Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

It’s day 5 on the beautiful island in the Indian ocean, our 4th  and final day of the Mascarun challenge.  You may have wondered by now why I had the same T-Shirt on every single day in every single photo but rest assured, there was more than one t-shirt and by this day I was glad for it. Not because I was tired of seeing or thinking in purple but because I was running out of clean shirts!

We checked out of the Lux hotel today so early morning our bags were packed and ready to go, after another early breakfast at the hotel we made our way to Corail Helicopters  – It was time for a another flight with the national bird, but this bird was a little fancier than the last. This was a truly amazing experience, for 20 minutes we dipped and glided through the three caldera’s of the island. We flew down the path of a waterfall and up over ridges that left you with a sinking feeling in your stomach – From this height you could see Reunion island in all its splendor, from mountains to seas. We then flew over the ocean and got a beautiful view of the lagoon that we had spent days admiring from the ground… there is no better way to see Reunion than from the blue skies above its crystal ocean. There is no better way to see a waterfall than flying with it and there is was nothing that could have topped this Mascarun challenge, it was the icing on an already splendid cake! It helped that we had a rather nice looking pilot named Antoine as well.

By the way – A selfie in a helicopter has been renamed the HELFIE, we took a few Helfie’s that day.

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When you get out of a helicopter, it is like you have ‘air’ legs – Like sea legs, only you feel like you should be flying instead of on the ground. It was hard to believe that 20 minutes ended so quickly, suddenly I am inspired not only to learn French but to learn how to fly a helicopter, in Reunion of course. From here we made our way back down to the beach and did a few beach challenges which included some archery on the beach, races in transparent kayaks in the ocean and a local game played with wooden pieces. It was a fun filled day, the last of our challenges had been done and it was time to name a winner.

We went back to the Lux hotel for another gorgeous meal where representatives from all the partners awaited us including Air Austral, Lux and the IRT. After some champagne and a chance to catch up on social media (thanks to the free wifi) we gathered to see who would be coming back to Mascarun in 2015 to represent South Africa. The teams were named from lowest to highest rank and well done to Team Cilaos who placed a brilliant 3rd – NOT BAD going considering we started at 8th place. Well done to the winning team of the week – Jenna, Tamarin and Johnathan in the CHOCOLAT team, a stunning effort and a well deserved Mascarun win!

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You would think by now that it was over but no, it was never over, that was the beauty of this trip – So much to experience in such a short time – We definitely made the most of our time in Reunion.

We made our way to Le Recif hotel which was further north of the island in Saint Gilles – Nice and close to the pier and of course to the airport for our impending departure in a few days. Once we arrived at the hotel, we had time for a quick change and then to an hour of meeting local agents and operators in Reunion where we shared stories, relived the last few days and listened to the locals sell their island as excitedly as we experienced it. Soon afterwards we had a lovely, leisurely dinner and it was time for all of us to hit the deck – 4 days of activity and fun was catching up, fast.

My favorite day in Reunion has arrived – Half way through the Mascarun challenge, the 3rd day, and it was time to get WET!

We started off the day with a trip to Bassin La Paix – This is where we were to spend the next 3 hours of our day doing our aquatic hike… and what an experience that was. When we arrived it was time to get suited up which meant parading around in a neoprene wetsuit with all the trimmings. We came prepared, swimsuits under our clothing, and spent the next 30 minutes attempting to squeeze ourselves into these neoprene suits – That was the challenge on its own, not only because it is just a mission to get a wetsuit on but because the changing area was a piece of tarp in the middle of the road – Not exactly the Woolies changing room I am used to! Once the suit was on, we had a life jacket over that along with a plastic ‘nappy’ to protect one’s bum (From what you may ask?!) and last, but not least, a helmet.  We posed for a photo and then spent the next 20 minutes (It felt like 5 hours) walking to the starting point – Suddenly I felt like I was reliving Monday and asking myself what exactly I had gotten myself into?

