08 Galapagos Arrival Will Bolsover

A Family Galapagos Safari with my Most VIP Client

Will Bolsover

Will Bolsover

21 Jul 2015

A family Galapagos Island holiday with my son

A family Galapagos Island holiday with my son

Update 1: July 15, Ecuador & Galapagos Arrival

As we have the company’s 10 year anniversary this year I’ve been trying to experience a few things that I have not done to date for one reason or another. So far this year that has involved finally making it to South Africatracking Siberian tigers and now, the ultimate test - travelling to the Galapagos. You may say ‘why is this an ultimate test? That’s surely pretty easy?’...Well yes, you may have a point. However, this trip is different for a few reasons, firstly I have left a rather large (but very generous) 8 month pregnant wife at home with our autistic son; and secondly I am travelling with my biggest critic and biggest fan, my 5.5 year old son, Oscar.

When I first mentioned to my wife (Ciz) that I was considering taking Oscie to the Galapagos, she was at first excited by the prospect and then seconds later, concerned…could I look after Oscar for the whole two weeks by myself?! Of course I could…at least I thought that…until we set off. Not that there have been any disasters yet, in fact he has already been set up as future marriage material with the stewardess’ 6 year old daughter and he is one of the most laid back travel companions I have ever had. He is however, also my most VIP client that I have ever travelled with. I’m nervous for him (and for myself) but I want him to enjoy this trip, learn stuff, experience what I love about my job and what I have invested so many years of my life in. 

Our journey starts at 0430hrs from Brighton as we make our way to the airport. 19hrs later, we arrive in our destination having travelled from London to Madrid to Quito, having watched three films, drunk a little bit of wine (that was me!), a lot of apple juice (that was him!) and basically, not slept. Immigration is a bit of a doddle (Africa could learn a thing or two here!), but baggage collection is bizarrely slow. Having said that, Oscar managed to make a game even out of that, laughing hilariously as the bags crashed down onto the conveyor, at those that made a big bang or those that got stuck. 

Making our way through the exit we were warmly greeted by our local office who whisk us off into Quito (approx. one hour drive), winding our way up onto the plateau from 2,400m to 2,800m. Set in the foothills of the Andres, the brief glimpse we got of Quito seemed to be a fascinating place with lots to see and do, backed up by the fact that it was the first city to be nominated a UNESCO World Heritage site back in the 70s. 

We arrive at our hotel in the centre of the old town, the beautiful Casa Gangotena overlooking the Plaza San Francisco. If we had longer, we would love to explore more but the fact is, the 19 odd hours on the road has taken its toll – we make a valiant effort to go to the dining room where we order our dinner…only to realise within a few minutes that we will never make it to the end! Instead we ask if it is possible for our food to be delivered to our room…within minutes of finishing, we pass out horizontal in the knowledge that we have to be up early again for our onward flight to the Galapagos…

0530hrs – wake-up call. Meal times are usually the loneliest times on these recesses, but it is with a smile on my face that I wake up this morning to hear my little assistant snoring away in the other bed. We grab some clothes and wander downstairs to the dining room that we had deserted only a few hours before. Fresh fruit and ham and cheese sandwiches are the preferred choice for my little buddy so I tag along as well – why not? Maybe on this trip I should learn a thing of two from him in how to travel and enjoy oneself?

Setting off at 0630hrs, we transfer back to the airport where we do the usual formalities before clearing customs and waiting for our flight. This has been the moment we have been looking forward to…the Galapagos!

Whilst I say that we have been looking forward to the Galapagos, this is actually only really Oscar. I have never been particularly drawn to these little islands located a thousand kilometres off the coast of mainland Ecuador. I’m not sure why, they’ve just always felt a bit ‘mainstream’ and predictable unlike a lot of the destinations that I have done over the years. The Galapagos fans in the office though have managed to convince me that it is a must and therefore I finally caved in…and to be honest, I was happy too once I realised that this is something I could enjoy experiencing for the first time along with Oscar. Will it live up to expectations, I’m not sure really as thinking about it, I am not even sure I have any expectations…

Anyway, I write this from the tarmac of Guayaquil airport as we stop off to refuel and pick up some extra passengers; next stop the Galapagos Islands.

