Tuesday, 27 September 2016

East Coast Australia road trip: itinerary, photos & thoughts

With limited time left in Australia, my friend Rosie and I decided that whilst we'd visited Perth and had the pleasure of spending a month in Melbourne, we simply had to see more of this vast country before we departed on our way to Nairobi. Whilst flying is always that little bit more expensive, and with time running out, we decided that a road trip along the East Coast would be the best bet, starting out from Brisbane and finishing in Sydney where we'd spend a few days being the ultimate tourists.

We bought 'Short Hop' passes from Greyhound for $139 between Brisbane and Sydney (or vice versa) which allowed us to travel in one direction and hop on and off as much as we liked between the two. We didn't have a great deal of time, with just 10 days between our arrival in Brisbane to our arrival in Sydney therefore this was the best (and cheapest) option for us however if you're planning on a big ole trip, there's plenty of other passes you can find, just click here. 

They say small things come in fabulous little packages so whilst our road trip was pretty small, I hope it may give you a few ideas for planning your own.

Let's get started...

First stop: Brisbane

Our first stop was Brisbane, a place I didn't know very much about and therefore had no expectations of what it was going to be like apart from warm, and after spending the last two months in Perth and Melbourne at the end of the winter/start of spring, we were pretty much desperate to see even a tiny little slither of sunshine. Just a teeny tiny one.

As we boarded the plane from Melbourne to Brisbane on less than 30 minutes sleep, Rosie and I decided enough was enough, we needed a break from hostels for a while and more importantly, we needed to source a place with a BATH, so we splurged and #treatedourselves, booking a one bed suite apartment at the Meriton. Perhaps one of my main pieces of advice for people who are planning a backpacking trip would be to budget for those times when you just need some luxury, quiet time and a few home comforts because whilst hostels are cheap and fun, sometimes it can get a little bit too much. 

We had absolutely zero regrets after checking in to our apartment, particularly with this view...

After 20 minutes sleep the night before, our first day pretty much consisted of sleeping and eating and relaxing and basically living the luxurious dream. With this though, we were re-energised and ready to explore the city of Brisbane the next day and our first stop was the Southbank. To say I loved how Brisbane's Southbank had been set out and used is an understatement, with an amazing pool and beach area which was literally the dream place to sit back, dip my feet in the cool water and chill with a book for an hour or two. It's also completely surreal to have a beach setting with a CBD backdrop - certainly not something you see every day!

After a pool, book and cornetto break, it was time to hop aboard the CityHopper ferry which gave you the ultimate through the city of Brisbane ...for absolutely free - perf!

Second stop: Byron Bay

Byron Bay was our second stop and our base for the next five nights. Byron is a very laid back, sunny surf town, situated on the East Coast a few hours south of Brisbane and is hugely popular with backpackers, and tourists generally.

After hearing so much about the place, I had high expectations but unfortunately, whilst I liked Byron, I didn’t love it. The beach was lovely and the vibe was super laid back however there are a lot of people (backpackers, travellers etc) that are trying way too hard to look and act like hippies. It seems to have been a ‘thing’ that has become apparent since travelling down the East Coast that people appear to not like wearing shoes…at all. Maybe I’m an 83 year old in a 21 year old’s body but surely wearing no shoes around town is firstly, unhygienic but secondly and most importantly, painful?? No? Just me? Should I nip down to the shop and stock up on Werther’s Originals…?

Anyway. Perhaps my experience of Byron was tainted a tad by the bizarre experience we had in the hostel we were staying at. On our second night out of five at Byron Beach Resort, we walked into the 6 bed dorm to find a old woman massaging someone’s feet with oils by my bed and upon me going over and having the audacity to reach over for one of my belongings, was told by the lady that this was her bed, and to have good dreams tonight as she was back tomorrow…

The next day came and sure enough, she was back in ‘her’ bed but for some reason, the hostel were allowing her to completely decorate the dorm with all of her stuff, including glass jars of oils, pastes and feathers. The lights were off at 7pm because that’s the time she went to bed and God forbid anyone wake her because oh boy, she may think she’s all about the peace and love but when she’s screaming at you to shut doors and turn lights out because she’s sleeping, its kind of thrown, violently, out of the window.

