Africa North Bound
December 02, 2012 GMT

I am on the road again, (got to read that to music and Hank Williams drawl)

After a 22.5 hour journey I arrived in Johannesburg South Africa. It was a bumpy ride and I do not think my stomach settled for three days. Ivan and Debbie were at the airport to pick me up. It was a real pleasure to have their help and company, I will miss the good people of South Africa. South Africa is one of the places that I will be sure to visit on my next trip around.

The plan this year is to ride to Europe and fly home on the 30th of January. This year I ride solo, I will miss the company and sharing the experience. There will be benefits, no one will know how many times I get lost, and I will be able to pick routes I would not go down if we were two up. In general the plan is to ride east to Mozambique then in to Malawi and the Riff Valley. Which direction I go is not set as much depends on weather and type of roads. Once I get to Egypt I have three options, west through Libya to Tunisia and cross to Italy, east to Israel and catch a roro boat to Italy or cross from Egypt to Turkey to Bulgaria. Will wait that decision until I get there and see who is having a war.

I had wanted to spend a few days in SA but my Carnet ran out on the 25th, (Sunday) and I was not sure how much problem it would be finding where to have it sign out and new one signed in. Also I would be a day late so that might cause problems too. So as soon as I got the bike sorted and picked up a new version of Tracks for Africa for GPS, I headed for Mozambique.

2.1 Africa-33 (640x480).jpg ON THE ROAD AGAIN.......Africa

Crossed into Moz at Ressano Garcia with relative ease. Moz boarder crossing took over two hours last year but this year it went much smother. Then on to Maputo where on first look it was quite grim but you could also see where things were getting better. My overall impression of Moz is that they have turned the corner and are heading in the right direction. I speak no Portuguese but find that my Spanish is normally understood, that or hand gestures work. (Pictures to follow when I get good internet access)

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Moz went the Communist way with streets named after Linen and Karl Marx

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Down Town Maputo

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Roads were good as we started out heading north

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The sign

Day two: Was on the road early, as it will take a while to get use to time change. Rode to Lindela and found a good spot for the night by 2:00. Laid down and sleep till 5:30 PM then was up till 10:00. Not sure how long to shake this jet lag.
When I set out to write this Journal/blog it is often the little things that stand out. For lunch today I had two tomatoes from street side stand and a young boy offers to sell some gob things which I bought a few. They were like someone had deep fat fried gobs of pancake dough, I was either hungry or they were good and went well with the tomatoes. Next to the vegetables stand was a “hardware” store with solar panels and the store owner spoke some English. To me it was a sign that things were improving in Mozambique which in 2000 was the poorest country in the world. Now if we can only get the NGOs interference from abroad out so they do not distort the economy they should make it.

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Hauling logs and a little extra (see goat tied on top

Day three: Rode 650 k to a resort that was built before the wars and seemed to be in much need of maintenance but progress was being made.

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Where I got my tomato lunch

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Most fuel stops were modern and new, but here the station was closed so someone set up selling out of barrels

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Roads have inproved greatly in the last few years but some they have not got to yet. One hole was big enough to swallow a VW

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The new bridge over the Zambezi River, The old one was blown up in the wars. This just opened this year

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Another bridge that has been replaced with destroyed bridge in back

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Day four: There were three options for route to take through Moz and into Malawi. The first was up to Tete on tar roads but we were there last year and I wanted to see more of Moz. The next two were dirt road routes one in the far south of Malawi was how I wanted to go but it was starting to rain as I got to that turn. Dirt roads turn to mud real fast and can become difficult to impassable real quick. So I headed over the new bridge and hoped the weather would be better north. Stayed the night in Quelimane, a city with many old colonial building in various states of disrepair. But the city was jumping with people and businesses.

