My Big Australian Adventure – Part 13, Blue Mountain Facts

Having travelled out to the Blue Mountains a couple of times there were a few things that interested me for which I didn’t immediately have answers; so I did a little research …..

Why are they blue?

The Blue Mountains is densely populated by oil bearing Eucalyptus trees which fill the atmosphere with finely dispersed droplets of oil, this, in combination with dust particles and water vapour, scatter short-wave length rays of light which are predominantly blue in colour.

Who first crossed the mountains and when?

Gregory Blaxland, William Charles Wentworth, and Lieutenant Lawson were the first Europeans to cross the Blue Mountains which they did in 1813.

They departed on the 11th May and completed their journey eighteen days later on the 29th May 1813.

When was the first road built?

In 1814, William Cox assembled a team of thirty convicts and eight guards to build a road across the Blue Mountains. Starting at Emu Plains on the 18th July 1814, in just four months the team had completed a road covering a distance of 47 miles to Mount York. In just six months, Cox had crossed the Blue Mountains with a road of one hundred and one miles all the way to Bathurst. (The Bathurst Road).

More questions?

In the current way of doing things “research” means having a look on the internet. Therefore I have included a number of links so that you can read further if you wish, just click on the graphics below:

BlueMountainsLogo State Library NSW Wiki Google



My Big Australian Adventure – Part 12

Friday 25th April – ANZAC Day

It is just possible that I have found paradise in a country with more spectacular beaches than I have seen anywhere before.

I am writing this while watching the sunset over the bay at Palm Beach. I hadn’t intended coming out this way today but after such an early start my afternoon seemed to get delayed.

Today Lauren went home!

Her flight was at 6am which meant that we were up at 3! The big advantage to an airport run at that time of day is there was no traffic. I guess we were at the airport around 4.30 which meant there was only time to check in, have a hug and she was off through the barrier. It’s safe to say I have missed her today.

After I left the airport I headed back to the hotel via McDonald’s for breakfast. My intention was to have a rest and then head into Sydney. Those regular readers of my blog will be aware that often my plans don’t quite work out and today was no exception. Having had a cup of tea I thought I would lay down and have an hours sleep; I woke up at midday!

By the time I was finally with it enough to head out I decided a drive was probably a better idea and so headed to Palm Beach as I heard it was nice and not too far.

20140425_165843Palm Beach is on a peninsular with a calm protected bay on once side and the open sea on the other. Right on the headland is Barrenjoey Lighthouse which sits high up on the rocks with impressive views out on all sides. I tried walking all the way up but the climb, early start and lack of proper food defeated me. One for another day.
The path up the hill is being repaired but was generally made of the original sandstone used in the 1880’s when the lighthouse was built.

Part way up there were signs of an ever present danger our here; bush fires. The trunks of the trees were blackened from when a fire once went through.

The sand on the beaches both sides is soft and golden; absolutely stunning, but very hard to walk on as I found getting back to my ute.

It’s now 6pm and very dark. Lauren will be a couple of hours from Dubai I guess. Time to head back to the hotel.

During my journey home I had the radio on. After every few records there has been a small statement or reading about the campaigns during the wars, the battles at Gallipoli and the soldiers who paid the ultimate price; all in commemoration of Anzac Day. This is a huge day for the Australian nation. We could lean a thing or two for November 11th.


Saturday 26th April

As you look out over the valley it is very clear why these mountains were given their name. All round you the mountains are blue.

20140426_171938It is not that the rock is actually blue of course, but there is a haze which combined with the light provides the colour. I have no idea exactly why this phenomenon exists but the result is absolutely stunning.

The beauty of this national park is well hidden from the main roads; you get glimpses as you drive through but you need to head down the side roads and tracks to really see the mountains, rocks and valleys.

My first detour today was Pierces Pass. I saw the signs as I was heading towards Lithgow on the B59 and thought it was worth a stop. I am so glad I did. The car park was very close to the road, the walk out to the view point however was just over a kilometre and extremely steep and rocky in places. But without any doubt it was worth it.