Galapagos Family Trip - Will Bolsover - marine iguanas

Update 2: July 16, Galapagos Safari Camp

1230hrs – we arrive and Oscar is literally bouncing off the walls! Ushered away by our hosts to the VIP lounge (thank you Galapagos Safari Camp!) we have our GPI (Galapagos Islands) fees sorted for us and then transfer from Baltra (a small island off the north of Santa Cruz). It’s a short 2 minute ferry crossing followed by a transfer 40 minutes up across the highlands (600m) and slightly down the other side to the lovely Galapagos Safari Camp. We are met upon arrival by the welcoming Katherine (the manager) and enjoy lunch on the terrace overlooking the forests below and out to sea.


Slightly wet and windy but this doesn’t put us off as we wander round the highland forests stumbling across tortoise after tortoise!

As they amble around munching the grass and walling in water, Oscar literally flits from on to the other trying to find the biggest or the oldest – or as it happens the one that is farting the most!

While the tortoises are great, I am surprised by what sparks Oscar’s interest the most; the lava tunnels. These stunning formations where lava has literally closed through cooling rock out to the sea provide the perfect tunnels from which to explore underground. It was in one of these tunnels that Lonesome George, the tortoise of worldwide fame was found. “This is real exploring” Oscar explains to me as we fumble our way through the dark tunnel and up the steep steps out into the sunlight on the other side.

From here we make our way back to Camp where we have a later afternoon swim as we look out over the rainforest and plan what adventures to take on in the morning.

Update 3: 17 July, Exploring Santa Cruz

We wake early as the jet lag still has its hold on us and make our way up to breakfast. Oscar eats more than anyone else there with fruit, porridge, cheese, ham, sausages and bacon. Full up, we set off with our guide Enrique to town and the Charles Darwin Research Centre. An hour or so is spent exploring this breeding centre where a lot of the support and research work is done for the island.

Home to students it is the centre for breeding some of the more endangered tortoises and was the old home of Lonesome George before he passed away. Definitely worth spending a morning here to gauge a bit of the background of the islands and also to encounter your first land and sea iguanas and dome-shaped tortoises.

From here we wander round town which is pleasantly calm and relaxing. A variety of shops and nice places to eat provide a welcome distraction from what is going to be a wildlife filled next few days. We stock up on a few essentials and then set off by a small water taxi to the Angermeyer waterfront where we relax and go for a splash in the sea, practice our snorkelling and play a bit of football. The rest of the day is spent relaxing back at Camp, catching up on a bit of well needed sleep and preparing for the next stage of our adventure ... boarding the vessel for the next 7 nights, the M/V Evolution.

Update 4: 18 July, On-board the M/V Evolution and San Cristobal Island

Lazy morning as we pack our things at Galapagos Safari Camp, say our goodbyes (well, Oscar says his goodbyes to all his mates - the manageress has now wanted to adopt him) and we set off back to Baltra to catch our onward flight to San Cristobal. An easy check-in as we are ushered through the VIP area (Oscar thinks this is normal now!) and on to our flight. This time we are on a 7-seater Cessna which is the smallest plane O has ever been on - he takes it in his stride though and instead of getting scared has eyes wide open twice the size as normal, marvelling at the noise as the little engine buzzes to life and we speed off down the Tarmac!

A short 40min flight brings us to the next stage of our adventure and San Cristobal Island. Met by Walter of the MV Evolution we are whisked through town to our waiting dinghy to take us aboard. I think this is the bit Oscar has been waiting for and his expectations are already exceeded as we wander along the jetty with sea lions below us and turtles floating by. A 2min transfer through the moored boats brings us to our home for the next 7 nights, the characterful MV Evolution (image below supplied by M/V Evolution/Quasar). We meet our fellow explorers, settle into our cabin and set out into the ocean seas for our first 'proper foray' into the Galapagos Islands...

An hour's sail offshore we come to the renowned Kicker Rock. Whilst some go snorkelling, Oscar and I remain on-board - O takes to the hot tub whilst I wander round photographing the rock as we drift round admiring it from different angles. 

I know it sounds like a cliché but this is our first real taste of the Galapagos....to top it all off we then see an orca flitting passed as a humpback whale breaches in the distance...