Day five: This is where I find out if I can ride African dirt roads, 450 k today, of which 200+ were dirt. After about 50 k in on dirt the road turned to new tar road unexpectedly, I had lowered the tire pressure for the dirt but went 10 k before stopping to air them up thinking the tar might end. Two K later it did end and I went 25 K on construction detour till I got back to the dirt that the map indicated was “partially maintained”. I think the part that was maintained was the first 50 K so for the next 150k I was standing on the pegs to lower center of gravity and keep the bumps from jarring the bones. This road is kind of representative of Moz, at one spot where I stopped for a drink I saw chunks of tar mat, this road had been tar once but after communist bankrupt policies and 25 years of civil war it was back to dirt. But like the country the road was being rebuilt. Moz will become a developed country again as long as they can keep the corruption down and stay the course.

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the dirt

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Detour route

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Old colonial buildings along the road,

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More dirt road

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insurance "Office" Malawi

Easy check out at the border and into Malawi to real nice tar road. I had planed on fueling up on the Moz side because Malawi has had fuel problems in the past. But all stations were out. Fuel reading said I had 98 k of fuel and GPS said 98k to where I wanted to stay. Much to close so I started looking for black market fuel or fuel station on Malawi side. First station was out but said I could get some up the road and sure enough I found a station that had fuel. With my preoccupations with getting fuel I forgot to check to see if I needed insurances and when I got to a police check point I I had to negotiate a reduced “fine” and go back to boarder to get insurance.
There is a dramatic change once I crossed into Malawi with some large tea farms, pine and eucalyptus plantations. Even the small farms are neater and better organized. Made it to Blantyre and a backpackers lodge totally wore out.

My thoughts about this part of Africa is that if Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia were to develop farming along US standards, or China standards, they could feed the entire African continent. As a former Zimbabwe farmer I met in Blantyre said “if you walk barefoot in this ground you will put on weight”. As it now stands the Zimbabwe government took all the white farms and they are now in ruin. In Mozambique they went the communist way and had big collectives that when the government went bankrupt they switched to a market economy and broke them up into small unorganized plots. Give me a few hundred acres in Zambia and I could make Iowa look bad but it is all under tribal control. If the Chief lets someone start a commercial farm he can loose title, so they have determined it is better to keep his subjects poor.

Posted by Robert Thode at 03:12 PM GMT
December 11, 2012 GMT
Malawi and Tanzania

Day 6: Made it to back packer place last night, parked, had a beer (ok two) and some stuff that was suppose to be lasagna, got back to the room and collapsed. It had been a challenging day. Made my way to Monkey Bay with helpful locals pointing the way to Venice Beach. It was down a dirt/sand road then a trail through a small village. The last .5 k was in deep sand that I thought I would get stuck in it but bike keep digging me through. Elly wins again. Venice Beach is a nice place on a white sand beach.
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Insurance office

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One should always celebrate their victories, but really?

Day 7: Rest day m/l. Spent the day getting up and walking out in to the lake every time it started feeling hot, rough life but someone has to do it. Just soaking up the sun, more frying in the sun as I am red as a lobster from knees down.

Day 8: “Best laid plans of mice and men” I picked a spot about 450k north and headed out with 250k worth of fuel. First I had problems with the ATM got it to work once for 20,000Kwacha but could not make it work again. Then I could not find any fuel which has been about 600 Kwacha per liter or $2.00 US per liter. So I changed course and headed to the capital, Lilongwe with hopes of finding fuel. I was down to 30 K of fuel left when I bought some on the Black Market for K1000 per litter. For those of you still in the stone age that’s $10 a gallon m/l. Will hold up here at a back packer place till morning and try agin to find fuel. I just do not know how a county can run with this fuel problem. They have let their currency float but must still be restricting it or there would be fuel.

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How you get fuel in Malawi at about $10 per gal.

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Road to the Mushroom Farm, I was just to wore out to make it up, so turned around here.

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Cabin where I did stay, they were trying to get this place up and running again, but they have a long way to go, they need a good maintenance man.

Days 9, 10: Yesterday, Sunday, I decided to have a good lunch at Korean Garden Lodge, very nice place, linen table cloths and all, I got food poisoning. From now on I stick to street venders and the spots the locals eat. Got one and half piece of french toast down in the morning, lost it 25k out. Rolled on to Chiweta where I turned up the road to Mushroom Farm, a place I had heard of, this road made Sani Pass look like a freeway. After 3k I saw on the GPS that the switch backs got so close it was just a pink blob and I had 7k to go, exhausted from no sleep last night I gave up and went back down. At the bottom I read the Mushroom Farm sign that said “call for pickup” Which I considered but was too tired so went back a couple of ks and stayed at a place on the beach.