In my view, as she was a long stay guest, she should be in a dorm room with others who are also in the same situation as it’s not quite right to feel so uncomfortable and unwelcome in a room that you are paying to be in. It also wasn't hugely clean, in particular the kitchen, with the bins needing a deep deep deep clean and flies everywhere...and it isn't even the summer yet!

The positives of not liking the hostel we stayed at was that we were always looking for somewhere to go or something to see therefore we saw some of the most stunning sunsets you could wish to see, with the views from the top of the lighthouse in particular, just incredible.

For my fellow coffee addicts out there, I’d say your best bets in Byron are Cool Katz (which is also one of the only places we found with free wifi) and Byron Cafe, both situated in the town centre.

All in all, we had a nice few days staying in Byron but perhaps five days was a tad too long, particularly as the weather didn’t always play ball as it would in the summer.

Third stop: Port Macquarie

Our third stop was Port Macquarie, a place I hadn’t read much about at all, and which doesn't seem to be a massively popular stop on the East Coast with backpackers (I could be mistaken but there are only a couple of hostels and its a very quiet town). In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting a huge amount but was okay with it as we had so much planning to do for our few months in Eastern Africa which begins THIS THURSDAY OMG.

In actuality, Port Macquarie has been one of my favourite places I’ve visited in Australia and is definitely hugely underrated. The town has some of the most stunning beaches in the entire country, with a total of 18 beaches , most of which were surrounded by forestry and mountainous rocks. From Town and Flynn’s beach, perhaps the most popular, to small little coves which acted as your own private beach, the white sand and crystal blue water were utterly stunning and you really did feel like you were in paradise.

After a long walk down the coast, we then headed for the Koala Hospital, a not for profit organisation that cares for injured koalas around the state. It would almost be a crime to visit Australia and not see a real life koala and whilst it was a little sad, the organisation is doing amazing things and is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. It’s all completely free however you are very welcome to donate as little or as much as you would like.

As a day of exploring the town was coming to an end, we decided that it would only be fair to treat ourselves to a small little dominoes and with our portable plastic wine bottle, we watched the sun set over the waters with pizza in one hand and a glass of fizz in the other.

I absolutely loved Port Macquarie and my only regret was that we didn't plan originally to spend a couple more nights there. I'd highly recommend our hostel Ozzie Pozzie Backpackers -   the dorm rooms were lovely, with an ensuite attached, the kitchen clean and the communal areas comfortable. It also had an amazing pool area with outdoor seating so it would be the ultimate dream in the summer if it's just simply too hot to walk down to the beach.

Final stop: Sydney

Our fourth and final stop, was Sydney - a pretty fitting end to our time in Australia I think. Our first two days were spent in Bondi, along with my friends from Melbourne who surprised me with a visit! After a stunning walk along the coast, we didn't quite make it to Coogee because there was a 50% chance of rain according to Google therefore we simply had to make it to the nearest bar...we had too.

Whilst I really liked Melbourne, Sydney for me, feels like you're in Australia. Not only because of the world famous landmarks, the stunning Opera House and the impressive Harbour Bridge, but the general laid-back feeling, the leafy suburbs and the wide open green spaces in the city centre. After exploring the city, we watched the sunset with a few beers in the Royal Botanical Gardens, then headed to Surrey Hills and had a fabulous meal at Millevini, with some of the best Italian food we've had on our entire trip.

The only unfortunate thing about our time in Sydney, was the hostel we had booked into, which can only be described, as truly awful. There was a pungent smell that hit you as soon as you entered the building, a ridiculous $20 key deposit each, old and rundown kitchen and bathroom facilities and honestly, for the price we paid, the room we were expected to stay in was an absolute joke. Despite not giving a refund, we left on the same day we arrived and as we did so, we noticed a sign on the door notifying residents of the hostel that they were currently having to treat a rodent and insect problem. Safe to say, Maze Backpackers is not somewhere you want to stay - believe me.

So, my time in Australia has come to an end and whilst it's been a tad turbulent at times, it's safe to say that my experience Down Under has been pretty special. It's a little sad to say goodbye so soon, but this year away was about being free for a while, not living in the 'real' world and leaving my comfort zone behind...and oh boy, am I excited for the next few months.

