Friday, May 31, 2019

A night at the haunted church : Shettihalli


Frankly speaking, I never knew this beautiful church had a haunted background to it. I always thought that this church was a perfect weekend getaway to many Bangaloreans and people of other towns nearby. Though my thought is still true, the other side of the story can still be creepy especially at night.

The once beautiful church is now nothing but a mere ruin. Because of its uniqueness, it is also a sought after destination to many photo lovers. This place also has less light pollution compared to other places in the state, thus making it a good destination for night sky / astrophotography.

History of the Church

The church was built during the 1860's by the French missionaries. However a century later, the denizens of the area moved along with their belongings, thus abandoning the place. This was due to the construction of the Gorur dam which was built across the Hemavati river, had caused the church to be submerged in water. Even today during monsoons, the church is covered with water, and many tourists visit the place to get a glimpse of this magnificent architecture in a different dimension.



Best time to visit

Though the church is open all around the year, it is suggested to visit the church at-least twice in a year to see the beauty in two different perspectives.


Dec-May : The church is seen as shown above, and one can take a stroll around it to enjoy the structure and appreciate the church.

July - Sep : The whole perspective is changed during this time, where the church is partially submerged in water.


How to reach

Shettihalli is located around 35kms from Hassan (in the state of Karnataka). Hassan is very well connected by roadways and railways from various other places in the state. Hassan is situated around 200kms from Bangalore , around 130kms from Mysore and around 170kms from Mangalore.

Route:
Bangalore -> Nelamangala -> Kunigal -> Channarayapatna -> Hassan -> Shettihalli

If you are going by a private vehicle, take the deviation to the left just before Hassan and exit the highway. 

If you are still unsure, use Google Maps :)

Where to Eat

There are plenty of restaurants/dhabas all along the highway until Hassan.  Among these, few noted ones are, Kicchana Halli Mane run by the famous movie star Sudeep , Swathi Delicacy , Hotel Mayura , A2B etc.,
However, if you plan to stay overnight at the church, then it is advised to carry packed food as there are no hotels in the vicinity.

Itinerary 

This season I made a couple of visits to the rosary church. First in April 2019 with a group of around 9-10 people and again in early May with a team of almost 25 people. I was mentoring this group as part of the astro photography workshop conducted by Youth Photographic Society.



The church has its own glory even though it is a ruin. Though there are cracks that are developed in the structure, I was amazed at the construction and silently appreciated the people behind its construction back then. 


Why is the church fascinating ?

While I was wondering about the church, I pondered upon these things:

1. Even though the church was abandoned from 1960 (almost 60 years back), the major part of it is still intact.
2. Every year, the church is submerged in water for a good amount of time, and also subjected to immense heat during the later part of the year. However, the church is standing tall irrespective of the harsh natural conditions.

Tips to photographers

1. I suggest you to reach the place before sunset, so that you can shoot the monument along with the setting sun.


The above image is a composite image which was stitched using 10 single images. The gradient light and variation of colors is what makes the place more attractive.

2. Post sunset, the clouds can be as dramatic as it can be. This is considered as the golden hour when you can capture vivid images of the enchanting vistas.



3.  Once the golden hour starts to recede, try the long exposure photography. If you have a private vehicle and a co-operative friend, then ask him to encircle the church with the vehicle's headlights ON. Thereby, in a single exposure you can capture both the light trails and the movement of clouds as shown below.


4.  Later in the night, steel wool can also be tried. However, be careful when playing with fire and also keep in mind that protecting the monument comes first than anything else. So none of your actions should cause any harm to the monument.



5. Also, try your hands with Light painting. 

Light painting, painting with light, light drawing, or light art performance photography are terms that describe photographic techniques of moving a light source while taking a long exposure photograph, either to illuminate a subject or space, or to shine light at the camera to 'draw', or by moving the camera itself during exposure of light sources. Practiced since the 1880s, the technique is used for both scientific and artistic purposes, as well as in commercial photography.

Technically even Steel Wool can be considered as Light painting.




6. Once the stars engulf the sky, the magic unfolds. A person who is from urban areas will get to witness millions of glowing jewels that they seldom see in cities.