Day 11: Up and out by 6:00. It gets light here early and dark early. Found a local place to eat and got fried eggs with a salad of tomatoes, green pepper and onion in a really good dressing, first food I felt like eating since Sunday. 150k to the Tanzania boarder and I found both sides to be tad dippy (that’s a technical term). They had to have the address of where I was going,(I never know for sure till I get there). Just giving them a city will normally work and they needed to know where I had stayed last night. But boarders tend to be that way. Through Moz and Malawi all but one of the places I stayed were leftovers from colonial times, most in poor repair. I think there is a shortage of skilled trades, electricians or carpenters or plumbers. Many of the fixes look easy and cheap but just are not being done. The hotel I am at in Mbeya Tanzania looks like it was built by locals and is real nice for only 25000 per night, ($15). First impressions of Tanzania are good, beautiful farms, lots of activity and more cars driven by locals, not just the NGOs and government people.
This is where I need to decide which way to go, east route is 1000k of dirt and west is mostly tar. The clouds looked real black and it rained some I am going to cop out on the west and head over to Zanzibar.

Day 12: I crossed much of Tanzania today from the southwest to mid-east. From high cool forested areas to dry and rocky. The people have been friendly and helpful. The road has been from poor to good with 68k of construction. I went by three truck accidents that had just happened. There is a lot of truck traffic but what I really hate is the buses, They will pull out to pass a truck and ignore anyone coming.
When a truck breaks down it just stops in the road and they put chunks of brush and limbs in the road to warn on coming traffic. The driver stays with the truck and waits for someone to come to fix it setting up camp under the truck. One of the accidents I came on yesterday was where one of these broke down trucks had been hit, probably in the dark. There was a down truck about every ten k and with no lights on these driving at night would be suicidal.
At one point I came on a truck, (that had gotten off to the side) that was under going a major engine overhaul. Pistons and sleeves were stacked on the side of the road.
Spent the night at TanSwiss camp/lodge, best place I had been for awhile but I battled the mozies.

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Sign coming into Tanzania, kind of lays it out there.

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Looked like someone had laid out a garden landscape

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Hotel in town

Day 13: Headed out for an easy 250k to Dar Es Salaam, Biggest city in Tanzania and ferry port to
Zanzibar. It is hot, humid and some rain with traffic a real mess. Perfect conditions for what is technically know as “Monkey Butt”. It turned out to be a hard day and six hours to make it in to the city. It was kind of what it would be like if you put I-5 traffic back on old 99, with speed bumps in every village, slow trucks, and psycho bus drivers. All the traffic may be a pain but it means their economy is working.
But once into a hotel and showered I went for a hike to an internet café I had seen on the way in. Venders selling almost everything. I stopped and bought five squers being BBQed of what I think was pork, (cost 500). Then got a wedge of fresh pineapple for 200. So for less than 50 cents I had lunch, well almost as It was so hot that I had to buy a litter of water to make it to the internet café. Had a great time talking to the few who could speak English and trying to get the other to understand I did not need to buy a bus ticket. I wore a HU shirt that has the earth and moto logo which made it easier to explain I was riding my motorcycle around the world and they all thought that was a great thing to do.
Ever wonder what happens to all the collections of shirts, shoes etc. gathered up by the good ladies at the church for the poor people in Africa. Well it works like this: the collected bundles are sent to a consolidator who loads them into a container who dutifully ships them off to some country in Africa. When the container hits the port it is unload and bundles spread out on the dock where they are auctioned off, (money pocketed by corrupt bureaucrats and politicians which they use to buys guns and such to stay in power). The distributors that bought the bundles then mark up and sell to local venders. I have seen them sold in every country. The farmer, cotton gin and tailor no longer can compete with their local cotton and are out of business. Oh and the real poor can not pay for what was suppose to be free and are still in rags. So the next time they want you to help collect stuff for the poor in Africa tell them they will do more good having a bond fire with the bundles. Well meaning people and governments have done more damage to Africa than good.

