Thursday, 6 July 2017

Amalia Gorge: Would you go swimming with a crocodile?

Amalia Gorge
"A freshwater croc lives in the pool there."

With these less than comforting words ringing in our ears we set off for a late afternoon hike to Amalia Gorge. I should add that the very nice lady on the information desk did say this particular freshwater crocodile wasn't dangerous - unless we annoyed him. I don't know what you would do but I wasn't about to take any chances. We came to the Kimberley region of Western Australia for the scenery, not to become reptile lunch. If you are swimming in a rock pool and come face to face with a prehistoric monster of gargantuan proportions how exactly do you ensure that you don't annoy him? So much for taking a dip at the end of our walk - cross that one off the list!



From the car park to the end of the gorge the trail is 3.4 km. At a moderate pace, without stopping or getting lost it takes a couple of hours. Try not to get lost! I can tell you from first hand experience, losing the trail is very stressful 

David and I set out at about 3 pm. With sunset due at 5.00 pm we knew we were pushing our luck a bit but decided to walk for 45 minutes and then turn around whether we were at the end of the gorge or not.


Ochre Pool at Amalia Gorge. There are two swimming holes at Amalia Gorge. I don't know which one the crocodile lives in but I wasn't taking the chance it was this one. Can you see the people in the photo?
For the first 15 minutes we followed a rocky creek bed. The small, blue, triangular trail markers were often faded and difficult to find (this really should have been a warning signal) and the rocks had a disturbing habit of shifting underfoot which meant that we spent more time watching our footing and less taking note of our surroundings. After one or two false turns we made it through to the start of the gorge with its magnificent red-rock sides towering above us.


Amalia Gorge trail
The rocky creek bed which forms the first part of the trail.

Our trail guide (see 'My Tips' below) had numbered points corresponding to landmarks on the route. They ran from 1 to 12 and had helpful little descriptions and a legend which included icons for things like  'Creek', 'Pool', 'Swimming', 'Falls' and 'Crocodiles'. Yes, you read that right - 'Crocodiles'!

Point 8, about two thirds of the way along was named 'Caution Point' and had this advice:
"A small and very narrow section with a 4 m drop. This is the most dangerous point along the entire trail. Take great care and assist others. Do not attempt if suffering from vertigo or if not sure footed."
David has never been comfortable with heights. He took one look at the 'very narrow section with the 4 m drop' and declared it too dangerous to continue. It was one of those 'don't even try to change my mind on this' moments, so I didn't, even though I was fairly sure we could have got through without falling to a premature death.

The 'Ochre Pool', a wonderfully peaceful looking swimming hole was just before Point 8 so we decided to sit for a while, contemplating nature, before heading back to our car.   The pool looked oh so inviting, - but hey, remember that crocodile. Even though I couldn't see him it didn't mean he wasn't there.

Ochre Pool again. Can you see the crocodile? Neither could I.

Just as we were about to leave, a family with several young children appeared at the other side of the pool. They had clearly made it through Point 8. We watched them negotiate the return. They made it look easy. There is nothing in the world like being shown up by a six year old.

As it turned out, Point 8 and David's reluctance to negotiate it did us a favour.  On our return hike, we needed every minute of daylight the early turn back gave us. Back on the rocky creek bed where on our way in we were watching our footing rather than taking note of our surroundings, we lost the trail. The trail markers simply disappeared. We couldn't have been more than 15 minutes from the car park but anything except exactly the right direction threatened to take us into an unforgiving wilderness. We had no torch or other source of light and there was no mobile phone coverage. Our only comfort was knowing there was at least one person behind us. We had passed one of the mothers from the group we saw at Ochre Pool going back toward the gorge. She was re-tracing her steps in the hope of retrieving her son's lost watch. Thank heavens for boys and their ability to misplace things!

There is a small blue triangular trail marker in this photo. Can you see it? I took this shot at Emma Gorge, not Amalia, but the problem with the markers was the same.

If we couldn't find the trail, Plan B was to wait for the mother and, swallowing our embarrassment, ask her to lead us out. Luckily it didn't come to that. After some frantic searching about we realised we must have taken the wrong fork about 50 metres back.  Ten minutes later we were safely in the car with just enough time to cross the Pentecost River before the last rays of the sun disappeared.

Past the dry creek bed the trail took us through vegetation before entering the main part of the gorge.


Crossing the Pentecost River. As if getting lost wasn't stressful enough we still had to cross the Pentecost to get back to our accommodation. We didn't want to do it in the dark. You can see the car's dashboard and bonnet at the bottom of the photo. The other side of the river is barely visible.