Night sky / Astro photography is a very challenging genre of photography and equally exciting as well. Once you start capturing the beauty of the night sky, it is very hard for you to come out of it.

Star Trails :

These are not falling stars, but the movement of stars captured using a technique called Long Exposure. The movement of stars is due to the Earth's rotation and it can be seen as a trail.



More details on the techniques to capture Night sky is written in this blog. Click here to read about it.


Once you have captured the trails, try to make it more interesting by placing an object of interest and compose the frame accordingly.




Milky Way :

Milkyway is the galaxy where we live. Inorder to capture the milkyway, one should have a camera that is capable to shoot long exposure with a high ISO. A fast lens with a large aperture is a good choice.




Haunting at the church :

While we were shooting the night sky and enjoying the tranquility, an eerie feeling arose and we could sense something amiss. All of a sudden we heard a sound and when we went near the entrance of the church, we could not believe what we saw.


This marks the end of our eerily beautiful trip to the land of the rosary church : Shettihalli.

Don't get tensed, this was one of our model who posed for us :D

Points to remember : 


1. As I always say, please don't litter the place. The last time I went there, it was very disappointing to see the church surrounded by plastic plates and other trash around it.
2. If you are alone then night stay is not suggested. 
3. Carry sufficient food and water to keep you energised.
4. Neither the walls of the church need your poetry nor the people visiting the place need to know whom you love. Hence, please do not scribble on the monument and be a disgrace to the humanity.
4. Be a responsible citizen and help to protect the monument.


Thank you


Friday, May 10, 2019

Chao Phraya Dinner cruise : An evening in Bangkok


Bangkok is one of the most beautiful cities and its nightlife is what attracts more tourists. The magnificent malls, enthusiastic tourists, vibrant vistas and everything about this city makes one exhilarating.

Among the many attractions of the city,  dinner cruise in the Chao Phraya river is what many people crave for. 
Not only you get to savour the delicious dinner, but you can also visually savour the fascinating architectures of the city.


Chaophraya Cruise


The Chaophraya Cruise consists of two decks, the lower deck is the air-conditioning room, the upper deck is the open-air. The Cruise’s interior is vividly pronounced over distinct Thai Style. They are convenient, glamorous and decorated with Thai Style embracing your dinner cruise experience at its best.

Once you are onboard, you get to see the following memorials on your right hand side.

1. Sheraton Hotel 

Sheraton Hotel

2. Memorial Bridge
3. Wat Pho

4. Grand Palace


Grand Palace


5. Thammasat University





6. Rama VIII Bridge 


Rama VIII Bridge


The cruise then makes a 'U' turn beneath the bridge and then heads back towards the Pier. While heading back, you can see the following monuments on your right hand side.


7. Wat Arun


Wat Arun

8. Wat Kanlaya
9. Hilton Hotel
10. Peninsula Hotel


Peninsula hotel


11. Asiatique


Asiatique


Asiatique mall would be the last thing on your plate before the dinner cruise ends at the Sheraton Hotel river Pier. This marks the end of a 2 hour magical journey.

Highlights of the dinner cruise :

Pros:
1) You get to see the beautiful city of Bangkok
2) The dinner is delicious 
3) You can dance to the tunes of Bollywood numbers performed by the live orchestra inhouse 
4) The upper deck offers a different perspective of the city.
5) Alcohol is served in the cruise (at extra cost)

Cons:
1) If you are there on a weekend, then expect lot of tourists. 
2) Due to large influx of tourists, it is not well organized, and you can see people shouting and rushing during the entry/exit.

Altogether it is a different experience, and I would recommend you to relish this experience if you are in Bangkok.

Tips for tourists

1. Reach early to avoid last minute rush.
2. Entry tickets can be obtained online 
3. Many travel companies have this program in their packages. If not, you can get it added.
4. Respect the local culture, and help in preserving the beauty of the city.


Thank You 








Sunday, October 28, 2018

Great Grandeur of the Grand Canyon


I grew up watching Wild Western movies like Mackenna's Gold, The Good Bad and Ugly, Magnificent Seven etc.,  (and not the wild movies that you are thinking. lol 😃)


If you have watched any of those, you would agree with me that most of the filming was at the Canyons of USA.