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Well, it was not half as bad as I made it out to be! In fact, the aquatic hike was amazing and turned out to be the highlight of my trip! Once ready, we climbed down a slippery slope alongside the river and made our way to the first jump where we were given a choice. A 6m or a 2m jump, what was it going to be? Team Cilaos agreed that we would have to eventually do a 6m jump so we may as well start now and all 3 of us braved the first jump of the day. It was a scary thing to have your foot on the edge, ready to jump, yet we did it! The most amazing feeling of accomplishment overwhelms you when you hit the water. That and the fact that your bum hole is creeping slowly back down to where it was biologically supposed to be… We then spent a few hours floating down the river on our backs, sliding down natural water slides, jumping off of cliffs and in my case losing my contact lenses and swallowing half of Reunion’s water supply. It was the best day EVER, I was sad when it was over and really did not want to get out.

We had now become accustomed to finishing off a challenge and being plied with alcohol so when we returned and got back into normal clothing, it was only polite to share in some rum and fruit juice. It was only lunch time, and the rest of the day was ahead of us with more amazing adventures!

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We made our way to Les Letchis, a local restaurant situated beautifully alongside the river where I over indulged in Palm Heart (My absolute favorite and a freely available delicacy on the island). The lunch was fantastic and just what we needed to line our stomachs for the next challenge. After some lounging, more wine and a relax on the river, we got back into the bus and headed onto La Vanilleraie in Saint Suzanne. We were treated to a guided tour of the vanilla plantation with a step by step explanation on the labour of love that is vanilla production… from hand fertilizing the flower from the vanilla plant to the final process in packaging the goods, the work that goes into Vanilla will absolutely astound you. I highly recommend this tour to ANYONE visiting Reunion, you will gain a new found respect for Vanilla and all the people involved. After a fascinating tour and lots of note making, we did a short quiz on vanilla and a little vanilla treasure hunt  before making our way back to the hotel. The aquatic hike and the vanilla plantation made this day my favorite day so far, but it was not over yet.

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It was now time for dinner (It is always time to eat in Reunion) at a local creole family restaurant where we were hosted by Aliette and Paris. On arrival we were greeted by the Mascareignes, a local Maloya band, luring us in with the romantic and sultry sounds of Maloya music, the local dance and rhythm of Reunion. We sat down to a traditional dinner accompanied by, you guessed it, wine (and rum) during which each team had to present themselves in a Maloya ‘dance off’ of sorts. It was amazing how all of us were such great sports and participated so willingly, it was such a fun night that ended in dancing until late and some air guitar being played. Team Cilaos took this day, we won the Maloya challenge and ended up placing 3rd overall… we were moving up in the world and having the most amazing time doing it!

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I cannot even begin to explain just how amazing this experience has been… how much we got to see and do, how we were treated like kings and queens and how much we learned about ourselves, each other and of course the BEAUTIFUL island that is Reunion…

Just a few pictures of some sights along the way – The oldest cemetary in Saint-Paul, some beautiful graffiti that covers many walls in Reunion and of course, a sunset along the main coastal road.

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The third day in Reunion and the second of the Mascarun challenge saw us heading up to the Piton de la Fournaise (‘Peak of the Furnace’), listed as one of the world’s most active and yet safest volcanoes in the world in it’s Hawaiian type island set up.  You can imagine the relief when we saw the Kreolie 4X4’s parked in the parking lot of the hotel, ready to take us to Pas de Bellecombe – I do not think that any of our legs were ready for any more walking after Day 1’s challenging hike.

The drive up to the volcano was a long one, higher and higher into the ‘mountains’ we go and of course, the motion sickness was bound to rear its ugly head at some point. It is not the height that gets you, but the windy roads that zig zag into and out of fields and forest. The further away you climb from civilization, the closer you get to an active volcano – NOW that is something to brag about. Knowing that the volcano last erupted in June of this year, it was hard not to hope something would happen while we were there but alas, after our 2 our drive, Piton de la Fournaise decided to look pretty without lava for us and she posed nicely for some beautiful pics. En route to the volcano, imagine greenery and trees, grass and fields and lush vegetation all around you – Our 4X4 driver, Martin, then asked us to close our eyes for a few seconds and when he told us to open them again, you are surrounded by what the locals call the ‘moon landscape’ and it really does look like you have just landed in a spaceshuttle onto another planet. We stopped for some pictures and some time to take it all in before getting to our volcano look out point… and there we just stood. It truly was a beautiful sight, you could see the black tracks making its way down the volcano from its last eruption – all of us just stood there in wonder. It is hard to imagine this volcano erupting ‘safely’ and yet it does. Sadly, we underestimated the length of the drive up and it was toilet time – A word of advice, it is a chemical toilet up there at the top and it is not the most pleasant experience so whatever you do, pee before you leave and enjoy the scenery without the chemical aroma of the bush loo.

