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Posts Tagged ‘Country Walking’

And so the time has come πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ With just 37!!! days (😱) till I set off on my big adventure, Pepe needs a repack. I’ll be away working for 24 of those 37 days, so now is the time!! It’s both thrilling and terrifying…this will be my longest walk/s by far. The most I’ve walked continuously in the past has been 11 days on the Camino.

Pepe looking pretty in yellow πŸ’› and the colour matched poncho I bought yesterday 🀭🀭🀭

This walk will be 23 days. Naturally of course, 6 of those 23 days will be devoted to exploring the areas I’m in; Berwick Upon Tweed, Lindisfarne, Bamburgh, Newcastle, Carlisle and Glasgow, but that all involves walking πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈπŸšΆβ€β™€οΈπŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ

So whewww, I’m ready, but I’m almost certain that my feet are not at all as excited – they’ll be doing most of the work, poor old πŸ‘£πŸ‘£πŸ₯ΎπŸ₯Ύ #notjustagrannyΒ  #overthehillstilltravelling

I’m going to be packing as light as possible, even lighter than the Camino, and very definitely, I am planning on using baggage forwarding wherever possible and feasible. As I have said in the past, I’m not into self-flaggelation, and walking for me is an enjoyable pastime not a penance for past sins!! Camino or not!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Tomorrow after I’ve returned the tiddler to his parental unit, I’m going shopping for new walking shoes. The asics I purchased a few months ago are not quite doing it for me, and weirdly the Salomons I tried on last week felt more like mini coffins than comfy trainers, which is toats weird since I wore a brilliant pair on my Camino. Shoulda bought 2 pairs!! πŸ™„πŸ™„πŸ™„

Let the packing commence…🀨🀨

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I was quite amused by this article shared on a walking page on facebook.

https://www.cicerone.co.uk/a-question-of-stiles-rural-ingenuity-or-hazardous-obstacle

It totally reminded me of my walk along The Pilgrim’s Way back in 2018 and 2020…I cannot tell you how many, many stiles, of all shapes, sizes, state of decay or disrepair, and levels of navigable ability I encountered over the week of my final stages. At one point at the end of a very long day, near Detling, I literally sat down on the step of what was thankfully the last stile of the day for 30 minutes and just refused to climb it…my mind was bent!! I just couldn’t face having to hoik myself and my backpack, which by then felt like it weighed in at 5 tons, over the damn stile!! I seriously considered just parking myself in the surrounding field and staying there for the night….except…creepy crawlies and things that go bump in the night.

Walking the Pilgrim's Way
Another mile, another stile – near Detling alongside the motorway, not a very comfortable seat

In the space of 25 minutes, early evening, after walking for 10 hours, I encountered 1 kissing gate and 4 stiles, two of which were no more than 2 minutes apart! I kid you not!! So not funny! LOL I had just 3 hours earlier squeezed myself through another kissing gate…most times, as the article suggests, you have to just take the backpack off, throw it over (or lower it carefully depending on how fed-up you are) and squeeze through.

and then, just to really make my day….I had to climb this flight of stairs straight after, only to discover that I would be walking right next to a very busy motorway. What I said on seeing these stairs…. I’ll leave to your imagination

Oh! and may I just say…I did this walk between lockdowns in 2020! At a time when we were allowed to travel, albeit not hugely encouraged…I hardly saw a soul most days, and only encountered my airbnb hosts in a controlled environment. Just saying….as they say. I got some seriously nasty flack from someone I don’t even know on facebook…which is why my profile is private…

Other than that…what has been your experience with stiles? I’m truly grateful that so far there are none on the Thames Path and I’ve encountered only kissing gates so far on The Saxon Shore Way. The English Coast Path is also mostly free of stiles…probably coz you can’t farm on the beach. Or can you?

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I uploaded my kms to the Conqueror app after completing Stage 3 and boom…all 3 postcards popped up in my mailbox in one go. I should have uploaded them as I went, but I guess it doesn’t really matter…

A mix of Scottish and French….