Ever since then, my mind yearned to see the Great Grand Canyons. Fast forward few years from then, and in early this year I visited the USA on an official trip, and I used this opportunity to witness the grandeur of these mighty rocky mountains spread over hundreds of kilometres.

This is in continuation of my previous trip to Yosemite National Park (If you have not seen the Yosemite blog, you can click on this link). 

On April 2nd (2018), we drove all the way from Yosemite National Park (California) to Las Vegas (Nevada) covering a distance of almost 480 miles. The drive was extremely beautiful as we traversed through different kinds of terrain (from Snowy mountains in Yosemite to Arid desert in Las Vegas). After driving for almost 8-9 hours, we finally hit the most happening city of Las Vegas by evening. 

April 3rd, 2018

Early in the morning, we drove from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon. Well there are many places in this range and it depends on where you go. Grand canyon is spread across states and is really huge.
Since time was not on our side, we decided to visit the nearest point from LasVegas which was West rim. 

You see nothing but barren landscape throughout your drive. The only waterbody that you come across on the way is the Colorado river which forms a physical boundary between Nevada and Arizona. Once you enter Arizona, you will have to move your watch ahead by 30mins as the time zone is little ahead here.






There is a designated parking area, where you will have to park your vehicles. The Grand-Canyon management committee and the Hualapai Indian tribe operates the tour by taking you in their private buses to all the famous view points at West Rim (of-coarse you have to pay :) )

Just a short distance from the National Park, within the Hualapai Tribal Reservation, is the wild Western nature of the Grand Canyon's West Rim. Though not nearly as commercially-developed as the bustling South Rim, the West still hosts nearly a million visitors each year. Still, this area is much more peaceful and less-crowded. 

This is the land of the Hualapai Indian tribe, who are the guardians of the Grand Canyon. The name Hualapai means "People of the tall pines".

Hualapai Ranch

Ideally this is the first stop where the shuttle bus drops you. There are some ranches of the Hualapai tribe here, where you can take a horseback ride, a mechanical buffalo ride etc.,

Eagle Point

As the name says, the adjacent mountain from this viewpoint looks like an Eagle with its wing spread. This is the first viewpoint that we come across in this tour, and is a pit-stop for all photo lovers and selfie maniacs .




Skywalk

Skywalk is the most famous viewpoint of the region. Most exciting of all is the glass walkway that extends out between the canyon walls and allows guests to stare a mile through to the floor.

The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge with a glass walkway in Arizona near the Colorado River on the edge of a side canyon in the Grand Canyon West area of the main canyon.




Topographic maps show the elevation at the Skywalk's location as 4,770 ft (1,450 m) and the elevation of the Colorado River in the base of the canyon as 1,160 ft (350 m), and they show that the height of the precisely vertical drop directly under the skywalk is between 500 ft (150 m) and 800 ft (240 m)

Cameras or cellphones are not allowed while you are on the skywalk and you have to deposit it in a locker just before stepping on the glass. 




This place is not for the weak hearted, because the height induces fear in you. The adrenaline starts gushing when you look down and literally your heart will come to your mouth.

Guano Point

The last of the three viewpoints in the Grand Canyon's - West rim is the Guano point. Here you can have a  360° view of the mountains and valleys.


Colorado river

Jutting out into the Grand Canyon, Guano Point could be one of the most stunning viewpoints in the whole of the Grand Canyon. One can walk out to the tip of the point and experience a nearly 360° canyon view. 




This location at Grand Canyon West is also the home of the Hualapai Buffet (a popular package meal choice) where one can eat a sumptuous meal while sitting near the edge of the Grand Canyon. While at the point one can see a few remnants of a past age. 



In 1958 the rights to a nearby bat cave were purchased by U.S. Guano Corp. The company constructed a $3.5 million dollar tramway system to extract the expected 100,000 tons of guano (a valuable ingredient in fertilizer) from the cave below the rim. 




Unfortunately the original site survey was incorrect and the last of the mere 1,000 tons of guano was extracted by the end of 1959. Shortly after the mine petered out, a US Air Force fighter jet collided with the overhead cable system, permanently disabling it. 



The remaining towers were left intact as a monument to man's attempt to mine the canyon. As if this history was not enough to keep visitors busy, this point is also home to the Hualapai Market. This unique shopping area hosts many Hualapai artisans offering both their wares and education on their cultural significance.