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Being up there, it was easy to forget we were part of a challenge and easier to imagine we were just there to enjoy the scenery but it was time to get back to business. We made our way back down past the moon landscape and into the lush vegetation again where we were to take part in a Trike and Segway challenge. The trike looked like hard work, a rather large contraption with two big wheels at the back and one small wheel in front connected to pedals which you, in the bucket seat, have to operate. I was hoping that I would be picked for the Segway and lucky me, I was! 1 person of each team went to complete the Segway challenge where we learned to drive the Segway and then do a bit of a circuit in the fastest time… mind you, they were not just any Segway’s – They were 4X4 pimped out Segway’s which we got to operate through the clouds. The remaining members answered a few questions on Reunion and then pedaled the trikes through a circuit in a time challenge.

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We made our way back down, through St Pierre and some local traffic to reach the 5* Palm hotel where we treated to an amazing lunch (No shortage of food on this trip, which was a good thing because I always felt hungry), some wine and then a hotel inspection.  By this time we were exhausted, but it was not over yet… we left the hotel to reach Saga du Rhum, just outside of St Pierre where the teams were again treated to the amazing history, culture and background of rum. We took part in a quiz on the story of rum, followed by a rum tasting challenge which our team hopelessly failed. You would think all travel agents would be good at this? The truth, alcohol is alcohol and it all burned going down if you ask me.  It was extremely enlightening to learn about this beautiful island, it’s rich history and all the beauty that comes with a trip to Reunion. Writing this, reminiscing, I just want to go back.

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When we eventually got back to the Lux hotel, we had time for a quick change before we were treated to a beautiful dinner on the beach… the wine flowed, the food was amazing and I got to try out new things like eating Octopus and Goat of all things. The wine of course, flowed – It has taken some getting used to, not having a glass of wine with every meal. It had been another busy, fun filled, amazing day in Reunion on a trip I never wanted to end and only wanted to share with all I care about it.

On my third day in Reunion, I was hopelessly in love.

Ps. We had moved from 8th place to 5th place, it appears our Rum skills were not as bad as we thought. Go Team Cilaos.

It was impossible to imagine that I could fall so deeply in love with such an enchanting island and yet despite the heat, fall in love with Reunion Island I did. Our journey went as follows…

The Mascarun South Africa challenge was put together to educate, encourage and challenge those of us lucky ones who were chosen to participate. 24 of the countries top travel consultants from across the nation got together to share this experience – Out of 700 of the trade, we were the chosen ones. We were whisked off to an island of beauty and romance, thrill and excitement and we were ready to learn.

On the day of arrival we were met at the airport with coconut thirst quenchers and local music, I am certain that we were all curious as to what the coming week would have in store for us and we could not have anticipated the action packed adventure we were about to participate in, pre warning videos or none. The humidity hit me on the way out of the airport, as much as the charm of the island did. The people were so friendly, the group lively and unfamiliar. We made it and we could not have been more excited!

We made our way to the Lux hotel in St Gilles, a beautiful hotel situated right on the lagoon on the west side of the island. It was a dark bus ride accompanied by unexpected island traffic and a leisurely drive along the ocean – I could get used to this! Nico, our tour guide for the week, was talking animatedly in his French accent about the island and its history. He was passionate, instilling a sense of passion within all of us – As if we had been here always and were already ready to come back and do the same for others, get them to fall in love with Reunion.