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Engine rebuild on side of the road

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Donated shirts for sale

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I do get to eat once and a while

Day 14: Moved down town Dar, 10 k took one hour. I am not sure the traffic is worse than La Pas Bolivia but it is in the running for sure. Got ferry tickets lined up and will go over tomorrow.

Posted by Robert Thode at 06:32 AM GMT
December 13, 2012 GMT

First let me say that if anyone is planning a trip to Tanzania, do not pass up the opportunity to cross over to Zanzibar Island. And if you are riding a motorcycle do not take it with you unless you are saying for at least a month. It was a nightmare getting here with the bike. They did not explain when I made the deal that cargo, (motorcycle) could not go on the same boat as passengers. This made no sense at all till finally someone explained that until a year and a half ago you could but they had two ferries go down, drowning 1150 people because they would load cargo to max then stack in hundreds of people. So I took slow ferry, three hours, and got here at 1500. Bike ferry was to be here at 1800 but did not show till 2000 then we waited for another boat to finish loading and move out only to be told that we would need to come back in the morning to unload. So one and half days to get the bike here. Not looking forward to Wed. when I ship back.

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Ready to load

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Off loading

Now Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, or so says the book, but they forgot to tell the people of Zanzibar. They have their own government and rules. The paperwork to get the bike in was worse than anywhere I have been in Africa. All this to cross to an island that is in the same country, or so I thought. You also have to have an agent, now you probably have seen the “t” shirt that says “vegetarian is an old African word for poor hunter” well “agent” is and old African word for thief. They are always wanting you to pay for this or that “fee”

Zanzibar town was first settled by traders from Persia and became a powerful city state between the 12th and 15th century. Then was controlled for awhile by the Portuguese. Then in the mid 16th century Ottoman empire gained control as a trading post for goods coming into and out of Africa. For over a 1000 years this was the key trading port for east Africa. This included spices, slaves, timber and ivory. The old town, (Stone Town) has defiant Arabic influence. Plan is to spend a couple of days wandering the old town and markets. Today I did a tour of the island, about 250 k and I think I covered every road. Lots of small farms that seem unorganized in their production and distribution but it all works. I seen a couple of Christian Churches but mostly Islam.

The people of Zanzibar were friendly and helpful. It is a great place to visit, (without taking a moto). I met an interesting gentleman who was originally from Poland then got out in ‘82 and went to South Africa. He invited Martha and I to come to his retirement home on a island to the north in September when the weather is the best. It is a very tempting offer, to spend a couple of weeks on an island beach just kicking back. We talked about politics, religion and life and as always it is the people I meet along the way that are the best part of traveling.

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View out over the water from restaurant

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Loading off the beach

I was to ship back at 10 on Wed. But got a call on Tuesday about noon that I need to ship out today. So back to the hotel for quick pack and down to the dock where agent told me I need to go back down the beach to load. At the beach there was a line up of cars to get on the ferry, way more than would fit, so I worked my way out of the line and went around the buildings, between some tables, over a two foot bank of sand and on to the beach. Spun loose sand to the ferry ramp and I was on. (Always room for a moto). Agent was telling me I needed to go on people ferry but I went up and talked to the captain and he said I could ride with them but it would be 20 hours to get there. Told him I had everything I needed in the bike and he could sign me on as crew. So I moved into the bridge and had a great time with the crew and several of the shipping staff coming in to introduce themselfs and see the crazy white guy that was willing to ride the cargo ferry.

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At the cargo dock

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As we head away

Once the cars were loaded we went over to the dock and waited to load on some more cargo. It is amazing to watch the boats being loaded all by hand. Those dock workers earn every cent they get. Sacks of sugar, potatoes, refrigerators and everything else you can think of goes up on there back and into the ships. Once we were loaded we went out in the bay and anchored till about 2300 when we headed for Dar. The captain had said I could sleep in his cabin but I did not want to impose so laid down on a carpeted cabinet and sleep some.