But for now, thanks Australia, you've been a blast.

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Friday, 23 September 2016


This time last year, plans were beginning to be made. Accompanied with copious amounts of prosecco (because nothing can actually be done properly without fizz), my friend Rosie and I sat with travel magazines flicked open all around us, planning our year long backpacking trip. We pored over blogs and websites and magazines and more blogs and more websites and more magazines, figuring out where to go, where to stay, what to do... Hours and hours went into planning our trip and yet of course, because its us and we like to make things particularly difficult for ourselves, we scrapped eight months worth of plans which would've seen us work and live in Australia and visit New Zealand for an Eastern Africa road trip and three months in Cape Town.

I'm not kidding.

Let me explain...

On arriving in Perth at the end of July, we were both ready to get jobs, get settled and get earning a little dollar again. Without stating the painful obvious, Australia is not cheap so the job search began pretty much instantly and oh boy, I'd forgotten how tedious it is. After a week of pretty much constantly applying for jobs, neither of us had found anything nor were we particularly loving Perth so we made a new plan: Melbourne! Despite loving the city, once again, the job search was not going well, with unsuccessful trial after unsuccessful trial and it was becoming harder and harder to stay motivated and positive. After a few weeks, we decided to reassess because despite Rosie finding a job and opportunities arising for trials for myself, we realised that actually, this wasn't what we wanted out of this trip. The whole point of this trip was to enjoy it. To relax, to experience different cultures and countries, to meet new people, to drink and eat and laugh and appreciate life. To be completely carefree and not live in the 'real world' for a while.


That's exactly what we decided to do.

We threw absolute caution to the wind and...booked a flight to Nairobi.

As you do.

Here's the NEW plan...

First stop - Nairobi, Kenya
Flying from Sydney on the 28th, we have a monster of a flight to Nairobi whereby we will be clocking up 25 hours of travelling time. We are staying at Milimani Backpackers for a week and have also booked onto a 3 day safari with the hostel too which I am so unbelievably excited for that I could burst.

Second stop - Arusha or Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Travelling overland from Nairobi, we are heading to Tanzania where we have decided to do three weeks volunteering with organisations in either Arusha or Dar es Salaam. Rosie and I are extremely conscious of only volunteering with responsible organisations as we are not wanting to contribute to the 'volun-tourism' trend however after joining WorkAway, a fantastic work-accommodation exchange website, we have found two NGOs/charities that we are really excited to hopefully be involved with.

Third stop - Zanzibar, Tanzania
At the start of November, we are then heading to Zanzibar for a week, catching the ferry from Dar Es Salaam and first spending a few days in Stone Town and then either Nungwi or Kendwa. Catching the ferry back to Dar Es Salaam, we're then catching a train to Mbeya where we will just spend the one night before crossing the border to Malawi.

Fourth stop - Malawi
From the border, we will travel by coach to Nkhata Bay, where we have organised another WorkAway exchange with a secondary school that has been set up as a not for profit, charitable foundation in a village where previous to this, there had been no school within a two hour walking distance. We will be spending three weeks volunteering here before heading down to Cape Maclear for ten days before flying to Durban.

Fifth stop - Durban
Earlier in the year, one of our only regrets from our time in South Africa was not managing to get to Durban therefore we're making amends and spending ten days there. One of our favourite hostels we have stayed at on this trip was Curiocity Hostels in Johannesburg and with the most perfect timing in the world, they are just about to open in Durban too - all the more exciting!

How could we not return to Cape Town after falling in love with the city so much in May? Flying from Durban on 23rd December, we will be landing in CT just in time to join in the Christmas festivities and oh boy, am I excited. Going back at any time of the year would be special but getting there in time for Christmas and New Year is just a dream. Furthermore, we will be working at a hostel from January onwards for a couple of months too so... Cape Town summer, we're coming for you!

It really is quite the change of plans and whilst it hasn't been easy to say goodbye to Australia so soon, I just know that we've made the right decision. What a few months this is set to be...

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Wednesday, 14 September 2016

REVIEW | Space Hotel, Melbourne

Travelling to different countries across the world is one of the best things you can do in your life, and staying in hostels furthers your experiences even more, meeting new and diverse people every single day.