Virtual walk along the Cabot Trail in Canada

I made it to Ingonish on the north-east coast of Cape Breton. Made up of 5 small communities, their economy centres around tourism and fishing.

Golf seems to prevail and the nearby Highland Links Golf Course regularly ranks in the Top 10 golf courses in Canada. The Scottish influence is evident in holes named Heich O’ Fash, meaning Heap of Trouble and Killiecrankie, which is a long narrow pass in the Scottish Highlands and played a significant role in the Battle of Killiecrankie during the 1689 Jacobite Rebellion. Many of the fairways resemble the Scottish topography but the original designer, Stanley Thompson, just called it his “mountain and oceans course” and established himself as the finest golf course architect in Canada.

Next to the golf course is Keltic Lodge which was originally built in 1910 as a summer retreat for the Corson family who owned the land at the time. When the Cape Breton Highlands National Park was developed the Nova Scotia government saw the value of the headland where the lodge was situated and purchased the land from the Corson’s. By 1951 the new Keltic Lodge was constructed providing accommodation services to the area.

Just beyond the Keltic Lodge is the Middle Head Peninsula hiking trail. It is a 3.8km trail that follows a narrow peninsula with ocean bays on either side, finishing on headland cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with views of Cape Smokey Provincial Park to the right and Ingonish Island to the left.

For any ocean enthusiast there is a unique opportunity to swim in both freshwater and saltwater in the same area. At Ingonish Beach the saltwater is off a white sandy beach on one side and the other is the freshwater swimming hole created by waves piling up rocks creating a barrier which then cornered off a cove from the ocean and over time filled with freshwater.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel like a swim a boat cruise during the summer months provides for excellent opportunities to see various types of whales, dolphins, seals and puffins.

The wild swimming sounds glorious!! I’d do both if I had the opportunity; wild swimming and the boat cruise.

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This section sounds amazing, all those wonderful artisan items to see. How cute are these puffins 😊😊 My virtual journey is almost as exciting as my real time walk along the Thames Path. Whilst I didn’t see any puffins on my walk, I did see a few herons and lots of our delightful British spring visitors.

Virtual walk along the Cabot Trail in Canada

I am making my way along St Ann’s Bay on the east coast of the trail and it should probably be called “Artisan Coast” because from the tiny rural community of St Ann all the way up to Wreck Cove it is one long list of artisan shops, galleries and studios offering items made of clay, glass, leather, pewter, iron, paint, fibre and canvas.

St Ann is one of the oldest settlements in North America. It acquired its Gaelic roots when the Scottish Reverend Norman McLeod on his way to Ohio was forced ashore during a storm. He setup his ministry and was soon followed by boatloads of Scots from the motherland becoming the first Scots in St Ann. He eventually immigrated to New Zealand with many of his followers and his property in St Ann is today occupied by the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts.

Whilst I visited the Gaelic College, I came across another book called Letters to Mac-Talla from John Munro, A Cape Breton Gael in New Zealand 1894-1902, and it is a humorous compilation of 32 letters written home to Nova Scotia. Having lived for 40 years in Nova Scotia, together with 900 fellow Highlanders, John sailed to New Zealand where he spent the next 40 years. In his letters he wrote about St Ann’s history, the Mi’kmaq (local indigenous people), first contact with Europeans, the French Occupation, the local flora and fauna along with his experience in New Zealand, the Maori and his fellow Scots.

The nearby Great Hall of Clan Museum took me on a journey of the early settlers from the Highlands of Scotland to their evolution into a Cape Breton way of life and Rev. Norman McLeod’s journey from Scotland to St Ann to Waipu, New Zealand.

I enjoyed the link with the recent New Zealand virtual challenge I completed…we definitely need a virtual challenge based in Scotland ….

What these places we ‘visit ‘ while processing along these virtual challenges, is that we ‘Europeans’ are all immigrants.