On arrival we checked in and discovered who our roommates for the week would be, we then made our way to dinner to hear in which teams we had been placed and to get a better idea of what we would be doing for the rest of our time there. Many introductions were made and the foundation for firm friendships were being lade poolside that evening. After being divided into teams, we were left to a gorgeous meal (The first of many) and to get to know each other a little better. It was here that the inseparable Team Cilaos was born also known as PURPLE PASSION. Yes, for us the colour purple was chosen and yes, we were extremely passionate.

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Day 1 began with a very early start out of St Gilles en route to the Mafate cirque, one of three crater valleys surrounding the eroded Piton des Neiges otherwise fondly known as the Snow Peak, the island’s inactive volcano. Before departing, I had absolutely no idea what I was about to do. Mafate cannot be reached by car or by road, instead our bus left us alongside the Stone River where we piled into open back ‘bakkies’ for lack of a better word. We held on for dear life as the vehicles sped along the loose gravel roads, further and further away from the standard ‘beach holiday’ you would expect from Reunion… closer and closer to what felt like being in the middle of nowhere. Soon the lone joggers faded into the distance and the cars could drive no more – It was time to get out and walk.  We were presented with hiking sticks and armed with our Mascarun satchels, bottles of water and a jacket in case we reached cooler weather the higher we trekked. We had 3 trekking guides accompanying us and off we went, non hikers hiking through Mafate to reach the reward at the top – The helicopter ride down. To cut a long story short, it was the hardest but most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. Granted, by the 2nd hour of hiking I had lost all semblance of a sense of humour and by 2 and a half hours, I was one of 3 that chose to lag very far behind the rest. We had pushed ourselves about as much as we possibly could. The guide walked slowly ahead of us, allowing us to keep our own pace and while we were panting and sweating our little hearts out, it was impossible to ignore the beauty and tranquility of what was around us. We were trekking through a volcanic crator in the middle of the Indian Ocean island! And as we panted and gagged, locals flitted past us in flip-flops on cell phones – They will make this journey up and down up to 3 times a day the guide told us. What we walked in 3 hours, locals will do in one hour. What nearly killed me was away of life for the villagers – I suddenly realized the two legs I now abused had been taken for granted for so long. We went through hidden paths, across rivers and went higher and higher until the little red roof in the distance became our light at the end of the tunnel.  When we finally reached the end, our late arrival was cheered by the group and we prepared for a local creole lunch amidst a quiz and smell / taste challenge. We had to answer a series of questions based on the hike up Mafate and then taste an array of jams (Not my favorite) and smell numerous essential oils (Not my strongsuit).

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After a bit of sun lounging, the helicopter came to pick us up and suddenly the 3 hour hike (13km according to my FitBit) did not seem so bad! It was all worth it to see and experience the beauty of Reunion from that height in what we fondly nicknamed the ‘National Bird’ of Reunion. I cannot describe the view, I cannot describe the feeling – It was pure amazement and something that you will have to experience for yourself, there is just no denying that this is one of the most beautiful ways to see Reunion and a MUST if you plan on a visit.

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We then arrived back to the hotel and were greeted by our next challenge – A cocktail making test. Team Cilaos made what we called the ‘Pristine deLUX’. We thought it tasted pretty amazing, we layered vodka soaked local fruit and added champagne and a fruit juice mix – Well, we liked it anyway but apparently the judge did not agree as we placed in 8th place out of 8 teams on Day 1.  We did however learn that some of our travel trade colleagues were definitely in the wrong industry and perhaps a mixology career may have been better suited?

Day 1 ended with, you guessed it, more amazing food and exhausted South African bodies. We embraced our beds and slept with the wonder of what day 2 would bring… On that day I learned that I could do whatever I put my mind to! I just happened to be in the most beautiful place, putting my mind to it.

It’s not often you board a flight on time and once inside, the plane looks ready to leave and all passengers are comfortably seated and ready to go half an hour before the time… Well, this morning that’s exactly what’s happened.

Ready to hit Reunion running, I was up early after a restless excitement riddled sleep and finalized the packing of my suitcase. Suitably weighed in and well within my baggage limit (thank goodness, I’m only going for a week) I was packed up and ready to roll. We bundled the kids, my suitcase and me into the car after a triple check and made our way to the airport – with a brief McDonalds stop of course.