My Tips:
  • Pick up an Amalia Gorge Trail Fact Sheet from either El Questro Station or the El Questro Reservations Office in Kununurra. You will find the reservations office in the Visitor Centre at Kununurra.
  • Take plenty of water and wear hiking/walking shoes.
  • The walk is 3.4 km and takes about two hours return without stopping.
  • Up to Point 8 it is not a difficult walk but the first part of the trail follows a dry creek bed with loose rocks which makes it quite slow and not suitable for anyone with mobility issues.
  • Like all the walks in the Kimberley, Amalia Gorge is cooler and prettier in the early mornings and late afternoons, however the sun sets early in this part of the world. Despite the warm temperatures this is the dry season - winter - so sunset will be between 5 and 5.20 pm. Last light comes about twenty minutes later. I don't think you can access the gorge during summer - the wet season. Don't risk running out of daylight by setting out too late.  
  • Amalia Gorge is about an hour and a quarter's drive from Kununurra, along El Questro Road which turns off the Gibb River Road. Our accommodation was 15 minutes further on, at El Questro Station. The disadvantage with this was that we had to cross the Pentecost river to get to the gorge.
  • Hire a 4WD. The road to Amalia Gorge is a severely corrugated dirt road. When we visited in June 2017 it would have been possible to get there from Kununurra with a 2WD vehicle - I think. Please don't trust me on this because I am no expert. There are two large river crossings just beyond the gorge so if you intend to go on to El Questro Station, which is the end of the road, you need to have a high clearance 4WD. 

Crocodiles: 

Australia has two species of crocodiles: freshwater crocodiles and saltwater, or estuarine, crocodiles. Freshwater crocodiles are smaller than saltwater crocs and they rarely attack people. Saltwater crocodiles are the world's largest living reptile species. They can grow up to 6m, weigh one tonne and have been responsible for many deaths. Despite their name, they can also be found in freshwater areas.

The only way to stay safe in crocodile country is to stay out of the water and away from the water's edge unless you know it is saltwater crocodile free. Do not rely on being able to see whether there is a crocodile in the water. While we were at Berkeley River Lodge we saw more than one saltwater crocodile completely disappear below the surface of the water. Had we not first seen them on the river bank we wouldn't have known they were there.

A freshwater crocodile. He may not be a man-eater like his saltwater cousins but would you take the chance? I took this photo at Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, a few years ago in Cairns.

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Amalia Gorge, The Kimberley


66 comments:

  1. Wow this definitely looks like an experience, crocodiles are so stealth like. Being shown up by a six year old is never fun is it!! #Farawayfiles

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    1. Haha - it isn't the first time I've been shown up by a six year old!

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  2. Um no. NO I would not swim with a croc! And I would probably agree with your husband on the 4m drop potential while crossing a narrow gorge. Gah! That water does look tempting and what a beautiful area, but good to know about the crocs! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

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    1. The water looks lovely however the idea of it being home to a crocodile was enough to keep me out of it. It was probably really cold too. I swam in a couple of other crocodile-free rock pools while we were in the Kimberley and they were invariably freezing.

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  3. That looks like quite a hike. I would start a lot earlier in the day because I'm not so sure on my feet.

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    1. It would have been sensible to start earlier. but we had just arrived that day and we were keen to do something. This was the easiest close hike.

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  4. Wow that is one big crocodile! That hike looks so beautiful though! I can't see the croc in that pool either lol

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    1. He looks enormous in the photo but you should have seen the saltwater crocodiles. We saw nine of them in all at Berkeley River (now that is a place you would never go swimming) and they were massive.

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  5. Uh no haha I would not go swimming with a crocodile! You seem to have been pretty close with that picture! #wkendtravelinspiration
    (www.caliglobetrotter.com)

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    1. Trust me, if it had been a saltwater crocodile I would have stayed a LOT further back from the edge of the pool.

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  6. This brings back memories of travelling in Kakadu National Park, NT 20 years ago during my uni days - our guide mentioned that there was a freshwater crocodile in the creek. We were, like, uh no, thank you, we would rather not have showers for 2 days than to swim in that creek! The guide said, oh don't you worry about that crocodile, it's "vegetarian" hahah...no way!

    I'm glad that you managed to find your way back to the car just in time before the sun set. I can imagine how worried you must have felt.

    Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed reading your post :-) Cheers! #FarawayFiles

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    1. I can't believe that I have never been to Kakadu. It is on my list though. My sister lived in Darwin once and she used to talk about the difference in danger between saltwater and freshwater crocodiles but it didn't really come home to me until this recent trip.

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  7. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked
    submit my comment didn't appear. Grrrr... well I'm not writing all
    that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

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    1. You have my sympathy with the disappearing comment thing. It has happened to me in the past and I really hate it. Sometimes when I write an especially long, witty, clever or whatever comment I right click and hit copy before I hit publish. That way it is on the computer clipboard if I need to try posting it a second time.