I also find them so enticing…I’d love to visit in real time too πŸ˜„πŸ˜„

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I decided to follow the virtual Cabot Trail while walking the Thames Path. I was hoping to complete the whole 299kms, both the Thames Path and the Cabot Trail together as the distances were almost the same, but as mentioned before, lockdown rules decreed otherwise. I decided to activate the Conqueror challenge anyway and then link it to other walks I do as I go…for variety. After uploading my 1st day’s walking I received my first postcard; way less mileage than I walked in real life, but I’m on my way:

Virtual walk along the Cabot Trail in Canada

I finally made it to Cape Breton Island, Canada. Having crossed Canso Causeway from Nova Scotia I made my way to the township of Baddeck. Here I’ll commence my Cabot Trail journey, a 298km (185mi) loop around the northernmost part of the island.

The Cabot Trail was constructed in 1932 passing through and along Cape Breton Highlands. It was named after John Cabot who is thought to have landed here in 1497 but historians think he most likely landed in Newfoundland instead.

Baddeck is the start and end of the Cabot Trail. It is a bustling resort community established in the mid-1800s as French and British Settlements. Today it is awash with festivals and events celebrating Aviation Day, Celtic Music Festival, relay races, Regattas and Ceildihs (Scottish/Irish folk music, singing, dancing and storytelling). Baddeck is also a haven for golf enthusiasts, horseback riding and boat chartering.

Baddeck sits on the northern shores of Bras d’Or Lake which is connected to the Atlantic Ocean making this large body of water both fresh and salt water. The lake is 100km (62mi) long and 50km (31mi) wide with six rivers emptying into it. Popular with summertime boating, there’s a long standing tradition of sailboat racing. Various yacht clubs host annual regattas and race weeks.

I’m told that Baddeck became a tourist destination after Charles Dudley Warner wrote a travel journal about his visit to the area in his 1874 publication of Baddeck, And That Sort of Thing. Although, I hear that many locals at the time weren’t impressed with his description of the people as backward and simple. I may drop into the local library and have a scan of the book.

How much I would love to be able to do all these virtual walks for real…we do get to travel (virtually) to some amazing places.

If you missed the first leg of my walk along the Thames Path, fear not…click here for Stage 1a and you can catch up with my journey.

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Today I’m on my way….heading home.

Its really nice to be able to say ‘home’, even though it’s a room in a shared house, its a base and home – for now. Although it was quite suitable in the past to stay in a b&b or guesthouse between jobs, the security of having a base is so much better.

Part of the reason I enjoyed staying at b&bs etc was because I used to travel between jobs, but now my little πŸ’™ lives in Ramsgate and I have a powerful reason to want a base to return to so I can spend precious time with him.

So today has finally arrived after what has, once again, been a very stressful 2 weeks. I’ve had 3 very stressful assignments since the beginning of the year and my goddess I’m tired.

I was hoping to start working again next week, but as has been the case in the last year, the agency do not have much work available. So I’ve accepted a position in Devon that only starts on 31st. Although this will have a slightly negative impact on my income, it does mean I have a good break and space to breathe.

I’ve started the process for claiming my pension, albeit insufficient to even pay my rent, it will give me a wee boost to save for my walking trips. I’ve not worked in the country long enough to qualify for a decent amount, but as the blurb goes….every little bit helps.

So talking of trips, crikey – after much rejigging my dates for my planned πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€” Thames Path walk in April, and trying for the last 2 days to squeeze the dates etc, I finally got a decent looking schedule worked out, sat down last night to start changing the dates for the bookings I had already made, only to find that the prices are almost double in May. So that puts paid to that little escapade. Ugh. My head.

Back to square one as they say. I was so upset last night that I just shut my computer, used a few choice words at commercialism 🀬🀬🀬 and went to bed.

So over the next few days I’m going to go back to basics, cancel all the bookings I made for April since I can’t travel then anyway, do a new search. Thank goodness for booking.com where you can reserve a place, but have the option of cancelling within a reasonable time.

However, I am determined to do this trip….