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Again today I saw signs of past forest fires, but what I also saw on this path was a fascinating glimpse of the regeneration process. Trees which had been burnt almost completely through their trunks had new growth. Green shoots coming from charcoal black timber. One tree in particular I noticed barely had enough wood at the base to hold up what was left, but new growth was flourishing towards the top of what was left.

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The path out to Walls Lookout was steep and rocky, without doubt the most challenging of my day, but the views were magnificent and the sense of achievement made it all the better.

20140426_160434I have taken loads of photographs, some of which are included, but they can’t do justice to the magnificence and beauty of the place. The vast unspoilt valley floor covered in trees which, although huge, look no bigger than match sticks from the viewing point. There are ways down into the valley, an adventure for my next trip assuming I am lucky enough to come back, but it is easy to believe that you are looking out over a lost, uncharted, world. These mountains were first crossed by the British in the early 1800’s and it is thanks to the conservation work of the NSW National Parks Service that it is easy to image the excitement of those first explorers as you stand on the lookout points and view the landscape below.


I stopped at a number of viewing points as I drove around the park from the north down through to Katoomba via Blackheath and then east back to Sydney.

20140426_16025320140426_160055The wind formed caves near Anvil Rock Lookout were another highlight of the day. The cliff rock face has been eroded by the power of the wind to expose the rock and create unusual formations.

After my previous trip out to the Blue Mountains I purposefully avoided the principle tourist sites of the Three Sisters and Echo Point. In my opinion the beauty of this place needs to be experienced with the eyes and ears; with all the senses. To do this you need peace and quiet. All though at no point did I experience complete isolation today; generally I was sharing the view points and paths with others. When passing people on the walk out to Walls Lookout a few words of encouragement both ways was appreciated. But thankfully on only one occasion did the actions of others affect my experience. For reasons known only to themselves two family’s travelling together found it necessary to shout at people only a few feet away. Unfortunately the parents were even louder than their children. What I don’t understand is what you can take from such stunning locations when you ignore one of their most special features; silence. I guess as a solo traveller this is not something I will ever get my head round.

Sunday 27th April

It’s very easy to forget when the sun is shining and the temperature is high, that this is autumn here in Australia. Yesterday while in the mountains I felt chilly a few times; today it’s been drizzling all day, sometimes heavy rain. Although the gloom almost had me staying on the sofa in front of the telly, I did venture out for a drive and some fresh air.

First I headed to Spit Bridge, parked up and had a look at some boats I wouldn’t be able to afford in a million years. The guy in the showroom pointed out a very nice one for $27k, then I saw something almost perfect; I would be able to live on it! Only $127,000. A bargain! However that was for only a 10% stake.

From there I have headed back alone the coast towards Palm Beach. Right now I am parked at Whale Beach watching the surfers. It’s amazing just how much time they spend waiting for a wave.

So that was my weekend. Only one more left before I head home.

My Big Australian Adventure – Part 11, ANZAC

ANZAC1This year I am in Sydney on 25th April, Anzac Day. Coming from the other side of the world this isn’t a commemoration that I know much about; for us 11th November is Remembrance Day.

I have heard of Anzac and was aware of it’s importance to Australians. I also had some idea that there were connections to the Gallipoli landings, but being here I thought it important to find out more…..

The meaning of ANZAC 

ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.It was formed in 1915 and disbanded in 1916 following the Allied evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula.

What is ANZAC Day?

Anzac Day is Australia’s national day of remembrance commemorated on 25th April.

The date was first marked in 1916 by ceremonies in Australia, a march through London, and a sports day in the Australian camp in Egypt. For the remaining years of the war the day was used as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns.

During the 1920’s the 25th became the a national day of commemoration for the 60,000 Australians who had died during the war. In 1927 every Australian state observed some form of public holiday and by the mid-1930’s all the rituals of the day had been established; dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions and two-up games.

The Second World War saw the commemoration extended to cover the additional Australian lives lost and in subsequent years it was broadened further to include all those lost during military operations.

The Origins of ANZAC

In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

The forces landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate with the campaign dragging on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing at Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25th April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.