There is a point you get too at times, when sharing a room with 10 other people who are prone to a) snoring so loud you believe there's a thunderstorm outside, b) turning the light on at 6am and starting to chat away on the phone or c) playing Coldplay from their laptop at 3am and playing the guitar (an actual thing that has actually happened and yes, I did want to forcefully pinch him on the arm and rip his instrument in to two) before it gets a little tiresome... 

Perhaps my first piece of advice to anyone who is about to begin their travelling adventures is to budget for times when you need that little bit of luxury and a whole lot of privacy. Or, to stay at a place like Space Hotel, a budget luxury hotel which, whilst has all the facilities of a hostel including a communal kitchen, living room and bar area, also has the qualities of a hotel including modern private and semi-private rooms, as well as a gym, movie room and rooftop area with sun loungers and a hot tub. 

Whilst residing at Space Hotel, we stayed in a four bed, semi-private dorm which had a privacy screen between the two sets of bunkbeds. It's safe to say this is one of the best equipped dorms we have been in in Australia, with only Atlantic Point Backpackers in Cape Town, matching it, with a personal light, shelf and two plug outlets next to the bed (it may seem pretty basic but oh boy do so many hostels get this so wrong). 

The facilities on offer at Space are pretty fabulous, with five exceptionally clean bathrooms on each floor, all with a toilet, sink and shower (if I'm not mistaken in memory, I believe they are cleaned five times a day!). There was a lounge and games area which had a desk area if needing to tap away on your laptop (or actually use a real life pen and paper), a big fitness centre with treadmills and other...gym equipment that I definitely used every single day (...) and even a private movie room with actual real life cinema seating (forget paying $20 for a ticket to the movies). My personal favourite though, was the rooftop seating area, with picnic benches for snacking, sun beds to catch the rays and...a hot tub. 

If looking out at the Melbourne skyline wasn't fabulous enough, you can do it from the comfort of a hot tub at Space, lordy lord, does it get better?

Overall, we had a fabulous time staying at Space Hotel and it fully re-energised us for the next leg of our trip. If I was to be picky, I would say that perhaps the kitchen needs monitoring a little more as there was often dirty pots and pans in the sinks (why grown adults can't clean up after themselves in a communal area I'll never know) and we had our milk taken on our first day which, as tea and coffee addicts, was not good for the mood levels (we survived though, somehow.). 

Aside from that however, I'd say if you were looking for a little bit of luxury which doesn't harm the old bank balance, this has got to be the best around - I couldn't recommend it more. 

- Six bed dorms are $33 per night (as of September 2016)
- Four bed semi-private dorms are $37 per night (as of September 2016)
- Private rooms start from $105 per night (as of September 2016)
For all prices and further information about Space Hotel, click here.

Where is the best place you have stayed on your travels? Let me know below in the comments... 

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*Space Hotel kindly invited me to stay for review purposes however all opinions, as ever, are completely and utterly honest (otherwise, what's the point, hey?).

Sunday, 4 September 2016

5 amazing things to do in Bali

Oh Bali, the paradise island, with its crystal blue waters, white sanded beaches and the only worry being where the next cocktail is coming from... or something like that. It's safe to say I have a few mixed feelings about Bali, so much so that I was unsure whether to even write this post in fear of being a tad hypocritical but aside from the constant honking taxi horns which at times made me want to prod someone (softly) in the eye and Ubud, basically as a whole (controversial I know), I did enjoy my time there and I even got an actual tan. Completely and utterly unheard of.


Things to do in Bali.

Well let me start off, with a disclaimer if you will, by firstly saying, my friend and I...like a drink or three so whilst some may prefer to spend their dollar on diving into a pit of sharks, playing sport in 642 degree heat (it FELT like that okay) or even something normal like...surfing, we did not and yep, alright, fine, we spent most of our money on alcohol. So SUE us.

What we also enjoyed doing was laying down therefore if you do not like to lay down, drink alcohol or eat, this is perhaps going to be possibly the least helpful post you could wish to read. However, if you DO enjoy those things, well get yourself a cup of coffee with a shot of brandy and a Curly Wurly chocolate bar because you my friend, are in for a treat...