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  8. Yikes Lyn. This would be a bit maddening. Knowing crocs are in the area as you traipse about. Ditto on losing the trail. I recall hiking in New Jersey a while back, in bear country. We lost the trail as the sun was about ready to set. Had like 45 minutes to find our way and get the heck out of the forest before these 500-600 pound big boys would work the forest floor for an evening snack.

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    1. Haha - I am glad you made it. It constantly amazes me how North Americans think Australia has dangerous wildlife when you guys have bears to contend with. At least crocodiles only live near water.

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  9. No way would I swim with a crocodile - I've seen Crocodile Dundee! This looks like an amazing trip though we didn't make it to Kakadu when we came to Australia but I would love to visit - I'll have to summon up some crocodile courage! #FarawayFiles

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    1. Do you know that there were real crocodile hunters in Australia once? I could be wrong about this but I think the most successful one was a woman. I don't imagine she was much like Crocodile Dundee though. Amalia Gorge is in the Kimberley in Western Australia which is a different part of the country to Kakadu. Kakadu is in the Northern Territory. I haven't been to Kakadu but I have seen photos of gorges which are similar to those in the Kimberley.

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  10. Don't think I'd be going in the water, crocs of any type are pretty terrifying!

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  11. Not pleasant to loose your way in the wilderness, right before dark. It happened to us a couple of times and since then I no longer trust my husband to take me on paths that are not perfectly marked. Amalia Gorge looks very beautiful, but I wouldn't have taken any chances to swim with the crocodile either. #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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    1. The crocodile would not have needed to attack for me to be in trouble - I think I would just have died of fright if I was swimming along and I saw it. I went swimming in other rock pools and they were all lovely, although much colder than I would have expected.

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  12. Not even once, even if you paid me. Hahaha.
    I've been to the Kimberly once (for a short time) and it's just so beautiful. I'm glad that you got to enjoy it as well. Some of your photos remind me of hikes I've taken in western Sydney bushland. It's all so beautiful! #farawayfiles

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    1. We live in Sydney and the bushland in the National Parks can be breathtaking but it has nothing on the Kimberley. I can't wait to go back.

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  13. It seems like swimming with a crocodile was one of the least dangerous things on your hike! Is it common for trails to be that badly signed in Australia?

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    1. Signage on trails varies. I think part of the problem with trails in the Kimberley is the weather. It doesn't matter how good the signs are, the wet season comes along and weathers them pretty fast. Besides it wouldn't be as much fun if it was too easy.

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  14. I have to tell you that I am not afraid of very many things, but aligators and crocs top my list! Great story!

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    1. We were at an alligator park in Florida once and I remember the guide saying that alligators were like pussy cats compared to crocodiles. I guess he meant saltwater crocs.

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  15. I would have to pass on the swim there, too. I think I'm more afraid of the croc I can't see than the one I can. Thanks for linking in with #wkendtravelinspiration!

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    1. Haha - I think I would be afraid of both of them: the one I can't see and the one I can.

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  16. Once new to Australia and very naive we swam at Cape Leveque. Locals just shrugged when we asked if there really were crocs there. Fortunately we live to tell the tale. And like you I've had extreme anxiety about missing a path in the bush.An unpleasant experience.

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    1. Crocodiles certainly inhabit beaches. From time to time you hear stories of them being relocated because they are scaring the beachgoers but I get the impression that estuaries, rivers and swimming holes are more dangerous places. Don't quote me on this though, I could be wrong. I do recall my sister saying that you couldn't swim at the beach in Darwin, when she lived there, because of the saltwater crocs.

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  17. I'd love the hike, but I will not be swimming with any wild animals.. hah. I am going camping in Colorado here soon, and I am worried about coming across bears. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. I would be worried about bears too. At least with crocodiles you can stay away from water.

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  18. Gosh, what a story! I do not want to be lost in a place where a crocodile lives. I usually have a good sense of direction and am good following trails and returning to an initial point. But, my husband is not like. Sometimes, he says we are not walking the right trail or that we are taking the wrong turn (when I know it is not). Sometimes, I have to get firm and ask him to follow me because I am tired or we do not have time to be arguing. #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. I have no sense of direction whatsoever. I can get lost in my own suburb. David is usually pretty good but I think he was tired and it was a particularly hard trail to follow.

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  19. Lyn my hands were sweating at the thought of the crocodile swimming but it was that feeling of losing the trail with sunset approaching that really got my heart racing. So glad it all turned out well in the end. Your writing really had me feeling like I was there with you. As to how not to annoy a crocodile? That in itself must be worthy of a story! :)

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    1. Haha - I will take our crocodiles over your bears any day. At least you can avoid the crocs by staying away from the water. The animal which really scares me are sharks. In a few months D and I are going back to Western Australia and I am going snorkelling off the Albrohos Islands. I hope to enjoy it but there was a fatal shark attack there only a year or so ago which does kind of take the gloss off an activity.