Digger is a military slang term for soldiers from Australia and New Zealand. Evidence of its use has been found in those countries as early as the 1850s, but its current usage in a military context did not become prominent until World War I when Australian and New Zealand troops began using it on the Western Front around 1916–17.

At the outbreak of World War I, Australia and New Zealand were both relatively “young” nations, with little exposure on the international stage. Deployed to Gallipoli in early 1915, the soldiers of both nations had a chance to prove themselves. Although the Gallipoli campaign resulted in heavy casualties and withdrawal for the Allies, the campaign became strongly linked with the emergence of national identity. Through the manner in which the soldiers endured the hardships of battle, the image that has become synonymous with the word “digger” embodies the qualities of “endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour, and mateship”.

Two Up

Two-up is a traditional Australian gambling game, involving a designated ‘Spinner’ throwing two coins or pennies into the air. Players gamble on whether the coins will fall with both heads up, both tails up, or with one coin a head, and one a tail (known as ‘Odds’). It is traditionally played on Anzac Day in pubs and clubs throughout Australia, in part to mark a shared experience with Diggers through the ages.


The following details have been provided by the NSW Government, Trade & Investment, Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing:

Two-up is a gambling game in which coins are spun in the air and bets are laid on whether they fall heads or tails.

The game is regulated under the Gambling (Two-up) Act 1998 and may only be conducted on:

  • Anzac Day (25 April in any year)
  • Victory in the Pacific Day (15 August in any year), and
  • Remembrance Day (11 November in any year but only after noon).

A permit is not required.

The only exception to this is Broken Hill, where two-up is played all year round under a special licence from the New South Wales Government.




My Big Australian Adventure – Part 10, Panoramas

All of the following panoramas were taken on my Samsung Galaxy Note II mobile phone. A couple are slightly out of focus due to poor light, but generally I think they work really well.

Click on a picture to see it full size.

Hope you enjoy them.


My Big Australian Adventure – Part 9

Wednesday 16th April

An early finish from work, coupled with a very pleasant evening weather wise, gave us the perfect excuse to get out and about. We decided we would go to Bondi Beach having not been their yet and of course it is a world famous location.

Before arriving in Australia I had been warned that Bondi wasn’t all that. Well I can now say, without any doubt, I agree. First impressions were that it is a typical English seaside town that had seen better days. Well that probably isn’t totally fair as generally the place was clean and well presented. However it was also overpriced and full of tacky lights and amusement arcades. Although we arrived late evening parking was still being charged at very high rates which continued until midnight. We didn’t bother to stop!

Further up the coast, not all that far, is Watsons Bay. A far simpler and unassuming place. Here we had dinner at the Watsons Bay Beach Club, having had a walk around part of the shore.

At one point during our walk there were some very strange lights under the water. Sometimes there appeared to be three, at others just the one. When we got back to the car there was a dive club truck which I hope explains the lights.

20140416_205855As we drove out of Watsons Bay we stopped to have a look at the Macquarie Lighthouse, Australia’s first lighthouse which opened on 30th November 1818.

Thursday 17th April

Although I have been here on and off for nearly two months tonight was the first time I visited Chatswood, the nearest town from the hotel. It’s a nice town with loads of shops and some very noisy birds!!

I also got a demon hair cut in Westfield.

Friday 18th April – Good Friday

The weather was good in Sydney today, clear blue skies, sunny and mid 20’s so we decided it was the day to ride the ferries!

Sydney FerrysFirst was the F3 from Circular Quay to Parramatta. This took us down river away from the city and sea. The differences in the scenery were amazing, from the built up riverside apartments to the Olympic Park and then into what appeared to be a nature reserve before reaching our destination. Certainly for the last few miles only ferries and authorised boats were allowed through which would suggest some form of protection being in place.

We didn’t get off the boat at Parramatta choosing to head straight back to the city. Generally today was about the journey as much as the destination, although we did decide to disembark at Cockatoo Island and stretch our legs. See my previous post for more details.

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When we finally got back to Circular Quay we had been out for about four hours and the sun was beginning to set.