1. Relax luxuriously at Sundays Beach Club

This place is just the ultimate dream. On arrival at the club, you ride the cliffside inclinater down to the beach where you are met with the most stunning turquoise sea you ever could wish for. You are assigned a bed, a menu and a waiter, are free to use the snorkelling and diving equipment and can stay as long as you wish. There are happy hours throughout the afternoon, making the final bill a little less painful and as the sun begins to set, a small bonfire is lit with beanbags scattered around it to enjoy an espresso martini or two after dark. The entry/sunbed fee is Rp300,000 (£18) and you have 150,000 of that charge as credit to spend on food and drink.

I recommend getting there pretty earlier, probably between 9 and 10am to ensure you get a sun bed looking out onto the sea, or if you don't particularly fancy sand getting all up in your grill all the live long day, you can opt to take a bed by the pool at the top of the cliff with stunning views out onto the ocean.

When you think of paradise, you think of this place.

2. Spend a day on Jimbaran Beach

In your mind, what do you think of when you envisage Bali? White sanded beaches? Crystal blue waters? The odd fishing boat bobbing out to sea and an adventurous surfer speeding in? Well, whilst you aren't going to find that everywhere in Bali, you can be sure that you'll find it at Jimbaran beach. It is the ultimate place to sunbathe in Bali, in my humble opinion.

3. Watch the sunset with a cocktail at The Rock bar

Not a place that your bank balance is going to thank you for, but a place that would be silly to miss out on when in Jimbaran Bay. Named as one of the best... in Bali, it's certainly a treat on the eyes on arrival, although a slightdagger to the heart when you remember you aren't actually staying at the resort - it's stuunnniinggggg. As always though, you fake it til you make it and this is exactly what we did as we pretended our Uber taxi was our private driver and The Rock bar was our local... At around £15 a pop for cocktails, it's not somewhere you spend a long time, but you can be sure that it will be a good time.

4. Chill out at Potato Head Beach Club

Seminyak treated us to abysmal weather overall however thankfully, we decided to head to the Potato Head Beach Club and it turned out to be the only sunny day we had there - result! Similarly to Sundays, you are assigned a sun bed (must get there between 9-9:30am as fills up quickly!) and waiter however the draw to this place is the infinity pool, which not only looks straight out onto the beach but also has an actual bar in the actual water, what a dream. For a lounger sun bed which could fit 4 people sitting up, and 2 people lying down, the minimum spend for is Rp 500,000 which is around £30 so if spending the entire day there, is an easy amount to reach.

5. Eat fresh seafood at Lia cafe on the beach at sunset

Along Jimbaran beach, there are a huge range of cafes and restaurants on the beach, with it being pretty much the ultimate place to eat in the area. We opted for Lia cafe, and over a platter of fresh seafood and a Bintang or 3 each, we watched the most stunning sunset. A must do and pretty inexpensive with a platter of lobster, crab, clams and king prawns, as well as 2 Bintang beers coming in at £15 each.

Well, there we have it - I hope you have a few more ideas of what you might like to get up to in Bali. If you're thinking blimey, those prices are a tad steep, I hate to tell you but... Bali as a whole is not cheap and we went quite a lot over ours as we had thought it would be similar to Thailand, South Africa etc... It's not :(

If you have any questions, feel free to ask away down below in the comments or head on over to my Twitter and Facebook pages which of course you're following because you're a little dream, I just know it.

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Friday, 2 September 2016

10 favourite travelling moments (so far!)

After I posted a rather sad blog post a few days ago, I didn't want to leave it too long before updating this little space, partly because I wanted to say you're all ace and thank you for being so nice and so understanding but also because... I am actually having the best time of my life, I promise. When travelling for this amount of time, there are going to be tough moments and I'm beginning to accept that it's okay to reach out a little and admit that so, all is good, all will be okay.


Negative Nancy is being put away in her box for a while because wow, oh wow, what a four months it has been. From climbing big huge mountains that made me want to die a little bit at the time but cry with happiness once completed, to being approximately 3 seconds away from being leapt on by an actual real life leopard (I mean we were with a guide but what's he going to do? Ring 999?) to clinking glasses of prosecco at sunset and waking up the next morning wondering what an earth happened last night (obviously only very occasionally because you know me, not a big drinker...), it's been eventful. Really eventful.