Galapagos Family Trip - Will Bolsover - bird

Update 5: 19 July, South Plaza Isand and Mosquera Beach

Our first full day on the Evolution and a full day it is too. We make our way ashore to the lava-strewn South Plaza Island where we are greeted by a bizarre array of sea lions playing, marine iguanas lazing and colonies of land iguanas lopsidedly moving from one rock or feeding ground to the next. 

It's hot but weirdly humbling. This place I have so long ignored does have a touch of bizarre about it. Yes it's controlled/structured, but if you like wildlife and more so if you like wildlife and photography then the Galapagos Islands have to be on your list. We finish our circumnavigation of this rocky outpost as tropicbirds and frigatebirds fly over our heads and make our way back to the ship.

Our next morning adventure takes us snorkelling. Now for a 5.5yr old that has only snorkelled in the bath at home this at first sounds immensely exciting - for that reason I was slightly worried how O would take to the open waters. Whilst not exactly 'fish-esque' I have to say he did immensely well - a few mask problems and snorkels going under the surface but after a while he settles and makes the most of it. The sightings of parrot fish, rays and more make it an eye opener for my little explorer but not enough to take his mind away from the cold water for long...20mins and he's back in the dinghy acting as lookout for sharks and more!

The afternoon sees us sailing on to Mosquera Beach, a seemingly barren sand bank in the middle of our Jurassic world. Whilst I wander the shoreline taking in the view, passing time with sea lions and the odd marine iguana, Oscar plays with his new friends from the ship, running through the sand as the odd sea lion follows in hot pursuit. It's well deserved time off for the younger members of our expedition, as nature walks and even snorkelling can take its toll after a day or two.

Everything about this place seems ancient even though it's been visited a thousand times and more, it's Gerald Durell-esque as the kids play on the beach and taunt a baby scorpion they find. I may have started a Galapagos cynic but I'm fast coming round. No it's not full of wildlife and it's not the most beautiful landscape, it's not the most liberating experience and there is nowhere to truly stretch your legs, it is however unique in its own right and one of those places that every true explorer (I'm even talking like Oscar now!) must go.
Galapagos Family Trip - Will Bolsover - Sally Lightfoot Crab

Update 6: 20 July, Sombrero Chino Island and Santiago Island

An earlier start this morning as we rise at 0615 to set off on our first escapade to Sombrero Chino Island. A 30min cruise along the lava shore to see if we can spot any endemic Galápagos penguins and then a wet landing on a coral beach.

Crabs seem to be the flavour of the day for Oscar as we wander along the rocky lava outcrops; the shoreline is littered in these brightly coloured 10-legged friends. Then Oscar spots his first marine iguana of the day and we round the corner to find sleeping sea lions and a marine iguana colony...!

Our walk back is quicker as we know that snorkelling awaits. A quick turnaround on board and we are back in the zodiac and snorkelling the turquoise waters. Oscar has lost a bit of enthusiasm (mainly due to an oversized wetsuit letting in too much water), but he gives it a go, floating along holding on to an inflatable ring - kindly provided by the boat - whilst watching the underwater world drift by below. Getting cold he wraps himself in towels in the zodiac until we spot a shark!!! At first he's not overly fussed to get back in the water as it’s cold, but it does not take much persuasion and within seconds my little explorer buddy is snorkelling alongside his first shark...ok it's no Great White, but a 5ft white tipped reef shark isn't a bad place to start!

Returning to the boat we enjoy a well-deserved lunch as we set sail a couple of hours to Santiago Island and our next journey into the isles of the Galapagos. It's hot this afternoon and even if Oscar doesn't feel it, I do! We meander our way through the lava outcrops, on beaches, snapping pictures, ducking as Pelicans swoop over our heads, marvelling at blue-footed boobies perched on rocky outcrops. Oscar does not let the heat stop him continuing his fascination with the multitude of crabs. Then sitting quietly, determined to out think a heron, he waits for it to make its strike on an unsuspecting fish. Maybe this patience thing that I've been chatting to him about is paying off after all...?!

As others go off to snorkel, Oscie and I take some down time and decide to run along the beach trying to run faster than a ghost crab (apparently these are lightning quick?), splashing in the sea and just having some general beach fun. 