As soon as we got off the boat we went to check for the next ferry to Manly; 10 minutes, so from one ferry we immediately boarded the next, F1, and were off again. This time we were heading out towards the sea before bearing to the left and docking at Manly. There are no stops on this route but the journey still takes about 45 minutes each way. 20140418_170508At Manly we got off and took a walk up the main street to the beach. On the way we stopped to get fish and chips to eat by the sea, a favorite pastime, although this shop was very different from home. Lauren had fish, chips and calamari; I had calamari and chips – very posh!!

In the rivalry which I understand exists between Bondi and Manly – Manly wins! No contest. For me it is so much better in every way.

When done we walked back to the wharf, boarded the ferry and headed back to the city.

A great day enjoying the sights and the weather. I have said this before, but am happy to repeat myself, the ferry and train services in Sydney are brilliant!

Saturday 19th April

Yesterday was about ferries; today was all about markets. Paddington first, this was the one we missed last week due to the rain, then The Rocks as there is something Lauren wants to get before she goes home and finally Paddys Market for a few souvenirs.

Well that was the plan. We didn’t start our day quite as early as hoped which meant that by the time we finally got to Paddington it was getting on for 2 o’clock. The trip from the hotel involved a train to Museum via Winyard and then a 20 minute walk to Paddington. The market was worth the walk. We spent a good couple of hours drifting round the stalls and stopping to have a rest and a juice.


When we left the market we had a long walk from Paddington through Darlinghurst and down onto the Quay before walking round to The Rocks. The walk took us through many parts of the city which we hadn’t been before. Some were extremely affluent with multi-million dollar houses, other much less so. In one area we heard a guy describe it to his mate as “The Bronx”. Although I don’t believe that comparison to be fair there was clearly less money about. That said, the houses through all areas maintained a very similar style, many of which would have been the very first houses built on the site.

Thankfully we arrived in time to walk round the street markets at The Rocks, but unfortunately the stall Lauren really wanted wasn’t there. We did pick up a couple of items before starting the long walk back to Paddington. It was far too late for Paddys Market which was going to have to wait for another day.

Our evening was to be spent at the Allianz Stadium watching our first rugby union match down under; NSW Waratahs v Blue Bulls.

The stadium itself was magnificent, so much more than we are used to at Adams Park. However, there were a few things which weren’t as good as home. First the ground was huge which meant that it was possibly less than half full. Empty seats are never a good thing. The second was that the whole place was flood light including all the seating areas which stayed lit throughout the game. Don’t know why but I didn’t like that, I guess it keeps you better focused on the game when the crowd are in darkness. And thirdly it wasn’t London Wasps playing!!

The Waratahs won out in the end 19 – 12 and it was a great evening.

Sunday 20th April

Another road trip was on the cards today, this time into the The Blue Mountains. The first, and only planned, stop was the Three Sisters, a rock formation on the edge of the mountains. This was also the only location we had heard of.

The formation itself and the views out over the mountains and the huge valley floor below were amazing. Absolutely breathe taking. Unfortunately they were spoilt a little by the extremely large numbers of tourists fighting to get the photo, the ice cream and the little plastic gift. One of the things I have enjoyed about Sydney is that there always seems to be space. You don’t feel hemmed in or crowded; at the Three Sisters you were completely surrounded by the hustle and noise of large numbers of people.

We took in the view; took our photographs and left.


But not before we had a chat with a very nice gentleman who pointed out an aboriginal face in the first of the three sisters; the ruined castle rock formation way out in the valley; the bees nesting in the main rocks with their honey comb slowly drifting down the cliff face and where the echo started at Echo Point. He also agreed that it was best to see, and hear, later in the day when the crowds had gone home and you were alone.

A memorial near to the lookout is also worth a mention. Not only are the statues quite amazing, but the words are very poignant and cut to the very heart of Australia’s history:

Road Builders

20140420_150002From there we drifted around the edge of the reserve stopping and enjoying the views at every opportunity. We also did a little “off roading”, taking a couple of the gravel tracks which took you away off the main roads.

It is a truly amazing place among so many that we have visited this trip. A return to the Blue Mountains is very likely before I leave Australia in a few weeks’ time.