One can walk till the end of the cliff at the Guano point, where you can view the magical expanse of the whole Canyon's ridges & valleys. With a bag of popcorn and some coke, you can peacefully sit on the edge of the cliff and witness the beautiful sunset where the sun sets just behind the Colorado river in the valley down below.










Tips to visitors :

1. West rim is the nearest point from Las Vegas and is almost 2.5 hours drive from there.

2. The whole land belongs to the Hualapai tribes, and the money that you pay goes to the conservation of the land.

3. You would need to pay the entry fee to visit these viewpoints

4. There are multiple tour options that include Helicopter tour, Boat tour, zip lining , Viewpoint tour etc., and each has a separate cost.

5. There are small cafes/restaurants near the Skywalk and the Guano point 

6. Generally food will be part of your entry ticket (if Skywalk is included)

7. You would have to pay extra to walk on the glass bridge. This can be either purchased as a package during the start of the tour, or buy separately near the sky walk entrance.

8. We paid almost $80 for the tour (that includes Entry to all these viewpoints + skywalk entrance + Food and transportation)




Thank You !

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Yosemite National Park


Ever since I had seen some intriguing pictures of the 'Tunnel view' point, I always wanted to visit this amazing wonderland called Yosemite. 


Yosemite had been in my wish list ever since I was a kid, and always wished to see it  live someday. The reason being, it is truly a world of it's own. 


Luckily, I got a chance to visit the United States of America during Feb 2017 due to some official work. I made plans to visit Yosemite then, but unfortunately I could not visit  that time. With heavy heart, I came back to India hoping to visit it some other time.


You may call it second time lucky, as I got another chance to visit the United States of America again during March-April 2018. This time too it was an official trip, but I ensured to visit Yosemite no matter what.






The Journey :


Day 1 : March 31st, 2018


On March 31st, 2018, we hired a Nissan car from 'Hertz' rental company in San Jose, California for around $800 for 5 days. This included an option to drop the car at different city, as we had plans to drive the car till Grand Canyon.


The hiring procedure costed us a lot of time, and we finally hit the highway by around 11.30 AM.


It was our first time driving in the highway of a different country, and we were extra cautious on our driving, and made sure we don't break any traffic rules :)


The winding roads took us through different vegetations from plains to grasslands to mountains. 


There were a lot of garlic plantations enroute, and me being a garlic-oholic (a new word coined by me :)) stopped the car in a restaurant nearby and had a taste of the delicious Garlic Ice-cream. I never even thought in the wildest of my dreams that such a delicacy existed. But yes, it tasted awesome. Atleast for me though !! :)


In no time we were out of the city limits, and could see only hills and green meadows approaching.




Our destination for the day was a place called "Mariposa" where we had booked the homestay through Airbnb.



Mariposa, “the Mother of Counties”, initially encompassed one fifth of the state of California. As the land filled with settlers, boundaries were redrawn until twelve present day counties emerged from the vast area. Today, Mariposa County’s legacy from these origins includes an incredible range of landscapes and a heritage of historic sites and towns.
This range of scenery, outdoor attractions, rich history, combined with a generally sunny, moderate climate, make Mariposa County one of California’s most popular year-round vacation destinations.

Yosemite’s grandeur always looms as a major attraction, but we encourage you to enjoy the many other faces of Mariposa County. You can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities or see one hundred fifty years of California history, without crowds and without traffic.

As soon as we entered this land, I got a sense of accomplishment. Driving in a new country with new rules and new terrain totally changed my perception of viewing things.

The town of Mariposa made me feel like I was in heaven. This place is covered by pine forests , rivers and streams , Flora and Fauna. 


Innumerous meadows and grasslands added to the beauty of this county.




Our homestay was further uphill from the town of Mariposa. We had to drive through forests and winding roads to reach this place. 


Luckily we had saved the map of the area which made it easier for us to find out our home in the jungle.


We reached our homestay by 5 PM which is situated deep inside the woods, and we were really surprised to see the home. It was very nicely decorated and unique. I was also surprised to see the kitchen had many masala items and powders.


We then set out to Mariposa to buy some groceries and vegetables for the next 2 days. 