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I’m not sure if I mentioned this before πŸ€”πŸ€” but I’m walking the Thames Path for my birthday…its a milestone birthday in as much as according to the government I can officially retire!!!Β  πŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ if only.

Initially I really wanted to walk from source to sea, but have not been able to find a good relevant guide book. The Cicerone books are excellent but they only had a sea to source guide, which has been irritating me.
So I’ve been pondering how I can turn this around so I can enjoy the walk instead of feeling like I’m doing it the wrong way around…

And I just had an idea πŸ’‘ ping the oldΒ  🧠 woke up….I shall pretend I’m an explorer πŸ˜πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈπŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈ who has just stumbled upon this great river, and now I have to follow it to find the mysterious source hidden in the jungle….in reality it’s in a barren field and the stream is mostly dry,πŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™€οΈπŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ but who’s checking πŸ€·β€β™€οΈπŸ€·β€β™€οΈ this is my adventure and if I say it’s a jungle, then it’s a jungle πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ†πŸ…πŸ¦πŸ˜πŸ¦’πŸŠπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ

Sometimes it helps to be on the verge of senility, you can make up all sorts of πŸ’©πŸ€£πŸ€£πŸ€£

Thames Path…I shall πŸ‘€πŸ‘‰ in April well that’s the plan anyway…the PM may scupper those plans once again, unless I go incognito.

Walking the Thames Path has been a dream of mine ever since we lived in London, and I’m actually quite excited that finally I can bring my dream to fruition πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ Hoorah

Gravesend
The O2
Bermondsey
City of London – Commemorating the 1666 Great Fire of London in 2016
Westminster
Chelsea
Richmond lock
The Great River Race 2016 Richmond
The Gloriana processing along The Thames during the Tudor Pull near Teddington
Teddington Lock (during my 3 Days in London days)

Over the years I’ve walked sections of the Thames Path from Gravesend to Hampton Court and I initially toyed with the idea of skipping this section, which will take me 3 days of solid walking at approximately 20/5 kms per day, BUT I know myself too well…I won’t feel as if I’ve ‘actually’ walked the whole Thames Path unless I walk the whole route.

So, according to the guide, the path starts at the Thames Barrier, so that’s where I shall start my adventure…

The Thames Barrier

Did you know that the River Thames, a tidal river, is considered to be part of the English Coast right up until Teddington Lock ….

All I need now is for everyone to 🀞🀞🀞 that we don’t go into another lockdown before 20th April…thank you πŸ˜‰

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Nearing the end of my virtual journey, with just 46 miles/74 kms to go…this postcard and story about the route, popped up on 26 January….

Summer fruit orchards and wineries seem to be the economic backbone of Kurow, a small town that in the 1920s was the base for the construction of the Waitaki Dam.

Kurow sits within the Waitaki Valley, a rich limestone region with a cool maritime climate. With warm summers and long, dry autumns this region is a wonderful environment to grow grapes for wines such as pinots noir and pinot gris. The first vines were only planted in 2001, making this valley a very young winery region. I can imagine it took passionate and dedicated viticulturists to have the courage to explore new grounds and experiment with different plantings. Small scale, family-run vineyards are now dotted through the valley creating bespoke, boutique wines.

Stage 7
Stage 7

Just outside of Kurow is a family-run orchard growing summer fruits such as peaches, apricots and cherries. Conscious about fruit that is rejected by supermarkets due to imperfections, the family built a commercial kitchen and went about turning rejected fruit into a range of products such as jams, sorbets and baked goods. With a half dozen box of summerfruit tarts under my arms, I was ready to leave Kurow.

Joining the trail alongside the Waitaki River, I marvelled at its characteristics. This 68mi (110km) braided river begins at the confluence of Pukaki, Tekapo and Ohau Rivers with Lake Benmore atop it. The river acts like a link between the lower lakes by running through and connecting Lake Benmore to Lake Aviemore to Lake Waitaki before it freely and swiftly flows the rest of the way into the Pacific Ocean.