Galapagos Family Trip - Will Bolsover - sea lion

Update 7: 21 July, Genovesa Island

Sailing through the night we make it to our destination, Genovesa Island in the early hours of the morning. Getting ready for a wet landing we make our way by boat to this small sandy beach where we set off to see what is on offer. When I say we 'set off' that may be a rather grandiose term seeing as on this particular island there is so much to see we only need to cover a few hundred metres. This seems to be Galapagos at its best, wherever I look there is some form of natural event unfolding before my eyes - red-footed boobies nesting, frigatebirds guarding their young chicks from aerial predators, sea lions sleeping, crabs scuttling across the beach. A truly remarkable landing full of hatching chicks and swooping gulls.

Whilst admittedly Oscar's interest may be waning slightly in the continual sightings of admittedly similar species, he always finds something to amuse himself with. It's not long before he is chasing crabs across the beach, screaming as some of the bigger ones turn on him and give him a taste of his own medicine!

For me I'm back out in the boat in snorkelling gear. Whilst visibility is not at its best this is one of the best spots to see hammer head sharks - unfortunately luck is not on our side today, however instead we are treated to snoozing sea lions who we swim within metres of as they lazily open their eyes and occasionally sleep somersault in their underwater world.

The afternoon is spent catching up on a bit of sleep for myself and Oscar as it's been non stop so far...shortly followed by a hot tub session on the main deck whilst the other guests set off to explore Prince Philip's steps.
Galapagos Family Trip - Will Bolsover -Iguana

Update 8: 22 July, North Seymour Island

We make our way towards shore for a dry landing this morning on North Seymour Island, renowned for the largest land iguanas and also the famed blue-footed boobies - this is a must.

My little companion this morning, for once, is not so keen to get it of bed...the full on day-by-day activities are obviously taking their toll. Having said that...within minutes he's requested his latest tune by Dizzee Rascal and is bouncing round the cabin!

A quick breakfast and we go ashore. All of these islands have their own character, OK so some are a bit samey, but each one is also different in its own right. Today we walk up along a winding rocky path, past some sleeping sea lions and along through a Wild West-like cactus strewn walkway.

Our guide waxes lyrical about the natural history and what we can expect to see...only to be outdone by Oscar...not once...not twice...but three times...'excuse me but is that one of the big iguanas you are talking about?' As he points a metre away from the guide's feet...embarrassed the guide confesses 'oops, yes sorry, I hadn't seen that there!'...Oscar turns to the guide and politely asks 'would you like me to guide instead of you...?!'

We continue our walk.

We round the corner to be welcomed by the icon of the Galapagos, a blue-footed boobie. Cameras snapping, people jostling into position, we get our shots, only for Oscar to point out that there are about another 5 blue-footed boobies dotted along the pathway in front of us if we had only taken a minute to look up from our cameras!

Our final stretch on the island brings us across our best specimen yet of a large male land iguana.

Striking a pose as he emerges from the rocky beach we happily click away like paparazzi on red carpet night...so much so in fact that my partner in crime and I don't realise everyone else has gone and we are left behind!

We hurry along to the landing site where we are berated for our tardiness and then motor our way back to the boat. 

Our tardiness means we don't quite have time for the snorkelling which the other guests set out to enjoy. Instead, we spend some time up on deck relaxing, chatting and taking in the view.

Unfortunately a delayed refuelling stop means we are behind schedule for the rest of the day and have to put in a long sailing session to reach our next stop of Santa Fe. When we are finally there a fair few green faces emerge from their cabins as we have been tossed around a fair bit on the crossing.

No one emphasises this more though than my little partner in crime as he proceeds to projectile vomit all over the back deck just as we have all gathered to disembark. Whilst my feet are, let's say, warmer than they were a few moments ago, I feel everyone's faces behind me turn rapidly greener and quickly make a sharp exit with my vomit stricken mini-me in tow.

It takes a lot to keep Little O down and within a few minutes (and a shower) he is back on his feet. We decide to miss the afternoon excursion - in which sea lions turn out to be the main attraction - and instead settle into an early dinner and a session of watching Despicable Me on the back deck. Sometimes you just need a break and some creature comforts.

As I sit here and write this I keep glancing overboard and seeing sea lions playing in the nighttime ocean, fishing around in the dancing lights of the boat for any unsuspecting fish. The clicking of the sea lions is followed by the swooping swallow-tailed gulls bouncing off the waves in search of any tasty leftovers. There always seems to be something going on out here whether that be sea lions fishing, or Despicable Me ;-)

Galapagos Family Trip - Will Bolsover - Iguana

Update 9: 23 July, Floreana Island, Post Office Bay and Champion Islet

A lively start to the day as Ozzie (as he is now known to a few of the guests) wakes up full of beans and ready for adventure!