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On the bridge for the slow trip back to Dar

This ferry, and several of the others, are old Chinese ferries. Now just imagine what kind of shape the are in when the Chinese get ride of them and there does not seem to be to much maintenance, if it breaks, oh well we did not need that anyhow. Due to the history of these ferries I sent Ryan an email from my phone as to where I was so if I did not make it to the other side they would know where to toss some flowers.

We docked on the other side about 530 and the captain gave me the papers I would need and said the unloading would be about 700. The way they slung the cars and trucks off of here was just plain scarey, I can’t think they don’t drop some. But all went well and then we plucked the moto of and away I went. At the port gate they did not know what to do with me as I did not have an agent there to pluck me for more money. But I showed them all the papers and the Carnet so they let me pass. And the great Zanzibar Adventure came to an end.

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Off loading a car, only a padded bar under front and back

Posted by Robert Thode at 06:19 PM GMT
February 10, 2013 GMT
Ending the African Adventure

The place I stayed near Augrabies Falls was part of a grape farm where they had built a ski lake and some nice accommodations.

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No matter where I go and the amazing things I see it is always the people I meet along the way that makes travel worthwhile. This is Willeman van Zyl, he and his wife Esme had the cabin next to mine.

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Sometimes you just need to go down the dirt road to see where it goes

From there I headed back to the east heading down the back roads whenever possible. Lots of small towns with character throughout the region. Back in Johannesburg, I checked on the tires I had ordered and made arrangements for the shipping.

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Getting off the main road you can find the really good places, had peri peri chicken livers here for lunch. A1 place.

There are some really great rides north of Nelspruit and through Zululand so I headed that way. Dodging the rain I ended up in St. Lucia on the east coast. Heavy rain was in the forecast so I signed up for a safari into Hluhluwe National Park thinking it was better to ride in the back of a truck with a cover than riding all day on the bike in the rain. I had rode up to the gate of Hluhluwe park the day before with the hope that I could get into a lodge or camp ground on the motorcycle but was turned away.

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Side trip into the timber land

The safari truck picked me up at the guest house at 4:00 AM with expected return about 1:00 PM. Only two others on the tour, a lady and her daughter from London. On entering the part and crossing a long bridge the water was within 18 inches of going over, guide was concerned not knowing what the rain was like upstream and we would need to cross that bridge on the way out.
It was not too far in that we stopped at an overlook and could see the river had came up dramatically. Guide called in and bridge was underwater and we would need to wait till it went down to cross.

We had a really good lunch in the pouring rain. The ladies from London were to catch a flight out of Durban, (3 hours south of St. Lucia), and were very concerned about delay. So after a few calls to a third member of their group that had not came on the tour we set out to go the back route out of the park and meet up about half way to Durban. Had a great time traveling the back roads making it back to St. Lucia at 5:30.

We saw very little wild life on the tour, I think due to heavy rain and lots of feed available. I am very glad that I had decided to go as we did see three animals that we could not find last year. Wild Dogs are rare to spot but we came upon a pack of 14, see pictures. The pack was being followed by a Hyena another I had not seen in the wild. Then when we were almost out of the park’s back gate we came on a Cheetah. The only one I had been looking for that was never found was the Black Rhino, so maybe I will need to return some day.

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River at flood stage plus sum

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The first wild dog
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The wild dog pack
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Elly getting dinner
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Lunch in the rain, good company and food
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Cheetah, really thought she should get up for a better picture but could not talk anyone into delivering the message.
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Had to stop and take a picture of the sign that said not to stop.
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I rode into Swaziland and tried to find an American working there but just got lost.
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I did the canopy tour in Swaziland park. There were ten of these cable runs across the canyon and one swinging bridge.
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Another run up into the timber to see what was there
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Timber operations
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Entry to camp ground was flooded
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I found a back way into camp ground and was the only one other than the guard in the whole place.
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Sign you will not see at home
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Some rugged country and good views

Well that is it for the African Adventure, (at least for now). 22.5 hours in the air and I was home. Now going through withdrawal and realigning to the time zone.

Posted by Robert Thode at 07:56 PM GMT

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