Here are my 10 favourite travelling moments, so far...

1.Climbing Table Mountain

Climbing Table Mountain is without a doubt my biggest achievement on this trip, and probably in life (forget the degree, it was fuelled by chocolate, tea and 3 gallons of wine a day), because if you know me, you know that I am about as suited to exercise as Jeremy Corbyn is to being Prime Minister of the UK. I don't like it, I don't understand it and I don't do it, so setting off on a 3 hour hike which is so insanely steep I thought I was going to vomit at one point and give up, was an achievement in itself, never mind actually completing it.

Who needs a cable cart? Not this gal... apart from going down because please don't think after a hike and 1 to 5 glasses of champagne (it was a celebration of life and health) that I was about to start walking down the big huge thing. Peeerleeeasseeeeeee.

2. Wine tasting in Stellenbosch

Drinking wine, or should I say, seriously tasting the fruity textures of wine, is my favourite hobby wherever I may be in the world so this day trip to Stellenbosch was pretty much my idea of actual heaven itself. Wine for breakfast, wine for lunch, wine for tea - what more could one ask for?

3. Feeding and meeting elephants at the Knsyna Elephant Sanctuary

There aren't many times in your life that you can say you've had a group of cheeky elephants pinching vegetables straight from your hand and then stand and wait to be patted and fussed, is there. However, on a guided tour at the Knsyna Elephant Sanctuary, this actually happened and it was just the best experience you could ask for. They truly are stunning animals and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to have gotten so close to them.

4. Watching the sunset on Jimbaran Bay beach

*alert, alert* A moment NOT in South Africa, I repeat, a favourite travelling moment that is NOT in South Africa. Whilst Bali was a funny old few weeks for my friend and I, with a few places we visited being rather underwhelming, one place that wasn't was Jimbaran Bay. After an amazing meal which consisted of aaall of the fresh seafood including lobster, crab, clams and prawns, we watched the sunset over a beverage or two and it was just, perfect.

5. Exploring Johannesburg

Johannesburg was the place I had been most apprehensive about visiting out of everywhere we had planned to go and yet now, it is one of the places I'm the most desperate to go back and visit. Exploring the inner city with a tour guide was an experience I'll never forget, from visiting local residential areas and eating local foods to soaring up the tallest skyscraper in Africa (don't worry mum, it was in a lift). I'm so happy that I left my preconceived ideas behind and went in with completely open eyes because now I can happily say that it is one of the best places I've visited on this trip so far.

6. Sunset boat cruise to Knysna Heads 

The caption pretty much sums this moment up because really, can it get better than a boat cruise, at sunset, accompanied with a bottle of prosecco and utterly stunning views around the harbour of Knsyna? It can't really, can it...

7. Chilling out in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne

Melbourne is a really fabulous city, and whilst I haven't been here long and have been a tad preoccupied with job hunting and being miserable because of unsuccessful job hunting, there hasn't been a huge amount of sight seeing. One place that I have visited though, just to chill out, relax, and read my book with a coffee in tow was the Royal Botanical Gardens and oh boy, it's not a bad view is it....

8. Food. Generally. Everywhere.

Honestly, it really, truly blows my mind how I am not currently sat writing this post, 23 stone heavier than when I first took off from the UK in May. Technically, it's not actually my fault because when you visit places, you have to sample their foods, and you have to experience their best and most tasty cafes and restaurants so I really haven't had a choice in the matter. Not one.

9. Hiking in Robberg Nature Reserve 

Is this the actual real life Charlotte Hall writing this post because in my top 10 favourite moments I have included two actual hikes that I did in real life??? This one wasn't a teeny tiny patch on Table Mountain exertion wise, thank the Lord above us, but the scenery was stuuunning.

(I know I'm an adult now by the amount of times I've said 'scenery' and 'views' in this post because pre-teenage me would've scoffed at the thought of looking at 'the scenery' and got back to playing on my Nintendo).

10. Visiting Boulders Beach

Actual penguins on an actual beach! What a better way to finish off this post than with the surreal moment I saw about 100 little penguins sitting back and relaxing on the white sanded beach, with a few even going for a quick dip in the sea. Totally surreal, completely amazing.

Here's to the next 4 months...


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