Monday 21st April

The last day of the bank holiday weekend was to be an easy one. Having had a great few days rushing around we decided to slow down a bit.

Paddys Market was the first destination of the day to do some final gift shopping. What a great place; absolutely packed with every kind of tat you never realised you needed, ideal for buying souvenirs.

After that we took a walk to the Botanical Gardens, via Woolworth’s to pick up some lunch, and spent a couple of very pleasant hours doing very little other than catching up on blogs and watching the world go by.

All in all an Easter to remember down here in Sydney.


My Big Australian Adventure – Part 8

Saturday 12th April

Lauren and I had plans for Saturday; well Lauren did, I was just going with the flow! It was to be a simple day. Into Sydney getting off the train at Museum and then a 20 minute walk to Paddington market. After that down to The Rocks, round the street markets, into the Discovery Museum and then home. Perfect.

Well, no.

On Saturday it rained. Not just a little shower, but a full on monsoon style downpour. It poured, then stopped, then poured again.

Our day started later than intended but we got the train into Museum as planned and then started the walk up Oxford Street. Then it poured! We sheltered and then started walking again when the rain eased. Then it poured! We did this three or four times, getting about a third of the way between station and market before we decided enough was enough. We were both soaked and although there had been shelter this far, there didn’t seem to be much available along the next section. It was also an open air market so there was a good chance the stall holders may also have given the day up as a bad idea.

So we turned round and headed for The Rocks and the street markets. As is often the case when you change your plans due to the weather, the rain stopped and the sun came out. For a while at least. Unfortunately the storms of the previous night had resulted in the market being cancelled. Things were not going well! That said, they were about to improve considerably as it was lunchtime and The Swagmans Café was open and serving the extremely good food we had tasted previously.

After lunch we took a quick dash to the The Rocks Discovery Museum before getting too soaked. The next couple of hours were spent reading more about the history of the area from the very early Aboriginal people through the convict times to the present day. Housed in a restored 1850s sandstone warehouse and tucked out of sight between rows of shops and café’s, it is well worth searching out.

As we left the museum the rain had stopped so we took a walk round some of the residential streets in The Rocks (see my previous post) and up over Observatory Hill. Something which struck us as odd while we were walking was the number of wedding parties that were moving around the area; we must have seen five or six; although there was no sign of the weddings themselves. It seems that the key group would come up on to the hill so they could have photo’s taken with the spectacular views behind them.

PrincessI also took the opportunity to stop and have a chat to a couple of the wedding car drivers one of whom had a Vanden Plas Princess. My Grandad had worked for Vanden Plas for many years and so there is always an interest for me in seeing these amazing, coach built and hand constructed, vehicles on the road – and in this case, so very far from home. This stunning example is owned and operated by Wedding Cars of Distinction from who’s website I have borrowed this image.

As the rain returned again we decided to head back to the hotel, go and pick up some groceries from Woolworths and plan the next days road trip.

Sunday 13th April

An early start today for our second road trip. The plan was to head north to Newcastle and then go inland to Hunters Valley before meandering back to the hotel. Where possible we intended to avoid motorways and keep to the coast roads.

20140413_103218Our first stop out of the city was Sunshine Bay which we pulled into off the Old Pacific Highway primarily because Lauren liked the name. The views out over the water were magnificent, something we became increasingly used to the more we travelled. From here we stuck very much to the smaller roads for some time.

20140413_115025At Woy Woy there was a small craft market taking place so we stopped and spent a good hour looking round. This is a lovely small town which really seemed to come out and support the community market as well as the local café’s and bars. It is situated next to a river leading out to the cove.

Our next stop was Avoca Beach, lunch and a walk along the magnificent sandy beach. The panorama below just gives a taste of the place.


20140413_142108DSCF4985We saw the signs for Norah Head Lighthouse and as they, along with castles, are my favourite buildings we just had to go and have a look. What we weren’t prepared for is the beach which was so different from Avoca.