By the time we reached back home, it was post sunset, and all I could see was the dramatic clouds and beautiful colors of the sky.




I was stargazing in the meadow outside while the others were happily enjoying their drink at home.


Sleep betrayed me for sometime, as I was eagerly waiting to enter the majestic valley. Yosemite valley had totally engulfed in my mind, and I could not think of anything else apart from it. 


We all decided to depart from our home as early as possible, so that we could enjoy the valley for the whole day. With all alarms set and our minds ready, we hit the bed.



Day 2 : April 1st, 2018


I woke up very early as soon as I heard a small bird chirping near my window. I noticed that I woke up much earlier than my alarm's sound. Wasting no time, I started to do watch birds in the estate while others were still happily sleeping.

After a sumptuous breakfast prepared by Abhinav, we departed our home by 8.30AM. We were late by 1 hour than our agreed time of departure


The cool breeze and a beautiful fragrance welcomed us into the much awaited Yosemite Valley.

The entry ticket (per vehicle) was $30 that was valid for 7 days. Once we entered the gate, I could see many cyclists encircling the hairpin curves. The granite mountains were covered with pine forests and small patches of snow here and there.

I could see a majestic waterfalls to my left hand side, and I screamed in excitement. We stopped the car nearby and proceeded towards the waterfalls.

Tueeulala Falls :

This is located on the north side of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. At roughly 880 feet it is the smaller of two large waterfalls that spill into Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the other being Wapama Falls.




Tueeulala Fall is probably the first waterfall you'll notice as you approach the parking area for Hetch Hetchy. 



This tall, plunging waterfall together with Wapama Falls complements Kolana Rock and the Hetch Hetchy Valley panorama in much the same way that Bridalveil Fall complements El Capitan and the Yosemite Valley panorama.



After a brief photo session, we headed to the Yosemite village where the main tourist centre is located. From this place, there is a free shuttle bus that takes us to different view points in the valley.

Mirror Lake trek

Having no idea where to go next, we boarded the shuttle bus and alighted at Mirror lake (as the name sounded very catchy). Inorder to visit Mirror lake, one has to trek for almost 2kms from the main road. The gushing Merced river flows towards your left and the emerald forests are towards your right.



This trail begins at shuttle stop #17. The first mile of this trail is a paved service road that leads directly to Mirror Lake. You may access the loop trail from the end of the paved path. The loop follows Tenaya Creek beyond the lake, and crosses two bridges after the Snow Creek Trail junction before returning past Mirror Lake on the south side of Tenaya Canyon. 


Mirror Lake has little water much of the year and, while pleasant at any time of year, it is fullest in spring and early summer, when Tenaya Creek flows freely with fresh snowmelt. When water is calm, the lake offers beautiful reflections of surrounding cliffs. 



Exhibits along the trail tell the story of Mirror Lake's lake-to-meadow succession, and also highlight some of the cultural history of the area. Mirror Lake is often referred to as Mirror Meadow in late summer due to the lack of water and the influx of grasses and sandy areas.


Myself at the lake

There is no safe access to the north side of Mirror Lake directly from the south side of the loop, except via bridges at the west and east ends of the trail.

By now, it was afternoon and we headed towards the main area (Yosemite village) for lunch. Enroute, the majestic "Half Dome" was standing in all its might.


Half Dome :

Rising nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level, Half Dome is a Yosemite icon and a great challenge to many hikers. Despite an 1865 report declaring that it was "perfectly inaccessible, being probably the only one of the prominent points about the Yosemite which never has been, and never will be, trodden by human foot," George Anderson reached the summit in 1875, in the process laying the predecessor to today's cable route.




Much of the hike to Half Dome is an adventure into Wilderness, and, while there is nothing you can do to guarantee your safety, below you will find some tips to reduce your risk and have a safer, more enjoyable hike.

Post lunch, we headed towards the Upper and Lower Yosemite falls viewpoint. This was really a sight to behold.

Upper and Lower Yosemite :

Part of North America's tallest waterfall, Lower Yosemite Fall is the final 320-foot (98-meter) drop. Deafening in spring and early summer when the waterfall peaks in volume, you can expect to get sprayed with water when standing on the footbridge near its base. This short, easy walk rewards with spectacular views of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. This paved loop trail offers different vantage points of Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Creek, and you can stop at the many exhibits to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the area.