First port of call is Floreana Island and Post Office Bay. This is where in the traditional way (i.e. delivered by hand) people leave postcards to be picked up by the next visitor and dropped off at their destination. We leave a couple of postcards in the hope that some of the next passers-by will be passing through either Brighton or Worcestershire!

Postcards posted we then return to the beach where we prepare for a snorkel. Whilst Oscie is not the biggest fan of snorkelling at this stage - it gets quite cold when your wetsuit is baggy! - he is keen to don his two wetsuits and climb aboard his personal water vessel, me! With Oscar aboard, we snorkel out to the rocks, Oscar riding on my back looking down into the water whenever I say there is anything interesting to see below, and we are met by the best treat yet, a huge turtle. We drift around watching this ancient dude (Finding Nemo!) munch away on the algae and then swim back to shore. 

Returning to the boat we enjoy a quick hot tub and drink before donning our wetsuits again and this time setting out for a snorkel around Champion Islet - this place is renowned for great snorkelling and duly delivers with a white-tipped reef shark on entry and then endless fun swimming with curious sea lions as they cartwheel through the ocean.

Following lunch, the final excursion of the day takes us back to Floreana Island but this time to Punta Cormorant. A gentle walk takes us round the brackish waters of a volcanic lake dotted with the pink frames of flamingoes and over onto another beach which is pristine white sand and the favoured nesting spot of local turtles. A few recent nesting sites are evident on close inspection but no baby turtles flip flapping off to the ocean on this occasion. My little friend finishes the afternoon with a little bit of tomfoolery in the waves as we wait for our zodiacs to pick us up as sea lions skirt the shoreline and turtles nose their way to the surface for a fresh gasp of air...

Update 10: 24 – 25 July, Santa Cruz

A slower paced couple of days recently as we return to Santa Cruz where the Evolution itinerary takes everyone to visit the giant highland tortoises and the Darwin Research Centre. As my mini-travelling assistant and I have already done this, we decide to look at an alternative which involves a site visit of the Finch Bay Hotel including a swim, catch up on emails, a well deserved burger... and another swim!

It's been a fairly full on few days and all the travel has definitely taken its toll on my mini-me, however not once has he complained, moaned or caused an issue... he's had late nights with the big boys for the last 10 days and each morning he has got up again and carried on with the next chapter. For that reason, the plan is to slow it down a bit for the next couple of days and try and get a bit more down time in (for me as well of course!!!).

The following morning, we depart the MV Evolution with a rather snazzy transfer to the lovely super yacht Stella Maris which we have to do a quick inspection of for some future clients. It's a completely different style to that of the Evolution, but taking a maximum of 12 guests, having fine dining, a hot tub and some fairly efficient staff I wouldn't complain!

Enjoying a hosted lunch on board, we then depart to the shore and transfer up into the highlands to the stunningly located Pikaia Lodge. Set atop a hill overlooking the forest with ocean views, this is a dramatic spot to say the least... and to top it all we are the only guests but two for the next two days.

We spend the afternoon swimming with infinity pool views (well swimming involves numerous father/son jumping contests in the pool!), a cheeky massage and then an evening in the home cinema with a Malbec (well lemonade for my assistant) and steak as we then wind our way off to bed to catch up on some sleep...

Galapagos Family Trip - Will Bolsover -Oscar

Update 11: 26 July, Pikaia Lodge

Well, there is no other way to say this, today we had a day off!

Oscar has been amazing throughout and considering I'm tired after what we have done over the last 12 days or so, he has been exceptional.

For our 'down day' we spent it at the lovely Pikaia Lodge. Located up in the highlands, Pikaia affords stunning views out across the Galapagos forests and out to the ocean.

The morning was spent enjoying a lazy breakfast followed by a series of rounds of Uno and quite a tricky Mr Men card game (I lost!). We the moved on to more strenuous things such as me going for a run whilst Oscar stayed at the hotel (with a member of staff of course!) and played on an iPad (it is a day off after all!).

My run took me a few kms out along the track, through a nearby tortoise reserve to a stunning viewpoint overlooking a volcanic crater. 