Although large parts were sandy, there were also amazing rock formations which stretched out into the sea. As the waves came in they crashed against the rocks sending water cascading in land. As with all the beaches we visited the waves are generally strong and high, hence the amount of surfing seen in this part of the world, and as such they can send water high into the sky as they meet the solid rocks.

It was while watching one series of waves that I missed those coming in behind me until it was too late! Needless to say I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening slowly drying out as all down one side I was soaked to the skin.

The rest of the journey north to Newcastle, through Swansea and Cardiff to name just a couple of the places from home, was on fairly main roads.

Just before Newcastle we went through Gateshead which I would guess provides some indication where the first settlers of this area may have come from.

From Newcastle we header into Hunters valley to a small town called Wollombi. By this time it was getting dark so rather than spending any great amount of time exploring we headed back toward Sydney.

Another great day exploring NSW but no kangaroos in sight today. One more big road trip planned into the Blue Mountains so maybe we will have more luck then.

My Big Australian Adventure – Part 7, The Rocks

The Rocks is a district of Sydney situated right next to Circular Quay in the shadow of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Much of the area is full of fashionable shops, restaurants, café’s and galleries; at weekends there are craft and food markets in the streets. The remainder is covered by the historic houses, shops and street corner pubs which have occupied the site from almost the beginning.

The name of the district comes from the local sandstone which was used to construct most of the original buildings.

Working class people arriving from English and Irish towns and cities would have reconsigned the district as soon as they got off the ship as it had been built by convicts for convicts and was modelled very much on what they had left behind. Many of the convicts opened shops and pubs, running their own businesses from premisses they erected. Even after the Hyde Park Barracks was opened in 1819 married and well behaved prisoners lived in the area, an “indulgence” which became increasingly necessary as the barracks filled to overflowing.

As prisoners completed their sentences they would often stay on in The Rocks and try to earn a living by whatever means was possible. This, coupled with the large numbers of visiting sailors and prostitutes, added to the increasingly seedy reputation of the area.

2014-04-12 17.23.23In 1900 there was an outbreak of bubonic plague, largely due to the slum conditions, which forced the state government to take control. More than 3800 houses, buildings and wharves were inspected, hundreds being demolished, but the process come to a halt with the outbreak of World War I. Hundreds more homes were demolished in the 1920’s to make way for the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but further redevelopment of the area again come to a halt this time due to the outbreak of World War II.

In 1968 control of the area was handed over to the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority again with the intention of re-developing the entire site. February 1971 saw the formation of the Rocks Residents Group who set out to oppose the plans and protect the area for the traditional residents.

Over the previous four years the Builder’s Labourers Federation had become increasingly active in preventing controversial developments and so the residents groups requested a Green Ban from them which would effectively put a stop to the destruction of the area. The Green Ban stopped any union labour working on the site at a time when, even more than now, the industry was very labour intensive.

1973 saw a “People’s Plan” drawn up and agreed following discussions between residents, the union and the redevelopment authority. However by October of that year it looked as if the original plans would proceed by using non-union labour. Two weeks of demonstrations by residents and unionists saw numerous arrests, but ultimately they one the day as can be seen when you walk through the district today.

However, there is still a problem of urban poverty in some parts of The Rocks. As the housing stock becomes dilapidated the government policy is to sell the now extremely valuable houses to private owners with the expectation that they will restore them and rejuvenate the remainder of the district. This has seen renewed demonstrations as it is seen by many as the destruction of a traditional community as the existing residents are forced to move away from their homes.

The “Millers Point – Dawes Point – The Rocks – Walsh Bay – Residents Action Group“, has been part of the history and protection of the district since the late 1960’s and continue to work today to protect this amazingly historic district for both visitors and the long term residents.

For me the protection of The Rocks district is of paramount importance. The history of the area is such that it must be protected for future generations.

But should this be at all costs? Should it be with indifference to the exiting residence?

A “middle way” needs to be found which would allow private money to be brought in and used to improve the greater environment. Perhaps an option would be to sell the empty houses to the highest bidder and then use the money to repair those currently let to tenants.

What ever the solution it is important that all the properties are renovated to an equal standard so that the area as a whole can benefit and be preserved for generations to come.

Additional information:

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