Between Kurow and Duntroon, I had to ford three rivers and I was grateful they were not flooded permitting me to travel beside Waitaki River and admire the mountain range behind it, instead of using a trail next to the highway. I’m also glad I read the instructions to not touch the fences along the way as many are electrically charged and not necessarily marked for information. Might’ve added an element of excitement I wasn’t really looking for.

Just before reaching Duntroon, I stopped at the Takiroa Rock Art Shelter to see the Maori art on the limestone rock that dates back to between 1400 and 1900AD. After the rock art site, I carried on through Duntroon’s Wetlands into Duntroon straight to the local pub for a feed and more Waitaki Valley wine sampling.

Seeing those grapes reminded me of when I was in Portugal on the Portuguese Camino coastal route to Santiago. The path invariably goes inland at some stages, and one day it took me through a vineyard. I shouted “Ola!! Buenas dias” to an elderly couple amongst the vines cutting down bunches of purple grapes. The lady and I got to chatting (her English was way superior to my Portuguese), and it turned out her daughter was at that time, living and working in London πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ How cool is that. So after a long conversation, she gave me a big fat bunch of the MOST delicious, juicy, aromatic grapes you could imagine…the flavour was like heaven.

I strolled along eating the grapes with relish, and shortly afterwards met the one and only snake in my entire Camino. 🐍😱😱 It was lying there, on the path, looking for all the world like a skinny stick, and as I was hesitating, thinking “is it, or isn’t it ” – the bastard moved. 🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣😱😱😱😱

It still cracks me up when I think about that…3 things happened simultaneously : I discovered that I could indeed run if I needed to, I lost most of the grapes, and peed my myself 😜😜😜😜 of course the bloody snake slithered off into the grass with an evil grin ‘gotcha’. 😬😬 not funny.

Of course, encountering that snake, thereafter put a slightly different perspective on my walk, and I never looked at a stick in quite the same way again, or crept off into the bushes without trepidation 🧐🧐🧐

Meanwhile, I’m nearing the end of my Alps to Ocean virtual challenge across New Zealand. And I’m now seriously considering actually doing this route when I visit the island. It might mean postponing my trip down south to Ozzie land for a year to save more funds, but it would be totally awesome. And of course, if I did, and since I’m going that way, I’ve pinned my ‘intention’ to my metaphorical board of walking the Kumano Kodo in Japan. I mean seriously, how awesome would that be!!

Like the Camino de Santiago, the Kumano Kodo is designated a UNESCO heritage site and would slot in nicely with my Project 101 https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4952.html

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I got back yesterday after working away for 5 weeks and opened my vast pile of post….

It’s like Christmas really πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„

And in the pile were my last 4 Conqueror medals πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ…πŸ…πŸ…πŸ…

In order of completion, from left to right

Great Ocean Road, Mt. Fuji, Conquer 2020 and Alps to Ocean which I completed this month. Awesome πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ

My target for 2020 was 2,020kms and I reached that on 31 December 2020

I probably walked wayyyyy more than that, but I mostly count ‘boots on’ mileage and if I’m stuck indoors at work and unable to get out for my break on any particular day, I count my indoor walking, which extraordinarily sometimes amounts to 12kms between going on duty at 8am to 2pm when I take my 2 hour break. Mostly I try to get out to walk, but sometimes like these last few days, I get snowed in, or its pouring with rain….ergo, no good for walking if you don’t have the right gear.

I first started these virtual challenges on 26th March 2020, and the Alps to Ocean is my 9th challenge completed. I have 5 to do this year, as well as the Conquer 2021 challenge which is a compilation of all challenges walked during the year. Of course they may well introduce more…in which case 😁😁😁 and ‘boots on’ and getttt walking!!!

Also in the mail were my next two Cicerone books: The Thames Path, which I’m planning on walking in April for my birthday. Its something I’ve wanted to do for years, and years, and of course I’ve walked many miles along the River Thames between Hampton Court Palace and as far as Greenwich – not all in one go, but different sections over the years, and right along the whole length between Rotherhithe and Lambeth, also at different times.