If walking from the Valley Visitor center, follow the bicycle path to shuttle stop #6 and begin the trail. Consider walking the loop in a clockwise direction for best views of Yosemite Falls. 

 Lower Yosemite

The rumble of this waterfalls was so deafening that we could not hear anything apart from the thunderous roar of this waterfalls. The mist formed by the waterfalls was covering my lens every now and then, and I had to clean it very regularly.


By now, the last curtain was about to be rolled for the day, and we quickly proceeded towards "Tunnel view". I was very much fascinated by this place right from my childhood, where I had seen a glimpse of it in a TV programme.

I was very eager to visit this place, and we made a quick drive towards the place before sunset.


Last rays of sun kissing the granite mountain

First view of Bridalveil waterfalls seen enroute Tunnel View

Tunnel View :

The view that Ansel Adams made famous, Tunnel View is a must stop for any first time visit to Yosemite Valley. Find it just outside the Wawona Tunnel on State Highway 41. No hiking is required, you simply park at one of the lots and make your way to the vista. This spot can be very popular in summer, so try to arrive early.

From this vista you can see El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall. This vista changes with each season to show something new but the best times to see Tunnel View are early spring (when Bridalveil Fall is at peak flow) and winter, when the beautiful granite domes are draped in snow and mist.



The scene was changing very rapidly, as the sun cast its golden light that kissed the peaks of the Yosemite Valley.



Everybody seems to have an opinion about overrated sights and places to visit. Viewpoints on highways that have amazing vistas are usually there because the view is incredible.  



Every tour bus and tourist and hiker and solo traveler and everybody everywhere always stops there and rightly so.  Tunnel View is jaw dropping. 



Major landmarks of Yosemite such as 'El capitan' , 'Half Dome'  and 'Bridalveil falls' are seen from here.

El Capitan :

El Capitan (Spanish for The CaptainThe Chief) is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, located on the north side of Yosemite Valley, near its western end. The granitemonolith is about 3,000 feet (900 m) from base to summit along its tallest face, and is a popular location for rock climbers 



Bridalveil falls :

In spring, it thunders; during the rest of the year, look for its characteristic light, swaying flow. A paved trail leads from the parking area to the base of this waterfall, which flows year-round. Although paved, this is trail is not wheelchair accessible due to its grade.



The trail to Bridalveil Fall is open year-round. When the water is at its peak in spring and early summer, you can expect to get wet! In some cases the spray is so strong, you may not even be able to easily access the end of the trail. Expect icy and very slick conditions in winter.



If you are a landscape photographer, then this place is a treat to your eyes and the camera. You get to photograph the majestic valley and vivid vistas using varied compositions.


 Sun light kissing the tree tops








Golden light kissing Half dome and another peak nearby


If you are into astro photography, then this place is tailor made for you. Just be watchful of the car lights that might ruin the image.

I would highly suggest you to visit "Tunnel View" if you are visiting the Yosemite valley. Sunlight in the late afternoon creates the most striking perspective. If you can plan your day to arrive just before sunset, the transfer of light to shadow that plays out across the valley is a enchanting display. If Tunnel View is your first stop in Yosemite National Park, the classic imagination-inspiring viewpoint will make you fall in love and you will surely don’t want to leave.


Important tips : 

1. If you are visiting "Tunnel view" , plan to be there before sunset.
2. The "Fire falls" spectacle happens during February.
3. Entry to the park is $30 for 7 days (Per vehicle)
4. Food and beverages are available near the Valley visitor centre
5. Free shuttle buses are available in the valley
6. There are no hotels / homestays inside the valley, and you have to stay outside the National park. 
7. Camping is allowed at designated places only (you might have to take permission)
8. Best time to visit : 
a. Spring (April to June) - Water in the valley is enormous and you can see the waterfalls plunging in its whole might
b. Fall (September to November) - Less number of visitors , it might snow a bit and some treks would be closed.
c. Winter (December to March) - It will be snowing all round the valley, most of the roads and treks would be closed, but the valley will be covered with white blanket of snow (which is also a visual treat).




Thank you

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