Returning to the lodge my assistant decides that following my run I am rather sweaty and that the only option is for us to go for a swim so we hop into the pool to cool off for a bit. A swim is swiftly followed by a late lunch whilst watching a film in the private cinema and then back to the gym for a hot tub!

A lazy day can only be followed by a lazy evening, so we settled in for a quick dinner and another film - it is a day off after all!

Update 12: 27 July, Isabella Island

We head for Isabella Island which we are both looking forward to, firstly because we have heard lots about it and secondly because we are both now fairly tired. Travel is great at all times especially when you can see it lighting up someone's life in all new ways, but when your buddy is this young, building in a few days of rest are equally as important.
Galapagos Family Trip - Will Bolsover - Penguin

Update 13: 28-29 July, Isabela Island

So we come to the end of our journey with a few nights on the remote and charming Isabella Island. Met off the plane by the lovely Felipe, we stop off in town for lunch before making our way to the newly constructed Scalesia Lodge.

Puerto Vilamil - the town on Isabella - is an amazing untouched equivalent of the Wild West. With sand roads, only 3,000 inhabitants and basic infrastructure to say the least, Isabella offers you a truly off the beaten path Galapagos experience. The town itself is located amongst multiple ancient lava flows and sits on the seafront looking out over dramatic seas. The island is supposedly one of the youngest (but the largest) of the Galapagos, thought to be approx 1 million years old. It's tricky to explain what this characterful island conjures up, but it reminds me of when I first started travelling, when Zanzibar wasn't the tourist hot spot that it now is and when a beach stay for me was a basic guest house with hammocks and warm beer. Isabella certainly isn't for everyone, but it is for those that want to step off the beaten track and explore a new and fresh side of the renowned Galapagos Islands.

The soon to be addition of Scalesia Lodge being constructed by the forever hospitable and fun Felipe is only going to add to Isabella's appeal. Set up in the highlands halfway between the coast and Sierra Negre (the still fiery volcano with a 10km crater!!!), Scalesia Lodge offers a welcome break from boats, the sea and the Galapagos norm. Large tented rooms with en suite facilities, views across the cloud forest to the coastline and a warm welcome, Scalesia is a lovely property with a lot to offer. Still under construction, Scalesia should be up and running in the next few weeks with the final touches coming before the end of the year.

For our final day in the Galapagos, we take a boat and explore the bay. With blue-footed boobies, plenty of penguins, white-tipped reef sharks, sea lions and turtles, this is a great place to explore. Whilst the public boat we took with 16 clients does the job, the private excursions offered by Scalesia Lodge will add that little bit more intimacy. Other activities include a visit to the tortoise breeding centre, the flamingo lake and a relaxing lunch at the Iguana Crossing Hotel.

The great thing about Isabella Island is its sheer basic charm. It doesn't have much in the way of luxury and that's where Scalesia will help hugely. It does however offer raw beauty. Within a few metres of the Iguana Crossing Hotel there is a 2km long pristine beach, within a 20 min drive of Scalesia Lodge there is the ultimate volcano, within a short boat ride of the jetty there is Los Tunnelos for some stunning snorkelling. So whilst at first glance Isabella may be a bit rough around the edges, for those more adventurous travellers, it's definitely worth a visit.

If you would like to follow in their footsteps then look at our Galapagos Island holidays.


Marcel Pazos

10/10/2016 8:12 PM

We greatly appreciate your words about the Stella Maris Of Galapagos. For us it is a pleasure to serve our select guests. We invite you to visit our website for more information: http://www.stellamaris.com.ec/


25/7/2015 11:30 AM

Wow! Sounds incredible! What an amazing experience for you both to share! oscy.....Arki will be VERY jealous of the turtles!xx


23/7/2015 10:30 AM

It makes me want to be back in the Galapagos!


22/7/2015 5:30 PM

Wow excellent exploring skills! But..... have you seen any unicorns yet Oscar? :)


22/7/2015 2:30 PM

Jealous, jealous, jealous..... but you can keep the shark Oscie!!!!!xx


20/7/2015 1:30 PM

Manta rays, turtles, sea lions, humpbacks and orca - wow! Sounds like you're both having an incredible time. Can't wait for more updates and photos. Do we have a mini Attenborough in our sights?

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