And of course the South Downs Way is a desirable walk for this year too.🀞🀞🀞 because so many factors affect that possibility.

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I reached this stage on 19 January, so not too far behind the last stage…either I was walking a lot more, or the distance to this stage was shorter. Of course all I have to do is check the details on the postcard!! In real life, from 1st January to the 19th I’d walked 128km which is just over 80 miles. Not too bad.

And doesn’t that water look amazing. Reminds me of the sea along the Thanet coastline when the water gets cloudy from the chalk after a storm…

Defined as “a populated area less than a town”, Otematata is more of a holiday town nowadays when it’s small population of around 180 explodes to 5,000 during the summer season. With easy access to both Lake Benmore, downstream Lake Aviemore and nearby hiking trails (known as tramping in NZ), holiday makers swarm to the area for camping, water skiing, boating, fishing, swimming and cycling among other activities.

Stage 6
Stage 6

Otematata sprung up in 1958 as a base for construction workers of the Benmore and Aviemore Dams. Within a year the population grew to 450 and at its peak it was as high as 4,000 residents. Built by the Ministry of Works the town had all the necessary facilities and services such as schools, clubs, pub, cinema and mall. The 1,500 strong workforce of engineers, builders, electricians, concreters and truckies spent seven years building the dam. Once the dam was finished, as it often happens with these kind of projects, the town was slowly dismantled. The houses that were trucked into town were years later trucked out and moved to Twizel for the next project. Benmore Dam is the largest earth-filled dam in NZ and the largest of eight in the Waitaki hydro scheme. As the second largest hydro station in the country, Benmore generates sufficient electricity to cover nearly 300,000 NZ homes.

Leaving Otematata, I travelled north on a sealed pathway alongside the Waitaki River until I reached the massive Benmore Dam and stood atop it with a bird’s eye view of the lake to the north and the river to the south. When the lake is over capacity, the floodgates open to release the water down a spillway and to prevent erosion a lip was inserted at the end to deflect the water. The spillway can handle ten times the normal river flow thereby allowing it to cope with severe flooding.

I skirted around the shore on a narrow sealed road to Deep Stream Track on Lake Aviemore for a walk along a flooded canyon. The deep green water was quite inviting for a swim but I settled for a picnic under a shaded tree enjoying the tranquility of this location and the reflection of the hills on the water.

A little further I crossed the Aviemore Dam back onto the State Highway and was relieved to be travelling on an off-road path beside the main road all the way to Waitaki Dam. Aviemore Dam was built in 1968 and the construction was on uneven ground because the Waitangi Fault runs beneath it. Although at the time of construction the fault was considered inactive, in the 2000s the fault was upgraded to dormant and as such the dam was reinforced against earthquakes and potential landslides. Because of the fault the dam is a mixed structure being part solid rock topped with concrete on the north side and earth-fill where the fault line runs beneath on the south side.

The Waitaki Dam is steeped in NZ history. As the smallest in the Waitaki hydro scheme, it is also the oldest having been built in 1935. Being the first dam to be built on the South Island, it was also the last to use pick and shovel. These archaic tools were retained because politicians wanted to reduce the unemployment rate during the Depression Era.

The building of the Waitaki Dam inadvertently played a major role in the birth of the social welfare system. In 1928, the Waitaki Hydro Medical Association together with the Waitaki Hospital Board developed a scheme to deduct monthly fees from wages in order to provide medical and ambulance services to the workers. When two politicians, one a doctor and the other a reverend, took office in 1935, they based the social welfare scheme on the one developed by the dam project.

From here it was a 5mi (8km) journey into Kurow. I heard the Waitaki Valley, which begins in Omarama, is a young winery region with a flair for developing good pinot noir and pinot gris. I’ll be sure to sample some after a hearty meal. I’m thinking fish and chips at the nearest pub.

I could live with fish and chips!! And do my journey continues. Seriously though, reading these emails makes me really really want to walk this route for real….

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