On arrival at the airport, I thought I’d be early but already half the group was checking in and buzzing with as much excitement as I was. The ladies from Air Austral were ready to meet us at check in and seamlessly bags went through and boarding passes were issued. We were each given a little survival kit, energy boosting sweets and syrups to keep the sugar levels up – the expectation that today was going to be a long day. The security queue was fairly short and with little hold up barring the body check I endured because, as always, my piercings set off the alarms. Passport control meant encountering a 25 minute queue and a rather grumpy immigration officer who proceeded to give me talking to for not telling him I was a permanent resident in South Africa – I thought giving my passport to him with the permanent sticker page open would be enough forewarning but alas, I thought wrong.

A few of us headed off to have some coffee while we waited to board, a few laughs and little comfort later we made the quick last minute Lip Ice stop at the Link pharmacy and headed down to our boarding gate. For those of you who didn’t know, there is a boarding gate A00 – it’s almost like the elusive platform 9 and three quarters, not well signed but it does exist – you have to go through a few walls to get there.

There the group stood, all 30 of us although I’m certain most of us don’t know who the others are excepting the short relationships already formed in the wait up to boarding the plane. Greetings, introductions and a peacock display of proudly introducing the companies we worked for were met with nods, smiles and knowing looks – the travel industry is a very small one, we understand each other. 24 travel agents together with airline representatives and the journeys journo’s coming along to document the experience. It was time to depart, it was time for Mascarun.

I’ve been sitting on board this Air Austral plane, comfortably in my window seat since 11am. It’s now 11:40. It seems we are departing on African time, but it’s ok – I’m excited for what’s ahead, we will get there eventually!

Mascarun, more to follow!

I don’t work to win awards, I win awards because I work… That’s how I like to think of if anyway. I don’t try to get the awards, though it’s pretty amazing when it happens.

In 2012 I won the Top Senior Travel Consultant award in our division, in 2013 I won the American Express Pacesetter award and went to Las Vegas for a few days on conference, in the same year I won the Top Team Leader award in our division and in our business overall. In 2014, I have now been nominated for an ASATA (Association of South African Travel Agents) Diners Club award for Corporate Consultant and I could not be more excited.

The list of nominees has been released and I truly do have some stiff competition, cream of the crop, creme de la creme of the travel industry. I don’t know if I am going to win, in my category alone out of the 6 nominees, 5 are employed by the company I work for (Just goes to show!), but even if I don’t, to say that I was nominated for one of this countries most prestigious travel awards is award enough. Definitely a feather in my cap and a notch on my CV.

Good luck to all the nominees, see you next week for the awards evening – I cannot wait!!!

List of nominees.

Let’s start with basic definitions as per the English language :

limit
ˈlɪmɪt/
noun
2.
a restriction on the size or amount of something permissible or possible.
“an age limit”
synonyms: maximum, ceiling, limitation, upper limit; More
antonyms: minimum
a speed limit.
“a 30 mph limit”

***

target
ˈtɑːgɪt/
noun
noun: target; plural noun: targets
1.
an objective or result towards which efforts are directed.
“the car met its sales target in record time”
synonyms: objective, goal, object, aim, end, desired result; M

***

I do not have a drivers license to drive a car, yet I do have an education and obtained a matric certificate with English as a first language, so to avoid being told that I don’t know what I’m talking about, I will take that direction instead.

A speed limit is exactly that, a limit. It is, as per my dictionary definition above, a restriction on the size or amount of something permissible or possible. A speed limit is set by law, for a reason and the limit set on a particular road is the absolute fastest you’re permitted to drive on that road at that particular time. Why limiters are not sold stock standard on all cars / bikes to limit speeds to 120kph (The maximum permissible speed limit in this country), I don’t know? A speed limit is NOT a target, target definition being an objective or result towards which efforts are directed. You will not win a prize if you reach the speed limit and if caught over the speed limit by the law, the only target will be on your rectum from the cell of a prison.