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  20. What a hairy ordeal! Thank goodness for the boy who lost his watch. Thanks for sharing more of your Australian tales on #FarawayFiles

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    1. I have two sons, now grown-up. One of them, who is otherwise very successful, still struggles to keep track of any of his personal possessions so I knew exactly where that mother was coming from.

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  21. Yeah I probably wouldn't jump in either knowing there are crocodiles in there, but the water looks gorgeous! I'd probably dip a toe in or something. Fun post. Really enjoyed it! #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Haha - dipping a toe in would probably have been safe enough with a freshwater croc. Don't ever think about it with a saltwater croc though. At Berkeley River (last week's post) there were saltwater crocodiles and we were warned to stay well away from the water's edge at all times.

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  22. Sounds like a bit of a stressful hike but I was glad to hear you made it back before dark. I've heard about the saltwater crocodiles and am terrified of them but those freshwater ones sound a bit more intriguing. Stay safe and away from them is the best policy.

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    1. I think staying away from the crocs is great advice. I absolutely intend to do that.

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  23. Lyn, I'm sure you are used to any kind of wildlife living in Australia. But swimming with a crocodile is probably not a good idea (as a rangers son in South Africa had to find out - if he had time before getting chowed). Your description of your visit to Amalia Gorge is very entertaining.

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    1. Haha - David and I live in Sydney, a city of over 4 million people, we don't get a lot of dangerous wildlife, mostly possums, bandicoots and brush turkeys all of which are annoying but hardly dangerous. I cleared out a nest of red-back spiders recently next to the pool but while they will give you a nasty bite they aren't usually lethal. So as far as dealing with deadly wildlife goes I don't think we are better equipped than anyone else but we took heed of the warnings about crocodiles when we were in the Kimberley and have lived to tell the tale - fortunately. I am glad you found my post entertaining. Thanks for the kind words.

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  24. I so enjoyed your description of your hike in Western Australia's Amalia Gorge. It sounds beautiful and I think you were wise to avoid the crocodiles, and the narrow and dangerous area of the trail!!

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    1. I know I am biased but I think the Kimberley region is about the most striking landscape I have ever seen. The fact that it is so remote and takes a fair bit of effort to see just adds to its lustre.

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  25. Looks like a gorgeous place. We've swum with freshies at Geikie Gorge yonks ago. If it's hot enough...

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    1. You are braver than me. I know they aren't suppose to attack people but they don't exactly look friendly.

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  26. Amalia Gorge looks beautiful, but I'm on the "no" side of this one! Crocodiles? Steep drops? Driving through rivers? I don't think so!

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    1. Haha. The driving through rivers bit was great fun - at least in hindsight. At the time it was just stressful.

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  27. A big "no thanks" to swimming with a croc! You're right - who knows what will annoy it? I'm glad you found your way back to the trail. I've had one nerve-racking experience of being out on a hike with no flashlight with the sunlight quickly fading away (due to my own bad planning) - it's scary for sure!

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    1. Fortunately we made it back but it is a lesson you don't forget quickly.

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  28. Sounds like a nice but slightly frustrating hike. Too bad you couldn't reward your perseverance with a swim. The water looks so nice. tempting but not worth the risk! #wkendtravelinspiration.

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    1. I did get to swim on a hike the next day so all was not lost.

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  29. Wow! What a great - challenging! -- hike. It looks so beautiful despite the crocs.

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    1. We are already planning a return trip. I would love to drive the Gibb River Road but I think I would need to trade David in on a more adventurous husband for that - lol!

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  30. the crocs! I don't know whether I am brave enough to see them from close LOL..We saw the big one in Melbourne and Queensland when we lived in Australia back in 2005 - 2007.. It was quite an experience!

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    1. They are massive. I would hate to come face to face with one in the wild.

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  31. No! and I'll skip the hike to Amalia Gorge, too! But I did enjoy going along with you via your post.

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed my post. The hike was fun, if a bit stressful at times.

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  32. I loved reading this and felt like I was right along side you on the hike. I'd follow in your footsteps, but would not be comfortable swimming with the possibility of a croc near by. Friendly or not, my fear of them is off the charts!

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    1. Haha - an off-the-charts fear of crocs sounds pretty sensible to me. I'm glad you liked the post.

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  33. I've had that experience of being lost when hiking and seeing the sunlight fading. It is rather alarming - and must be more so if there is the possibility of crocodiles!

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    1. To be honest our concern when the light was fading wasn't really the crocs. It is just such unforgiving countryside, even in winter. I don't think you would survive for too long if you got lost - and of course, no-one would have come looking for us for quite a while.

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