and the musical Afrikaans language and every single part of it is simply ‘Lekker’.”

Read Catherine’s inspiring and educational blog here… http://katsypie.wordpress.com

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Catherine, Ruth and Alison on an elephant safari at a nearby lodge to Ants Hill

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Travel the world in horse breeds: A Brazilian Beauty

There is more to equestrian travel than simply viewing another country from horseback, one of the highlights of your trip will be getting to know the personality of your four-legged travel companion. With hundreds of different breeds inhabiting the world there are so many types of horse you can come across. In our latest blog we introduce you to the wonderful Brazilian Mangalarga Marchador horses…

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Brazil is best known for its colourful carnivals, football legends and of course the Amazon, however there are deeper hidden treasures in this vibrant country and to see them from horseback is truly magical! From joining a genuine traditional cattle drive, to exploring mountain scenery, coffee plantations or the routes taken by Charles Darwin in the rainforests, to riding on empty white sandy beaches. Brazil is the home of stunning Mangalarga Marchador horses, a distinctive versatile equine with a unique gait.

Descending from the Lusitano stallions of Portugal and Barb mares, the Mangalarga Marchador horses are considered intelligent, amicable and easily trained for a variety of equestrian tasks, while their natural cadence and carriage sets them apart from other horses.

Agile, strong and typically with a docile temperament, the Mangalarga Marchador horses have a fast and smooth walk, canter and gallop and two natural ambling gaits instead of trot. In the Marcha Batida the feet are placed diagonally while in the Marcha Picada the feet move laterally and separately – giving moments when three hooves are on the ground at once. These gaits provide an extremely comfortable pace, making the Marchador ideal for long distance riding.

Adaptable and affectionate, the Mangalarga Marchador horses will enrich your trip to Brazil and leave a lasting impression. To find out more about riding these horses, or other spectacular breeds from around the world, visit www.inthesaddle.com

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Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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