When a speed limit is set on a particular road (Or the generic speed limit is applied based on the type of road / area in which you are traveling), there is well thought out reason behind this. How ever little your faith (or mine) may be in the law, this is the one area I will back them and their cause. No one is above the speed limit and no one should be allowed to push that limit, my only exceptions would be medical services or police in an emergency however where the yellow lane can be used, it should be. What this means is that, if a speed limit on the highway / freeway is 120kph, the absolute fastest you may travel is 120kph. It does NOT mean that you can travel more than that designated limit because you are in the ‘fast lane’. If you are in the so called fast lane, the fastest traveling speed permitted is 120kph. (Am I getting this through clearly?). Any motorist driving faster than 120kph is breaking the law and should be fined or better yet, imprisoned. Every kilometer per hour faster you drive increases the risk of you murdering my family while we abide by this law. Why should those of us who abide by the speed limit be victimized, sworn at and flipped off because we value our lives and the lives of others on the roads?

Dramatic you say? Perhaps. Today a family day out was tainted by a man doing exactly that, practicing criminal behavior. En route to our family day, to a zoo in Limpopo, we were in the fast lane doing between 110 and 120kph. My husband is very good at obeying the speed limit because he has learned not to have that fight with me, he has no valid argument if he tries. He is overly cautious and especially responsible with the girls in the car. We were traveling on a two lane ‘highway’ that was rather busy for a Saturday morning. We noticed a vehicle getting extremely close to us, trying to push us forward almost in an effort to get us to increase our speed… We did not take notice of him and carried on driving at the legal limit. He fell back a bit and we thought that finally, this speedster had gotten the picture. When it was clear for him to overtake, he did exactly that, sped up and came past. I’m 100% ok with that because if you’re speeding and want to be reckless, rather pass us and do it in your own stretch of road. Sadly, his obvious frustration got the better of him and once in front of us decided to slow down to try and irritate us. This backfired on him as we were nonplussed by his slowing down, he then pulled out into the left hand lane and hubby accelerated to continue with our journey, sadly BMW X3 driver had other ideas. He swerved directly in front of our vehicle so that we couldn’t pass and then when Jp swerved to the left to get out of the way and avoid a collision, he quickly swerved back in front of us to stop us again. His driving was scary, completely reckless and criminal to say the least, exhibiting this behavior and road manner that not only endangered our lives but the lives of my children in the car that he was completely oblivious too as well as the lives of any other vehicle / driver on the road. Thankfully my husband slowed down and we let him race off at what must have been 180kph watching him weave speedily in and out of traffic, but not before I took down his license plate number and have certain people working on taking this man to task.

What did I take from this? I realized that along with 80% of the population, this man too did not know how to operate his indicator on his expensive ‘flashy’ car. I made the deduction that either he needed Alcoholics Anonymous for being drunk at 7:30am in the morning or alternatively, wanted to recommend an anger management class for his apparent road rage. I also became one with my evil side who secretly hoped that karma would get her own back and we’d see his vehicle further down the road, on its roof. But shhhhhhhh, that’s just me being nasty. The sad reality is that, while there are no scientific statistics that prove the number of road rage death fatalities on our roads, studies indicate that two thirds of traffic fatalities can be attributed to aggressive behavior on the roads. We could have died this morning because he was being a moron and that’s something that has played on my mind today, it is too close to home.

This is not on. Too many people complain about drivers like this but can you say that you obey the law when you drive? Do you adhere to the speed limit? Do you drive dry? Are you texting and driving? Do you make a point of getting the hand of the law down on idiots like this? I realize that perhaps this time, nothing will get done, but know that nothing will change unless we work together to drive like responsible, educated adults who have drivers licenses and are willing to stand up and fight against irresponsibility. We are human and have made mistakes, but nothing says that you can’t make the promise that from today and going forward you will make sure you do not become one of these drivers that frustrated and angry people like me feel the need to blog about, or worse, cause permanent damage to yourself or a vehicle alongside you. We have no cause for complaint about the crime in our country if we are all reduced to being criminals like my favorite X3 driver, it starts with one.

Arrive Alive

Shevy

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